Evangelicals have been blessed with the recent increase of studies on the early church fathers. For example, Michael Haykin’s Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church and Bryan Litfin’s Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction both come to mind as recent good introductions. Another book that caught my attention is the edited work by Bradley G. Green, professor at Union University in Jackson, TN: Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy: Engaging with Early and Medieval Theologians (if interested, WTSBooks has it on clearance for for $15.00, which is 50% off here).
This edited work examines eight key theologians in the Christian tradition who have shaped what we believe today. The theologians included in this volume are the following (with the author in parenthesis):
- Irenaeus (W. Brian Shelton)
- Tertullian (Gerald Bray)
- Origen (Bryan Litfin)
- Athanasius (Carl Beckwith)
- The Cappadocians (Robert Letham)
- Augustine (Bradley G. Green)
- Anselm (David Hogg)
- Aquinas (Mark W. Elliott)
Each entry contains a short biography introducing the theologian, an introduction to specific writings, and a theological analysis. The individual sections close with a bibliography for further research.
To take an example, Brad Green’s chapter is a good introduction to Augustine’s thought. Covering almost 60 pages (pp. 235-292), Green provides a glimpse into key aspects of Augustine’s life and theology. After surveying Augustine’s life, Green examines some of the major points of his thought: God, Creation, Providence, Man, Grace and Salvation, Incarnation and Redemption, Church and Sacraments, Bible and Knowledge, and Civil Authority. In each case, although Green cannot go into detail, he does go to the important sections of quotes in Augustine’s writings (such as the Confessions for aspects of salvation and City of God for issues related to Civil Authority). What I found helpful about the chapter is that it gives you the ability to see where something is in Augustine’s massive writings, and go there for yourself. That is the benefit of an introductory volume like this, and each chapter does something along these lines.
Here is an endorsements by First Things own Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School: “This is a superb collection of essays on the greatest theologians of the Great Tradition during the first thirteen centuries of church history. It is encouraging to see such fresh and creative engagement with the development of Christian doctrine seen through the prism of its major shapers. Highly recommended!”