Where did the church come from?   When did it begin?   What does it do?   Who owns it?  What is its purpose.  Those are all legitimate questions. Very few Christians are able to answer those questions because they have been taught there are various answers to all of those questions.  If the various answers are in contradiction,  then some of the answers must be true and others false or maybe all of them are false.  Either the truth has never been revealed or the doctrine of the Christian church is a hoax. 


I’ve devoted over thirty years looking for the answers to those questions.  After reading through the Bible for the first time shortly after my conversion, I decided to narrow the questions down to these:  What is the nature, purpose, mission, and ministry of the church?  After visiting, preaching, and teaching in churches from Boston, Massachusetts to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Las Vegas, Nevada,  I discovered mass confusion filled my brain and mind about this word, “the church.”   The conclusion is that so many generations have been fed a bad diet of “the church”, the war-cry is ad fontes.

From my book on theological terms, I define the term ad fontes.  “Ad fontes.    (to the sources) A Latin term popularized during the Italian Renaissance (1350 A.D. – 1425 A.D.).  It was a call to return to the classics and writings of the ancient Greek and Roman literature.  For Christians of every generation, the war cry ought to be “return to the original sources” which is the Word of God.”  When information is passed from one generation to the next, generational continuity will have its effect on each following generation until someone cries ad fontes.


Generational continuity will prevail until there is a change or a collapse.  Generational continuity may be good or bad, depending on the model that each generation has to follow.  The question may be asked, “How did previous generations err to the point that the culture is ready to collapse.”  Dr. Harold Parker explains a universal principle.


The tendency [is] for the student to follow the authority ahead of him in Indian file, deeper and deeper into the morass of error.  If the first of the secondary authorities is wrong in fact or judgment, then all who follow him will be in error also, for they are on the same path.  They will remain in error until the primary sources are checked again” (Studies in Southern Presbyterian History, by Dr. Harold Parker, p. 56).


Dr.  Parker  was a church historian and in his book, he traced the history and development of Southern Presbyterian churches during the middle of the 19th century.   At one point, Dr. Parker asked the question, “How then can the testimony of so many church historians be in error?”  One reason according to Dr. Parker is, “few historians seemingly have taken the pains to work through a church union from its original basis for union.”


When Dr. Parker referred to the historians passing on error, it is an apt analogy of Christians passing on to the next generation principles and practice.  The principles will be right or wrong, but the only way to know is to return to the sources, (ad fontes).   For instance, the first principle for Christians is to worship God.  Therefore, Christians must “be the church” rather than practice “going to the church.”  The principle is right, but the practice is wrong.  Return to the source to recover the truth.  The Word that God the Holy Spirit chose to use to describe His church is the Greek word ekklesia, which literally translated means, “called out.”  Christians who return to the source, the Bible, will discover that the church is the people of God.  It is not a building, an organization, or a place.  It is the congregation of God’s people.  The church assembles (not necessarily in a building) to worship,  receive instruction,  fellowship, and pray.  If someone instructs a child to get ready to go to church and to be quiet in church, the child will naturally grow up with the idea that the building or the organization he or she is associated with is the church.  If he or she does not return to the source and discover that the church is “the people of God,” he or she may, to some degree, come to worship the building or some of the tangible assets that God provided for His people.  Untold numbers of professing Christians have suffered because of disputes over property, furniture, and assets; they have been taught that those things are the church, and it is their duty to protect the church.  Ad fontes!

In his book, The Origin of Speech, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy takes one sentence to describe the  power of speech.  “Man must speak if he wishes to have a society; but very often he cannot speak and then his society breaks down.”  Speech in the form of words will result in the truth or a lie.  An explanation from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ will suffice.

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”

The way the church (Christians, children of God, the family of God) uses words will have eternal consequences.  Rosenstock-Hussey said, “The farther of lies, the devil…always whispers and tells us: ‘so what?’, or ‘say one thing and do the other’, or ‘think one thought and teach another’, or sell idea and cherish another…(p. 32)”

Remember, ad fontes is necessary for generational continuity of the truth and the well-being of the church.