Christian History

Athanasius Against the World

Church History

This deep-dive course into the life and teachings of St. Athanasius will take a close look at his writings, beginning with a discussion of the Council of Nicaea followed by a close reading of Athanasisus’ early work, On the Incarnation, which sets out Nicene orthodoxy in apostolic and scriptural terms without the controversial homoousion. Students will further explore his thought in The Life of Antony, Apologia contra Arianos, and his defense of the Nicene Creed, De Decretis, as well as through a selection of his letters.

Taught by Dr. Matthew Hoskin.

Runs 7/4-8/26/22.

Auditing: participate in readings and live class sessions, but no graded assignments and no course credit
Full course part-time: individual classes on a for-credit basis; you can later apply them toward a Certificate or Degree
Full course full-time: for-credit courses (at least four per term) toward our Certificate or M.Litt in Classical Protestantism


This Church History course will be taught by Dr. Matthew Hoskin and will run from from July 4th through August 26th 2022. The syllabus is available here.

Few individuals in church history stand as tall as St. Athanasius of Alexandria (c.296-373). His legacy to the Church is nothing less than the doctrine of the Trinity–a legacy built in an age when the triumph of Christian orthodoxy was far from certain. His epitaph, Athanasius contra mundum (“Athanasius against the world”) is well-earned. The times were so turbulent that he found himself exiled on five occasions. Throughout, regardless of what position different emperors took on the Council of Nicaea, Athanasius was a defender of the orthodoxy of the council’s creed and articulated the orthodox understanding of the crucial word homoousios

And yet, the man himself is often obscured by the myth, and many who cite him today have not engaged with his actual writings. This course will explore the life and teachings of Athanasius first-hand. Students will do a deep dive into his thought. After a discussion of the Council of Nicaea and its meaning as understood in conciliar documents and Athanasius’ own thought, students will begin with Athanasius’ early work, On the Incarnation, which sets out Nicene orthodoxy in apostolic and scriptural terms without the controversial homoousion. In The Life of Antony, students will encounter Athanasius’ enduring interest in the monastic movement as well as the playing out of his incarnational theology and human participation in God’s life. Next, we shall study the Apologia contra Arianos where students will encounter not just St Athanasius the polemicist but also his exegesis of key passages of Scripture. De Decretis is a defense of the Nicene Creed. Finally, students will engage with Athanasius’ letters, first with his letter to Epictetus which was a touchstone of orthodoxy in the fifth-century Christological debates, and then with his letters to Serapion which together form a treatise on the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Matthew Hoskin received his Ph.D. in the History of Christianity from the University of Edinburgh in 2015. His expertise is in the field of ancient Christianity (Patristics) with a focus on Leo the Great, Christology, and canon law in the fifth century, and he has a background in Classics and research that extends across the Middle Ages. He lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with his wife and children where he is Coordinator of Liturgy and Education at The Urban Abbey ( and blogs semi-regularly at

Online only, runs 8 weeks, meeting 2.5 hr./wk. via Zoom. Students will also have the option to participate in class discussion on the Davenant Common Room Discord server. Register to reserve your spot and schedule will be set after a poll of participating students; if the class time does not fit your schedule, you will be eligible for a full refund.

This is a graduate-level course. Although a BA is not a necessary pre-requisite for this course, students should come prepared to do graduate-level work.