Theology: The Basic Readings, 3 rd Edition is an essential guide to the topics, themes, controversies, and reflections on Christianity as they have been understood by many of its greatest commentators. ALISTER E. McGRATH is currently Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford. He is regarded as one of the world's leading Protestant theologians and is the author of some of the world's most widely used theological textbooks, including the bestselling The Christian Theology Reader (5th edition, Wiley Blackwell, 2016), Christian Theology: An Introduction (6th edition, Wiley Blackwell, 2016), and Christianity (Wiley Blackwell, 2015).
A Historical Overview
This reader brings together a collection of readings drawn from the first two thousand years of Christian theology. Although two in every three of these readings are drawn from very recent sources, you will find material from each of the great periods of Christian history represented here. To get the most out of these readings, you need a basic understanding of the main features of the development of Christian theology. If you are using this reader alongside my textbook Christian Theology: An Introduction , now in its sixth edition, you will find that this provides you with a detailed road map which will allow you to get the most from this collection of readings. It will help you make much more sense of what you read, and allow you to appreciate the context in which it was written. The four introductory chapters of this larger work provide a survey of historical theology. The following four chapters deal with issues of sources and interpretation, dealing with material covered in the first two chapters of this reader. The remaining chapters present a detailed engagement with the major themes of Christian theology, providing an in-depth introduction to the readings.
However, not all will want to make use of this specific introduction to Christian theology. For those not using this companion volume, the brief section which follows will give you something of a panoramic view of the main landmarks of this process of development, and identify readings that will help you understand some of its features. While this can only highlight some of the many themes of Christian theology (passing over many topics, debates, and schools of thought that fully deserve discussion), it will nevertheless help readers to get their bearings in the midst of this vast landscape of ideas.
For the sake of convenience, historians of Christian thought tend to break its first two thousand years down into more manageable sections. While everyone has their own views about how best to divide Christian history, many use a framework which looks something like this.
The apostolic period
The first hundred years are often referred to as the apostolic period. This is the period during which the works now included in the New Testament were written. During this time, Christianity was spreading throughout the Mediterranean region and beyond. The missionary journeys of St Paul, described in the Acts of the Apostles, are an excellent example of this activity. This reader does not include readings from the New Testament, as this document is so readily accessible in traditional and digital forms.
The patristic period
This is followed by the patristic period, which is usually held to begin about the year 100. There is no firm agreement about when this period ended: some scholars suggest it ends in the fifth century, while others extend it by at least two centuries. The Council of Chalcedon (451) marked a landmark in Christian thinking, especially over the identity of Jesus Christ, and is seen by many writers as bringing this important period of theological development to a close. The unusual word "patristic" derives from the Greek word pater ("father"), and designates a group of writers who are often collectively known as the "fathers of the church." (Sadly, there were very few women among them.) The readings chosen for inclusion here are representative of all the major writers of this period - such as Irenaeus of Lyons, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Augustine of Hippo.
The patristic period witnessed important theological explorations of the relation of faith and classical culture, clarifying the place of the Bible in Christian theology (including establishing the New Testament canon), the identity of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of God (including the Trinity), the doctrine of the church, and the rel