As author Luke J. Wilson describes: "It's a wonderful thing to be able to look back millennia and know that what we believe and follow as Christians has been faithfully passed on and preserved for all this time. Many doctrines we now take for granted were actually developed and defended during this time; carefully worded and formed to ensure that the truth of God doesn't get lost, diluted or warped for selfish gain."
Wilson’s 40 Days with the Fathers introduces and explores the work of ten influential historic writers: Didache, Diognetus, Polycarp, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Cyprian, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose of Milan, and Leo the Great.
Through the course of these letters, epistles, apologetics, and catechisms, Wilson explains how the early Church leaders carried on after the resurrection of Jesus. How did the apostles move forward? What message did they and their disciples convey?
40 Days with the Fathers is a compilation of Wilson’s Lenten blog series and it touches on some of the schisms within the early church, as people began to interpret the Word of God, leading to differences of opinion that ultimately led to various sects of Christianity.
The historical writings are served in bite-sized pieces and summarized in a succinct, digestible way. Wilson’s familiar writing style adeptly condenses each piece into core concepts that are understandable to the average reader. Each section is prefaced with a summary of who, what, why, and when. Wilson’s explanation of some of the practices of the day are both fascinating and help put the writing in context.
40 Days with the Fathers includes plenty of easy-to-navigate notes and definitions. One I used, for example: Docetism – The false teaching and belief that Jesus’ humanity was an illusion.
Throughout his book, Wilson proves that it’s more than a history lesson. He brings the messages home to us today, challenging our personal and spiritual growth. He says: "Though the Docetic heresy may not be prominent today, does a form of it dwindle in your thoughts? Has the reality of the Gospel really taken root in your heart and mind? Meditate on the reality of the Gospel message and on Jesus – his incarnation and manifestation in this world 2000 years ago – and consider the reality of his Spirit now dwelling in you today. Let that really take a hold of you as you go about your day."
Personally, I found it intriguing where man began to expand on God’s Word - opening God's Word to human interpretation. As one example, in Didache 2, we see man's early interpretation of the commandments, stated as fact:
And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born. You shall not covet the things of your neighbour, you shall not swear, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued, for to be double-tongued is a snare of death. Your speech shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed. You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty. You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbour.
This book also gave me an appreciation of the effort of the early church leaders, the original apologetics, trying to convince doubters of the truth of the resurrection and establishing practices that would form Christian sects for thousands of years to come. It reminded me that I take for granted not having to fear being persecuted for being a Christian in America. I sometimes forget the enormous struggle of the earliest Christians and the turmoil that must have existed.
40 Days with the Fathers is both an enjoyable history lesson and a spiritual journey.
Historians, especially biblical and Christian, and apologetics will enjoy this book. Anyone looking for a personal spiritual journey or a connection to the forefathers from over two thousand years would find it in 40 Days with the Fathers. Christians who truly absorb the messages in this book will be more enriched for having done so.
Luke J. Wilson has a BA (hons) in Biblical Studies and Theology and has been reading and studying the works of the Early Church Fathers for over five years. After being involved in various short-term missions to South Africa, he currently lives in Devon, England, and writes his theological blog, That Ancient Faith.
You can contact Luke through his website HERE.
Author Shirley Alarie began writing adult and children's books to benefit two causes she loves. 'Hope in the Hood' portrays the incredible story of Colleen Adams providing hope and help to disenfranchised inner-city youth. 'A Healing Haven' showcases the amazing work of Shawn Jayroe and her incredible volunteers at RVR Horse Rescue. Children's books 'A New Friend for Gilbert' and the Dominick the Donkey 2-part series are based on real animals and events at RVR. Now Shirley writes for Jesus - including children's books (Heaven is Better - due fall 2019), her FindingGodAmongUs blog, and as a Christian adult and children's book reviewer. Need a freelance writer? Check her out.