Trinity College

Early Thought, Doctrine and Theology in the Church Fathers and Mothers

Course Code: 
Last Offered: 
Fall 2021
Next Offered: 
Fall 2024

During the first five centuries CE, the Christian Church would develop from a small community of messianic Jews into the state religion of the world's most powerful empire. Along the road, a huge variety of voices and teachings would develop around the question of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, scripture, and salvation, each vying for control of the theological discourse. The controversies of this period, and their proposed solutions, would set the stage for all future Christian theology and thought, and impact every Christian community into the present day.

This course will explore the best and most influential of early Christianity's theological and spiritual authors, examining their intellectual context, the controversies within which they played a role, and their productive and creative theological and spiritual writings. The development and defense of Nicene Christianity will be of special emphasis, along with the early debates surrounding the Incarnation, the status of the Holy Spirit, the correct interpretation of Holy Scripture, the canonization of the New Testament, and the role of theology in the lived experience of Christians. The significance of early theology for modern Christian life will also be a focus. Authors who would eventually be regarded as orthodox will take centre stage, but the voices of non-orthodox (“heretical”) authors will also be considered in detail.