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.
In The Spirit of Early Christian Thought — a lucid traversal of major themes from the Fathers — Robert Louis Wilken illustrates the fundamental role of the Christian Bible in shaping their thought. No one has ever imagined that the Bible was unimportant to them, but other sources of inspiration, particularly Platonic or Neoplatonic philosophy, have also seemed obvious. Wilken wants to establish the primacy of the Bible. — G.W. Bowersock