Starting January 1


Beginning January 1, 2011, my new blog series titled “Christian Thought through the Centuries” will explore insights that have emerged from the first century Church to the present. Each post will evaluate a new person or movement, with special attention on one’s view of Christ and his kingdom. Following is a chronological list, but, first, I would like to offer a couple of reasons why such a study is valuable.

The fifth commandment exhorts God’s people to “honor your father and mother.” It’s an imperative that applies to children, even after we have reached adulthood. Furthermore, in addition to guiding family relations, the commandment speaks to the way we view our theological forebears, men and women of God who have gone before us, the ones whom the Apostle Paul encourages us to imitate. And in the case of those who have been bad theological parents—loose cannons, unreliable teachers, even heretics—there are still valuable lessons for us to learn.

We must read about the past to acquire a proper perspective on the present. As historical theologian, Tony Lane, reminds us, “People without a grasp of history are like a person without a memory.” Such people are detached and impoverished, confused about where they are going because they don’t know from whence they have come. Reflection on Christian thought orients us in history, which is a critical step in gaining perspective.

The second reason why we should consider Christian history is to escape from our present. Every generation faces the same challenge of seeing above and beyond obstacles and into blind spots, and we are no different. Our assumptions and contextually conditioned biases lead us to overlook important pieces of truth. Reflection on Christian history is tantamount to cleaning the window with a generous amount of Windex—it removes the smudges and blurriness which inevitably hinder our vision, allowing us to recognize gospel opportunities.

Following are the people and movements that we plan to consider. I hope you’ll join us.


The Church of the Fathers to AD 500

Greek Philosophy

Apostolic Fathers

Justin Martyr



Clement of Alexandria



Eusebius of Caesarea

Council of Nicea (325)


Ephrem the Syrian

Cyril of Jerusalem

Cappadocian Fathers

Council of Constantinople (381)


John Chrysostom



Cyril of Alexandria

Council of Ephesus (431

Theodoret of Cyrus

Leo the Great

Council of Chalcedon (451)

Apostles’ Creed


The Eastern Tradition from AD 500

Dionysius the Areopagite

Council of Constantinople (553)

Maximus the Confessor

Council of Constantinople (680-81)

John of Damascus

Council of Nicea (787)

Simeon the New Theologian

Gregory Palamas

Confession of Dositheus (1672)

Vladimir Lossky


The Mediaeval West (AD 500-1500)

Athanasian Creed


Council of Orange (529)


Gregory the Great

John Scotus Erigena


Peter Abelard

Bernard of Clairvaux

Peter Lombard

Joachim of Fiore

Fourth Lateran Council (1215)

Francis of Assisi


Thomas Aquinas

John Duns Scotus

William of Ockham

Thomas Bradwardine

John Tauler

Catherine of Siena

John Wyclif

Jan Hus

Council of Florence (1438-45)

Thomas à Kempis

Gabriel Biel


Reformation and Reaction (1500-1800)

Desiderius Erasmus

Martin Luther

Philip Melanchthon

Augsburg Confession (1530)

Formula of Concord (1577)

Philip Jakob Spener


The Reformed Tradition

Ulrich Zwingli

Martin Bucer

John Calvin

Heinrich Bullinger

Heidelberg Catechism (1563)

Jakob Arminius

Synod of Dort (1618-19)

Johnathan Edwards

The Anabaptists

Schleitheim Confession (1527)

Menno Simons

The British Reformation

William Tyndale

Thomas Cranmer

John Knox

Thirty-nine Articles

Richard Hooker

William Perkins

Westminster Confession

John Owen

Richard Baxter

Second London Confession (1677)

John Bunyan

John and Charles Wesley

The Roman Catholic Response

Gasparo Contarini

Ignatius Loyola

Council of Trent (1545-63)

Teresa of Avila

John of the Cross

Robert Bellarmine

Blaise Pascal

The Liberals

Friedrich Schleiermacher

Albrecht Ritschl

Aldolf von Harnack

Rudolf Bultmann

Paul Tillich

John Hick

The Evangelicals

Charles Finney

B. B. Warfield

G. C. Berkouwer

John Stott

Lausanne Congress (1974)


The New Orthodoxy

Søren Kierkegaard

P. T. Forsyth

Karl Barth

Gustaf Aulén

Barmen Declaration (1934)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Reinhold Niebuhr

Jürgen Moltmann

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Other Developments

Process Theology

Kosuke Koyama

John Mbiti

George Lindbeck

The Roman Catholics

John Henry Newman

Ineffabilis Deus (1854)

First Vatican Council (1869-70)

Munificentissimus Deus (1950)

Second Vatican Council (1962-65)

Karl Rahner

Hans Urs von Balthasar

Hans Küng

Gustavo Gutiérrez

Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI

And more


The outline of our study comes from Tony Lane’s excellent book, A Concise History of Christian Thought. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

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