The Challenge of the Fathers
An evening of discussion on themes of patristic theology awaited students as they returned to their regular schedule following the first week of Great Lent. On March 4/17, 2003, Holy Trinity Seminary welcomed the Rev. Dr. John Behr, Associate Professor of Patristics at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary in Crestwood, NY, and editor of St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly and the Popular Patristics Series, to deliver a lecture entitled "The Challenge of the Fathers."
Fr. John is a graduate of Thames Polytechnic, St. Vladimir's Seminary, and Oxford University, from which he received the M.Phil. degree in Eastern Christian Studies and the D.Phil. degree in Theology, for which Bishop Kallistos (Ware) served as advisor. Author of numerous scholarly articles in patristic theology and the book "Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement" and translator of "St. Irenaeus of Lyons: On the Apostolic Preaching," Fr. John gained wide recognition in 2001 with the publication of "The Way to Nicaea," the first of the proposed three volume "Formation of Christian Theology" series. Currently "The Way to Nicaea" is being translated into Russian, Serbian, and Romanian.
Basing himself largely on his current research, Fr John invited the seminarians and guests to approach the teaching of the Fathers by examining the foundational question to which they responded in their work: Christ's question to His disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" This, in Fr. John's view, is the central question to which the early Fathers responded in their theology, and one to which we should return in our effort to understand the Fathers' theological methodology. By following such an approach, the unique thought of each Father in responding to and interpreting the Gospel can become more clear.
In his talk, Fr. John did not limit himself to the witness of the Fathers of the early Church, but emphasized the importance of providing the same witness in our own times, in responding to contemporary questions and concerns, by basing ourselves, like the Fathers, on Scripture as the necessary starting point of an authentically Orthodox theology.
Students took the opportunity to engage Fr. John in a lively discussion, which lasted well into the evening hours. Holy Trinity Seminary welcomed this opportunity for meaningful exchange with a representative of another Orthodox seminary, and looks forward to future exchange of perspectives.