May 19 17

Dr. Trevor Lipscombe Interview

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Partner Spotlight: Catholic University Press

Interview with Dr. Trevor Lipscombe, Director of Catholic University Press

Briefly share the history and mission of the Catholic University of America Press (CUA Press).
The Catholic University of America Press was founded in 1939 and is the publishing division of the Catholic University of America—the national university founded by the Catholic bishops. As a Press, we seek to publish important works of scholarship in theology, philosophy, and church history, but also to publish textbooks that will help to train the next generation of theologians and seminarians. More generally, we support all those who, in the words of St. Anselm, have a “faith seeking understanding.”
How does your participation in the Theological Book Network’s E-books project fit the missional work of CUA Press?
Pope Saint John Paul II spoke of the New Evangelization, the need to evangelize or re-evangelize all Christians. The Theological Book Network provides the vehicle for the CUA Press to live up to Saint John Paul II’s challenge. Our works are now available in countries and to readers who may never have heard of the Catholic University of America, where we may not be able to sell our books easily or at all. Courtesy of the Theological Book Network, our translations of the Church fathers are widely available for people to learn from, to pray from, and to grow in holiness from.
What attracted CUA Press to this project and working with the Theological Book Network?
We are proud of the books that we publish at the CUA Press. Sometimes we receive requests for copies of our books from developing nations, say, a Trappist monastery in Rwanda. For us to ship copies of books to the monks is very expensive, and our limited resources means that we cannot be as generous as we might wish. We wondered, then, whether there was a way to disseminate our books to those who might greatly benefit from them, but in a way that made economic sense for the Press. The Theological Book Network was the answer.
How does CUA Press view global theological education?
Global theological education is vitally important. Christianity is growing rapidly in developing nations, even though it wanes in Europe and North America. It is crucial that those who are receiving the faith in these new regions can, in the words of 1 Peter 3:15, “give an account for the hope that lies within them.” How much better to spread the faith by books, learning, and wisdom than by the sword.
Since it is a substantial portion of the curated collection of eBooks, tell us about the value of the Fathers of the Church series for theological inquiry and its value for the recipient schools?
Church councils and theological discussions throughout the past two millennia have relied not only on Scripture but also on early Christian thought. Scripture is indeed the root and foundation of our faith, but it must be interpreted. Who could have been better equipped to interpret Scripture than the ancient Fathers, who inhabited the same cultural, political, and geographical environment, under the authority of the same Roman Empire, as did the authors of the New Testament? Moreover, the Greek Fathers of the early Christian era were speakers of the same language as that of the New Testament and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, produced in the third century before Christ). Moreover, it is the early church that debated and finally achieved a consensus on which writings should be accepted as belonging to the Christian Bible. It was a two-way street: the Bible guided the church at the same time as the church set boundaries for the contents of the Bible. Thus there is an interface between Scripture and ancient tradition that should be given serious attention in any theological curriculum.
The Fathers of the Church series, established in 1947, continues to add new volumes every year without fail. Theological libraries around the world possess volumes of the series. An attractive quality of each volume is its "reader-friendliness," so to speak. Preceding each translated patristic text is a readable but thoroughly documented introduction, and the indices in the back of each book provide direction for researchers seeking patristic discussions of particular topics or Scripture texts. One exciting development has been the recent inclusion of Ephraim and Pontius Evagrius—Church fathers who wrote in Syriac, rather than Latin or Greek. By so doing, we enable those who do not read Syriac to be exposed to, and understand more fully, the spirituality and wisdom of the early Eastern church.