My time at Erskine Theological Seminary has been well spent. Several professors have made my experience very worth the time, energy, money, late nights, etc. But easily one of the “surprises” of my time here is Dr. Don Fairbairn. I say surprise only in the fact that I did not know him or of him until I was actually already here and getting ready for classes. Fairbairn is the Patristics professor at Erskine. I confess that I already had a predisposition for liking Greek and Latin and the early Church fathers, but Fairbairn has succeeded in impressing me on numerous occasions with his knowledge of the early church, his grasp of the theological-political terrain, and his ability to present and explain key themes and developments in profoundly understandable ways.
Perhaps one of the great blessings of Fairbairn is his ability to sympathetically present many of the practices, positions, and developments of the early church and yet remain wholly comfortable and thankful for his historic reformed heritage. This is one of the great strengths of all of my favorite professors at Erskine. They have the ability to appreciate, study, discuss, give the benefit of the doubt to, and even borrow from the riches of Christendom throughout the ages without feeling threatened, becoming discontent, and remaining thoroughly committed to serving the brothers and sisters right in front of them.
I’ve just finished Dr. Fairbairn’s doctoral thesis which was published in book form as Grace and Christology in the Early Church published by Oxford University Press. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in early Christian studies and particularly those folks interested in such relevant issues as ‘union with Christ’, ‘participation in God,’ as well as the various paradigms for understand the nature of grace and the person of God. There is much here to digest, enjoy, and continue to study.
Gregory Soderberg says
His article, “Patristic Exegesis and Theology: The Cart and the Horse” (Westminster Theological Journal, 69 : 1-19) was also outstanding. His basic point is that the Evangelical world is woefully ignorant of patristic scholarship and that we really should read the church fathers more. Because we haven’t done our homework, we keep perpetuating the distinction between the interpretive schools of “Antioch” vs. “Alexandria”. He demonstrates (in my humble opinion!) that this is misguided. He also touches on typology at the end.
Eric M. Ashley says
This was my first semester at Erskine, and I had Early/Med. Church History with Dr. Fairbairn…and I agree with your comments. I was extremely blessed to have the class.
Out of curiosity, who are the other prof. that teach in a similar way (meaning, holding firm to Reformed thought while learning from the broader Church)?
Eric M. Ashley says
I read the article also and thought that it was excellent. I read it as I was preparing to write a paper on Augustine.
Jeremy Bunch says
Any relation to the late great Patrick Fairbairn?
Eric, I have found Drs. H.O. Old and Gore to be similar in their appreciation of broader traditions while remaining happily reformed. Old in particular spent a number of years in contexts where his colleagues and friends were mostly Roman Catholic, Orthodox, etc.
Jeremy, As far as I know, there is no relation.