Patout Burns to Deliver the Everett Ferguson Lecture

March 30, 2023

It is with great joy, and a sense of "full circle," that we announce that Patout Burns, Professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School, will deliver the 2023 Everett Ferguson Endowed Lecture on Early Christian Studies.

Professor Burns' research and publication have focused on the development of Christian thought and practice in the Western part of the Roman Empire, especially in North Africa. His books include The Development of Augustine's Doctrine of Operative Grace (1980), Cyprian the Bishop (2002), Romans: Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators (2012), Augustine's Preached Theology: Living as the Body of Christ (2022; pictured below), and Theological Anthropology, (1981, revised, 2023).

As with each Ferguson lecturer before him, Burns is a world-class Patristics scholar and was the featured speaker 13 years ago at the Christian Scholars' Conference session "Baptism in the Early Church: A Symposium on the Work of Everett Ferguson." At that time Everett Ferguson's Baptism in the Early Church had just been released, providing an exhaustive survey of the literary and material evidence for baptismal practice in the first five centuries of Christian history. The CSC symposium brought together leading scholars to engage Ferguson's magisterial work and honor the author's contribution to ecumenical theological scholarship.

At the 2010 symposium, four sessions featured critical assessment from leading scholars including Carl R. Holladay (Emory), Robin M. Jensen (Vanderbilt), Thomas M. Finn (William and Mary), and Patout Burns (Vanderbilt). Sponsoring institutions included the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University, Austin Graduate School of Theology, Brite Divinity School, Milligan College, and Pepperdine University. It was an event showcasing the early collaborative work of the CSC. Soon after, the CSC established the Ferguson Lecture in Early Christian Studies. We are pleased that Burns will return to the conference as the Ferguson lecturer.

David Fleer

Director's Comments

Recent correspondence with Professor Burns has surfaced two lively options for his lecture. He writes, "I have some ideas on the way that Augustine preached - his use of scripture and scriptural language for his theology - and the influence of his preaching on his theological innovations." On the other hand, he added, "I am working on a study of the development of the understanding and practice of the repentance and forgiveness of sins in North Africa from Tertullian through Augustine. The point is to discern what the church was learning in that period and what it might mean for the recovery of that doctrine in the Western Reformation." I could not be more pleased with both options and look forward to his decision and the delivery in June.

From 1999 until his recent retirement in 2011, Burns served as Edward A. Mallory Professor of Catholic Studies in Vanderbilt University Divinity School. Since 2015, he has been guest professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.

Patout Burns is a first-class scholar and we welcome him back to the CSC!

David F