Evangelicals and Tradition: The Formative Influence of the Early Church

Baker Academic, 2005
ISBN: 0801027136


Evangelicals and Tradition lays the groundwork for the Evangelical Ressourcement series by examining the concept of tradition—its definition, origin, and components. Williams addresses the issue of tradition and authority in the early church and discusses the relationship between tradition and the Protestant “traditions” of sola scriptura and sola fide. Finally, he examines numerous examples of how tradition was used in the early church, including confessions of faith, catecheses, rules of faith, commentaries, homilies, theological hymnody, and theological works.

This volume from the Evangelical Ressourcement series is perfect if you’re a student, scholar, pastor, or layperson interested in the most pressing contemporary topics relating to early church history, theology, and spirituality. Scripture passages link directly to your English translations and original language texts, and important theological concepts link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. In addition, you can perform powerful searches by topic and find what other authors, scholars, and theologians have to say about the impact of the early church’s writings, culture, and thought.

Key Features

  • Presents historical insight on contemporary challenges facing today’s church
  • Examines tradition in the early church
  • Analyzes the formation of the New Testament canon
  • Studies the early church’s primary sources and influence


  • Conversion and Construction
  • The Early Church as Canonical
  • The Confluence of the Bible, the Tradition, and the Church
  • Protestant Tradition and the Christian Tradition
  • Glimpses at the Resources of the Ancient Tradition

Praise for the Print Edition

Williams has brought a new sense of engagement to the ancient task of relating Scripture, tradition, and spiritual experience. Evangelicals need to be reminded that there is a truly catholic tradition that goes back to the apostles that belongs to them as much as it does to other Christians. This book roots us in the living faith of every age and should be welcomed by everyone who wants to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ.

Gerald Bray, research professor of divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

There is a great need today to get behind the Reformers and rediscover the sources of their theology and piety. The substance of the great fathers of the church will propel evangelicals into a deeper level of theological thought and ecumenical dialogue. Evangelicals and Tradition will initiate that discussion and lead the way.

Robert Webber (1933–2007), Emeritus Myers Professor of Ministry, Northern Seminary

In this book, Williams expands an argument he has made before—that discerning appropriation of the early church is not just a proper but a necessary task for evangelical Protestants. Williams’ careful recommendation of catholic tradition should promote the right kind of theological and practical reflection among his intended audience. His unusually balanced and well-grounded presentation should make the book helpful for Roman Catholics and the Orthodox as well.

Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

This is a brief and accessible primer by a major evangelical historian on the indispensability of tradition for the church’s life and worship. Written especially for free church Christians, Evangelicals and Tradition is a manifesto urging evangelicals to embrace the church’s most ancient tradition, the age of councils and creeds. Williams shows that tradition is a form of communal memory and that, without its steadying presence, Christian congregations—even if they flourish in the springtime of their lives—will in time languish and wither.

Robert Louis Wilken, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity, University of Virginia

Here is a classic introduction to theology. Focused on evangelicals, its deep vision and sharp statement make it invaluable for all Christians. In nearly 35 years of teaching introductory courses, I have never seen such a beneficial book about the nature of theology: small, packed, and clear. We are all in Williams’ debt for this project.

—Frederick W. Norris, emeritus professor of world Christianity, Emmanuel Christian Seminary

In response to the pressures of modern culture, the church has dulled its message. But that message can regain its edge if evangelicals will listen to the demands of the gospel through the ears of the church fathers. Tradition used to be a ‘fightin’ word’ for Protestants, but Williams argues that, with the proper approach, tradition can be evangelicals’ ally instead of their enemy.

—David Neff, editor and vice president, Christianity Today

Product Details

About D.H. Williams

D.H. Williams is professor of religion in patristics and historical theology at Baylor University. He is the author of Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism and the editor of The Free Church and the Early Church.


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