Understanding the Foundations of the Christian Faith

Literacy is different than fluency: a person may be fluent in a language and yet unable to read. Indeed, in most cases, fluency comes first. What, then, does literacy add? It adds the ability to read and write: that is, the ability to receive knowledge from the past and to pass it on to the future.

Theological literacy is thus not Christian maturity or discipleship, which are instead the fluency that typically runs before such literacy. It is instead the ability to receive from the Christian past, and to faithful hand on to the Christian future. As such, though it is not necessary to the Christian life, it is beneficial to every Christian, for we all have the duty of passing on the faith built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets.

But the central tenets or dogmas of the Christian faith were not read fully formed from the pages of the New Testament; rather, it took generations of the faithful reflecting on the implications of the teaching of Jesus and the apostles to clarify Christian teaching. During this time, numerous alternate understandings of the nature of the trinitarian God, the person of Christ, and the nature of salvation developed, were debated, and ultimately rejected.

In this course, students will develop theological literacy by attention to four central doctrines of the Christian faith: the Trinity, Christology, atonement, and the doctrine of grace. We will study each doctrine from a primary source situated at a key point in the historical development of the doctrine. Discussions will situate orthodox doctrine in the context of competing claims, and connect these doctrines to the exegesis of Scripture that grounds them. The result is a deeper understanding of why Christian theology looks the way that it does, and an increased ability to recognize what is at stake in various theological debates.

In this intensive version of the course, we will meet three times a week for two weeks. Due to this schedule, students are encouraged to prepare the readings ahead of time. A limited amount of financial aid is available (apply using the registration form).

April 23 - May 28, 2022
Saturdays, 9:00 - 11:00 am (CDT)

Registration deadline April 22, 2022

$250 / student


We will cover:*

Week 1: Introduction and Background
The interpretation of Scripture and the development of doctrine; the notion of orthodoxy; the Nicene Creed; various heresies; politics and councils; the role of the Holy Spirit in the development of doctrine

Week 2: The Trinity
Gregory Nazianzen and the First Council of Constantinople (381 AD)

Week 3: Christology
Cyril of Alexandria and the Council of Ephesus (431 AD)

Week 4: Atonement Part I
Anselm of Canterbury and the Satisfaction Theory (1094-1098 AD)

Week 5: Atonement Part II
Anselm of Canterbury and the Satisfaction Theory (1094-1098 AD)

Week 6: Grace
Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure

*Note that for the intensive, 1 week's worth of material will be covered each day

  • If you’ve been reluctant to take a theology course because you think you’ll be in over your head, you should go for Dr. Johnson’s Theological Literacy course. You will be reading challenging works by Aquinas, Bonaventure, St. Anselm and more, but the best part is that Junius makes it all understandable and super interesting. He guides his students towards the discovery of deep and meaningful truths through engaging discussions and well-organized lectures. I learned more in this six-week class than I have in twenty years of reading and listening to sermons. I think every Christian should take this course!