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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]