For many years now I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to teach a course on the Church Fathers. In January, the day will finally arrive. I’ve recently finished drafting my syllabus for the course I’ll be offering in the winter term entitled: “Theologians of the Church: Reading with the Fathers.” The course will consist of a combination of lectures and seminars around primary readings from the Fathers. You can read the course description below. As there are many students who come from Mennonite and evangelical traditions where the Church Fathers are either ignored or perhaps even looked upon with suspicion, it seemed important to cast the description in an apologetic key.
“Theologians of the Church: Reading with the Fathers” (TS 6105)
In the complex and confusing times in which we find ourselves, Christians are turning in many directions looking for answers. The managerial and therapeutic worlds have cast a large shadow over North American evangelicalism. Sometimes that influence has led to innovative and creative ministry, but at other times it has separated the church from the source of its faith and left it radically captive to the prevailing consumeristic culture of late modernity. In recent days, some evangelicals have begun to recognize that rather than turning to secular gurus there are tremendous resources for addressing the contemporary challenges facing the church within the Christian tradition, in the form of the hard-won wisdom of the Church Fathers. This course will seek to introduce students to the theological sensibilities of the early church through engaging with five key figures from the Patristic period (Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzus, and Augustine). Drawing upon selected primary writings, attention will be directed towards addressing what the Fathers have to teach us about how to read Scripture, the life of prayer, the person and work of Christ, what it means to be a pastor, and Christian public witness in the world.