The Spirit of Early Christian Thought
Seeking the Face of God
By Robert Louis Wilken
(Yale University Press, Paperback, 9780300105988, 398pp.)
Publication Date: April 2005
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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 a 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.
Robert Louis Wilken is William R. Kenan Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia. His previous books include The Christians as the Romans Saw Them and The Land Called Holy: Palestine in Christian History and Thought, both available in paperback from Yale University Press.
“Magnificently learned [and] deeply felt. . . . An attentive reader of Wilken, whether believer or nonbeliever, will be touched anew by his survey of Christian intellectual life.” —Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World
“This is not a book written for the academy but for all readers. . . . [Wilken] provides for a new generation . . . a sense of what is important about those astonishing teachers of the early church who instructed the ages after them.”—Luke Timothy Johnson, America
“Get The Spirit of Early Christian Thought and read it. Read it slowly, letting Wilken take you by the hand. . . . Let [Wilken] show you a more excellent way.”—Richard John Neuhaus, First Things