A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

The Christian church has been graced with brilliant and influential thinkers since its inception. A list of “who’s who” in Christian scholarship would be long and diverse in terms of scholarly disciplines. To whet your appetite in the areas of theology and philosophy, here’s a snapshot of six “straight A” thinkers.

By “straight A,” I mean two things. First, I’m noting that these thinkers were all brilliant scholars (no doubt, they would’ve received straight A report cards in today’s grading system) and accomplished philosophers and theologians who advanced Western civilization in general, and Christianity in particular. Second, all of these distinguished Christian scholars’ names begin with the letter “A.” So they’re Christendom’s A-Team!

Christendom’s A-Team

Here’s a brief summary of the “straight A” Christian theologians and philosophers from ancient and medieval Christendom and what they are known for:

  1. Athanasius (ca. 296–373), Defender of Orthodoxy

Athanasius is one of the most honored theologians in church history. His articulation and defense of essential Christian doctrine earned him the title “Father of Orthodoxy.” With his rare combination of a tenacious character and depth of theological insight, Athanasius championed the doctrine of the incarnation at a time when the faith was extremely vulnerable to heretical attack.

  1. Ambrose (ca. 340–397), The Great Orator

Ambrose is recognized as a Doctor of the Catholic Church and is known as one of the great orators in Christian history. A classically educated scholar, he helped introduce Greek Christian thinkers to the Latin West. Ambrose served as a skilled church theologian and bishop. Ambrose was deeply influential in the conversion of St. Augustine and later baptized him into the faith.

  1. Augustine (354–430), Greatest Author of Antiquity

Augustine of Hippo is arguably the most influential Christian thinker outside the New Testament authors. History knows him as a theologian, philosopher, church bishop, and a gifted and tenacious defender of orthodox Christianity. Having penned more than five million words, Augustine was the most prolific author of antiquity. He wrote several books that are considered both Christian and literary classics, including Confessions and The City of God.

  1. Anselm (1033–1109), Integrator of Faith and Reason

Anselm of Canterbury is honored as a Doctor of the Catholic Church and has been recognized as the greatest Christian thinker between St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. He is well-known for his understanding of the relationship between faith and reason and for formulating one of the most distinctive arguments ever—the ontological argument—for the existence of God.

  1. Abelard (1079–1142), The Medieval Logician

Peter Abelard is considered one of the great scholars of the Christian Middle Ages. As a French scholastic philosopher, he contributed significantly to such fields as logic and the problem of universals. As a theologian, his extravagant life and controversial beliefs were sometimes criticized by the church, but he still made contributions in Christian doctrine and practice.

  1. Aquinas (1225–1274), The Catholic Philosopher

Thomas Aquinas may have possessed the brightest mind in the history of Christendom. A medieval scholastic philosopher and theologian, Aquinas’s system of thought (called “Thomism”) was declared the official philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church. In a lifespan of fewer than 50 years, he wrote voluminously and masterfully defended classical Christian theism.

In the modern world, people sometimes ask whether the Christian faith is compatible with reason. But for most of Western civilization, the greatest intellectuals were also people of deep Christian faith. Today’s Christians could greatly benefit from knowing about these scholars of Christendom’s ancient and medieval past.

My faith is uplifted by knowing that these people affirmed the same historic Christian truths that I do.

Reflections: Your Turn

Who is your favorite Christian thinker of the past outside of the Bible? What lessons can today’s believers learn from earlier Christians? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

For more in-depth articles that highlight these men’s lives, writings, and contributions to Christendom, see:

Check out more from Dr. Kenneth Samples @Reasons.org

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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