Brief Reviews, VOLUME 3

Brief Review: SHAPERS OF CHRISTIAN ORTHODOXY – B. Green, ed. [Vol. 3, #46]

838861: Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy: Engaging with Early and Medieval Theologians

A Brief Review of

Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy:
Engaging with Early and Medieval Theologians

By Edited by Bradley G. Green.
Paperback: IVP Academic, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by John Schaaf.

With an eye to the original context in which they were written, the authors in this collection of essays, edited by Bradley G. Green (Ph.D. Baylor University), seek to place some of the early and medieval church’s most influential theologians in within their original context. In so doing, their theological constructs become more understandable and, thus, more palatable. The work engages such early theologians as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius, the Cappadocian fathers (Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianus) and Augustine. Additionally, it examines two of the best-known medieval theologians, Anselm and Thomas Aquinas.

In each chapter the finer points of the theologians’ positions are briefly expounded upon (after a short biography) leaving the reader with enough insight to gain a concise understanding while still leaving a thirst for more, as one repeatedly reads short excerpts of the theologians’ positions in their own words. Such a practice could only serve to encourage the reader to seek out the primary materials that are listed at the end of each chapter. Coupled with prolific footnotes and lists of primary materials is a succinct bibliography of secondary materials infused with commentary to lead the reader toward the materials that may be best suited for their interests.

One of the greatest assets of the work may be at the end of each chapter; there the authors seek to appropriate the theologians’ work for today, in essence asking, “What can we learn from these theologians for the present?” A slight critique of the work would be that while the authors offer an equal amount of text to each theologian, fewer medieval theologians are covered, however, this could be due to the voluminous effort that is made in introducing the reader to some of the best theologians in the early church.

It may also be observed that the work seems to move too quickly given that some positions are oversimplified, something that several of the authors make reference to throughout the volume. One such example found in the work is the oversimplification of Augustine’s view on evil which changes over time, (See G.R. Evans, Augustine on  Evil), and little, if any, reference to Augustine’s work, Reconsiderations. By and large, however, the writers are to be commended for the amount of study compiled into this work.

In many ways the volume is written as an in house document for those within the context of the church today. In the introduction Green summarizes that the early intention of the work is, “To strengthen the faith of Christian students”…”introduce theological students to the key theologians of the Christian church”…and… “help readers learn how to think theologically, by seeing central and medieval theologians thought”(12-13). The work is wellsuited for undergraduate and graduate level courses as well as the minister and layperson who seek a greater understanding of why we believe what we believe.

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John Schaaf is Senior Minister at Butler Church of Christ in Butler, IN, where he lives and serves with his wife Meggin and their three kids.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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