Wow, they just keep coming! Soon there will be published yet another “user friendly” resource for the writings of the Early Church Fathers!
I just got the following email from Karl Keating, president of Catholic Answers:
My debate was a beautiful failure. My opponent was Dave Hunt, an inveterate anti-Catholic, a Fundamentalist writer of risible but widely-read books that “exposed” the Catholic Church… Our venue was a large hall near Detroit. The place was packed, chiefly with people who weren’t sympathetic to the points I was trying to make. One such listener was Alex Jones, then pastor of an inner-city Pentecostal church.
Years later, when Steve Ray introduced me to Alex, he said I was responsible for Alex’s conversion to the Catholic faith—but that Alex hadn’t been impressed by a single argument I made during that debate (Ouch!)
What got to Alex, though, was something I said in my concluding remarks. The whole debate had been about how to interpret various biblical passages. Each time I said the proper interpretation was “this”, Dave Hunt insisted it was “that”. I said “tomayto” and he said “tomahto”. How could the audience know which interpretation was right? So, at the end of my remarks, I posed a few questions:
- Who is more likely to have understood what the writers of the New Testament meant—the Protestant Reformers, who lived in the sixteenth century, or the Fathers of the Church, those earliest Christian writers who lived in the first, second, and third centuries?
- Should we accept Calvin’s and Luther’s interpretations, even though they lived 1,500 years too late to have known the apostles, or should we accept the testimony of men such as Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp, who learned directly from the apostles or from those who had known the apostles?
This is what stuck in Alex’s mind, and it led him to make a fateful mistake: He started to read the Fathers of the Church. In a short time it was all over for him. He realized that the earliest Christians were, uh, Catholics! Alex saw the continuity between what the writers of the early centuries professed and what the Christians who saw our Lord professed. There was a straight line connecting them. The sacraments, the papacy, authority, Mary and the saints—the whole works.
He realized, to his astonishment and regret (because he led a thriving church), that today’s Catholic Church is the same institution as the Christian Church of the earliest centuries, and that to be a faithful “early Christian,” one needs to be a Catholic today. And so Alex “poped”—bringing a large portion of his congregation with him, I might add. That’s why I say my debate was a beautiful failure.
During the debate itself, I failed to convince Alex (and perhaps everyone else in the audience, for all I know) of the positions I was espousing, but I impelled him, at least, to turn to those who could convince him, the sainted writers of the early Church. Those writers have been making converts—and strengthening the faith of lifelong Catholics—for centuries. The most famous such convert was beatified on September 19: John Henry Newman.
In the very process of writing “An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Newman realized that the Church that the Fathers wrote about was not the Anglican church that he had been brought up in, not any of the other Protestant churches, but the Catholic Church that his fellow Englishmen looked down upon. By the time he finished writing his book, Newman realized that he too had to “pope.” Like Alex Jones 150 years later, he felt he had no choice. The evidence of the Fathers was just too much to resist. And there is a lot of that evidence.
Karl wrote this story as way of introduction to a new patristic book by Jimmy Atkin:
In the standard edition in English, the writings of the Fathers fill 38 fat volumes of small print. Not light reading, for certain, but within those hundreds of thousands of words you can find all the proof you need for the historical continuity of the Catholic faith. But do you have the time—and stamina—to wade through that sea of words, to separate out the most valuable passages and to set them aside for your own edification and for the instruction of others?
( Clearly Karl has never been to a JP2 Group
meeting in San Diego! 😉 )
Don’t worry. You don’t have to, because Jimmy Akin has done the work for you. In his newest book, “The Fathers Know Best”, Jimmy has collected all the key passages from the Fathers, more than 900 quotations in all. The material is organized by topic, so you easily can see what each of the ancient writers said about each Catholic belief. Within each topic, the quotations are organized chronologically, so you can follow how each doctrine developed and matured over time
I’ll admit I’m really quite excited by a book like this – a chance to sample snippets of many Church Fathers and discover new favourites 🙂
In addition, Jimmy provides brief biographies of nearly 100 Fathers, descriptions of dozens of early councils and Church documents, a concise history of the spread of early Christianity, a guide to nearly 30 ancient heresies, and maps showing you where the Fathers lived and worked.
Karl’s purpose in writing was to ensure a good launch for the book:
If a publisher can make a big splash right from the start, then a book has a chance to carry itself, so to speak, and to go from success to success. But if a publisher isn’t in a position to print many copies or to give the book the marketing oomph it needs, even the best book will languish. And “The Fathers Know Best” mustn’t languish, because it’s a book that can do an immense amount of good—both spiritual and intellectual—for countless thousands of people, both Catholic and non-Catholic.
That’s why I want to have a large first-run printing and an extensive right-out-of-the-gate marketing campaign. I want this book to “go viral” —because Christians of all stripes need it. To use a term common on the Internet, I want this book to “go viral,” which means to have publicity about it be self-sustaining so that more and more people can learn about—and learn from—this important book…. As I said, we need money to print a large number of copies of The Fathers Know Best—the more copies we order, the cheaper the unit cost and thus the lower we can set the retail price—and to undertake an extensive promotional campaign.
- A copy of the book itself, of course, autographed by Jimmy Akin.
- An exclusive audio interview with Jimmy about the book and its background
I’m definitely going to do this and you can expect to see a review here shortly after I receive it. As Karl says:
Over the years, I’ve learned of many people who, having stumbled across the Fathers, found themselves compelled to go where they didn’t want to go—into the Catholic Church.
Sound like any blogger you know? 😉