The Fathers Know Best
How the Fathers of the Church
turned my "failed" debate into a success-
and how you can meet them
in Jimmy Akin's newest book
Dear Friend of Catholic Answers:
My debate was a beautiful failure.
My opponent was Dave Hunt, an inveterate anti-Catholic, a Fundamentalist writer of risible but widely-read books that “exposed” the Catholic Church, and someone I had had the displeasure of debating on radio a few years earlier.
Our venue was a large hall near Detroit. The place was packed, chiefly with people who weren’t sympathetic to the points I was trying to make. One such listener was Alex Jones, then pastor of an inner-city Pentecostal church.
Years later, when Steve Ray introduced me to Alex, he said I was responsible for Alex’s conversion to the Catholic faith—but that Alex hadn’t been impressed by a single argument I made during that debate. (Ouch!)
What got to Alex, though, was something I said in my concluding remarks.
The whole debate had been about how to interpret various biblical passages.
Each time I said the proper interpretation was this, Dave Hunt insisted it was that. I said “tomayto,” and he said “tomahto.” How could the audience know which interpretation was right?
So, at the end of my remarks, I posed a few questions:
Who is more likely to have understood what the writers of the New Testament meant—the Protestant Reformers, who lived in the sixteenth century, or the Fathers of the Church, those earliest Christian writers who lived in the first, second, and third centuries?
Should we accept Calvin’s and Luther’s interpretations, even though they lived 1,500 years too late to have known the apostles, or should we accept the testimony of men such as Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp, who learned directly from the apostles or from those who had known the apostles?
This is what stuck in Alex’s mind, and it led him to make a fateful mistake: He started to read the Fathers of the Church. In a short time it was all over for him. He realized that the earliest Christians were, uh, Catholics!
Alex saw the continuity between what the writers of the early centuries professed and what the Christians who saw our Lord professed. There was a straight line connecting them. The sacraments, the papacy, authority, Mary and the saints—the whole works.
He realized, to his astonishment and regret (because he led a thriving church), that today’s Catholic Church is the same institution as the Christian Church of the earliest centuries, and that to be a faithful “early Christian,” one needs to be a Catholic today.
And so Alex “poped”—bringing a large portion of his congregation with him, I might add.
That’s why I say my debate was a beautiful failure.
During the debate itself, I failed to convince Alex (and perhaps everyone else in the audience, for all I know) of the positions I was espousing, but I impelled him, at least, to turn to those who could convince him, the sainted writers of the early Church.
Those writers have been making converts—and strengthening the faith of lifelong Catholics—for centuries.
The most famous such convert was beatified on September 19: John Henry Newman.
In the very process of writing An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Newman realized that the Church that the Fathers wrote about was not the Anglican church that he had been brought up in, not any of the other Protestant churches, but the Catholic Church that his fellow Englishmen looked down upon.
By the time he finished writing his book, Newman realized that he too had to “pope.”
Like Alex Jones 150 years later, he felt he had no choice. The evidence of the Fathers was just too much to resist.
And there is a lot of that evidence.
Jimmy Akin makes the Fathers truly accessible, for the first time
In the standard edition in English, the writings of the Fathers fill 38 fat volumes of small print. Not light reading, for certain, but within those hundreds of thousands of words you can find all the proof you need for the historical continuity of the Catholic faith.
But do you have the time—and stamina—to wade through that sea of words, to separate out the most valuable passages and to set them aside for your own edification and for the instruction of others?
Don’t worry. You don’t have to, because Jimmy Akin has done the work for you.
In his newest book, The Fathers Know Best, Jimmy has collected all the keys passages from the Fathers, more than 900 quotations in all.
The material is organized by topic, so you easily can see what each of the ancient writers said about each Catholic belief.
Within each topic, the quotations are organized chronologically, so you can follow how each doctrine developed and matured over time.
In addition, Jimmy provides brief biographies of nearly 100 Fathers, descriptions of dozens of early councils and Church documents, a concise history of the spread of early Christianity, a guide to nearly 30 ancient heresies, and maps showing you where the Fathers lived and worked.
On top of all that, he includes special sections on about 50 hot-button issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and divorce.
I’m confident that The Fathers Know Best will be a “blockbuster” and will produce many converts like Alex Jones—people who, because of their upbringing or training, might be able to resist standard Catholic apologetical arguments but who have no defenses against the writings of the earliest Christians.
I’ve met hundreds of such people over the years. Perhaps you have too. And I’m not talking only about anti-Catholic Fundamentalists, such as the people in that debate audience.
I’m talking also about Catholics on whom—for whatever reasons—the common explanations and defenses of the faith just don’t seem to make an impression. I’ve found that even they succumb to the writings of the Fathers of the Church, those saints who turned a pagan world into a world imbued with the Christian ethos.
But The Fathers Know Best isn’t intended just for potential converts or for wobbly Catholics. It’s intended for every Catholic who wants a rousing affirmation of the historical truth of the faith. And that’s why I think this book will do very well, if . . .
. . . if we can get it printed, that is.
I want to launch this book with a bang, not a whimper
The book is ready for the printer. The text has been finished, proofed, and typeset. But this is a big book—about 400 pages—and to print it in a large enough quantity to get a good per-copy rate from the printer and to give it the initial public promotion it deserves . . . well, that takes cash that we just don’t have.
But—ahem!—you and our other friends do, and so I’m asking you to give us a hand in getting The Fathers Know Best printed and publicized.
I’ve been involved in writing and publishing for a long time, so I know that bringing a book to fruition and getting it noticed (and sold!) is no easy thing.
Each year more than 40,000 titles are published in the U.S., and it takes savvy and, alas, cash to get a worthwhile book “noticed” and reviewed and (as I think this one will be) praised, but that’s what needs to be done if The Fathers Know Best is to have the influence I think it ought to have.
In publishing, as in other areas, there’s a “window of opportunity.”
If a publisher can make a big splash right from the start, then a book has a chance to carry itself, so to speak, and to go from success to success.
But if a publisher isn’t in a position to print many copies or to give the book the marketing oomph it needs, even the best book will languish.
And The Fathers Know Best mustn’t languish, because it’s a book that can do an immense amount of good—both spiritual and intellectual—for countless thousands of people, both Catholic and non-Catholic.
That’s why I want to have a large first-run printing and an extensive right-out-of-the-gate marketing campaign.
I want this book to “go viral”—because Christians of all stripes need it
To use a term common on the Internet, I want this book to “go viral,” which means to have publicity about it be self-sustaining so that more and more people can learn about—and learn from—this important book.
I hope you can help us pull this off. Click here to donate.
As I said, we need money to print a large number of copies of The Fathers Know Best—the more copies we order, the cheaper the unit cost and thus the lower we can set the retail price—and to undertake an extensive promotional campaign.
I hope you might be one of those willing to help with a gift of $500 or $1,000 or even more. Or maybe you can afford to send us $100 or $200 toward this effort. Whatever you give, you have our thanks.
If you’re able to help us with a donation of at least $50, as a thank-you, we’ll send you in return two things:
- A copy of the book itself, of course, autographed by Jimmy Akin.
- An exclusive audio interview with Jimmy about the book and its background. This interview will not be made available in the future and is available only as a thank-you to those who help with this project.
Perhaps you can tell from this letter that I’m excited about this project. I think Jimmy’s new book will do a lot of good for a lot of people.
Over the years, I’ve learned of many people who, having stumbled across the Fathers, found themselves compelled to go where they didn’t want to go—into the Catholic Church.
They saw that the Catholic Church and Catholic beliefs go back beyond the Council of Trent, beyond the medieval councils, all the way to the earliest councils—and further back still, all the way to Christ.
Won’t you help us help thousands come to see this truth? Click here to donate to this important project.
You and I are witnesses to the truth of the Catholic faith—and I think we’ve had some success in that—but the most powerful witnesses I know, outside the Bible itself, are the Fathers of the Church.
Please help us introduce them to today’s readers, both Catholic and non-Catholic.
Many thanks for your help!
Sincerely in Christ,
President, Catholic Answers