Why should modern Christians concern themselves with the history of Christianity? We have the Bible so we don’t need to know who the early Christians were, or what they believed. Blaise Pascal said, “The history of the church should more accurately be called the history of truth.”

If we want to be effective in our faith conversations, a robust understanding of the history of Christianity is necessary so that we can address the ancient heresies that are still alive and kicking today.

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Why should we care who the early Christians were?

From the words of the Teacher, Son of David, King in Jerusalem we have this fortituous and chiiling prophesy:

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Can one say about anything,
“Look, this is new”?
It has already existed in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of those whok came before;l
and of those whom will come after
there will also be no remembrance
by those who follow them.

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 HCSB

What’s old is new, and what’s new is old.

In 2014, 57% of Evangelical Christians strongly disagreed that “Jesus is the first creature created by God.”. Two years later in 2016, only 20% of Evangelical Christians strongly disagreed with “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God”. In 2018, the number of those who identify as Evangelical Christians and who strongly disagreed that “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God” dropped to 17%. (1)

The ancient heresy Arianism is alive and well amongst American Evangelicals. The early church fought against this heresy, but if we don’t know the roots of our faith how would we know this? If the only early Christians you’ve heard of are Martin Luther or Augustine, it’s time to learn about the earlier church.

If you’ve only heard of Martin Luther and Augustine perhaps it’s time you learned about the earlier church #History #Christianity #Apologetics #AmReading Click To Tweet

Who helped shape and preserve Christianity before The Reformation?

This handy reference guide is intended to be a short introduction to the essential people in the earliest years of Christianity. David Bercot brings the early Christians to life as we walk through history.

As a former Jehovah’s Witness and an attorney Bercot had the desire to learn for himself exactly what the apostolic faith as understood by the early generations of Christians was. So he set out to read the writings of the early church. He read the entire Ante-Nicene Fathers 10 volume set twice.

He has compiled a handy quick-reference guide (only 43 pages long!) of exactly who is who in the early Christian church and divided them into four main categories with short introductions for each:

  1. The apologists and other writers
  2. The church leaders
  3. Famous martyrs
  4. The Heretics

Who Is Who in the Early Church by David Bercot

Who Is Who in the Early Church by David Bercot is designed to acquaint the reader with the key figures in the early, pre-Nicene church. Most Christians have never heard of most of these early Christians, except for a few persons like Tertullian and Justin Martyr. As a result, when most Christians today run across names like Irenaeus or Cyprian, they have no idea of who these people are.

About the Author: David W. Bercot is an attorney, author, and international speaker. He has written numerous books and magazine articles about early Christianity and Christian discipleship. Bercot, an Anglican priest and an attorney, graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University and Baylor University School of Law and is a member of the North American Patristics Society. His two best-known works are Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up?, and the Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs.

Connect with the Author: Website

Conclusion

Learning the history of Christianity, who its people were, why they were important and what they believed is one of our best defenses against heresy within Christianity and helpful when engaging in everyday faith conversations with non-Christians. You don’t have to know all the answers to be effective in your everyday faith conversations, but you do need to always be ready to give an answer for what you believe and why you believe it.

Who Is Who in the Early Church by David Bercot is a great introduction to the important players in the first few hundred years of Christianity and will help you as you begin learning the history of Christianity.

Want to learn more about the early church? You might like What are good and trusted resources for studying historical early Christian writings? and join us in our Christian Women Apologists: History of Christianity Community

I’d love to hear what you think

Have you heard of Irenaeus or Cyprian, and know what they believed and taught? How do you think learning about these people can help you be bold and fearless for the Gospel, and enrich your own faith?

Resources I Recommend:

If you want to know what the early church believed on everything from Abandonment of Infants to Zoroastrianism, I recommend A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs by David Bercot. A companion index to the Ante-Nicene Fathers 10 volume set, this reference guide is absolutely indispensable for quickly looking up Early Christian thought.

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References:

(1) Ligonier Ministry, Lifeway Research. “State of Theology Survey.” The State of Theology, 2018, thestateoftheology.com