Austin Rivera

Assistant Professor of Church History

Charles “Austin” Rivera is a historical theologian and Church historian. In his research and teaching Rivera tells a truly global story of the history of the Church, correcting the western-centric views which have traditionally shaped the teaching of Church history, especially in the ancient and medieval periods. In narrating the history of Christian doctrine Rivera brings to the fore texts and genres conventionally excluded from the realm of theology proper, especially poetry.

Rivera’s work is interdisciplinary, bringing together literary studies and philology, history, and constructive theology. His research and teaching center on Christian literature and theology from late antiquity and the early middle ages, with a special focus on Ephrem of Nisibis and Syriac traditions. His current project, “The Mirror of Merit: Divine Grace in Origen of Alexandria and Ephrem of Nisibis” offers a new account of grace in two influential writers of the early Church which challenges the universality of concepts central to western theology, such as the ‘unmeritedness’ of grace. Rivera also maintains an interest in theological poetry of all periods and in the history and theology of Methodist and Wesleyan traditions.

Rivera is an ordained elder in the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church, with experience as the pastor of local congregations in Kansas and Nebraska.

Charles Austin Rivera


BA, The University of Chicago; MDiv, Duke Divinity School; PhD Yale University

Religious Affiliation

United Methodist

Courses Taught

  • History of Christianity
  • Gender, Identity, and the Trinity in the Early Church

Select Journal Articles, Book Chapters, Book Reviews

  • “Sketching the Incarnation: Ephrem of Nisibis on the Theological Significance of the Artist’s Craft,” in Jeremy Begbie and Daniel Train edd., The Art of the New Creation (forthcoming).

Select Academic Lectures

  • “Did Ephrem Know Origen? Harmonious Interpretation in the Commentary on Matthew and the Hymns on Virginity.” North American Patristics Society, May 2021.
  • “Hagar’s Bestial Daughters:  Christian and Barbarian in Ephrem’s Nisibis.”  Middle Eastern Christianity Unit and Traditions of Eastern Late Antiquity Unit, American Academy of Religion, November 2020.
  • “Sanctification and the Experts:  Patristic Models for Wesleyan Theological Education.”  Wesleyan and Methodist Studies Unit, American Academy of Religion, November 2020.
  • “Justice and Grace in Roman Mesopotamia:  Ephrem’s Madraše on Nisibis,” invited talk at Wabash College, December 2019.
  • “Sketching the Incarnation:  Ephrem of Nisibis on the Theological Significance of the Artist’s Craft.”  Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts Emerging Scholars Colloquium, September 2019.
  • “Investigation’s Changeful Wheel:  Theorizing Historical Theology with Ephrem the Syrian.”  Duke Graduate Conference in Theology, September 2017.
  • “Origen of Alexandria and the Doctrine of Christian Perfection.” Wesleyan Studies Group, American Academy of Religion, San Antonio, November 2016.

Professional Affiliations

  • American Academy of Religion
  • North American Patristics Society
  • Society of Biblical Literature

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