Dr. Andrew Blaski
As twenty-first century Christians, we sometimes treat the New Testament as though it were written in a vacuum, without considering how it was received (and indeed, compiled) by those who immediately followed its composition. It doesn’t always occur to us that there were men and women who actually knew the apostles, and that those individuals may have written down all sorts of interesting and important things about early Christian belief and practice. Should the views of those who knew the apostle John, for example, influence our understanding of the faith? If so, we ought to be reading writers like Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch quite closely!
In the very earliest years of the second century (a mere decade or two after John’s death), Ignatius wrote seven letters of value for our present knowledge of ancient Christian belief and worship. In captivity, and awaiting his execution, he addressed everything from proper church governance, to the sacraments, to the divine/human natures of Jesus Christ. Ignatius, in turn, had disciples, and those disciples had disciples, and so the chain of influence continued. These men and women, many with direct historical links to the authors of the New Testament, shaped the overall trajectory of Christian thought and practice for centuries, including the canon, confessions, councils, and creeds we still profess and proclaim today. If you would like to know what those men and women taught, how they thought, how they worshiped, and how all of this affects you, come and join me on Wednesday evenings this spring. We’ll take a deep dive into some of the most profound, important, and moving early Christian writings of the second to fifth centuries. We’ll look at Christology, biblical interpretation, sacramental theology, martyrdom, monasticism, and even the nature of theology itself. Two things I can promise you: you will be personally challenged, and your faith will be enriched.