BISMARCK, ND — One of the world’s leading scholars of the early Christian church and one of America’s most accomplished religious historians, Dr. Robert L. Wilken brings his topic of “Christianity and Religious Freedom” to the Christian Leadership Center at the University of Mary.

His presentation, Thursday, February 18, at 8 p.m. in Butler Auditorium at the Gary Tharaldson School of Business on campus, is free and open to the public and preceded by a book signing with a coffee and dessert reception at 7:30 p.m. in the foyer.

Dr. Robert Wilken

Dr. Robert Wilken

Wilken, a Catholic convert from Lutheranism and participant in the organization Evangelicals and Catholics Together, writes “It is widely assumed that the modern understanding of religious freedom was a work of the Enlightenment. In truth, the central ideas go back to the early church fathers and the Scriptures. During the Reformation these ancient beliefs were given new life by Protestant and Catholic authors. Liberty of conscience was born, not of indifference, nor of skepticism, but of faith. Today, as religious freedom is being challenged in the U.S., and some are asking ‘why tolerate religion?’ Christians need to stand up and defend the religious roots of religious liberty.”

Wilken is chairman and president of the First Things magazine board of directors. His essays have appeared in Commentary and the Washington Post, among other publications.

Wilken, Distinguished Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia where he was professor of the History of Christianity. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and has taught at Gregorian University, Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Notre Dame, Fordham University, and Lutheran Theological Seminary.

Wilken is the author of more than a dozen books, including the highly acclaimed The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity. Also on the list of must-reads are The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of GodRemembering the Christian Past and The Christians as the Romans Saw Them.

He is also the translator, along with Paul Bowers, of On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christselected writings from St. Maximus the Confessor