Catholic Answers has published another solid book called Handed Down: The Catholic Faith of the Early Christians, by James Papandrea.
When I first saw this book, I wondered how it was different from Rod Bennett’s The Apostasy That Wasn’t. Both dealt with the early Church and what she believed. But the similarities really end there, another testimony to the need for a variety of apologetic works that cover the same kind of ideas but in completely different ways.
Clear and Accessible Teaching
Papandrea has a clear writing style and he lays out the importance of the Church Fathers in understanding the beliefs in the early Church.
Then the book is divided into chapters where he discusses a doctrine–say, the Eucharist–and after laying out the biblical, traditional, and historical case for that teaching, he follows up with a vignette of one of the Church Fathers.
So while we are learning the powerful Catholic arguments for the sacraments, Scripture and Tradition, the Communion of saints, and the papacy, we are also getting illuminating background on St. Clement (one of the first popes), Sts. Augustine and Ambrose, Pope St. Leo the Great and even more controversial figures like Novatian.
Along the way, Papandrea unearthed the most compelling quotes from the early Fathers, including from Sts. Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, and Tertullian.
The reader is treated to a survey of the early Church for the first few hundred years and what she taught and why. It is all thoroughly Catholic of course, one of the primary motivators for me to enter full communion with the Church from Protestantism. Reading the Church Fathers at any depth convinces you that the Catholic Church has a much more plausible claim to be true than does any form of Protestantism.
Papandrea is matter of fact in his delivery. No polemics or vitriol toward non-Catholics, just straight facts and evidence from history and what the most fitting answer is to them: The Catholic Church.
Pick up Handed Down today and grow in your understanding of the early Church and appreciation of Catholicism!