Where have you been all my life?
As an Evangelical missionary with a lifelong interest in apologetics, I felt robbed. I had spent hours poring through Christian bookshops and had never read this kind of material. I didn’t even know there were writings available from the period. Most versions of Church history I had read would briefly mention the second and third centuries, focus for a short time on the trinitarian debates of the fourth, highlight Augustine, then jump into the sixteenth century for the Reformation. Never at a Christian bookstore or booktable had I seen patristic writings being reprinted and sold. We sell the writings of any nutcase who presumes to speak as an Evangelical, but have not bothered to consider selling the works of the sons and grandsons of the Apostles.
And I soon realised why. If Evangelicals ever bothered to reprint and study Ignatius, Polycarp, Tertullian, or Irenaeus, their writings would step on our theological toes.
Surprise. As I returned to the Bible with the new perspective of the early Church Fathers I began to see verses for which I had never given second thought. With time and patient reading I was forced to shift my disregard for Catholic and Orthodox teaching to a begruding acceptance. Point after point, doctrine after doctrine, I slowly realized that, as Evangelicals, we have been missing the Tradition of the Church. It was painful. I have always demanded reason for belief and here it was before me in reamfuls. And it hurt to take my own medicine.
With further studies and a struggling reflection on the Scriptures, I came to believe what I read in the Fathers. The Bible made more sense in light of the early Church than it did in light of modern Evangelicalism.