Fortress Press

Elements of Christian Thought: A Basic Course in Christianese

In the spring of 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted classrooms around the world, teachers scrambled to convert their lectures and presentations into a format more conducive to online and distance learning.

For Eugene Rogers, this meant transcribing as closely as possible the spoken lectures that have made his Introduction to Christian Thought course at UNC Greensboro, a course he has taught some forty times, justly famous.

The result is this book: an insightful, winsome, and engaging introduction to the history of Christian thought by a teacher at the height of his craft.

For Rogers, the history of Christian thought is the story of a language--it's "Christianese," if you will--that participants use to frame their agreements and their disagreements alike. From Anselm to Wyschogrod, Rogers introduces us to the most interesting speakers of Christianese and their importance, enabling us to both listen in on and take part in the living conversation about God's activity in and for our world.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506473833
  • eBook ISBN 9781506473840
  • Dimensions 6.25 x 9.25
  • Pages 320
  • Publication Date May 25, 2021


"Rarely does a theologian blend deep scholarship with accessible, engaging, and relatable language in a way that communicates the nuance and depth of theology while also demonstrating the relevance and importance of age-old questions for contemporary life. Rogers does this with humor, authenticity and skill."

Jill Duffield, Senior pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, NC

"No one has made Christian theology as exciting for me, a lapsed Catholic who identifies as an atheist, as Gene Rogers has. In his supple hands, what so often seems to be merely lame and authoritarian dogma becomes a living tradition; its debates become as fascinating and urgent as matters of US Supreme Court jurisprudence. Elements of Christian Thought presents itself as a vocabulary lesson in "Christianese," and it is that. But it also teaches its readers the essential skill of distinguishing better theology from worse theology, and readers from all backgrounds will profit from his efforts in this book to minimize the anti-Jewish, sexist, and racist strains in Christian thinking."

Martin Kavka, Florida State University

"Concise, fresh, and very smart, Rogers's textbook lets beginning students in on what is too often a carefully guarded secret: Christian theology is one of the most fascinating subjects anyone can study."

Kendall Soulen, Professor of Systematic Theology, Emory University, author of The Divine Name(s) and the Holy Trinity

"Many teachers are good at conveying content and describing what other people think. Few have the gift of inviting students to think alongside the teacher him- or herself. Eugene Rogers belongs to this second group. His Elements of Christian Thought shows its readers how they may better "speak Christian" and enter the church's centuries-long conversation over the gospel."

Joseph Mangina, Professor of Theology, Wycliffe College, Toronto

"Could one wish for a more provocative and generative introduction to and outline of Christian theology? In these pages, you are in the hands of one of Christianity's most creative living theologians and one of our best teachers. Here, Rogers is characteristically analytical and grammatical, yet he also writes as a lover of language and thought, a lover committed to depicting the Christian grammar not as a suffocating unified mode of speech but as space within which passionate, illuminating disagreement can occur."

Lauren F. Winner, Duke Divinity School

"I have waited for this book for twenty years, since I sat in the introductory course upon which it is based, and yet the book managed to surprise me in the same way that Rogers insists the well-traveled doctrines of the Christian faith still can."

Rev. Sarah Jobe, chaplain, Interfaith Prison Ministry for Women; prison educator, Duke University Divinity School; and author of Creating with God: The Holy, Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy

"These lectures have been legendary among undergraduates for decades and here they are, finally, for the public. For insiders and outsiders alike, this book offers a unique, elegant, and deeply learned path into understanding the Christian tradition."

Willis Jenkins, University of Virginia

"Rogers is one of the true masters of the craft of teaching theology. Here, in his inimitable style, he guides us into the rich texture of "a language in which to disagree." This is the book we even didn't realize we were waiting for. But we were."

Anthony Baker, Seminary of the Southwest

"Elements of Christian Thought not only teaches readers how to "speak Christian" but how to think in Christian terms as well. Through reflection upon the central intellectual puzzles of the Christian tradition, Rogers' deeply incarnational theology speaks to the myriad dimensions of our full humanity.This engaging and inspiring book is a vital resource for both Christian theologians and non-Christian readers alike, helping all of us to think and live in more faithful, hopeful, and loving ways with one another."

Willie Young, Endicott College

"With extraordinary acuity, considerable humor, and remarkable grace, Gene Rogers takes us through the most central teachings of historic Christianity in a way quite different from what we are used to hearing from academic theologians. His book is refreshing (though part of that is that it should make each of us squirm a little), and I can't wait to try teaching with it."

Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, president, United Lutheran Seminary

"If you are looking for a serious but accessible introduction to Christian Theology, look no further. Rogers dives deep into the waters of theology and surfaces with questions and topics that are timeless and timely. A great book for ecclesial group-reading and classroom teaching as well as for individual edification!"

Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary

"The idea of Christianese is a compelling way to introduce students to the words and frames of thought which have shaped the Christian faith across centuries. In this work, Rogers gets to the heart of the matter that people tell you what they believe and those words create fields of vision often more vast than simple attention to doctrines. In these time in which religious belief is so often reduced to performance, it is refreshing to be reminded that language can offer paths of understanding which set the religious imagination free."

Stephen G. Ray Jr., President, Chicago Theological Seminary

"All of us who teach theology are always looking for a single book that introduces students not only to Christian thought but also to the ways Christians think their faith. Our search can pause for now here at Eugene Roger's wonderful text. I know of no book that displays a cultural linguistic approach to teaching doctrine more creatively and beautifully than what this brilliant and rightly celebrated theologian has given us. I and my students will be thanking him for many years to come."

Willie James Jennings, Yale University

"Perhaps you are a Christian, perhaps not. Either way, you must have been puzzled by some of the strange things Christians say--about faith and reason, love and justice, divine and human freedom, a Triune God, evil, sin, and salvation, death and resurrection. If you haven't been puzzled, perhaps you should have been. Christians have been debating the meaning of their central commitments for many centuries while also exercising massive power in the world. Eugene Rogers knows this language as well as anyone and his new book lays it out with maximal clarity and grace."

Jeffrey Stout, author of Democracy and Tradition

"In Elements of Christian Thought, Rogers teaches his students a language, "Christianese," so that he can draw them into a conversation. What makes this book extraordinary is that Rogers doesn't merely tell the reader what such a conversation is like. He shows them. And the conversation that unfolds--living and lively, suffused with a winsome theological vision--actually empowers his students to respond."

Sean Larsen, visiting professor at Marquette University, Managing Editor of Syndicate