Wilken is one of the best writers on the early Church around. While each chapter deals with specific issues, he touches on a great deal of relevant points, which makes the read both enlightening and fun. His style is easy to follow, which is something that I cannot always say of the preeminent historian of dogma, Jaroslav Pelikan, who heartily indorses this book. You really won't go wrong with this one. Every page has a distilled quality that comes from teaching and living in the minds of the Fathers for several decades.
The contents are as follows:
1. Founded on the Cross of Christ 2. An Awesome and Unbloody Sacrifice
3. The Face of God for Now 4. Seek His Face Always 5. Not My Will But Thine 6. The End Given in the Beginning 7. The Reasonableness of the Faith 8. Happy the People Whose God is the Lord 9. The Glorious Deeds of Christ 10. Making This Thing Other 11. Likeness to God 12. The Knowledge of Sensible Things
He writes: "The intellectual tradition that began in the early Church was enriched by the philosophical breadth and exactitude of medieval thought. Each period in Christian history makes its own unique contribution to Christian life. The Church Fathers, however, set in place a foundation that has proven to be irreplaceable. Their writings are more than a stage in the development of Christian thought or an interesting chapter in the history of the interpretation of the Bible. Like an inexhaustible spring, faithful and true, they irrigate the Christian imagination with life-giving water flowing from the biblical and spiritual sources of the faith. They are still our teachers today."
In terms of errors or just overstatements, there are few worth noting, none of which deserve to take away from the book's great worth. Even so, he refers to Christ as having a divine and human nature, whereas it should read "natures" in the plural. We are Chalcedonian Christians, after all. And speaking of the Council of Chalcedon, Wilken seems to think that the Fathers we too vague in that instance. Here I would think that in a way he misses the point of the Council's affirmation, or rather, `affirmation of negation'. The Fathers were respecting the inherent mystery of the person of Christ and did so in words by remaining apophatic in their teaching by stating, "these things are untrue, of the rest, remain silent". It is a true understanding of that mystery that motivated this approach. It could go too far and lead to heresy to do otherwise. For Wilken this is a lack of clarity, for me, an example of wisdom in the face of the living God's presence. Moreover, a passing remark that Augustine is the premier Father leaves me as an Orthodox a little quizzical.
You would also enjoy Wilken's "Remembering the Christian Past" and the works of Georges Florovsky. On the question of the Hellenization of the gospel, a la Harnak, which Wilken (and nearly all modern scholars) rejects thoroughly, see also Florovsky and Martin Hengel's works. Hurtado's Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity is worth buying and having near the desk.
Another up and coming patristic scholar from whom we will be reading and hearing much more in the coming years, God willing, is John Behr, professor of Patristics at St. Vladimir's. His new book, "The Way to Nicea" is a very helpful guide on the pre-Nicene Christiological tradition and would make a great companion to Wilken's book.