Patristics for Busy Pastors: An interview with Ligon Duncan

Patristics? For pastors?  I have to admit I know very little about the early church fathers.  However, I do hunger to understand more about the period of the early church.  What has hindered me has been unfamiliarity of the period, coupled with the inaccessibility of the reading material.  I must also admit that I harbored a very unfortunate sense that the early church was simplistic, moralistic, and because it deteriorated rapidly into two predominant forms of heresy (Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy) it was therefore unecessary.

In this interview conducted by Tony Reinke, Ligon Duncan demonstrates that the early church fathers is the most relevant study of church history for our contemporary culture.  Evangelicals have, by in large, left the church fathers to the Roman Catholics.  But Duncan explains that not only did the 16th century reformers know the church fathers very well, the culture the early church fathers engaged is most like our own in the 21st century, being very pagan, pluralistic, and gnostic.

In discussing the great merits of knowing the church fathers, Ligon Duncan provides a few book recommendations:

The Spreading Flame, by F. F. Bruce, Ligon considers the best historical overview of this period.

Church History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley, provides a few chapters on the early church that provide a quick summary of the history and players.

Everett Ferguson’s, Backgrounds in Early Christianity, is an excellent resource book that provides bite-sized, yet very effective summaries of certain heresies and philosophical schools that influenced the culture.

Peter Brown’s biography, Augustine of Hippo, is a phenomenal work by one of the greatest Augustine scholars in the world.

J. N. D. Kelly’s, Jerome, is another biography of notable stature of an early church giant.

As far as primary writings, Ligon recommends reading these books:

Athanasias’ Incarnation is a classic, and you should try to find the version that contains C. S. Lewis’ classic introduction.

The Apostolic Fathers, edited by J. B. Lightfoot (later updated by Holmes) should also be on your list of reading.

Geoffrey W. Bromiley’s Historical Theology: An Introduction is a helpful tool for gaining background information on how certain theologies developed. 

Iraneus’ work Against Heresies is also a classic worth having.

Finally, Ligon talks about how Tom Oden had been swept up into deep liberalism, and who didn’t return to orthodox Christianity until he began to read the church fathers and discovered that the liberal view of them was wrong.  Oden wrote about what he learned in his book, After Modernity, What? which J. I. Packer writes the introduction to.

This is a fabulously informative and challenging interview that will excite your interest in the church fathers.

Patristics for Busy Pastors at Sovereign Grace Ministry page >>>

Augustine of Hippo series by Steve Lawson

I am growing more and more fond of Steve Lawson, particularly his look at church history.  This series is fantastic, and I’ll be listening to them again to get all the information.  These messages are delivered at the Friday morning ‘Men’s Seminary’ meeting at Christ Fellowship Baptist Church.  We are greatly blessed to be able to sit in on these sessions. 

In his series ‘Long Line of Godly Men’, Steve Lawson recently covered the life of Augustine of Hippo, one of the most influential men in church history.  Lawson looks intently at Augustine’s battle with the monk Pelagius, and draws some timely conclusions the church needs to hear today.  We enjoy a thousand years of history to see that the outworking of Pelagianism is secular humanism, while the outworking of Augustine is Reformed Theology.  Shortly after, a halfway house between these two theologies emerged, that being Semi-Pelagianism, which dogs the church today.

Augustine was also the writer that had a tremendous impact on Calvin and Luther.  Part 3 looks at how our understanding of the fall, man’s nature and sin directly effects everything else we believe including the Christ’s work on the cross and evangelism.  The distinctions Lawson examine are critical for a correct gospel.

The first message listed, ‘From Clement of Rome to Augustine of Hippo’ is an excellent overview of the first 400 years of church history. Unfortunately, I am unable to locate this message since CFBC has moved the audio on their website. If you find it please leave a comment with a link to this audio file.

Augustine of Hippo part 2 mp3 >>>
Augustine of Hippo part 3 mp3 >>>
Augustine of Hippo part 4 mp3 >>>
Augustine of Hippo part 5 mp3 >>>

Introduction to the New Testament with Craig Blomberg has just released a new course by Denver Seminary’s Dr. Craig Blomberg.  Blomberg is considered by many to be one of the best evangelical scholars in the world today.  This Introduction focuses only on the Gospels and the book of Acts.

Blomberg looks at the life of Christ in a harmonistic approach, looking first at the social/economic/political/religious backgrounds of Palestine.  Historical and literal criticism is considered, and then Blomberg examines Christ’s life, from his early years, through his public and private ministry, and finishes with his passion.

The course finishes with a look at the book of Acts, the theology of evangelism and the planting of the early church.

This course is part of the Leadership series of courses.

Introduction to the New Testament >>>