Perhaps next week, I’ll be posting the full interview I was privileged to conduct Thursday night with Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III. Duncan is a patristics scholar and pastor so it was an interesting opportunity to connect the value of patristics (the church fathers) to the life and ministry of a pastor (especially a busy one).
Here is an excerpt to the question: Why should a busy pastor read patristic literature in the first place?
“When we go back to the church fathers we see them defending the important Christian doctrines that are very basic to us, those doctrines that—if we’ve been Christians for a long time—we may well take for granted, doctrines we don’t question, or have any qualms about. Sometimes as important as they are, we don’t think about them much, and we don’t weave them into our teaching, nor do we express the passion for the importance of them to our people as we ought. When we go back to the patristic period and we see the church fathers defending the reality of, for example, the incarnation of Christ and showing the importance of it, we may—who have fully embraced the incarnation of Christ and never questioned it in our Christian experience—suddenly have a new sense of the significance and the absolute essentialness of the doctrine of the incarnation in a way we hadn’t before.”
And the questions I asked Dr. Duncan …
- Define for us “patristics” or “patrology.”
- Why should a busy pastor read patristic literature in the first place?
- What hurdles do pastors face in reading and benefiting from patristic writings?
- For the beginner, recommend a few specific patristic titles covering history, biography, and primary sources.
- What contemporary debates align themselves with controversies addressed by the patristic authors?
- Our culture seems to be growing increasing secular (some would say increasingly secular with a corresponding increase in robust Christian faith in some circles). If this is growing secularism is true, what can we learn from the church fathers on how to engage a “pagan” culture?
- In reading the patristics a pastor will be faced with thoughts or practices of the early church fathers that were incorrect. What concerns do you have for a pastor getting his feet wet in the patristic writings?
- Would you agree that in patristic writings we see a stress on ethics over and above the gospel?
- Dr. Duncan, you are a gifted patristic scholar, have been pastoring at First Presbyterian in Jackson for over 12 years now, and preaching on a regular basis. How do your preaching and pastoral ministry reflect the impact of patristic authors?
I’ll keep you posted when the audio is ready for download.