The Ancient Path is part memoir and part introduction to the Church Fathers. John Michael Talbot walks us through the importance of the Church Fathers through their intersection with his own religious experience from the Jesus Movement into Roman Catholicism. As an evangelical, while I appreciate the significance of the Church Fathers, Talbot gives them undue authority and errs in viewing them as monolithic. On page 40 he states, “The Fathers keep us from tearing ourselves and our family apart in endless disputes about worship and baptism and beliefs and morals.” Historically that argument falls short because even in their times the Church Fathers did not have this level of influence.
Talbot’s use greatest weakness in this book is anachronism. He reads the traditions of Rome into the lives and works of the Father, where in reality Roman Catholicism is a tributary (a corrupted one at that) coming from the Fathers. This book does give insight as to how Catholics fill the vacuum that exists because of their rejection of Sola Scriptura. On page 55 Talbot in essence states that the Fathers not the Bible are the true foundation of Christianity and this rejection of biblical authority becomes even more explicit on page 57. This elevation of Tradition over Scripture serves as his interpretive guide throughout the rest of the book.
The Ancient Path can be looked at as a travel log of leaving Protestantism and embracing Rome as well as an attempt of reading the doctrines of Rome back into the work of the Church Fathers. Talbot views the Fathers wrongly in this work because of his rejection of Scriptural authority. Rather then seeing the Father’s as authoritative that is standing over Scripture we must and should view them as fellow pilgrims who walked the way of Jesus, not Rome, before us. Overall Talbot’s style is engaging but his arguments fall short and could prove to be misleading. This review was made possible by a free review copy provided by the publisher.