Monday 29 May 2017

The Fathers Know Best - Jimmy Akin - Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church

The Fathers Know Best:
Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church
Jimmy Akin
Catholic Answers Press
ISBN 9781933919348
eISBN 9781933919546

In the last few months I have finished three books by Jimmy Akin. Each has been a great read in its own way, but this particular book I loved. Having spent over 20 years in University as an undergrad, and 10 of that part time working on a religious Studies Degree, with a focus on Roman Catholic Thought, I have encountered the church fathers a number of times. I have read a few different collections of sayings of the church fathers and sections of a number of other books by and about the Desert Fathers and Mothers. I will state that this book is the best book I have read to date on this topic. This volume pulls it together differently than any other book I have encountered. In past readings of the desert fathers some sort strictly by author, some by topic and some in chronological order. What Jimmy does different is that he sorts by major topic, then sections within the topic and then in chronological order. Jimmy also ties the quotes from the desert fathers to church canons from Church Council’s.

Unlike many other books on the church Fathers Jimmy starts out with setting the ground work. He defines what he means by Church Father, as compared to ecclesial writers. He also sets the church fathers in their time. He has sections about the fathers, their world, And the regions that these writings draw from. In fact the Sections in this book are:

Foreword by Marcus Grodi
I. Introduction

1.  About This Book
2.  About the Fathers

II. The World of the Fathers
3.  The World at a Glance
4.  “My Witnesses in Jerusalem”
5.  The Second Holy Land
6.  Greece and Rome
7.  The Far West
8.  North Africa

III.  Ad Fontes!—“To the Sources!”
9.  Know Your Fathers
10. Know Your Councils
11.  Know Your Writings
12.  Know Your Heresies

IV. God

13.  The One True God
14.  God Has No Body
15.  The Trinity
16.  The Three Persons of the Trinity
17.  The Divinity of Christ
18.  The Eternal Sonship of Christ
19.  Filioque

V. Creation
20.  Creation out of Nothing
21.  Creation in Genesis

VI. The Sources of Faith
22.  The Canon of Scripture
23.  Apostolic Tradition

VII. The Church and the Pope
24.  The Catholic Church
25.  Apostolic Succession
26.  Peter the Rock
27.  Peter’s Primacy
28.  Peter in Rome
29.  Peter’s Successors
30.  The Authority of the Pope

VIII. Morality

31.  Mortal Sin
32.  Abortion
33.  Contraception and Sterilization
34.  Homosexuality
35.  Astrology

IX. Sacraments and Worship

36.  Baptism as a Means of Grace
37.  Baptismal Regeneration
38.  The Necessity of Baptism
39.  Trinitarian Baptism
40.  Infant Baptism
41.  Confirmation
42.  The Real Presence
43.  The Sacrifice of the Mass
44.  Confession
45.  Bishop, Priest, and Deacon
46.  Women Priests?
47.  The Permanence of Marriage
48.  Sabbath or Sunday?

X. Mary, the Saints, the Miraculous
49.  Mary, Full of Grace
50.  Mary, Mother of God
51.  Mary, Ever Virgin
52.  Intercession of the Saints
53.  Ongoing Miracles
54.  Private Revelation

XI. The Last Things

55.  Salvation Outside the Church
56.  Reward and Merit
57.  Purgatory
58.  Hell
59.  Reincarnation?
60.  The Resurrection of the Body
61.  The Antichrist

Translations Used
Documents Used
Scripture Index

There is a lot to digest in this book and the way that Jimmy presents the material. In fact I often rip through books in a day or two, but took my time with this volume and spent over a week working my way through it. I have also already added it back into my to be read pile to revisit it again later this year or early next year. Some books you can read once and be done with them, others you come back to again and again, my feeling is this book by Jimmy Akin will be in that latter category for me, and likely for many other readers.

There are a few things that make this book excellent for personal study or for evangelization. First Jimmy predominantly draws upon publically available translations, that way you can go further in your readings with specific fathers or topics. Second he draws mainly from protestant commentaries, or translations of the quotes. For the most part the times he does not is when those sayings have been dropped from the protestant editions. And finally because of the format with an introduction, then the quotes, the material has been wrapped and packaged in a much easier way to digest. Some versions just have the quotes with no context, but Jimmy goes the distance to give us context and cohesion across the specific topics.

As I stated above of the numerous books with quotes about the desert fathers this is now my favorite. It will be the one I recommend to friends and family. It will be the one I encourage seekers to read when the topic is broached. And it is the one that I will reread again and again. An excellent resource for any serious Christian who cares about the early years and traditions of our faith!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Jimmy Akin:
The Salvation Controversy
Cracking the Da Vinci Code
The Fathers Know Best
The Drama of Salvation
Justification by Faith and Works
A Daily Defense: 365 Days ( plus one) to Becoming a Better Apologist
Mass Revision: How the Liturgy is Changing and What it Means for You
Pope Names: The Definitive Guide to the History of Papal Naming, Why Popes Choose the Names They Do, and What Name the Next Pope Will Choose
Why Mormonism Is Not Christian: The Essential Facts Every Catholic Must Know
Mormons: The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints: A Catholic Perspective
20 Answers Salvation - 20 Answers Series from Catholic Answers
The Bible Answer Man Debate: Jimmy Akin vs. James White
Annulments: What You Need to Know
Islam: A Catholic Perspective
Mark: A Commentary
The Nightmare World of Jack Chick
God Is Love: Understanding Benedict XVI's First Encyclical
Words of Wisdom from the Church Fathers

20 Answers Faith and Works - Jimmy Akin

Contributed to:
Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind
Surprised By Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic
The Best of Catholic Answers Live: 47 Answers to Questions from Non-Catholics
The Bible Alone?: Is The Bible Alone Sufficient?

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