I have a good friend and neighbor who is Christian, sometimes attends an Assemblies of God church, but is, at her heart, a “me, my God, and my Bible” believer. She is, however, open to learning about Catholicism (though she does get stuck on Marian doctrines ). She keeps insisting that she wants to practice the Christianity of the Apostles, what the Bible refered to as “The Way”.
When I pointed out to her that one can read what the first generation of Christians believed in, she was amazed. I sent her links to several books about the Church Fathers, but she said she preferred to read one not published nor edited by a Catholic entity. I found one published by Penguin books, which she is looking into.
My question is this: will the Church Fathers always support Catholic dogma and doctrine, or is it possible to “skew” their writings to support Protestant, or specifically anti-Catholic viewpoints? I would hate to have directed her to a source that’s going to reinforce her notion that the Real Presence is “hogwash” (her words, not mine), that baptism is merely a symbol, that Christ didn’t institute a sacramental Church, etc. etc.
The writings of the ECF like the Bible can be interpreted out of context and make them to be see to support Protestant doctrine. However, in the fullness of their writings, they are always Catholic.
Those who are in oppose to Catholics are condemned as heretics, like Origen, I admire his writings but when he provided a doctrine not in union with the belief of the Church at the time, he was condemned…
Not everything that the Fathers wrote is gospel. The Church accepts as revealed doctrine which benefits from a consensus of the Fathers.
Just like scripture, one can twist the writings of the Fathers. But I would say that it should generally be beneficial for your friend to read what the Fathers have to say about the Eucharist, the nature of the Church and the hierarchy.
Even though it’s written from the point of view of a convert to Catholicism who discovered the church of the early fathers, the book Four Witnesses, by Rod Bennet, is a short and readable introduction to the earliest of the church fathers.
Most of what the fathers wrote was Catholic. In fact, I think they hardly had any protestant positions, except for those things protestants today share with Catholics today.
It is interesting what happened to Protestant pentecostal minister Alex Jones, when he decided that he wanted to worship like the Early Church Father did. He started researching about them and implementing the ancient liturgy in his sunday worship services. Next thing you know, without even realizing their worship services looked and felt more and more like a Catholic mass.
Studying more and more what the Early Christian believed, and understanding why they believed it and their basis in the word of God, caused Alex Jones and most of his congregations (over 50 people) to convert to the Catholic Church.
The thing is, I think, that most protestants will reject right off and will not consider at all many beliefs when they know they are Catholic, but when the read the Fathers, they are a little more open-minded and so without realizing they start believing this and that belief without knowing that the Catholic Church maintains it today.
I tell you, a lot of protestant pastors who know about it, are concerned when one of their ships starts wanting to worship like the ECF did, as they know they were overwhelmingly Catholic. IN fact, such is the case, that in protestant seminaries they never go in depth on the teachings of the fathers.
If your friend wants a non-catholic edition of the fathers, there is a nice collection on-line