Monday, April 11, 2011

This Week in Patristics- April 3rd-April 9th, 2011

As promised, late, but here is the This Week in Patristics. A little light as far as entries, largely because I just didn't have the energy to follow the Lead Codices debacle (for a good blogography for this week, see April DeConick).

Ben Witherington on his Bible and Culture blog takes a detailed look at the discussion about forgery in early Christianity in Bart Erhrman's new book, Forged, in three parts (Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three). Both Ehrman and Witherington are talking mostly about Biblical texts, but there is enough patristic content to include here. He also includes a discussion about the much vexed lead tablets from Jordan.

Mark Stevens on the Near Emmaus blog reviews David Alan Black's Why Four Gospels?

Seraphim Holland on the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church blog considers St. Mary of Egypt by numbers.

A.Z. Foreman on his Poems in Translation blog writes a blistering critique of early and late Christianity. He's not wrong about a lot of the sins of Christianity, but he relentlessly refuses to see any good coming out of Christianity either. And he has enough Classical learning to back up his argument. Mind you, he is way to one-sided, but that happens.

Michelle Van Loon on the Englewood Review of Books blog reviews Brant Petre's book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist from the point of view of a Messianic Jew.

The next update in the Patristics blogging world is coming out next Sunday. See you then! Peace, Phil


A.Z. Foreman said...

And what, pray tell, are these wonders of Christianity I have ostensibly overlooked

Phil Snider said...

Hi A.Z;

Welcome here. Sorry about the delay in answering, but last week was a bit busy for me.

Your question is, of course, a fair one and, of course, difficult to answer as I don't pretend to know what you've already looked into. My essential point is that, while I agree that Christianity has done many, many horrific things (as have many religions- religious discourse is extremely powerful and, in the wrong hands, can lead to all kinds of mayhem), it could and did give the basis of ethical action over the ages where Christians opposed Christian violence. I call to attention, in particular, Mennonite pacifism, Martin Luther King (a preacher, after all), the Barmen Declaration in Germany and minority movements of this sort. Of course, there is also the high profile examples of slavery and such like.

Now, don't get me wrong. These were minority movements (shamefully!), but they are little cracks of light in what is a dark picture. And they really shouldn't be discounted.

As I recall, you deal with this objection in the post I cited (my editorial policy is to include any and all views on early Christianity, whether I agree with them or not). You are right. Not all abolitionists were Christian believers and this didn't make them bad. Yet, many were and this didn't make them bad. That is my point here. Many (not all) social reformers (for instance) seek to do good because of their faith, not despite it. Justice, I should think, grant that, at least. And that would leave me content.

A last related comment. I wonder if what you are critisizing is what could be called Christian 'civil religion' (I would call it Constantinianism') and, not precisely, Christianity. The drive to use political power to enforce one faith can and should be critisized. In fact, I'm with you on that. Yet, the difference is that I don't think that drive is intrinsic to Christianity. While I think Christianity has political implications which are worlds away from what we think they are, they are not achieved by violence or coercion. Jesus, who I do believe was God in a way that I'm not sure I can explain, could have used force to get out of his troubles in Jerusalem, but he chose the longer term vision of redemption which started with his own death and will only end in redemption of this world. I know that you don't believe this, but this is a very different Christ to the one of Christendom.

So, that is my answer, for what its worth.