An historical approach to Christianity was not one I had been accustomed to taking. My historical upbringing was so sparse, in fact, that I first learned about John Calvin during my high school sophomore world history class; you could, therefore, rightly assume that I knew nothing of the saints, the Church Fathers, or of Church history in general.
As a Southern Baptist, my view of Church history looked something like this: Jesus ascended into Heaven, the apostles preached the gospel for a few years and then were martyred, Martin Luther was the first real Christian after the death of the apostles, and he saved Christianity from the sinister Mary-worshipers (but we're not Lutherans because his Sola Scriptura didn't lead him to the same conclusions we now hold). Since then, everything in Christianity has been awesome. With the help of great men like M. Luther, Daddy Dobson, and my personal pope Rick Warren, God has always (at least since the mid-16th century) kept Christians - well, Baptists at least - on track.
You can imagine my horror when I learned there is not a 1500-year gap in the Church's timeline. And a double shock from learning that M. Luther himself knew of this mysterious, godless history. And an outright cardiac event when I learned that Luther, Calvin, and other reformers actually based some of their doctrines on nothing other than tradition!? It's a good thing they abandoned the ways of Rome, or they might also have started teaching the perpetual virginity of Mary! 1
Satire aside, I took it on myself to discover our history. Clement (our 4th Pope, who knew Paul & Peter), Ignatius & Polycarp (both taught by John), Irenaeus, Augustine, Chrysostom, Tertullian, Jerome - all who found themselves in a very short line of people who directly or indirectly knew the apostles. Without going in to too much detail, and with no intentional offense, I quickly learned for myself what John Henry Newman had discovered 150 years earlier:
To be deep in history is to cease to be protestant.
I was getting deeper, and the ceasing had already begun.