Archive for the ‘Church History’ category

Our Story [Propaganda]

September 23, 2011

You may remember Propaganda when I first posted his mad poetry slam on the G.O.S.P.E.L. 
Now he’s chopping it up on church history. Check it.

YO! It’s the Heidelberg Catechism!

December 1, 2010

Curt “Voice” Allen chopped it up for Kevin DeYoung, author of The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism.  This song is the fruit of a challenge pitched by C.J. Mahaney to come up with a song about the Heidelberg Catechism from the NEXT 2010 Conference (download MP3).  Check it out (lyrics below)!

Verse 1

Yeah I’m on a mission like a couple spies, and that guys is the reason why I catechize. The good news we almost forgot I recognize, Heidelberg rediscovering the gospel prize. It’s not scripture but the truth in it will mention he, introduction hide and seek the 16th century. Written in a time when your mind was the weaponry, this document is back into the populace shouts to Kevin D. Better than you think not as bad as you remember, purpose driven truth, from Frederick the elector. He would initiate, the 129 questions to illustrate truths like Christ propitiates. All in a document, whose purpose was to teach children, a guide for preachers, and confessions in a church building. And this is all fact The Heidelberg Cat has been around but now it’s seem like it is coming back.

Hook

We believe in the cross, believe in his life,
We believe in his death, believe he’s the Christ.
We believe that he rose from grave yes it is him
And we read the Heidelberg Catechism
We believe in the after life and we believe nothing’s after Christ,
So we stand our ground, cuz the truth’s been around from the word to the Heidelberg.

Verse 2

Year of the Heidelberg resulting in renewed passion, and we could see it in our lives lights camera action. Let’s take a gander and address a few questions from Heidelberg document then look at the answers. But before that make sure that, you know how it’s broken down, in a Q & A format, a few sections. Suggestions how to read this not to sound promotional, but Kevin put it in his book to make it a devotional. Each question each answer has a bit of commentary, so the application of it is not some involuntary. Mystery, the history screams through rings true but I’ll just leave that up to God, cuz that’s between you. to believe, but to believe you gotta read you and then you meditate on all the truths that the Heidelberg will illustrate. What’s that the catechism homey where you been the good news we almost forgot let’s get it in!

Verse 3

From the word to the Heidelberg, we see that what’s the comfort of life should come first. And in death that I with, body and soul but belong to the savior, commentary from me man, tell this to your neighbor. Moving on, how many things are necessary for thee, enjoying this comfort, to live and die happily? Three, my sin’s misery, deliverance from sin, and gratitude for God is how the answer ends. Let’s stretch it out the Lord’s day 23 the grandaddy of them all, questions 59 and 60. What good does it do to believe in all this? In Christ I am right heir to the promise. Paraphrase, anyways I’m kinda limited I’m just trying to say a couple things my man Kevin did. On the Heidelberg, go and get you one, and by the way CJ homey this was fun.

John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology (Review)

July 10, 2009

Today, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth–a man who towers over church history like few others.  Many of those I follow on Twitter are sharing their favorite quotes from Calvin’s writings, but as one rightly exhorted, get to know the man himself and not the caricature.  In the book, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology you get just that–a great picture of Calvin as he was, not what some today are trying to make him out to be.

Below is a review for that book published in the Founders Journal.

______________________

Parsons, Burk, ed. John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2008), 257pp. $19.00.

In the providence of God, we are living in a time where the resurgence of Calvinism is welcoming the 500th year of John Calvin’s birth.  Unlike generations past, Calvinism is cool, even to the point that The New York Times are writing reports on the leaders of this new generation of Calvinists.  Molly Worthen, author of the New York Times’ article, made a striking conclusion about the Calvinism of this generation:

“[The] New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.“[1]

Whether Worthen’s assessment is a misperception or not can be argued as a litmus test for Calvinism according to John Calvin, for Calvin knew nothing of this kind of doctrine that resulted in pride rather not humility.  The book, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology is intended to peel back the layers of modern-day half-truths and caricatures to show the true nature of the man and his message.  The editor, Burk Parsons, explains that “the purpose of this volume [is] that the people of God might more fully trust, invoke, praise, and love the Lord” (xix).

More than a focus on Calvin, this book, as Calvin would so desire, transcends to a deeper and truer knowledge of Calvin’s God.  If it is agreeable that “a true Calvinist is one who strives to think as Calvin thought and live as Calvin lived—insofar as Calvin thought and lived as our Lord Jesus Christ” (6), then it is incumbent upon all Calvinists, especially those brought up in this recent resurgence, to read this book.  Divided into two sections, the excellent list of contributors provides both breadth and depth into both Calvin’s life and thought in way that both the layman and scholar can richly benefit.  But more importantly, the tenor of the writings exhibit the humility of Calvin and cast his writings under the majesty of the God whose fear was always in his heart.

Calvin’s life-long prayer was, “I offer my heart to you, Lord, promptly and sincerely” (32), and what this book does is provide a panoramic picture—whether as disciple of Christ, churchman, preacher, Reformer, theologian, or statesman—of how that prayer produced a man who was “mastered by God” (7).

Of all the books that are available today in honor of Calvin, perhaps there is none other that can give you a glimpse into a man who gazed at God through the lens of His Word.  Given the popular misperception that Calvinists are not committed to evangelism, missions, or church planting, however, it would have been more fitting to highlight Calvin’s impact in turning Geneva as the greatest missionary sending city during the Reformation.

Should we glean from the teachings of Calvin, we would have as a tutor a man intimately acquainted with the greatest knowledge in the world—God Himself.

Should we follow the example of Calvin, we would have as a friend a man whose devotion was a touchstone of humility.  A closer look into the life of Calvin would garner a deeper love for God and His Word, which to no one’s surprise, reveals the enduring impact of the contribution he made, and continues to make, 500 years after his birth.

______________________


[1] “What Would Jesus Smack Down?” by Molly Worthen The New York Times (January 6, 2009). Available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/magazine/11punk-t.html?_r=5&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=all (accessed January 23, 2009).

Founders Podcast: Tom Nettles on Baptist Identity

September 15, 2008

The topic of “Baptist Identity” has been hotly debated among Southern Baptists in recent years, and there is no one more competent to bring historical acumen with contemporary application than Dr. Tom Nettles (see his three volume series Baptists (vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3) for instance).  Tom Ascol, director of Founders Ministries, recently sat down with Dr. Nettles for a lengthy conversation about Baptist Identity, and the audio has now been made available via the Founders Podcast.

Interview with Tom Nettles Part 1 (MP3)
– Inerrancy Controversy, Baptists and the Bible, personal account

Interview with Tom Nettles Part 2 (MP3)
– History of Landmarkism, Baptists vs. Presbyterians

Interview with Tom Nettles Part 3 (MP3)
– Examples of Keatch, Booth, outline for defining Baptist Identity

You can catch more audio from the Founders Podcast by subscribing (iTunes :: RSS).  Previous audio includes interviews of Tom Ascol, Donald Whitney, Andy Davis, and Voddie Baucham.

Andrew Fuller Conference Audio

September 10, 2008

The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, under the direction of Dr. Michael Haykin, recently held their 2nd Annual Conference focusing on the English Baptists of the 17th Century.  I am a big fan of studying history, especially regarding Reformation and Baptist History.  The period of the 17th century was a very important time in the life of Baptists, and there is much we can glean from their convictions, example, and sacrifice.  Below are the audio from the conference sessions, and though you may not be familiar with some of the names, I encourage you to check them out.  I should mention, too, that some of the men presenting papers are good friends and have frequently P&P, including Stephen Yuille, Jay Collier, Tom Nettles, Jeff Robinson, and Steve Weaver. You may also want to check out the center’s journal called Eusebeia.  They have some fantastic articles from the likes of Haykin, Carl Trueman, Tom Nettles, and others.

The English Baptists of the 17th Century
August 24-25, 2008 @ Southern Seminary

Plenary Sessions

Plenary Session 1: The English Calvinistic Baptists of the 17th Century—An Overview (MP3)
Dr. Malcolm Yarnell (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Plenary Session 2: John Spilsbury and the Beginning of the Baptists (MP3)
Dr. Tom Nettles (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Plenary Session 3: Hanserd Knollys (1599-1691) and the Interpretation of Revelation (MP3)
Dr. Barry Howson (Heritage Theological Seminary)

Plenary Session 4: The Importance of Baptist Confessionalism (MP3)
Dr. Albert Mohler (President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Plenary Session 5: The Strange Case of Thomas Collier (MP3)
Dr. James Renihan (Dean, The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies)

Plenary Session 6: Benjamin Keach and the Protestant Cause Under Persecution (MP3)
Austin Walker (Pastor, Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, UK)

Plenary Session 7: William Kiffin (1616-1701)—His Life and Thought (MP3)
Dr Larry Kreitzer (Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford)

Breakout Sessions

Henry Jessey (1601-1663): His Life and Thought (MP3)
Jason Duesing (PhD candidate, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)

“‘A Poor and Despised People’: Abraham Cheare and the Calvinistic Baptists at Plymouth (MP3)
Dr. Jeff Robinson (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Baptist Associations in the 17th Century
(MP3)
Dr. Stan Fowler (Heritage Theological Seminary)

Benjamin Keach’s Doctrine of Justification (MP3)
Tom Hicks (PhD candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

The Role of Metaphor in the Sermons of Benjamin Keach (MP3)
Chris Holmes (PhD candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Turks, Jews, & God’s Plan for His People: Hanserd Knollys’ Understanding of Abraham’s Other ‘Descendants’ (MP3)
Dr. Dennis Bustin (Atlantic Baptist University‎)

Thomas Wilcox and his A Choice Drop of Honey from the Rock Christ (MP3)
Dr. Stephen Yuille (Toronto Baptist Seminary)

Hercules Collins and The Temple Repair’d: Baptists and Theological Education (MP3)
Steve Weaver (PhD candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

The Prison Epistles of Thomas Hardcastle (MP3)
Dr. Peter Beck (Charleston Southern University)

17th Century Baptists and the Perseverance of the Saints (MP3)
Jay Collier (PhD candidate, Calvin Seminary)

Dr. Nettles Bio Sketch of Daniel Marshall (PDF)

June 25, 2008

Due to the fact that there were some technical issues with the live-stream and my inability to keep up with Dr. Nettles in the presentation of biographical sketch of Daniel Marshall, I have asked Dr. Nettles to allow me to post a PDF version of his notes, to which he graciously agreed. I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Nettles for making his lecture available to us as I believe we have much to learn from men like Daniel Marshall.

>> Download: Biographical Sketch of Daniel Marshall by Dr. Tom Nettles (PDF)

Also, some have asked about the book that Dr. Nettles mentioned at the beginning of his message regarding the life of Daniel Marshall.  Here is the bibliographic information for those interested:

Thomas Ray, Daniel and Abraham Marshall: Pioneer Baptist Evangelists to the South (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press), 2006.

Finney and the Regulative Principle

December 13, 2007

We are down to the final hours of the “Ask Anything” deal, and my question on the Regulative Principle is hanging tough (NKOTB style). I appreciate the interest level and thousands of votes that have come in over the past week.

Many of you know that I have been reading a lot of Finney this semester. I have written about some new “new measures” as well as Finney the controversialist. In this post, I want to share Finney’s view of methodology which is an out and out rejection of the Regulative Principle. Historically speaking, the regulative principle has been understood to mean that nothing must be required as essential to public worship except which is commanded by the word of God.[1] Derek Thomas argues that one of the reasons for holding to the RP is to understand that “what makes worship different is that is cultural ethos is determined by scriptural commands and principles rather than personal or collective tastes and mores.”[2] It is important to note that, historically, the RP was not to bind or impose upon worshipers regarding what they can or cannot do; rather, it was quite the contrary. For Luther, Calvin, and the Westminster Divines, it was about the liberty of conscience and freedom of the Christian.

Charles Finney grew up being taught the Westminster Confession of Faith, eventually publicly consenting to it when ordained in the Presbyterian Church. One would think, then, that Finney would be at least sympathetic towards a Scripture-governed view of the church. However, much like his soteriological departure, his view of the church manifested a clear rejection of the authority and priority of Scripture in worship and practice. For us, it is a lesson that theology indeed does drive methodology.

(more…)

Neither Right Nor Safe . . .

November 1, 2007

And now on a lighter note . . . the Reformation Polka

Oh, and if you are really down for some more Reformation music, check out these songs (one and two).

He was God-dominated.

October 21, 2007

More from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Jonathan Edwards, this time focusing on “the secret of this man.”

“What then was the secret of this man?  I have no hesitation in saying this: the spiritual always controlled the intellectual in him.  I believe he must have had a great struggle with his towering intellect, and his original thinking. . . . But as they put it, theology kept breaking in.  But that constitutes the special glory of this man–and this is what explains him–that he always kept his philosophy and his speculations subservient to the Bible and regarded them as mere servants.  Whatever he might be tempted to think, the Bible was supreme: everything was subordinate to the Word of God.  All his rich and brilliant gifts were not only held to be subservient, but were used as servants.  In other words he was God-dominated.”

– D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987), 356.

The Principle of Self-Preservation and Death of Courage

September 15, 2007

I know that many of you have been following the latest, greatest controversy in the SBC and the infamous anonymous letter.  I have not and will not be addressing that here on P&P.   However, I do appreciate the fortitude and forthrightness of Tom Ascol as he has promptly addressed this issue.  Below is an excerpt from Ascol that is very true and applicable today.  What the SBC needs today is men who are both courageous and humble, forsaking self-preservation and pride.

My concern is that, as God’s people, we agree that compromising biblical principle for the sake of self-preservation is unacceptable.

Any attitude that suggests otherwise is foreign to biblical Christianity. It is unworthy of the followers of our crucified Savior. Had it prevailed in the first century the church would never have suffered and, therefore, never have spread. Had it prevailed in the sixteenth century there would have been no reformation. If it had been universal in seventeenth century England there would have been no Puritan movement (and no Pilgrim’s Progress!). Had it characterized Whitefield, Wesley and Edwards in the eighteenth century there would have been no Great Awakening. If it prevails today, there will be no lasting movement of God’s Spirit which we absolutely must have if our churches and communities and nations in the west are to survive.

The Alabama Baptist and Dortian Calvinism: Response 2

August 8, 2007

[Note: This morning over at the Pulpit Magazine blog, Dr. John MacArthur answers the question, “Is the Doctrine of Election Unfair?“]

Continuing the response to Dr. Garrett’s treatment of Dortian Calvinism, I would like to turn your attention this morning to a short article by Dr. Michael Haykin, distinguished professor of early church history, Baptist history, and Reformed spirituality, in which he addresses Hyper-Calvinism and Andrew Fuller. Before we get to Dr. Haykin’s article, I want to provide the context and content from Dr. Garrett’s articles.

1. On Hyper-Calvinism, Dr. Garrett wrote:

“When the learned John Gill in London was teaching the tenets of Dort and some of the teachings of Hyper-Calvinism, the Particular Baptists were in a deplorable state of spiritual decline and apathy. It took a casting off of Hyper-Calvinism and an overhauling of Dortian Calvinism to bring Particular Baptists into the Evangelical Revival and to the point of leading the modern Protestant missionary movement.

Moreover it has been the evangelical or missionary form of Calvinism that in the providence of God through William Carey and Andrew Fuller and Charles Haddon Spurgeon and John Leadley Dagg propelled Baptists from a tiny minority sect to a major Christian denomination. Hence the teachings of Dort do matter inasmuch as there are effects of such teachings.” (source)

Dr. Haykin’s response:

a. In the eighteenth century Gill’s teaching was not uniform throughout the English Baptist denomination.

b. To fix the blame chiefly on Gill and his “Dortian Calvinism” is an over-simplification.

i. There were ongoing legal restrictions, which effectively confined Baptist preaching to the meeting house

ii. The matter of their isolation

iii. A loss of identity

2. On Andrew Fuller, Dr. Garrett wrote:

“Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), who strongly advocated repentance and faith as duties, supported only two of Dortian Calvinism’s five points limited atonement and irresistible grace.” (source)

Dr. Haykin’s response: (emphasis mine)

These remarks are very curious and have no basis in Fuller’s works. Fuller was a five-point Calvinist through and through. Yes, he did argue, against Hyper-Calvinism, that repentance and faith were duties. Hyper-Calvinists had argued that sinners are unable to do anything spiritually good, and thus are under no obligation to exercise faith in Christ. They supported their argument by reference to such texts as John 6:44 (“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him”) and 1 Corinthians 2:14 (“the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”). The inability of which these passages speak, Fuller contended in response, is a moral inability, which is rooted in the sinful disposition of the heart. Men and women refuse to come to Christ because of their aversion to him. They fail to understand the gospel and the things of the Spirit because they lack the means by which such matters are understood, namely, the presence of the indwelling Spirit. And they lack the Spirit because their hearts are closed to God.

(. . .) Hyper-Calvinists argued that if repentance and faith are ascribed by the Scriptures to the work of the Spirit, then “they cannot be duties required of sinners.” As Fuller points out, though, the force of this objection is dependent upon the supposition that “we do not stand in need of the Holy Spirit to enable us to comply with our duty.” What is amazing about this supposition is that Arminianism assumes the same. For the Arminian, because faith is commanded of sinners by God, then they must be able to believe without the irresistible drawing of the Spirit. Similarly, the Hyper-Calvinist reasons that since faith is wrought by the Spirit it cannot be an act of obedience. The truth of the matter, however, is that “we need the influence of the Holy Spirit to enable us to do our duty” and that “repentance and faith, therefore, may be duties, notwithstanding their being the gifts of God.”

Haykin’s article reveals an alternative understanding that incorporates a broader ranger of culpability for the decline of Baptists in the 18th century than Hyper-Calvinism. Additionally, Haykin provides concise excerpts both from primary and secondary sources to dispel the myth that Andrew Fuller was not a five-point Calvinist. I encourage you to read the entire article, mine the footnotes, and consider the sources provided. One of the great things about discussions like this is that it teaches us that studying history matters. I look forward to learning more about Baptists in the 17th and 18th century as a result of this discussion.

[On a lighter note, Justin Taylor reminded us yesterday that there is a difference between a Hyper-Calvinist and a Calvinist who is hyper. I thought this was great (not just because I took the photo).]

Book Alert: For Us and for Our Salvation

July 17, 2007

Title: For Us and for Our Salvation: The Doctrine of Christ in the Early Church
Author: Stephen Nichols
Publisher: Crossway
Publishing Date:August 13, 2007
Pages: 192
Format:Trade Paperback
ISBN:
978-1581348675
Retail Price: $14.99
Table of Contents: n/a

Intro: n/a
Sample Chapter: n/a

From Crossway:

The belief that Christ is the God-man is definitive of Christian orthodoxy and imperative to a right understanding of the gospel. By the middle of the fifth century, the church had wrestled with many challenges to the biblical portrayal of Christ and, in response to those challenges, had formulated the doctrine of Christ that remains the standard to this day. This look to the past helps as Christians contend with present-day challenges and seek to answer Christ’s question—“Who do people say that I am?”—for those living in the twenty-first century.

For Us and for Our Salvation tells the very human story of the formation of the doctrine of Christ in those early centuries of the church. A glossary, numerous charts and timelines, and some helpful appendices make the book accessible and user-friendly. Primary source materials from key theologians and councils complement the engaging narrative.

Buy @:

Crossway for $14.99
Amazon for $10.19
CBD for $11.99
BAMM for $10.66
Wal-Mart for $9.78

Other books by Stephen J. Nichols:

The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World (2007)
Heaven on Earth: Capturing Jonathan Edwards’ Vision of Living in Between (2006)
An Absolute Sort of Certainty: The Holy Spirit and the Apologetics of Jonathan Edwards (2003)
Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought (2003)
J. Gresham Machen: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought (2004)
Jonathan Edwards: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought (2001)
Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions: And Advice to Young Converts (2001)
Pages from Church History: A Guided Tour of Christian Classics (2006)
Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (2003)
A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards (contributor) (2003)
The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards: American Religion and the Evangelical Tradition (contributor) (2003)

Initial Thoughts:

Stephen Nichols has been a machine in the past six years, writing nine books on church history while contributing to several others. Having reached deep into the heart of the Protestant Reformation, Nichols has now focused his attention on the Early Church–a very important time of defending the person and work of Jesus Christ (against the likes of Arians, Docetists, Apollinarians, and Nestorians). For the past 2000 years, Christianity has faced false teachers from within and heretics from without who have sought to reinterpret orthodoxy and reformulate Christological matters. The Church Fathers in the first four hundred years, under the guidance and governance of God’s providence, courageously and sacrificially stood their ground on the Incarnation, Deity, Humanity, Sufficiency, and Exclusivity of Jesus Christ. This, of course, is not to say that the Early Church was not without errors. However, there is much that we in the twenty-first century can learn from their exposition and articulation of Christological matters as well as avoid errors of the past.

While it would be easy to dismiss such a book as targeting only Christian academia, let me encourage you to give it personal consideration.  Christological matters are of first importance, and every Christian should be prepared to give a biblical, historical, and theological answer to the question, “Who Do You Say That I Am?”  No doubt, there is a long line of deceivers and heretics in our day.  The question remains if this generation will have an Athanasius, Irenaus, or a Gregory of Nyssa in the 21st century.  Perhaps this book would serve well that noble cause.

Endorsements:

n/a

Stephen J. Nichols is a professor at Lancaster Bible College and Graduate School. He earned a Ph.D. from Westminster Theological Seminary. He has written several books, including Pages from Church History. He lives with his wife and two sons in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Michael Haykin Appointed Professor at Southern

May 14, 2007

This is great news!  Dr. Haykin is a fantastic scholar (and a blogger I might add).  From The Towers online today:

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this week added prominent church historian Michael A.G. Haykin to its faculty, appointing him as professor of biblical spirituality and church history.

A prolific author and noted scholar in areas of early church history, Baptist history and Christian spirituality, Haykin will pioneer Southern’s innovative new Ph.D. and D.Min. programs in biblical spirituality, will teach and supervise doctoral students in patristic history, and will head the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at Southern, which will host events and publish materials related to Baptist history.

In August this year, Southern will be hosting “Andrew Fuller: The Reader” – a conference dedicated to one of the greatest theologians of the 18th century.  Keynote speakers include Drs. Haykin, Moore, and Nettles along with Carl Trueman.  For more information about Andrew Fuller, check out The Elephant of Kettering, a blog dedicated to Andrew Fuller. 

For a list of books written or contributed by Haykin, go here
For a large list of downloadable lectures by Haykin, go here

Why Study the Church Fathers?

May 1, 2007

Reformation 21 (the online magazine of Alliance of Confession Evangelicals) recently released their latest issue which asks the question, “Why Study the Church Fathers?”  Dr. Michael Haykin has written the feature article as well as a test case entitled “Basil of Caesarea on Abortion.”  I became a huge fan of reading the Church Fathers after my Intro to Church History class with Dr. Tom Nettles where we were required to read four selections from the early patristics.  After the semester, I invested in the Church Fathers set and found it to be one of the best and (I believe) wisest purchases I have ever made. 

Yesterday, Carl Trueman and and Phil Ryken chimed in as well, offering more incentives for reading the Church Fathers.  Here are their reasons:

Carl Trueman:

1. The doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation are basically hammered out in the early church.  By tracing the controversies, we can learn how and why the creedal formulations of these doctrines is important.

2. The pre-Constantinian context of much patristic theology offers a paradigm of how Christians can operate as a minority in a hostile or indifferent society.  I am often struck by the difference between the early church apologists approach to the Roman Empire (`don’t persecute us because Christians actually make the best citizens’) with the modern approach of `don’t mess with us, we’re Christians’ where Christianity can sometimes look like little more than a cultural idiom for protesting Communism, secularism etc.

3. The very alien nature of the world in which the Fathers operated challenges us to think more critically about oruselves in our own context.  We may not, for example, sympathise much with radically ascetic monasticism; but when we understand it as a fourth century answer to the age old question of what a committed Christian looks like at a time when it is starting to be easy and respectable, we can at least use it as an anvil on which to hammer out our own contemporary response to such a question.

4. As Protestants, we cannot claim to understand the historical development of our own tradition unless we come to terms with patristic theology: Luther, Calvin, Owen and company were deeply read and heavily influenced by patristic writings.

If I had my time over again, I would have studied patristics rather than Reformation; the evangelical Protestant world has a dearth of good patristic scholars.  Michael Haykin and Don Fairbairn are notable exceptions; but we have not done well in this field as a whole; and we have neglected it to our own impoverishment. 

Phil Ryken:

1. The Church Fathers have a more constant concern for the poor — an emphasis sometimes lacking in contemporary evangelicalism.

2. The Church Fathers placed a prominent emphasis on the resurrection — not just Good Friday, but also Easter — not just the cross, but also the empty tomb.  This too is is sometimes missing in the church today.

3. The Church Fathers remind us how far the church has come in some areas of theology and exegesis.  Their frequent flights of allegorical fancy (with some notable exceptions, including Cyril of Alexandria and John Chrysostom) make us more than grateful for a more method that is more rooted in the best traditions of grammatical-historical exegesis.

I typically try to read at least one patristic source for any sermon series I am preaching, a practice greatly helped, I must say by the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. 
 

Now, I am not going to pretend to be an expert in the Patristics, but I would like to add one other very important reason why you should read the Church Fathers.  You should read them because almost every modern heresy and threat to the gospel will attempt to appeal to one or more Church Fathers as an authority and means of legitimizing their position or appeal for orthodoxy.  For universalists, they would turn to Origen; for inclusivists, Irenaus and Justin Martyr’s Logos Christology; for Open Theists, Tertullian.  I could go on, but you get the point.  Furthermore, if you go here you will see that the authors of Pierced for Our Transgressions in their defense of penal substitutionary atonement mined deep into the Patristics, and even have provided some texts on their website.

You may be thinking, “Well, I am not a full-time seminary student, especially not a church historian.”  That’s precisely my point.  The Church Fathers should not belong to academia but on the front shelves of your church library and accessible for Sunday School material, teaching preparation, and personal edification.  I am not a church historian and am not where I would like to be in my studies of the Church Fathers.  But I am beginning – and learning – and appreciating how the Holy Spirit has directed the Church, how Christ has built His Church, and how the Father has providentially worked in the Church for His glory throughout all generations, not the least of which are those who were immediate successors of the apostolic age. 

So I conclude with a desire of some feedback.  For those of you who have read any of the Church Fathers, let me ask:

1.  Who is your favorite Church Father?
2.  What is your favorite work?
3.  In your own opinion, why should other Christians read the Church Fathers?

BONUS: Can you guess what Church Father this is?

In a day where chronological snobbery is so rampant and novelty appraised for assumed relevance, we need Christians who will take the challenge to learn from the Church Fathers and more importantly how Christ through His Church has changed the world.