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Rediscovering The Church Fathers

 

Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin is the Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality and Director of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

 

Haykin’s keen interest in, and his amazing knowledge of church history have combined to give us an extraordinarily helpful book about the early church fathers (ECF).

The benefit of the book is not in its giving us an exhaustive overview of the ECF, but in giving a brief overview of a few of the ancients form different ages.

Haykin contends that Evangelicals need to overcome their fear and disdain of the ECF. There is much to learn from them in the way of wisdom, doctrine, exegesis, and history. We shall certainly disagree with them on various points, yet they are very helpful in helping us see how the early church responded to various problems and how they interpreted the text of Scripture.

Haykin introduces us to Ignatius and shows to us that many of the ancients had an amazing love for Christ that was such that they would die for him. Not only so, but that many of them embraced suffering, and even death, as a gift from God.

The letter to Diognetus gives us a glimpse into the apologetics of the ECF as well as the desire that they had to be faithful witnesses to Christ.

One thing that does not fail to amaze me as I read about the ECF is that Origen is not necessarily as bad as he has been presented. Haykin presents to us the exegesis of Origen showing that he did not hold only to the allegorical method of interpretation (contrary to what many of us have been told). Origen is as many others, a man with faults, yet one from whom we can learn.

Being Baptistic, Haykin takes the time to show us Cyprian and Ambrose as they speak of eucharistic theology. Not surprisingly, differs with them. Let me hasten to add, however, that Haykin still believes that there are valuable things to learn from these men, because of the times in which they lived and the reasons for which they wrote.

We then find chapters about Basil and Patrick. These great men probably deserve a book of their own. I feel unable to break down the two chapters. I can only imagine that Haykin struggled to condense them into the space that he did.

The last chapter gives Haykin’s experience with the ECF over the years. It is a very interesting chapter that I’m glad he included.

I am especially glad that he included an appendix with recommended readings on and in the ECF. The book would not have been complete without it.

I cannot speak highly enough of this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who has little or no familiarity with the ECF. I can honestly say that I have received benefit from it, and shall follow some of the author’s recommendations for further reading.

 

This book given freely by Crossway with no demand or expectation of a positive review.

 

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