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Bryan Litfin's Getting to Know the Church Fathers, which has chapters on Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, Perpetua, Origen, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Cyril of Alexandria, is designed to introduce the ancient church to evangelicals. Litfin writes about the lives and major issues of each person, then lists possible study questions, books for deeper exploration, and a short excerpt of the church father's writing. He is concerned that many Christians have rejected the church fathers under the impression that they were detached from Scripture, Roman Catholic, and that they represent the "fall" of Christianity after Constantine's conversion. Litfin spoke with CT about introducing evangelicals to Patristics.

Whom did you write the book for?

Someone like me, someone who had heard of the concept of the ancient church and thought Yeah, there were people in togas who got thrown to the lions. But I didn't really know who they were, and I certainly didn't feel any spiritual or theological connection to them. Then I began to see them as real people. I began to see them as my forefathers, that I might feel an organic connection. And that church history is a continuous story.

We can recover the fathers as our own and we can recover them through a direct line back, so that all the richness of church history becomes ours. That's what I want to do for the Christian today: I want the Christian to understand that there's a richness to their history that they're missing; embrace it and let it be something that inspires you.

Are there some negative views evangelicals hold that are valid?

Yes. I try not to go into that too much, not in order to hide those things but because they're so complicated. ...

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October 2007

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