There is nothing quite like reading documents written by the early Church Fathers. Early meaning the span of 100 to 400 years Anno Domini, or AD, and Church Fathers meaning the successors of the twelve apostles. These documents capture explicitly the thoughts and doctrines within that time period. The evidence of christian history and historical doctrine can be found outside the bible in sermons, books, treatise, and etc. They are truly and interesting and captivating read!
I was not exposed to early Christian writing outside the bible till I decided to become catholic and attended a Catholic Universality. Today, I see that there is a great crime going on in Christianity. This crime is where history is censored and done away with. The bible alone is seen as what should be used for understanding of Christianity. More worrisome is how Christians deny the legitimacy of proven Christian history and let the information go in one ear and out the other. They treat history like it tends to do with science. They treat it as bogus and made up. They question the validity of early Christian writings and go against reason and logic. It is almost as if they do not appreciate sound and researched information. Historical facts matter nothing to them if it is not indicated in the bible, even if it is information about first century Christianity.
In college, I wrote a paper on Jesus descending into Hell as stated by the Apostles’ Creed. The way I tried to work this paper was with the use of scripture. I did not want to use history to prove this statement as I knew history would do nothing to improve my argument if I used it later as a means to inform people about the catholic faith. Non-Catholics, or churches that do not focus on real seven sacraments, only want evidence provided by verses and passages in scripture. This leaves out another half of the story. In my upbringings as a protestant, we discussed the founders of our church, John Wesley for example, and the characters in the bible. Other than that no other prominent figure of Christian history ever seemed to be discussed. There was no mention of Athanasius or the Councils that clarified the doctrine of the Trinity. There is a tendency among people to reject any historical fact that goes against there own doctrinal understanding of Christianity. For me it is a times frustrating, it limits the conversation to little phrases like “let go and let God” along with other short, ambiguous, and misinterpret-able sayings.
The censorship that is involved in this phenomenon is the lack of information about early church writing. Never had someone mentioned early Christian writing until I was teaching myself the ways of being a Catholic. The fact that this fails to get mentioned even in the pulpit is very concerning. Additionally, I also find it concerning how one is expected to have understanding of God’s word when they lack a good understanding of Jewish history and culture. How can the old testament be understood, along with cultural aspects in the New Testament, without educating people about Judaism? It is almost as if we are told to read the Constitution without ever knowing about the American Revolution, the Revolutionary war, and the articles of Confederation. Reading the Constitution without background information leaves out the context and key information.Today, even with the historical understanding of the Constitution there are still many interpretations on the document. This is, of course, not a prefect example.The question remains though, when did history become so unimportant that we think that we can understand ancient documents without context?
My questioning of this censorship is rhetorical. Cardinal Newman said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” Part of this phenomenon pertains to the existence of the Eucharist found in early church writing. The Eucharist is the most intimate interaction with Jesus. It is where the bread and wine go through transubstantiation where they become the body and blood of Jesus. It is one of my favorite sacraments, followed by confession. The body and blood of Jesus look like and taste like bread and wine, but God has changed them to have the substance of Jesus. The fact this is found in explicit detail outside the bible in historical writings is partly why Christian History is censored along with the evidence of the other Sacraments.
In the turn of the 20th century mostly everyone was literate, it is tragic that history is disregarded even though, today, we have higher literacy rates than ever, according to Western history. How can a world where mostly everyone can read and have access to information neglect parts of history just because they do not like what early church documents explicitly say? To add irony, most churches accept the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity also can not be found explicitly in the bible, but was a formulation made in the early church. In any case, many people I encounter do not regard history about Christianity to be valid information and it is truly very tragic. They think the history you spout is lies. The only way to really talk to most protestants is to use scripture alone.