Category Archives: Early Faith for Today

Father Knows Best


Early Church Issues: Father Knows Best

Contributed by: Father Michael O’Donnell

Before I was ordained, I spent my life as a graduate professor of Human Development and Family Studies at a major University–with an emphasis on Fathering. So you could say I am a bit biased when it comes to talking about parenting. Yep, I value the role men play in helping moms to raise up the next generation of kids. And although our site will have a lot to say about Woman and the Early Church, I want to expressly focus on the early Patristic period and the early Christian Fathers of the first two centuries.

Some of them you know well, at least their names, and others not so much–that’s okay. My writing will hopefully be translated well into the historic laymen’s understanding; in other words, I want to talk to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and not the academics among us. That’s why I left the so called “hallowed halls of academia” to have a more accessible dialogue with ordinary people who search the Internet for ordinary answers.

About my title, “Fathers Know Best”–of course this is a reference to the very popular American sitcom, “Father Knows Best”, whereby our TV dad, Jim Anderson, copes with everyday problems of his growing family (first aired October 3, 1954), dispensing wisdom from a father’s point of view. Yes, sexist and outdated, albeit humorous and even occasionally profound, I’m trying to draw a connection between this early Icon of pop TV culture and the so called “early Christian Fathers” of long ago.

Instead of a growing nuclear family, imagine dealing with an ever expanding early church. A church in its infancy, but needing the “milk” of the Gospel and a steady diet of Christian literature from the likes of Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, and Justin Martyr (to name but a few).

In a time when a fatherless generation is returning to their ancient roots of historic Christianity and rediscovering the writings of the “Fathers”, my prayer is that this blog will help aid you in that discovery and burning desire to be connected with an Early Faith for Today that will most certainly provide you with spiritual treasures, both old and new. And so, the journey begins … Father Michael O’Donnell


Several years ago, Pope Francis asked me to serve in the office he entitled, “Apostolic Representative for Christian Unity.” As a Protestant, he sent me forth to attempt to bring new unity between Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Jews. Attempting to fulfill that role has been highly enlightening. The Pope’s admonition was to bring, “unity without uniformity.”

One of my discoveries has been that this is indeed a First Century concept straight out of the beginning of the Church.

The first two centuries of the Christian era had far greater diversity that we often recognize. At the same time, a fundamental unity existed across the Roman Empire. Their experience offers instruction for today. With 40,000 expressions of the Christian faith now existing along with many groups at war with each other, we need to recover what the first church experienced and practiced.

Their unity was certainly affected by Roman persecution, being a minority, and having no political power. They needed each other to survive. At the same time, a principle existed that empowered them to achieve a unity that in over two hundred years would conquer their conquerors. The Christian faith became the official faith of the Roman world.

How did they achieve such a remarkable accomplishment? They recognized that unity was both a gift and an achievement.

On one hand, Jesus taught us that we are to be one, achieved by loving each other as our standard of life (John 17). The first Christians practiced this acceptance to the point of dying for “one another.” The first step to unity was complete obedience to this principle.

On the other hand, unity was a gift. Far beyond what we can do for ourselves is what God does for us. The Holy Spirit brings a transcendent unity that is poured out on the people of God as the Creator sovereignly chooses to do. The work of the Spirit changes hearts and mind. We see each other differently and discover the bond that only God can give.

The fact that the current Pope is reaching out across all denominational lines to bring new concern and accord is inherently a gift. Immediately, after Pentecost 2017, I sat with the Pope and groups from the Charismatic and Pentecostal world as he encouraged them to seek further unity with each other and the Roman Catholic world. A jarring discovery for many? Certainly, but also a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Empowerment remains twofold: a promise accomplished through our obedience and a gift of the Holy Spirit. When we do our part, the heavenly Father pours out His enablement. The birth of the church under adverse circumstances demonstrates what a powerful result can follow.

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