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Publisher's Summary

If the word trinity isn't in Scripture, why is it such an important part of our faith? And if the Bible can be interpreted in many ways, how do we know what to make of it? And who decided what should be in the Bible anyway? The Church Fathers provide the answers! Marcellino D'Ambrosio dusts off what might have been just dry theology to bring you the exciting stories of great heroes such as Ambrose, Augustine, Basil, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and Jerome. These brilliant, embattled, and sometimes eccentric men defined the biblical canon, hammered out the Creed, and gave us our understanding of sacraments and salvation. It is they who preserved the rich legacy of the early Church for us.

©2014 Marcellino D'Ambrosio (P)2014 Franciscan Media

Critic Reviews

"Dr. D'Ambrosio has accomplished the rare feat of combining scholarship with readability. Christians of all traditions can trace their faith to these pioneers; their story is our story."--Right Honourable David Baron Alton, M.P. and Liverpool University professor
"Gripping, compelling, and fast-moving." Sarah Reinhard, blogger, SnoringScholar.com

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Masterful summary of the early Church Fathers

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely. I have read other books on the early Church and the Church Fathers, but this book brings both to life. Each Father has an intriguing and compelling story that is told in a conversationalist manner so as to leap off the page.

What does Marcellino D'Ambrosio bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Dr. D'Ambrosio is a skilled orator. Hearing a passionate author speak in his own words is a great experience.

Any additional comments?

This book does an outstanding job explaining heresy’s within the early Church such as Gnosticism and Aryanism and shows how each was debunked and defeated and by whom. We present day Christians take difficult topics like the Trinity for granted. This book is a reminder of how it wasn’t always so and how Christian thought solidified through apostolic Tradition.<br/>Perhaps most importantly, this book reminds us that early Christians were willing to die for their faith. How many present day Christians are ready to do the same? In those days it was expected and embraced.<br/>The pithy recap of the apostolic Tradition’s points of convergence in Chapter 26 is brilliant and concise. <br/>The early Church Fathers would be outraged to see the many divisions within present-day Christianity. Their words and, in many ways, this book is a call for unity. Thank you, Dr. D’Ambrosio for writing and compiling it.<br/>

22 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • San Diego, CA, USA
  • 08-06-15

One of the best

I had a bias. I had listened to this writer give a past talk that I didn't much care for, and so I didn't think his book would be much better frankly. I was wrong. This is one of the most readable and important books on the subject precisely because it is so accessible. Well researched and a fantastic resource. Fascinating read.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • PJB
  • Brightwater, Nelson, New Zealand
  • 08-17-15

Epic

What did you love best about When the Church Was Young?

It was great to see ordinary human beings struggling to understand the messages of Jesus - and to make sense of it in the light of the things they had always believed. Wonderful to meet the inspiring and amazingly committed people who created Christianity

What other book might you compare When the Church Was Young to and why?

Acts is the first chapter.

Which character – as performed by Marcellino D'Ambrosio – was your favorite?

Basil

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It helped me understand how we became what we are.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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eye opening

I learned a lot and am inspired to read more on the early church fathers

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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An extraordinary lesson for my spiritual journey.

This book further deepened my gratefulness for the depth of understanding and writing conveyed by the early church fathers.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Every Christian should read this book

I have studied the church fathers in the past. This is the best single volume on the subject I have ever read. The author does a fantastic job of explaining the church fathers and their position in the church versus the many different heresies that infected the early church. I strongly strongly recommended. Although I would caution my Baptist friends they may not like what they find when they start to probe the way the early Christians worshiped and what they believed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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guide to early church fathers

The resurgence of awareness of the early Church Fathers, not only in the more traditional liturgical church settings but in the Evangelical world has given rise to a number of good books about early Church history and the actual writings of those early Christians.

After reading John Michael Talbot’s mostly memoir-ish look at the early Church fathers I decided that I wanted a more history oriented book, but still introduction level. I have read fairly in depth about the early Church Fathers on the trinity, but not on much else. (Although I have read several other than Christian history survey books that cover the era.)

When the Church Was Young fits the bill well. D’Ambrosia is Catholic and writing this in part to encourage Catholics, but this is not an exclusively Catholic view of the early church. After all, at this point it was just the Church, the major splits were yet to come, although there were certainly lots of little splits. There were a few places where I think that D’Ambrosia made too much of a leap from ancient to current Catholic and I think he started referring to all Christians as Catholic earlier than the history warrants, but with those caveats, D’Ambrosia does a good job of giving context and history to the various Church Fathers and enough of a sense of their writing to feel like you are getting more than just survey history.

I have decided that it is going to take me a number of repeated reading to really get my history and understanding of the era down. This is probably my fourth quick survey of the era and each time I get more, but the historical names and theological terms and philosophical concepts do not roll right off the tongue, especially when there are a number of similarly named Fathers.

D’Ambrosia is not giving any controversial readings here. This is standard history that is supportive of Catholic doctrine. I think he, and Catholics in general, are mostly right especially on the importance of the eucharist, the trinity, and early church authority. But there are other areas where I am just not sure. Especially about the Eucharist, there was new insights and information. Much of the early church had a semblance of the Eucharist every day, if not in a full church gathering, then the members would take home portions and have them daily as a household. The full doctrine of Transubstantiation had not been developed by 600 when this book ends, but there was a sense of the ‘real presence of Christ’ that would be acceptable to most Christians today that was present in this era. As I have said on a few other occasions, I do think the lack of participation in the Eucharist is a weakness of the mega-church world that I attend. I understand why it is not done, but I still disagree with it.

D’Ambrosia ends with a helpful postscript about the fact that these Early Church Fathers are fallen humans, just as we are. Several of them wrote doctrine that was later defined as heresy, but I agree with him that it is important to understand where we are coming from. If you have read a fair bit of theology, then much of the rough concepts will be familiar as well as a number of famous quotes that have entered general culture, like the famous ‘When in Rome’.

Because I am still a Protestant, I am going to have to think more about how to think about the progression of theology. Much of what is here is the root of our current faith, including early church worship and the creeds, but some is fairly foreign and it is clear that we have moved away from what the early church thought on a number of issues. Still this is an introduction that is worth reading if you are interested in the subject.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A very Catholic Perspective of the Church fathers

Well written and read. The main issue I have with this book is that it at times reads like a defense of various Catholic doctrines with proof tests from the church fathers. It made me feel like I was getting a skewed understanding of what the church fathers taught. I don't know enough about the fathers to know if that is true or not, but I couldn't help but suspect it because of the way this is written. Not a scholarly approach--more of a pietistic approach--which is fine if that is what you are looking for.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Catholic church

I was hoping to get a book explaining the interaction of the early church fathers with the apostles, but that's not what this is. It's an explanation perhaps a defense, of the beliefs and structures of the Catholic church wherever it can be shoehorned into letters of antiquity. This book has all the scholarship one would expect from a work of Catholic literature.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very good. Definitely from a Roman Catholic view

The author spends much time on heresies which is all well and good, but doesn't even mention the Constantinian or Augustinian heresies.

I'd recommend it for sure.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Grantley McDONALD
  • 12-27-14

Traditional presentation of the early church

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

This book has much to recommend it, but also much that the reader (or listener) must take with caution. It’s a very pleasant and edifying listen. However, it has a number of fundamental problems. D’Ambrosio is constantly at pains to give the impression that the position currently held by the Roman Catholic church on any given issue is identical with that held by the early church fathers. For example, when discussing the Didache, he draws attention to the following passage: «οὐ μαγεύσεις, οὐ φαρμακεύσεις, οὐ φονεύσεις τέκνον ἐν φθορᾷ οὐδὲ γεννηθὲν ἀποκτενεῖς» (“do not engage in sorcery, do not make use of potions, do not abort a foetus or commit infanticide”). The prohibition of abortion and infanticide is repeated in the Epistle of Barnabas (19.5). But D’Ambrosio muddies the water by arguing that «οὐ φαρμακεύσεις» is a prohibition of “abortifacients and contraceptives.” This is not the case. In fact the first two prohibitions in this list refer to two different kinds of magic, the first carried out by incantations or ceremonies, and the second by the use of magical potions, for example to make the recipient fall in love with the operant of the magic. By arguing that the didache prohibits contraception rather than enchanted potions, D’Ambrosio evidently wishes to give the impression that the Roman Catholic church’s current prohibition of contraception has the seal of antiquity. Such distortions of the text undermine the reader’s trust, and lead to the suspicion that the author has an axe to grind.<br/><br/>Another problem with D’Ambrosio’s work is his approach to the question of heresy. Modern scholarship rejects the traditional notion that there was a pure core of belief that remained unchanged from the time of Jesus to the present, which various orthodox fathers merely articulated in increasingly more perfect terms. This view, promulgated by the church historian Eusebius, has now yielded to a more pluralistic view of the early church. Those who came to call themselves “orthodox” and “Catholic” were only one element in a much more complicated drama in which various groups, each believing themselves to hold correct beliefs about Jesus, all jockeyed for dominance. We have always known about these other groups. The orthodox apologists give us detailed, though naturally partisan, presentations of the beliefs of many of them. Modern scholars try to get behind the claims of the orthodox apologists to hear what these other groups were saying, without privileging the claims of any one of these groups. However, D’Ambrosio presents the traditional view, which takes the truth claims of the Catholic/orthodox party at face value. This results in a simple dichotomy between the goodies (Catholics) and baddies (heretics) which just doesn’t get us very far in our understanding of the dynamics of early Christianity.<br/><br/>In summary, the book is ok, but those looking for a more critical view might be better served by the books of Bart Ehrman, also available on Audible.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 05-17-16

Good intro to early Church

Are you are christian? Learning and getting to now the witness of early Christian has helped me in my relationship with Christ. If you don't know much about the early church - this book will help you get the journey started