Book Review – Rediscovering the Church Fathers

June 8, 2011

Michael A. G. Haykin, Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway, 2011).

I consider Michael Haykin a dear friend. He previously had been my boss at Toronto Baptist Seminary and a one-time mentor to me on a now defunct PhD dissertation. I consider him one of the keenest theologians and historians in Evangelicalism today and am so thankful for his ministry in my life. One might think that would make the following review too biased to be worth reading. This would be true if the reviewer had nothing negative to say about the book. But while I think it is a wonderful contribution to Evangelical thinking on the Fathers, I think there are a number of deficiencies that create for it a rather limited market.

Haykin is a Patristics scholar par excellence and this volume brings his writings back to a subject area so precious to him. The introduction and the conclusion make reading the book imperative for any thoughtful Christian. His pilgrimage with the Fathers is something of an encouragement and challenge to us all as we seek to live out the historic Christian faith with our ancestors. Especially helpful is how Haykin lays out important and practical reasons for studying the Fathers that most of us would not have considered.

The main bulk of the book is chapters on particular Fathers treating particular issues in Christian thinking and practice (most of the chapters have appeared elsewhere). To those who are widely read in significant Christian theology or in Patristics these chapters are welcome additions from an Evangelical perspective on key issues. Yet, for those average Christian these chapters would be difficult to read and focus upon as they are fairly technical. If Haykin wants us in the church to learn to love and appreciate the Fathers then I would argue perhaps he should identify that his book is really written for pastors and scholars. Yet, the issues that are treated in it are imperative to have a firm understanding of. Ignatius of Antioch’s thinking on martyrdom, apologetics from the Letter to Diognetus, hermeneutics with Origen, the Lord’s Supper with Cyprian and Ambrose, holiness and the Spirit from Basil of Casesarea, and the missionary piety of Patrick are all important things to consider. Yet, the language and details offered put this book out of reach of most average Christians.

The other weakness of the book is the Fathers that Haykin leaves out. Interestingly, in his appendix on a guide to reading the Fathers, Haykin talks about reading Augustine, The Odes of Solomon, Hilary, Athansius, and Gregory of Nyssa. None of these were dealt with directly in the book. It is a shame that Haykin asks us to read the works of those that we might be unfamiliar with and does not introduce us to them through his book. Would not it have been better then to treat these as well if he wants us to become familiar with the Fathers? In the opinion of this reviewer, two monumental Fathers were left out of the main section of the book and it is virtually unforgivable: Augustine and Athanasius. No book seeking to introduce us to the value of the Fathers should leave out these two men.

Now, this is not to say the book is without value. If you are patient and read thoughtfully you will glean fantastic material that will challenge your mind and warm your heart and motivate your hands to serve God more faithfully. We have much to learn from those who have gone before us and those willing to mine the details that Haykin presents will not be disappointed. But, if you are looking for a basic introduction to the Fathers from an Evangelical perspective, I would not recommend Haykin. Instead I would recommend Bryan Litfin’s helpful, Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction. In it he surveys the life, thinking, and major contributions of the major Fathers including Augustine and Athansisus and includes reading recommendations and study questions for each Father. Now, if you want to move further than an introduction, then Haykin is where you should turn, but for the novice looking to study the Fathers, Litfin is a better introduction.

So, while Haykin is a dear friend and I think his book makes a wonderful contribution to Patristics, it is not for those looking for a basic introduction to the Fathers. But, again, for those who want to mine the riches of the Fathers that Haykin does address, it is worth every penny.


Baptist Spirituality: Historical Perspectives

May 25, 2009

The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies is hosting the 3rd Annual conference devoted to Baptist History. This year the conference is titled, “Baptist Spirituality: Historical Perspectives.” It is being held August 24-25, 2009 on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The theme of the 2009 conference is, “Baptist Spirituality:  Historical Perspectives” Featured speakers will include: Crawford Gribben, Michael Haykin , Robert Strivens, Greg Thornbury, Kevin Smith, Tom Nettles, Greg Wills, Gerald Priest, Jason Lee, and Malcolm Yarnell. Other established Baptist History scholars, as well as several Ph.D. students will be presenting papers on the conference theme during the parallel sessions.

Make sure you come to hear me present my paper: “A Fountain of Gardens, A Well of Living Waters”: A Survey of Christian Spirituality from John Gill’s (1697-1771) Exposition of the Book of Solomon’s Song.

To Register for this excellent conference, see here.


Michael Haykin on the Holy Spirit

May 17, 2009

Michael Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY recently spoke on a conference on the Holy Spirit. My friend Steve Weaver, Pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church, hosted the event. I would recommend you learning from Dr. Haykin at the lectures found here.


Risen and Ascended King – Sola Scriptura Conference, Sarnia, ON – March 27-28

March 5, 2009


3rd Annual Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies Conference

December 4, 2008

Be sure to mark on your calendar the 3rd Annual Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies Conference being held at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY from August 24-25, 2009. This looks to be a great conference!

The theme is “Baptist Spirituality: Historical Perspectives.”

The plenary sessions are as follows (the parallel papers will be added later):

Monday August 24

9:00 AM – Crawford Gribben – “Irish Baptist Piety in the 17th Century”

10:25 AM – Michael Haykin – “Welsh Baptist Piety in the 17th and 18th Centuries”

11:45 AM – Robert Strivens – “The Piety of English Dissent: Philip Doddridge and Eighteenth-Century Baptists”

8:40 PM – Greg Thornbury – “Baptist Spirituality and Theological Education”

Tuesday August 25

8:45 AM – Kevin Smith – “African-American Baptist Piety”

11:30 AM – Tom Nettles – “The Piety of James Petigru Boyce”

2:15 PM – Greg Wills – “Relevance, Severity, and Spiritual Power in Baptist Piety”

3:30 PM – Gerald Priest – “Fundamental Baptists and the Holy Life”

7:15 PM – Jason Lee – “The Piety of John Smyth”

8:30 PM – Malcolm Yarnell – “17th and 18th Century General Baptist Piety: Its Significance for Today”


Centre for Mentorship and Theological Reflection – 2009

December 4, 2008

Mark it on your calendar now! The Centre for Mentorship and Theological Reflection’s 2009 Annual Event!

The theme this year is: The Cross, Suffering, and Spiritual Bewilderment

June 18, 2009 – 6:30 PM-9:30 PM

Van Norman Centre, Tyndale University College and Seminary, 25 Ballyconnor Court, Toronto. There is no charge for this event (there is a $3.00 parking fee) and it is first come first serve for seating.

Featuring

Alister McGrath, Oxford – “The Cross, Suffering and Spiritual Bewilderment: Marting Luther on the Life of Faith”

Michael Haykin, SBTS – “The Spirit of Power and the Crucified Christ” (II Tim 1).

Dennis Ngien, Tyndale – “Jacob’s Ladder: Encountering God” (Gen 28:10-22).

See the below flyer for all the details!

Centre for Mentorship and Theological Reflection Annual 2009 Event


Pastor: Remember the Spiritual Disciplines

October 23, 2008

I was privileged to attend the monthly meeting of the Toronto Pastors Fellowship this past Monday (held at Richview Baptist Church). My good friend Michael Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, presented an excellent paper titled, “Pastor: Remeber the Spiritual Disciplines.” There he dealt with the tradition of our Calvinistic Baptist forefathers in the area of the Word and preaching, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. I was deeply challenged and encouraged by it. The paper and the audio of the session are available here. I would encourage you to attend next month (November 17) when Pastor Stephen Kring of Bethesda Baptist Church, Delhi, ON will be presenting “Pastor: Give Guidance in Finding God’s Will.”  Also, check out September’s excellent meeting with Pastor Paul Martin of Grace Fellowship Church, Toronto giving his paper on “Pastor: Mentor the Young Men.”

If you are interested in attending, please register here. There is no charge!