Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has launched a new center dedicated to the study of the ancient church—the Southwestern Center for Early Christian Studies.
The seminary has a long history of research and publications in early Christianity, but now it meets with a heightened focus. A new website, special lectures, patristic reading groups, regular graduate and postgraduate seminars, and a group of faculty and students dedicated to researching the early church will all be features of the new initiative.
"In recent years, evangelicalism and early Christianity have been intersecting in new and exciting ways," said Stephen Presley, the center's director and associate professor of church history at Southwestern.
"Every month, it seems there are conferences surveying the life and thought of the early church, seminars retrieving early Christian thought or new publications engaging the early Christian world. As an institution, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is uniquely positioned to have an important voice in these conversations."
Through its website—earlychristianstudies.org—the center "aims to facilitate concentrated research and teaching in early Christianity that recovers important theological voices of the past," Presley said.
"This website will be a clearinghouse for patristics resources," he said. "The features of the website will include discussions of current research in patristics, news about events and conferences related to the early church, regular updates about resources for early Christian studies, interviews and lectures on topics related to the study of the early church, and much more."
Southwestern's patristics scholars—including Presley; D. Jeffrey Bingham, dean of the seminary's school of theology; executive vice president and provost Craig Blaising; assistant professor of systematic and historical theology Dongsun Cho; and President Paige Patterson—have a range of specializations and research interests in the early church, including various doctrinal, hermeneutical, archaeological, cultural/historical and philosophical topics.
The confluence of these interests, Presley said, "will strengthen the contribution of the SCECS and help make Southwestern an exciting place to study early Christianity."
The center will uphold Southwestern's mission, vision and values by equipping students and ministers to make important contributions to the field of early Christian studies and recover the significant theological voices of the early church. In addition, the center will support local churches through providing resources for pastors and laypeople who want to learn more about early Christian life and thought.
"We are excited about this new initiative and the prospects it holds for future research and teaching at the seminary," Presley said. "For any prospective students or researchers in early Christianity, I encourage you to check out our website and subscribe for regular updates.
"Most of all, through the work of the center, we will strive to read more old books and, in the words of [C.S.] Lewis, 'keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds.'"(1)
Alex Sibley is associate director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
(1)C.S. Lewis, "Preface," in St. Athanasius the Great of Alexandria, On the Incarnation: Greek original and English Translation, 11-17 (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2011), 13.