Baker Academic has a brand new website! Click Here To Visit:

Classical Christian Doctrine

Introducing the Essentials of the Ancient Faith

Cover Art Request Exam Copy

Where to Purchase


This clear and concise text helps readers grasp the doctrines of the Christian faith considered basic from the earliest days of Christianity. Ronald Heine, an internationally known expert on early Christian theology, developed this book from a course he teaches that has been refined through many years of classroom experience. Heine primarily uses the classical Christian doctrines of the Nicene Creed to guide students into the essentials of the faith.

This broadly ecumenical work will interest students of church history or theology as well as adult Christian education classes in church settings. Sidebars identify major personalities and concepts, and each chapter concludes with discussion questions and suggestions for further reading.
1. What Is Classical Christian Doctrine?
2. Christian Scripture: The Source of Classical Christian Doctrine
3. "The Lord Our God Is One": The Jewish God and the Christian Faith
4. "And the Word Was God": The Christian Faith and the Greek Philosophers
5. "He Who Has Seen Me Has Seen the Father": The Monarchian Approach to God
6. "Today I Have Begotten You": Origen and the Eternal Generation of the Son
7. "One God the Father" and "One Lord Jesus Christ": Arius and the Council of Nicaea
8. Truly God and Truly Man: Defining the Nature of Jesus
9. "And in the Holy Spirit": The Struggle to Understand the Spirit
10. God the Father: "Maker of Heaven and Earth"
11. Binding the Strong Man: The Redemptive Work of Christ
12. "I Will Build My Church": Defining the Church
13. "The Washing of Regeneration": "One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins"
14. The Christian Eschatological Hope: The Resurrection of the Dead
15. "And They Came to Life and Reigned with Christ a Thousand Years": The Millennium


"If you are searching for a solid and solidifying introduction to the doctrines of early Christianity, this is it. Ronald Heine helps those of us who feel unsettled within our transitory age to find some steadiness of faith within the classical and foundational. This is a book for those who think beginnings might be important to beliefs, who think antiquity might enrich the contemporary, and who, because they don't like to free-fall, appreciate the groundwork."

D. Jeffrey Bingham, dean of the School of Theology and professor of theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

"In Classical Christian Doctrine, Heine draws from the obvious breadth and depth of his many years of research to create a manual for beginning theologians. Here is a crisp and accessible text eminently suitable to introduce undergraduate students to the essentials of early Christian thought and the enduring truths of Christian doctrine."

Hans Boersma, J. I. Packer Professor of Theology, Regent College

"One couldn't ask for a clearer or more succinct account of the process whereby classical Christian doctrines were articulated. Shaped by the clauses of the Nicene Creed, it brilliantly sketches out how the early church fathers debated and appropriated scriptural themes. This sharp focus and the judicious selection of key elements in what can seem a dauntingly complex story make this an excellent initial text. Also of value are telling quotations from original sources in clear English translation and good questions to make beginning students think hard about doctrinal questions."

Frances Young, emeritus professor of theology, University of Birmingham; author of From Nicaea to Chalcedon

"Here at last is an introductory theology text that gracefully inducts beginning students into Christian doctrines deriving from the Nicene Creed. Undergraduates as well as seminarians will meet the major minds and texts that shaped classical Christian theology and emerge equipped to engage the intricacies of Christianity's doctrinal struggles through this most lucid portal, which is replete with textual excerpts, explanatory glosses, and accessible though not overly simplified presentations of hotly debated questions."

Ellen Charry, Margaret W. Harmon Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Ronald Heine has provided a fresh and invaluable introduction to the complex body of early Christian doctrine for an audience of nonspecialists. With his careful organization of the issues and proposed discussion questions, a broad array of themes, including Trinity, Christology, salvation, and eschatological hope, all come into sharp focus and are made accessible for Christians anxious to enrich and deepen their understanding of the church's faith and their own identity in relation to Christians past."

Paul Blowers, Dean E. Walker Professor of Church History, Emmanuel Christian Seminary

"Ron Heine offers his usual wise words for the beginner in Christian theology. Although written in simple language and sentence structure, this book comes out of broad knowledge and depth of study. It is much needed in an age adrift in a sea of religious confusion and uncertainty. Classical Christian Doctrine may also provide an introductory text for the early period in the history of doctrine."

Everett Ferguson, professor of church history emeritus, Abilene Christian University

"Contemporary Protestants greatly benefit from discovering how much our faith can be traced back to the wisdom of the ancient church. In Ronald Heine's fine introduction to central Christian doctrines, he unpacks the true 'catholicity' (universality) and 'classical' nature of our faith, inviting us not only to recognize our debt to the past but also to grow in our theological understanding in the present."

Kelly M. Kapic, professor of theological studies, Covenant College

"Heine has provided the beginning student of theology with a reliable and readable guide to Nicene Christianity. This book will help cement the turn toward patristic orthodoxy that is taking place in evangelical thought."

Adonis Vidu, associate professor of theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

"In recent decades there has been a noticeable resurgence of interest in the early church and its classical faith. In Classical Christian Doctrine, Ronald Heine provides a very useful resource for those seeking a travel guide to this intriguing ecclesiastical terrain. Using the topics posed by the Nicene Creed as a heuristic framework, Heine expertly explores a range of theological issues and debates that eventually came to define historic orthodox Christianity. A wonderful choice for an undergraduate textbook."

Paul Rhodes Eddy, professor of biblical and theological studies, Bethel University, St. Paul, Minnesota

The Author

  1. Ronald E. Heine

    Ronald E. Heine

    Ronald E. Heine (PhD, University of Illinois) is professor emeritus of Bible and theology at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Oregon. He is the author of Reading the Old Testament with the Ancient Church and several books on Origen.

    Continue reading about Ronald E. Heine


"[Heine] presents a fascinating overview of early church doctrinal writings and discussions. Utilizing the Nicene Creed as a primary outline, he traces the various viewpoints on the canon of scripture, the essence of God, the nature of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and even baptism and the end times. Written primarily as a useful course book for undergraduates, the volume provides a short, solid overview of the issues and includes helpful text boxes that introduce the historical personalities as well as providing quotes from church fathers and other writers of the period. Each brief chapter concludes with discussion questions and further resources. . . . Highly recommended to general readers interested in church history and theology."

Ray Arnett,

Library Journal

"For teachers, it is always a work to find a suitable text that is concise, lucid, solid, and yet nuanced enough, especially for an introductory course. Ronald E. Heine's Classical Christian Doctrine may just be one for teachers of theology. . . . Heine ably and judiciously weaves together classic theological themes as a coherent whole. He also provides some handy and helpful tools for his intended audience without distracting them from the main presentations--a brief introduction of major personalities at the beginning, relevant key primary texts along the way, thoughtful discussion questions and queues, and a list of further readings at the end of each chapter. In the end, this book will serve the students of theology and history of Christianity sufficiently and well."

Helen Rhee,

Journal of Early Christian Studies

"Heine has been doing us a great service with his books on how the early church fathers contribute to us today. . . . [This book] shows how the core of Christian doctrine can be found in the writings of the early church leaders. This is helpful in many ways, including his demonstration of the role of Scripture and its acceptance (which debunks the fad of suggesting the cannon was fluid until very late)."

Ray Van Neste,

Preaching (Annual Survey of the Year's Best Bibles and Bible Reference, 2013)

"Among the recent publications streaming from the evangelical ressourcement movement, this book is remarkable for achieving an eminent approachability and yet compellingly transporting the reader into the thought-world of the church fathers. Heine rids his text of every literary embellishment in the quest to construct a perfectly transparent window into the logic of the earliest Trinitarian and christological debates. With an admirable degree of success, Heine reduces the controversies of the patristic period to their simplest coherent form. . . . The book is designed for undergraduate students, and the discussion questions, reading recommendations, and paragraphs excerpted from primary sources would nicely facilitate classroom use."

Jonathan J. Armstrong,

Trinity Journal

"Heine presents an innovative introduction to early Christian theology using each of the clauses of the Nicene Creed as a guide to which doctrines he will discuss. . . . There is much to commend about this work. Heine's brief examinations of Scripture to set up the reason for the controversy over various doctrines are always helpful. The author also helps the reader gain a sense that doctrines developed slowly over time and that beliefs that were rejected were never intended to corrupt the Church, but were honest attempts to solve real theological problems. This also helps the reader to have some sense of the diversity of thoughts and beliefs in the early Church."

Eric Wickman,

Review and Expositor

"Heine's engagement with both biblical and philosophical sources is commendable and relatively rare in this field. . . . This is a remarkable book, not least in that Heine is able to concisely summarize difficult theological concepts and controversies without undue simplicity. Moreover, alongside Heine's clear prose are placed poignant excerpts from the works of various church fathers. The combination helps the reader feel as though she has really entered those early theological debates. . . . I am certain that my students need historical wisdom, so I will be inviting them to read Classical Christian Doctrine this semester."

Ryan Scruggs,

Canadian Theological Review

"As a skillful master who can take complicated material and produce a delightfully simple product, Heine provides a noteworthy introduction to the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. . . . Heine leaves plenty of latitude for discussion, especially with the help of questions at the end of each chapter. I found Heine charitable with sources and conversant with the key players. . . . Classical Christian Doctrine is sound and useful for contemporary readers. New Christians, young Christians, and older Christians who lack a doctrinal foundation for their faith will find this book beneficial. Those teaching introductory courses in church history and Christian doctrine at universities, bible colleges, and seminaries will find this book helpful. It will make a great addition to the pastor's shelf as well as the teacher's. Heine does what few are able: distill classical Christian doctrinal development into a rich blend to suit the novice's palate."

Coleman M. Ford,

Fides et Humilitas

"As a small group leader, I have searched for a book to provide a basic knowledge of early Christian doctrine, how it developed, and how it remained true to the New Testament. . . . My fantasy book needs to provide a short synopsis of doctrinal development. . . . I'd also need a book that causes discussion by asking questions. It is possible Ronald E. Heine's latest work, Classical Christian Doctrine . . . not only fulfills my wishlist, but also does so in ways far better than I could have imagined. After all, Heine not only does all of the things I asked for, but places it on the system of the creed. . . . This is an excellent resource, giving a solid foundation for any group wishing to know not only the early doctrines of the Church, but how the Church achieved them. [Heine] approaches the doctrines as the early Church would have, without historical criticism, but through the theological reception of the Scriptures, Old and New. He uses the primary texts from the primary theologians to accomplish this task. Because of this, the modern reader can get a better grasp of how these doctrines came to be without the aid of modern academics."

Joel L. Watts,

Unsettled Christianity blog

"Because it is written as a primer, Heine keeps jargon to a minimum, and explains with brevity but with precision the doctrines and introduces us to the participants in the debate. . . . What makes the book especially useful is the inclusion of excerpts from the various theologians explored in sidebars. In addition, he begins each chapter by identifying the key figures in the discussion of that chapter. . . . At the end of the chapter one will find a series of questions and points for discussion, making this useful for a small group church study, and suggestions for further reading. . . . I think that most Christians will find this a useful read. This is especially true since the church is in dire need of informed conversations about the nature of our beliefs."

Robert Cornwall,

Ponderings on a Faith Journey blog

"A solid introduction to ancient faith and comparisons to modern times. A 'must' for any interested in classical teachings and scholarly analysis."

Midwest Book Review

"The doctrinal debates which occupied the attention of theologians in the early Christian centuries can seem perplexing and irrelevant to modern-day believers. . . . For most Christians, however, wise guides to these debates are essential. Ronald Heine's Classical Christian Doctrine is such a guide. Without 'dumbing down' the author surveys all the basics of Christian theology as debated in the early centuries in a clear and engaging style. Text boxes give concise information on theologians and movements, together with brief extracts from some key works which offer a flavor of the original writings. Points for discussion and suggestions for further reading are also provided. The result is a user-friendly introductory text that will be of value to a wide readership, not just to aspiring theologians."

David McKay,

Covenanter Witness

"A clear and succinct survey of the classical Christian doctrines. . . . Heine provides a compelling and surprisingly broad interaction with classical doctrine and its impact for today. This book makes for an excellent survey for pastors to brush up or church members to dive in."

Daniel Ryan,