‘Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries’ Category

Reading Plan for the Latin Fathers (April-June 2014)

April 19th, 2014 Posted in Ancient Church: 2nd & 3rd Centuries, Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Books, Church Fathers, Church History, Reading Church History Lists

By Michael A.G. Haykin

April 19–26     Read Tertullian’s Against Praxeas
Question: What are Tertullian’s main arguments against modalism and how does he anticipate the later Trinitarian formula “three persons in one being”?

April 27–30     Read Cyprian, To Donatus
Question: Outline Cyprian’s understanding of conversion.

May 1–7          Read Cyprian, On the Unity of the Catholic Church
Question: What are the marks of the true church according to Cyprian and how does he substantiate his view?

May 8­–15        Read Novatian, On the Trinity
Question: How does Novatian show from Scripture that Jesus is God?

May 16–23      Read Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 1
Question: Outline Hilary’s conversion.

May 24–31      Read Augustine, Confessions (the whole book)
Question: Outline the way that Augustine depicts God as The Beautiful.

June 1–7          Read Augustine, City of God 1.1–36; 4.1–4; 11.1–4; 12.4–9; 13.1–24; 14.1–28; 15.1–2; 20.1–30; 21.1–2; 22.8–9; 22.29–30
Question: What is Augustine’s understanding of history?

June 8–15        Read Patrick, Confession
Question: What is Patrick’s understanding of the missionary call?

Download the Reading Plan for the Latin Fathers (PDF)

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Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.

Reclaiming St. Patrick’s Day

March 17th, 2014 Posted in Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church Fathers, Church History, Eminent Christians, Missions

By Steve Weaver
Patrick Cover

Michael Haykin’s new biography of Patrick. See below for a free giveaway opportunity.

We are blessed in our society today to have holidays such as Easter, Christmas, St. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day which are filled with Christian significance. Unfortunately, almost all of the Christian meaning for these important markers on the Christian calendar has been forgotten. As much as we Christians like to blame the nebulous society around us, I don’t think it is the “world’s” fault that these holidays have not retained their Christian meaning. Instead, I fault Christians who are either unaware of their heritage or just plain derelict in their duty to educate their children. We shouldn’t expect unbelievers to celebrate Christianity, but we should expect Christians to seek to pass their heritage on to the next generation.

Hopefully you do use the holidays of Christmas and Easter as opportunities to talk to your children about the birth and resurrection of Christ respectively. However, days like St. Valentine’s Day and especially St. Patrick’s Day are often missed opportunities in evangelical homes. Perhaps we’re frightened away by the fact that these individuals are often associated with the Roman Catholic Church. But there is no need to fear Patrick for in him evangelicals have not a foe but a friend.

Patrick was a courageous Christian missionary to Ireland in the 5th century. His story of being kidnapped as a boy in Britain to become a slave in Ireland, his escape back to Britain, and his call as a missionary to return is a fascinating tale of God’s providence and grace. His dedication to the doctrine of the Trinity is both admirable and worthy of emulation. Talking to your children about how Patrick taught the Trinity to the pagans of his day provides a tremendous opportunity to explain this difficult biblical teaching to them. This is an opportunity that should not be missed. Likewise, Patrick’s commitment to take the gospel to unreached peoples (Ireland at the time would have been considered the “end of the world.”) is another important teachable aspect of this remarkable life for our children. Read, in Patrick’s own words, his commitment to take the gospel to Ireland:

I came to the people of Ireland to preach the Gospel, and to suffer insult from the unbelievers, bearing the reproach of my going abroad and many persecutions even unto bonds, and to give my free birth for the benefit of others; and, should I be worthy, I am prepared to give even my life without hesitation and most gladly for his name, and it is there that I wish to spend it until I die, if the Lord would grant it to me. (Confession 37)

In short, St. Patrick should be introduced to our children as a courageous missionary hero who believed and taught the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

Many legends are attached to the story of Patrick and though I believe most are grounded in some true events, the discerning reader must be aware of the mixture of legend and history on this early Christian figure. However, we are not dependent merely on legends to know about the life of Patrick. His autobiographical Confession has survived the centuries and is a fascinating recounting of his life.

For those interested in learning more, there is a helpful modern biography of Patrick by Philip Freeman. For parents wanting a good introduction that can be ready by or to their children, I highly recommend Patrick: Saint of Ireland by Joyce Denham. In addition, a new biography of Patrick has been penned by Michael Haykin, which is already available in the UK and is available for pre-order in the US. We are going to give away a free copy of this book today. Enter the contest below!

A few short, but very helpful articles about Patrick’s modern-day relevance are available online.

This post originally appeared on March 17, 2012 on pastorhistorian.com. It has been lightly edited and reposted today on that blog in honor of St. Patrick’s Day 2014.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children.

New Series on Early Church Fathers Edited by Michael Haykin

March 14th, 2014 Posted in Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Books, Church Fathers, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians

By Steve Weaver

A new series of books featuring biographies of the early church fathers is being published by Christian Focus Publications of the United Kingdom. Noted Patristic scholar Michael A.G. Haykin is serving as the series editor. According to the publisher’s website:  ”this series relates the magnificent impact that these fathers of the early church made for our world today. They encountered challenges similar to ones that we face in our postmodern world, and they met them with extraordinary values that will encourage and inspire us today.”

Basil CoverThe first volume, authored by Marvin Jones, focuses on Basil of Caesarea. The publisher’s website provides the following description:

Basil of Caesarea (329-379 AD) was a Greek Bishop in what is now Turkey. A thoughtful theologian, he was instrumental in the formation of the Nicene Creed. He fought a growing heresy, Arianism, that had found converts, including those in high positions of state. In the face of such a threat he showed courage, wisdom and complete confidence in God that we would do well to emulate today.

Patrick CoverThe second volume in the series was authored by Haykin and is an exploration of the life and impact of Patrick of Ireland. The publisher’s website provides this description:

Patrick ministered to kings and slaves alike in the culture that had enslaved him. Patrick’s faith and his commitment to the Word of God through hard times is a true example of the way that God calls us to grow and to bless those around us through our suffering. Michael Haykin’s masterful biography of Patrick’s life and faith will show you how you can follow God’s call in your life.

Both these books are available in the UK. They will not be available in the US until May, but are available for pre-order now on Amazon:

Other books scheduled in the series include:

  • Athanasius by Carl Trueman
  • Cyril of Alexandria by Steve McKinion
  • Augustine by Brad Green
  • Irenaeus of Lyons by Ligon Duncan
  • Tertullian by David Robinson

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children.

 

The Fathers—my mentors

January 31st, 2014 Posted in Ancient Church: 2nd & 3rd Centuries, Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Books, Church Fathers

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Do the Fathers lead logically to the full-blown theology of the Roman Catholic Church or Eastern Orthodoxy? Not at all: Epiphanius of Salamis condemned the use of icons and pictures; Cyprian described Stephen, the bishop of Rome, as the Antichrist; Augustine’s view of the presence of Christ is much closer to Luther than Trent; and on and on. Read Calvin’s Institutes and see how often he cites the Fathers, esp. Augustine. And why? Because he believed they supported him, not the Roman Church. And he was right. Thomas Cranmer, the theological and liturgical architect of Anglicanism, was one of the leading patristic scholars of his day. No, the Fathers are not necessarily the root of the Roman Catholic Church or Eastern Orthodoxy. They are just as much my Fathers as they are theirs—and I, a full-blown unrepentant Evangelical—am not ashamed to own them as my theological mentors and forebears. This does not mean I believe everything they believed, even as I do not believe everything my great hero Andrew Fuller believed (his view that John Wesley was a crypto-Jesuit is plain ridiculous, e.g.).

If you wish to see how contemporary Evangelicals read the Fathers, check out the series of books beginning to be published this year by Christian Focus and of which I am the series editor: “Early Church Fathers.”

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Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.

“The nights are wholesome”: Shakespeare on Christmas

December 23rd, 2013 Posted in 16th Century, Ancient Church: 2nd & 3rd Centuries, Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Great Quotes, Poetry

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Melito of Sardis and possibly Eusebius of Caesarea in the early Church believed that when Christ was born all wars ceased during his lifetime. This small text from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a variant of that:

Some say that ever ’gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.

(Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 1, lines 157–163)

Not affirming I believe this—but it does tell you something about the great Bard’s beliefs. At some point I should share the great debt I owe Shakespeare.

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Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.

Dr. Haykin contributes to New Book on the Atonement

November 15th, 2013 Posted in Ancient Church: 2nd & 3rd Centuries, Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Books, Church Fathers, Church History, Theology

By Steve Weaver

Final coverReleasing this month from Crossway is a massive new book on the doctrine of definite atonement titled From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. As the title suggests, this volume will approach the doctrine historically, biblically, theologically, and pastorally.

Edited by David and Jonathan Gibson, the volume assembles a world-class group of scholars to address their “particular” topics. Dr. Haykin drew from his patristic training to write his chapter: “We Trust in the Saving Blood”: Definite Atonement in the Ancient Church.

There is a website dedicated to promoting the book. On the website, you will find a list of the contributors, the table of contents, endorsements, and a free preview (PDF) of the book.

The book is slated to release on November 30, 2013, but is already available for pre-order from Amazon.com.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 2 and 14.

A Reading-Plan for The City of God

November 7th, 2013 Posted in Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Books, Church Fathers, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

StAugustineCityOfGodWhen I have lectured on Augustine’s seminal work, The City of God, I have often mentioned a reading plan I have for the work. Here it is below. The number prior to the full stop refers to the book (there are twenty-two books in The City of God), and the numbers after the full stop refer to the chapters within the respective books.

1.1­–36: why Augustine wrote The City of God

4.1–4: the nature of kingdoms without justice

11.1–4: the origin of the two cities, the city of God and the city of man

12.4–9: the origin of evil

13.1–24: man’s fall and sinfulness

14.1–28: the two cities

15.1–2: the two cities at the beginning of time

20.1–30: the end of the two cities

21.1–2: the eternality of the punishment of the wicked

22.8–9: an excursus on miracles

22.29–30: the beatific vision

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Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.

Celebrating 1,700 years of the Edict of Milan

June 26th, 2013 Posted in Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Church History

By Ryan Patrick Hoselton

The year 2013 marks the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan. This decree has had a significant impact on the history of the Christian church, serving as a blueprint for religious freedom throughout the centuries. Emperors Constantine and Licinius published the document together, and although Licinius would later revoke the principles of the Edict, Constantine conquered him and enforced it throughout the Empire. Believers today should certainly celebrate this event because it took a major step towards alleviating the violent persecution directed toward Christians.

Here are some of the major points that the Edict stressed:

1)      Freedom in worship is “of profit to all mankind.” Man’s relationship with God is his “first and chiefest care,” and in order for everyone to flourish in this pursuit, the State shouldn’t interfere.

2)      Freedom of religion is beneficial to the State. The authors stated that the purpose of the Edict was for “establishing public tranquility.” Religious oppression facilitates violence and strife among citizens of the same society.

3)      Civil equality belongs to all people regardless of one’s religion. In many areas of the empire, Christians were not allowed to own land and many churches were dispossessed of their properties. This Edict restored land to Christians and condemned any such civil discrimination based on religion.

4)      The Emperors believed that this Edict would win divine favor, resulting in success and happiness in their realm.

History has proven time and again that State coercion in religious matters has not fared well for those societies—even “Christian” ones. Christians should actively promote religious freedom throughout the world. Even more, we should treat humans of all faiths with dignity and fairness. The Apostles never resorted to force but always employed respectful and passionate persuasion to draw others to Christianity (Acts 17.4, 18.4, 19.26, 26.28, 2 Cor. 5.11). Christians living in societies that guard religious freedom are indebted to the Edict of Milan.

Constantine and Licinius, “The ‘Edict of Milan’,” in Documents of the Christian Church, translated and edited by Henry Bettenson (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), 22.

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Ryan Patrick Hoselton is pursuing a ThM at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife Jaclyn, and they are expecting their first child in August.

The First Abolitionist: Gregory of Nyssa on Slavery

June 18th, 2013 Posted in Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Church Fathers, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Dustin Bruce

Though it rubs against our modern sensibilities, Christians in the ancient world generally accepted slavery as a normal, albeit unfortunate, aspect of human reality. One expert has summarized, “In antiquity, only the rare Christian perceived the gospel to be incompatible with the institution of slavery.”[1] Gregory of Nyssa (A.D. 330–395), the youngest of the Cappadocian Fathers, was just such a rare Christian.

Gregory, in what is considered “the most scathing critique of slaveholding in all of antiquity,” attacked the institution as incompatible with humanity’s creation in the image of God.[2] Gregory’s remarkable diatribe against the practice of slavery may be found in his fourth homily on Ecclesiastes, specifically addressing 2:7, “I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem” (ESV).

Of all the Preacher’s boasting, this statement stands as the worst affront to Gregory and in his mind, God.[3] He asks, “Do any of the things listed here…suggest as much arrogance as the man’s idea that he as a man can be master over his fellows?”[4] Such a declaration of slaveholding reveals the “vast extent of his boastfulness.”[5] Gregory states sharply, “Such a voice as his is raised in open defiance against God.”[6]

For Gregory, slavery violates the characteristics of man as created in the image of God. The following portions are a mere sampling of his powerful argument:

‘I acquired slaves and slave girls.’ What is that you say? You condemn a person to slavery whose nature is free and independent, and in doing so you lay down a law in opposition to God, overturning the natural law established by him. For you subject to the yoke of slavery one who was created precisely to be a master of the earth, and who was ordained to rule by the creator, as if you were deliberately attacking and fighting against the divine command.[7]

What price did you put on reason? How many obols did you pay as a fair price for the image of God? For how many staters have you sold the nature specially formed by God? ‘God said, “Let us make man in our image and likeness.”’[8]

Gregory of Nyssa holds a unique place among the Fathers as the singular opponent of the existence of slavery in any form. With comments reminiscent of a William Wilberforce speech or a Frederick Douglass discourse, Gregory sharply denounces the practice of enslaving a person who bears the image of God as immoral and contrary to God’s intentions for humanity. Not only is Gregory’s condemnation of slavery unique, it is also instructive. With millions of modern day slaves, all bearing the image of God, existing in a state of tortuous bondage throughout the globe, may all God’s people be as bold as Gregory in asking, “who can buy a man, who can sell him, when he is made in the likeness of God.”[9]


[1]Jennifer A. Glancy, Slavery as Moral Problem: In the Early Church and Today (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011), 78.

[2]Glancy, Slavery as Moral Problem, 97.

[3]It is interesting to note that Gregory understands the Preacher to be offering a public confession for his sins in this portion of Ecclesiastes. Daniel F. Stramara Jr., “Gregory of Nyssa: An Ardent Abolitionist,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 41, no. 1 (1997): 43.

[4]Translation taken from Trevor Dennis, “Man Beyond Price: Gregory of Nyssa and Slavery,” in Heaven and Earth : Essex Essays in Theology and Ethics (Worthington, West Sussex: Churchman, 1986), 130. Also, an English translation may be found in Stuart George Hall and Rachel Moriarty, eds., Gregory of Nyssa, Homilies on Ecclesiastes (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1993), 74–75.

[5]Dennis, “Man Beyond Price,” 135.

[6]Dennis, “Man Beyond Price,” 135.

[7]Dennis, “Man Beyond Price,” 135.

[8]Dennis, “Man Beyond Price,” 136.

[9]Dennis, “Man Beyond Price,” 136.

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Dustin Bruce lives in Louisville, KY where he is pursuing a PhD in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Whitney, originally hail from Alabama.

Augustine of Hippo’s Theology of Moral Reasoning

May 14th, 2013 Posted in Ancient Church: 4th & 5th Centuries, Church Fathers, Church History, Eminent Christians, Theology

By Ryan Patrick Hoselton

Christians today have two options: hiding under a rock, or confronting complicated and disturbing moral issues. The past month alone has witnessed an ethical Blitzkrieg on Christian values. From the Gosnell trials to the Marathon Bombing, with two more states on the verge of legalizing homosexual marriage and insecure international relations, believers are overwhelmed with moral conundrums. Thankfully, there are resources from the past that help Christians think through the moral dilemmas of today—nothing is new under the sun. Augustine’s work, The City of God, is an excellent example of such a resource, and while it may not comprehensively address every nuance of our modern ethical crises, it’s a good place to establish a moral framework for working in that direction.

In this work, Augustine (354-430) depicts two realms: the earthly city and the heavenly city. The earthly city is transient and corrupt, and the heavenly city is eternal and glorious. In Book XIX, Augustine explains what differentiates the citizens of these cities: one worships and serves God, and the other serves the self. The worship of God establishes true virtue while self-worship leads to immorality. He expounds this point:

Now in serving God the soul rightly commands the body, and in the soul itself the reason which is subject to its Lord God rightly commands the lusts and the other perverted elements. That being so, when a man does not serve God, what amount of justice are we to suppose to exist in his being? For if a soul does not serve God it cannot with any kind of justice command the body, nor can a man’s reason control the vicious elements in the soul. (XIX.21)

If God is not the master of our actions, then our conduct will serve evil. Service to God subjects the mind, will, and actions to righteousness rather than corruption.

The worship of God grounds not only justice but also true happiness and wisdom. When the saints inhabit the heavenly city, they experience supreme joy because they no longer serve other things. The “present reality without” the future hope of being righteous in God is “a false happiness, in fact, an utter misery” (XIX.20). The things humans serve in the earthly city will not only tend to evil but also to profound disappointment. True wisdom must direct “its just dealings with others” towards “that ultimate state in which God will be all in all, in the assurance of eternity and the perfection of peace” (XIX.20). If believers want to act morally wise in the present age, they must pattern their conduct on the heavenly city rather than the earthly city.

Make no mistake, Augustine warns, for many will exploit the virtues to serve selfish ends rather than serving God. Non-Christians and Christians alike can fall into this insidious trap. Augustine explains, “if the soul and reason do not serve God as God himself has commanded that he should be served, then they do not in any way exercise the right kind of rule over the body and the vicious propensities” (XIX.25). Thus, it is essential for believers to constantly study and cherish God’s commands if they hope to gain moral discernment.

In sum, the foundation of virtue is the worship and love of God. Moral reasoning that is not subject to the service of God is vulnerable to serve all kinds of evils, for “it is not something that comes from man, but something above man, that makes his life blessed” (XIX.25). Augustine grounded his confrontation with the moral issues of his day in this framework, and believers today would do well to imitate him.

St. Augustine. The City of God. Trans. Henry Bettenson. New York: Penguin Books, 1972, 1984.

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Ryan Patrick Hoselton is pursuing a ThM at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife Jaclyn, and they are expecting their first child in August.