Patristic Theology: Introduction

The Patristic Legacy
Almost everyone, and almost every western Christian, is ignorant about the history and theology of the first few centuries of Christians
A painful example: The Da Vinci Code
Yet the era is formative for practically all Christian life and teaching:
Worship practices
Shape and use of Scripture
Sense of history
Doctrines of God, creation, humanity, sin, Christ, salvation, Holy Spirit, Church, and last things
Relationship between Christian theology and Christian life
Structures of the Church
Relationship between the faith and wider society
Relationship between the faith and cultural heritages
Relationship between Christians and Jews
Relationships with rival forms of Christian faith
Cultural, social, and personal self-understanding
Overarching Issues/Potential Assignments
Which historians tell this history best?
What really happened in Christianity's first few centuries?
Is "patristic Christianity" a useful generalization?
If so, is patristic Christianity "apostolic" (that is, faithful to Jesus Christ)?
How healthy is it?
How does it compare to our own Christianity? Is ours apostolic? How healthy is it?
Was the Roman Empire's evangelization a success?
Is Roman Christianity normative for all later Christians?
Is Jewish Christianity?
What answers (and guidance, and warnings, and misdirections) do these centuries hold for us?
Can we appropriate some parts of patristic theology but not others?
What is our relationship with these people?
Are they fathers?
Fellow disciples?