CBB Interview with Jimmy Akin

PETE: I have asked this of other Patristic experts, most notably Mike Aquilina, so I would like your take on this one. What makes the Church Fathers so relevant today?

JIMMY AKIN: They are the hinge that connects our age to the apostolic age. They are an indispensable link in the transmission of the Faith from the first century to today. They also provide key context needed to understand some of the material in Scripture.

PETE: Your book The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church Fathers, is quite frankly an excellent tool for research and study. Who were you writing for and who do you believe will most benefit from it?

JIMMY AKIN: In a sense, I was writing for myself. I wanted there to be a book that was organized in the way that made the information as easy as possible to find.

So I said to myself, “What features would I want the book to have?” Then I took that as a guide to what features other readers would want it to have. Putting myself in the reader’s shoes is a major part of my writing technique.

There are many fine books on the Fathers out there, but what is unique about this one is that it’s optimized to make it as easy as possible to find the information you’re looking for.

The book is for anyone who would like to learn about the Church Fathers and, in particular, what they had to say on particular topics—many of which are controversial in our own day.

PETE: In your work as an apologist, who is your “go to” Church Father? The one you rely on the most for the right answers.

JIMMY AKIN: It depends on the topic. For apologetic purposes, I generally start with the earliest Father who discusses a subject and then proceed to later ones.

Obviously, some Fathers are known for their depth of thought and the number of their writings that have survived—Augustine and Jerome being obvious examples.

But if at all possible, I try to find witnesses among the apostolic Fathers—those that lived in the late first century and the second century. They are, as a group, my “go to” guys more than anyone else.

This includes people like Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Justin Martyr. It also includes early documents like the Didache and the Letter of Barnabas.

In general, the earliest Father who discusses a subject is the one I go to first.

PETE: Are there any other books on the Church Fathers you would recommend?

JIMMY AKIN: There are a lot out there! If you’re just getting into the field, you might want to check out Early Christian Writings by Maxwell Staniforth, which covers most of the apostolic Fathers.

William Jurgens’s Faith of the Early Fathers is similar to my book, but it is organized chronologically rather than by topic.

Kenneth Howell has a pair of volumes on Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch that are really good.

And then there are the many fine books by Mike Aquilina, who has been quite prolific on the subject of the Fathers.

PETE: Can you share any other book projects with us that you may be working on?

JIMMY AKIN: I have new editions of two books scheduled to come out this year. Both of them have been revised and expanded to bring them up to date. The first is a new edition of my book on the liturgy, Mass Confusion, and the second is a new edition of my book on salvation.

I’m also working on a book on the history of the Bible and how we got it.

PETE: Time for my signature ending question. This is a blog about books. What is currently on your bookshelf to read?

Lots of stuff! Just to name a few: On the fiction side, I’m currently reading TheComplete Sherlock Holmes. In science, I’ve been reading physicist Lee Smolin’s Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe. In history, I’ve been reading Josephus’s Jewish War. In humor, I’ve been reading Ted L. Nancy’s All New Letters from a Nut. In Biblical studies, I’ve been reading Martin Hengel’s The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ and re-reading Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.

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