Today, as we remember those who have gone on before us, let us pay homage to our Christian fathers of old.
23:22 Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.
In today’s culture, we tend to think that technology makes us smarter. Actually, it just makes knowledge more available. The problem is not with the knowledge, but the wisdom that drives that knowledge. Without wise predecessors, we must “reinvent the wheel” each time we read the Scriptures. The solution is that they have already given us sound doctrine in their writings and, in some cases, in their liturgy, i.e. the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. Before we think too highly of ourselves, consider this point of view:
Is our theological understanding always increasing? If theology isn’t just an abstract discussion, but is literally the knowledge of God, is there any evidence that we today know God better than any previous generation? This would mean the earliest Christians had the least accurate understanding of their faith. Compared to us, they must have had a mere sliver of the knowledge of God that we have. Even though we trust them to have written the New Testament and to have chosen what books to include in it. Even though they died for their faith with a courage we would find hard to match.*
We would do well to consider the teachings of our forefathers–the ones who walked with the apostles and learned from them, passing down their faith from generation to generation. People like Origen, Tertullian, Clement, Ignatius, Justin, Polycarp, Irenaeus, and many more have much to teach us about the Christian walk and life.
At the Council of Nicaea, Athanasius fought hard to compile the canon of our Bibles today. It was completed at the council of Carthage in 397 A.D. with the addition of Revelation. Over the centuries, doctrines have changed according to the leaders and the times. We would do well to learn the faith of our fathers–our original fathers of the faith.
Abba, may we take seriously the faith of those who took their faith seriously. Many of the ones mentioned above gave their lives for Your sake. May I be as brave if called upon to do the same. May my faith be that real to me–may YOU be that real to me! Amen.
*Frederica Matthewes-Green, “Mary As the Early Christians Knew Her: The Mother of Jesus in Three Ancient Texts”