Every Wednesday Southern Seminary Ph.D. students from across all disciplines gather in community for their personal and professional betterment. Typically, a senior scholar spends time amongst us—whether digitally or in the flesh—to discuss different aspects of life in the academy. Recently, the 1892 Club—named for the year of the first SBTS graduating doctoral class—welcomed one of Southern’s own; Dr. Michael Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality and Director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. After sharing the story of how he came to study Patristics at Wycliffe College in Toronto, he fielded a number of questions regarding the how and why of early church study. Below is a summary of Dr. Haykin’s thoughts which the aspiring scholar might find invaluable.
Why study the fathers no matter what field you are in?
As Christians we are united to believers across time based upon the teachings of Christ and the apostles. We believe in a Catholic Christianity. The Trinitarian and Christological thought of the earliest theologians available to us through their writings are the bedrock of our faith.
Where do I start if I am interested in becoming more familiar with the church fathers?
Here's a handful of texts to get you started. Also, you can view Dr. Haykin's Reading Plan for the Latin Fathers.
- Justin Martyr: First Apology, the Second Apology, and the Dialogue with Trypho
- Irenaeus: Against Heresies
- Tertullian: Against Praxeas
- Athanasius: On the Incarnation
- Origen: First Principles and Against Celsus
- Basil: On the Holy Spirit; Against Eunomius
- Gregory of Nazianzus: On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius
- Hilary of Poitiers: De Trinitate (On the Trinity)
- Augustine: De Trinitate (On the Trinity); Confessions; City of God; Catechizing the Uninstructed
- Patrick of Ireland: The Works of St. Patrick
- Adolf von Harnack: History of Dogma
- Jaroslav Pelikan: The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100–600) & The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600–1700)
- Robert Louis Wilken: The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God and The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity
Is there room for further study in the church fathers?
Absolutely! There remain unexhausted topics even within the major historical figures. Dr. Haykin believes the area of reception history in certain ancient theologians could benefit from more attention.
Dr. Michael Haykin - Why Read the Church Fathers (audio)
About the Author:Garrick Bailey
Garrick Bailey (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Ph.D. student in Systematic Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. His research focuses mainly on Roman Catholic theology and the history of doctrine.