Religion – The Big Four

When I started this site in 2016, I wanted to understand Christianity better – to understand its traditions and history, its different thinkers across time. I went out and bought Augustine’s Confessions, and just kept going.

Here, we explore the big four Christian theologians – Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin. Different people might shift that list around a little – but if you’re looking for a place to start, this is as good as any.

Augustine

Augustine was the first proper theologian I ever read. Born in the 4th century, his major works include City of God, written in the wake of the sack of Rome, Confessions, and On The Trinity.

Augustine: Allegory in Genesis 1

Some of you might remember an extract from my first play, CHRISTIAN, that I published here a while back. Since then, things have been going well in playwriting world – my first play has been performed, my second is in […]

Augustine: About Time

So we’re going to jump over to Confessions today, and talk a little about time. In Book XI, Augustine’s discussing time: he responds to general questions like ‘What was God doing before He created the world?’ (XI, 10), which challenge the idea […]

Augustine: Beggars in the City of God

St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City has been hailed as the greatest church in all of Christendom. It has significance for all of Christianity as both a religion and a culture or society. Drawing on Augustine’s image of the City of […]

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Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas sits at the heart of the Catholic faith. His major work, the Summa Theologiae, unified Aristotelian thought with Christian doctrine. I’ve only read the first part of it, the Prima Pars, but that took me most of a full year. It has a dialectic structure, sort of like a debate, where he lays out a series of arguments in favour of one position, and then counters those arguments with his actual position.

Reviewing Aquinas

Well, we’re finishing with Aquinas forever for now. It’s not quite the end of the Prima Pars, but we’re close enough – 45 posts in total, counting this one but not the ContraPoints article. It’s just about a year of […]

Aquinas: On Miracles

Only a couple more weeks with Aquinas now. I’ll round off with a few comments on Aquinas generally, just talking about some of his ideas that I like or don’t really like. Might get a few in-between articles on some […]

Aquinas: Is God Hot?

We’re still working with Q105 this week. Last week we did 105.4, on whether God can change human will, and this week it’s 105.5, on “whether God is active in every agent cause.” There’s quite a lot from 105, which is why […]

Aquinas: Does God Mind-Control You?

We’re drawing to a close with Aquinas here. I’ve said before that I’ll finish with the end of the Prima Pars, but frankly I’ve had enough. I’ve done quite a bit of Aquinas – much more than any other writer […]

Aquinas: Can God Wreck Shit?

So last week we talked about how for Aquinas, all of creation depends on God for its existence. Not just in a ‘God created everyone and wandered off’ kinda way, but as in ‘Everything’s existence actively depends on God continuing […]

Aquinas: Being and Becoming

I said a while back that I was going to move on from Aquinas once I finished the Prima Pars. In the version I’m using, the Prima Pars is split into fifteen volumes, and today we’re starting in on vol. […]

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Luther

Luther is the guy responsible for starting the Protestant Reformation. Some people say he’s less a theologian and more a reformer, a revolutionary, but we read his stuff anyway. It’s interesting to see the start of it all. We focus on his 1520 trilogy: Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian, all published right before his excommunication in 1521.

Von Balthasar: Anxiety and the Church

In The Christian and Anxiety, the Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar largely focuses on the relationship between anxiety and the individual. However, in the closing pages, he touches on anxiety and the church. We might when we’re feeling […]

Luther: Warning, Contains Math

Alright, final week with On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. I’m about halfway through On the Freedom of a Christian, which is the third one of the 1520 publications, and I don’t currently have anything to say about it, so we […]

Luther: On Marriage

As in the last few weeks, we’re continuing on with Luther’s Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. This week we’re dealing with Luther’s views on marriage, which, depending on your perspective, are either quite surprising, or not.

Luther: By Faith Alone

If you know anything about Luther, you’ll probably be familiar with his idea of justification by faith. It’s basically the idea that you don’t get justified or saved by your actions, but by faith alone. You might also be familiar […]

Luther: Wine’s Fine

This week we’re dealing with the second of Luther’s three 1520 texts, A Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. It’s a great example of what’s at stake for Luther in writing these tracts. Strictly speaking, this is a text […]

Luther: You’re a Priest and So Am I

So Luther has three major texts that all come out in 1520. 1520 is kinda his year – he gets ordered to renounce a bunch of his books, produces these three major works, and then in 1521 he gets excommunicated. […]

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Calvin

Calvin is a grumpy little shit, but he’s also probably the single most influential Protestant theologian. I read his Institutes of the Christian Religion, and it was very angry, and increasingly I agree with a lot of what he says, God help me.

Calvin: On Government

It’s our last week with Calvin! I was going to write something about his views on infant baptism (he likes it), but I don’t really care that much – if you want to read it, it’s Book 4, Chapter 16, […]

Calvin: Fasting

Did people in your church ever do the Daniel Fast? I’m showing my heritage here – in the States you’d associate it with the evangelicals. It’s very much a pop-Christianity phenomenon. I didn’t think Calvin would have anything interesting to […]

Calvin: Discipline

A couple weeks back I wrote about Calvin and cancel culture – it was a pretty straightforward run at unity and politics and leftists online, using one very specific bit of Calvin as the base for the conversation. Today I […]

Calvin: Conscientious Objections

In Book 4, Chapter 10 of The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin bashes the Catholics for making up religious laws and acting as if they “enjoined things necessary to salvation” (4.10.2). As far as he’s concerned, one of the […]

Calvin: Who Run The Church?

Girls! Girls! I know this one. Calvin spends Book 4 of the Institutes of the Christian Religion expounding upon the proper structure of the church. We talked about it a bit last week, with his idea that the one unified […]

Calvin on Cancel Culture

I spend a lot of time bashing Calvin for being a shithead, so when he’s right about something, in the spirit of goodwill and charity, I want to spend just as much time talking about how great it is. In […]