Written by a preeminent religious historian, this book provides an introduction to early Christian thought. Focusing on major figures such as St. Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa, as well as s host of less well known thinkers, Robert Wilken chronicles the emergence of a specifically Christian intellectual tradition.
In chapters on topics including early Christian worship, Christian poetry and the spiritual life, the Trinity, Christ, the Bible, and icons, Wilken shows that the energy and vitality of early Christianity arose from within the life of the Church. While early Christian thinkers drew on the philosophical and rhetorical traditions of the ancient world, it was the versatile vocabulary of the Bible that loosened their tongues and minds and allowed them to construct the world anew, intellectually and spiritually. These thinkers were not seeking to invent a world of ideas, Wilken shows, but rather to win the hearts of men and women and to change their lives.
Early Christian thinkers set in place a foundation that has endured. Their writings are an irreplaceable inheritance, and Wilken shows that they can still be heard as living voices within contemporary culture.
The book is published by Yale University Press.
©2003 Yale University Press (P)2010 Redwood Audiobooks
"[M]agnificently learned, deeply felt and surprisingly pellucid... Anyone who approaches The Spirit of Early Christian Thought with a welcoming spirit and patient attention will learn from it... believer or nonbeliever will be touched anew by his survey of Christian intellectual life." (Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World)
If what you are looking for is a serious intellectual history of early christian thought, this may not be the book for you, as Wilken regularly brings in the whole of Christian thinking, from whatever source, to make his arguments.Thus, at places he refers to Cardinal Newman, Jonathan Edwards, John Donne, Thomas Aquinas, and others who properly well beyond the historical scope of the book. This is because the work is no less a work of a devout Christian than a practicing historian. In consequence the task, method, and scope of the latter is not infrequently allowed to give way before the predilections and concerns of the former. The result is not so much a historical investigation of early Christian thought, as its vindication. In consequence, much of this history is discretely passed over as failing to rise to Wilken's own conception of what is best or most appealing in the writings and controversies of early christian thinkers. Those who have read The Christians as the Romans Saw Them may well be disappointed. I know I was.
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