The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of GodRobert Louis Wilken (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press, 2003) 389 pp., $29.95 (hardback)
Robert Wilken, professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia and one of the leading contemporary historians of early Christianity, has here given us his mature reflections on the intellectual history of Christianity in the first eight hundred years of its existence. The title of the book aptly suggests his approach. This is neither a linear history of the development of Christian doctrine nor a systematic exposition of the various theologies developed by the early Church. No, Wilken wants to capture the “spirit” of early Christian thought, to probe the fundamental concerns of its major thinkers and to convey some of the feeling of their writing and reflection. Hence, the book is organized around themes more experiential than conceptual.
Wilken argues that the locus of early Christian thought was the life of prayer and worship. Christian life was rooted in the encounter with God in Christ crucified and resurrected, but liturgically present to the worshipping community. Christian thought attempted to make sense of that encounter in its many and diverse ways.