Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Three Church Fathers

Let me briefly introduce you to three important leaders in the early church, Athanasius, Chrysostom, and Augustine. All of them encountered opposition and faced either exile or invasion. Yet they held firm to the faith, preaching and teaching it to the end.

Athanasius (c. 296-373), Alexandria, Egypt. He attended the council of Nicaea as a deacon, assisting one of the foremost opponents of Arianism. He then became the bishop of Alexandria for 46 years and defended Nicene orthodoxy. During his time as bishop we was exiled five times for a total of 17 years because he refused to readmit Arius and his followers (the emperors going back and forth between opposing Arianism and seeking to force reconciliation). And so the saying came about, "Athanasius contra mundum": Athanasius against the world. You can read his book, On the Incarnation, online here

John Chrysostom (347-407), Antioch, Syria. "Chrysostom" means “golden-mouth” and was a nickname given him because of his reputation as a preacher. In his preaching he exposited Scripture, verse by verse, with lively and bold application. He was called to serve as the archbishop of Constantinople, where his preaching against the abuse of wealth and power gained him influential enemies. These enemies eventually achieved his banishment. Though he died in exile, his reputation recovered after his death. You can read his sermons on the Gospel of Matthew online here

Augustine (354-430), North Africa. Despite having a Christian mother, he grew up in Carthage as a pagan. His journey to Christianity is recounted in his Confessions. After his conversion in Milan, he became a presbyter in Hippo in North Africa in 391 and bishop in 396. He engaged in a controversy with Pelagius, defending the doctrine of God's grace in salvation. In response to pagan critiques following the sack of Rome in 410, he wrote The City of God, a masterpiece of apologetics, an evaluation of Roman history, and a history of redemption (past and future). He died with his city besieged by the Vandals. You can read his Confessions online here, although other translations are available for purchase. 

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