More often than not, when I talk to twentysomethings who are seriously contemplating walking away from their faith, the main stumbling block is an intellectual one. My faith didn’t have the deep intellectual roots necessary to flourish outside of a youth group setting. For many twentysomethings, the moment the intellectual credibility of faith is challenged and there’s no immediately satisfying answer, they’re out. This is where a robust understanding and deep study of Church history became my lifeboat.
The faith of my youth had mainly been informed by emotional altar calls and evangelical clichés; neither of these components are inherently wrong, but this culture alone wasn’t enough for me to face an increasingly secular world. Through their writings, ancient Church fathers became like mentors who helped me see that the doubts we wrestle with today are the same questions those who came before us struggled with too. Studying Church history can help us develop a strong sense of what Dr. Duke calls our “intergenerational self.” Or, as Feiler puts it, we begin to understand that we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves.