The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God
In this eloquent introduction to early Christian thought, eminent religious historian Robert Louis Wilken examines the tradition that such figures as St. Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and others set in place. These early thinkers constructed a new intellectual and spiritual world, Wilken shows, and they can still be heard as living voices in the modern world.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.
By Alvin Kimel - December 1, 2003
I probably cannot add much to the reviews that have already been posted, but I would like to add my 5 stars vote to the chorus. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I know that I will be rereading various chapters, as needed. Wilken's writing style is clear, ordered, thoughtful, and at times lyrical. He evidences a real love for this material. Wilken looks at the patristic period thematically, focusing on one or two of the Fathers under each theme. Not only are we introduced, therefore, to the theology of the Fathers, but we end up getting to know a bit each of the featured Fathers.As a Roman Catholic, Wilken of course provides a Western appraisal of the Fathers. His great love is Augustine. But he also has excellent discussions of Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Maximus the Confessor. His reading of the Fathers is truly catholic. He is eager learn from all the Fathers, whether Eastern or Western. Even when the Fathers are wrong, they have so much to teach us. More... read more
The Value of Giants' Shoulders
By matt - September 29, 2003
Wilken is one of the best writers on the early Church around. While each chapter deals with specific issues, he touches on a great deal of relevant points, which makes the read both enlightening and fun. His style is easy to follow, which is something that I cannot always say of the preeminent historian of dogma, Jaroslav Pelikan, who heartily indorses this book. You really won't go wrong with this one. Every page has a distilled quality that comes from teaching and living in the minds of the Fathers for several decades.
The contents are as follows:
1. Founded on the Cross of Christ 2. An Awesome and Unbloody Sacrifice 3. The Face of God for Now 4. Seek His Face Always 5. Not My Will But Thine 6. The End Given in the Beginning 7. The Reasonableness of the Faith 8. Happy the People Whose God is the Lord 9. The Glorious Deeds of Christ 10. Making This Thing Other 11. Likeness to God 12. The Knowledge of Sensible Things
Robert Wilken has given us a beautiful book. In the preface, he mentions that he originally intended the book to be a sequel to his earlier excellent _The Christians as the Romans Saw Them_. The first book presented the prosecution's case against early Christianity, as it were, and the new one would present the defense. But he eventually dropped the idea, because as he delved deeper into the writings of the early Church Fathers, he realized that their thinking was much too independent of Greco-Roman thought to be interpreted merely as a response to it. So the new book emerged.One of the most fascinating and instructive points of Professor Wilken's new book is his claim that Harnack and Co. were wrong to suppose that early Christian thought was thoroughly Hellenized by cultural osmosis. This of course has been the standard way of thinking since the mid-nineteenth century. But in fact, as Wilken's goes to pains to demonstrate, just the converse is true: Christianity... read more
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