One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes is, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” I agree wholeheartedly. Which is why I’ve been reading a lot of the earliest Christian writings this year. It is good to be reminded of what the first Christians thought and believed and held on to for dear life.
One of those early church fathers was Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373) who wrote the amazing work “On The Incarnation.” [There were early church mothers too, quite prominent in the early church, but unfortunately the culture being what it was, we have very little of what they said or wrote.] In the English translation I that read, it had an introduction by C. S. Lewis, and in it he wrote that he encouraged his students, and all Christians, to read an ancient work for each modern one. Why? Well for one, the ancient classics have been tried and proven for centuries. Modern works are still “on trial.” The classics are classics because they transcend time and culture. Also, they take us back to our foundations, and those early church leaders were dedicated to preserving in written form the basics of Christianity. It is always good to be reminded of these truths we hold as core to our belief, indeed, to our lives.
Boniface Ramsey is an author who has studied the early church fathers and translated many of their works himself. He lists what they affirm as broad theological propositions that have remained central to Christian orthodoxy across almost all denominational lines. They are:
- Belief in a triune God
- The fully human and fully divine natures of Christ
- The redemptive efficacy of Christ’s death on the cross
- The absolute authority and infallibility of Scripture
- The fallen condition of humanity
- The significance of baptism and Holy Communion
- The vital importance of prayer and a disciplined spiritual life
Ramsey says, “Belief in these things, which the fathers unanimously proclaimed, even if they proclaimed them in different ways, continues to be the distinguishing marks of Christianity to this day.”
And I would say, just to be crystal clear, that it is implicit from this list that they believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus (redemptive efficacy), which is why it is so prominent in all of the early creeds. And they and the biblical writers believed that Jesus was in fact God (YHWH) in human form. On this they are quite clear.
So there you have it, a quick look at those basics of our faith, that are always good to review. I am amazed at how many people claiming to be Christians have a problem with multiple things listed here. Don’t get me wrong, this is no checklist mentality, but rather the stuff of life given to us by Jesus Himself. If you have issue with any of these basic foundational beliefs of our faith, I encourage you to look into them more deeply.
I hope this has been helpful!