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The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God [Hardcover]

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Item Number 159424  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   30
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.76" Width: 5.62" Height: 1.25"
Weight:   1.32 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 30, 2003
Publisher   Yale University Press
ISBN  0300097085  
EAN  9780300097085  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
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.

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More About Professor Robert Louis Wilken

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Robert Louis Wilken is William R. Kenan Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia. He is the author of numerous books, including The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God, published by Yale University Press.

Robert Louis Wilken currently resides in the state of Virginia. Robert Louis Wilken was born in 1936.

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Product Categories
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
a feast of the church fathers  Feb 6, 2008
In a previous volume called The Christians as the Romans Saw Them (1984), Robert Louis Wilkin, professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia, explored the broad and deep antipathy that developed in the first five centuries toward the Christian movement, at least as that was expressed by the cultured elites. He presented the views of the pagan critics with both sympathy and understanding, devoting one chapter each to the views of Pliny the Younger, the physician Galen, Celsus, the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry, and the Roman emperor Julian. In a short epilogue, Wilkin acknowledged that Christians responded to their critics: "There was a genuine dialogue, not simply an outpouring of abuse. The credit goes as much to the Christians as to the pagans." In this present volume Wilkin explores the emergence of what eventually became a distinctly Christian view of God, the world, the self, and human history.

Although his task requires him to consider the history of theology as it developed in the early church, and its relationship with thinkers of Judaism, Greece and Rome, Wilkin warns us not to be be overly preoccupied with intellectual ideas. The Gospel, after all, does not intend to make us smart, but to transform our hearts, minds, and our very lives. Early Christianity appealed to history, reason, ritual, experience, and most of all to the Scriptures, all with the goal of authentic faith expressing itself in true love. What we seek is not barren knowledge but the very face of God (see Psalm 105:4). In his panoramic survey Wilkin describes how we know God in worship, the sacraments and the Scriptures; the struggles to define the Trinity, the nature of Christ, and creation; the relationship of faith to reason and the church to broader society; poetry and icons; and then the nature of Christian virtue and the spiritual life. From start to finish the book is a feast of the early Christian fathers, with special emphasis on Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, and Maximus the Confessor. These forbears are, as he says in the last sentence of the book, "still our teachers today."
"A Tale of Two Books, part 2", or "The Spirit shines through the Fathers"  Jul 30, 2007
It is hard to believe that this book is by the same man who wrote "The Christians as the Romans Saw Them". What a difference 19 years makes.

This is one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. I must have highlighted the whole book since I found almost every sentence edifying.

I had become accustomed to reading the Church Fathers from an apologetic or polemical standpoint. This book made me realize how I had overlooked the faith and piety of the Early Fathers. Prof. Wilken shows among other things how they sought to ground their all their arguments Biblically, and how little Christian doctrine actually owes to pagan thought, other than perhaps a few philosophical terms.

If you really want to understand how Christian doctrine was shaped by faith and inspiration, and not by cerebral distillations, you simply MUST read this book.

Enjoyable, but...  Jun 7, 2007
This book left me feeling very torn. On the one hand, it was really a great read. On the other hand, it seemed that there was an underlying agenda that the author refused to admit (or realize). At times, it seemed a little like Bart Ehrman's book--only half the story gets told to bend the conclusion. Of course, Wilken admits that he is not telling the whole story, but he leads the reader to believe that he is being fair. Allow me a few examples. Wilken admits that Augustine is the giant of early Christian thought, and quotes him in every chapter, and on almost every subject. However, when he begins to talk about free-will, there is no talk of Augustine, and Wilken says that all the early fathers believed in free-will. While Augustine may have been in the minority, the average reader (to whom the book is written, as purported by Wilken) would have no other idea. Also, Wilken talks about the monothelite controversy. Usually, he deals with all the bishops and emporers on both sides of a debate. However, in this discussion, he fails to mention Honorius, prelate of Rome. This would be unknown to the average reader, but seems (to me) that it would be important enough to mention. There are a few other, mostly minor, examples of things like this. It all seems to be an apologetic for Roman Catholicism. While that's fine to write an apologetic for your church, telling half the story is deceitful.

That being said, the book is a good read. It flows well, and is enjoyable. Technical terms (usually Greek or Latin words) are explained and used in useful ways. The book contains a good amount of information, yet is presented in an understandable way and is made easy to remember. It isn't just another book on early church history--it traces other things like poetry, etc. Another underlying theme is that knowledge of God is not true knowledge until it is experienced. It seems simple enough, but Wilken explains it quite well. And to this end, I agree with another reviewer, that there is a devotional, not just academic, use for this book.

The negative side of this review shouldn't deter anyone from reading it. This book is a great read, but it needs to be read with discernment (of course, everything does).
Excellent Book  May 9, 2007
I am impressed by the writings of Robert Louis Wilken in this history book. He tells us that the purpose of his book is "to depict the pattern of Christian thinking as it took shape in the formative centuries of the Church's history."
His purpose leads me to believe that he understands that the Bible is the central factor that appeals to all the religious writers from the very beginning to the present time. I cannot help but to be aware that the central theme for anyone will be to understand what God has helped man to write in this great book, The Bible. Readers should come to an awareness in the introduction of this book that we need to understand the history, rituals, and the text to have the proper knowledge of Christian history in order to convey facts and thoughts to all concerned people.
Interesting read  Mar 25, 2007
An aspect of this book I particularly enjoyed was the discussion of Justin Martyr and the early church's liturgy and beliefs on the Eucharist. It would seem logical that the Christians closest in time to Christ would be in the best position to understand Christianity as Christ intended it. Justin Martyr's descriptions of the earliest liturgies and Christian beliefs on the Eucharist reflect the essentials of modern Catholic belief and practice. It is this type of evidence that prompted me to convert to Catholicism several years ago and Wilken writes about it well and makes it interesting. I also particularly enjoyed his treatment of the thought of Augustine and Maximus the Confessor, the latter of whom I knew very little about.

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