Protestants ensure Tradition - so they would like to believe. Therefore, anything than smacks of patristic Fathers does little more than confirm that where there is smoke there is fire.
The point which I think needs to be made is to actually identify at what point in history one can begin to talk 'the early Fathers' or even 'the Church'. As W.H.C. Frend observes, Christianity was as much a cultural movement as a religion and it is therefore difficult to 'point to any time after the Ascension when it [the Church] was really one' (The Early Church, 1).
So I take Lost's post ...
depends on what you mean by early church fathers... those till Niceea cannot be made to fit the Orthodox/Catholic typology except taken out of context and with the use of half-truths things that both Churches recourse too when discussing Christian History who is a whole mess.
... as containing some 'half-truths' itself.
But he makes a valid point - things in those formnative years were rather theological 'messy' to say the least. We have reference to such messiness alluded to in the Pastoral Letters - one of the issues which such letters attempted to address. Furthermore, the Didache
provides further evidence that things were a bit bumpy and something had to be done to 'organize' this new religion. What the Didachist demonstrates is that towards the middle of the 2nd century there was an increasing urgency to 'write things down' and the reason such texts were produced was the rising number of 'competing gospels' that were threatening the Christian Tradition.
I use the word 'tradition' in its fullest sense. Yes, there were various gospel texts in circulation prior to the close of the 1st century, but access to these texts were limited and some, like John and Luke, were probably still in the process of being written. All the 'early Church' had to go on was 'word of mouth' - oral tradition. But against these 'competing gospels' oral tradition was going to take a beating. The discovery of the Nag Hammandi Library demonstrates that there were any number of 'Christianities' in circulation at an early date - a fact supported by the letters of Paul which were 'addressed to churches already falling away from the Gospel which he had delivered to them' (John Behr, The Way to Nicaea
, Vol 1: 14).
The Patristic Father were slow off the mark but when they got up and running their broadside was blistering as it was bloody. But their essential task was to establish just what was Christian Tradition and it was not until 325, at the insistence of the Emperor, that the Fathers got themselves organized sufficiently to produce something against which we can measure just what might be labeled 'competing gospels'.
That process is also Tradition. The path to Nicaea - and beyond - is one with which we also should make our acquaintance. Given the history of the Patristic Fathers to stop at 'scripture only' seems ironic as it is theologically questionable. Their story - the story of the Early Fathers and the Early Church - IS our story. ' ... in the Tradition and life of the Church there has been no interruption from the Patristic age' (John Chryssavgis, The Way of the Fathers
, p 29). Quite simply - without that history and tradition Christianity would descend into farce.