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Thursday, October 19, 2006 

Candler and Duke

For those who still visit my blog I do apologize for the lack of posting. As I near the completion of three papers and getting together my graduate applications I should finally then be freed up to blog more frequently. Speaking of graduate schools I have had the pleasure of visiting both Candler School of Theology and Duke University during the last month. I enjoyed both visits thoroughly. In regards to Candler, though I am no particular fan of Augustine's, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a class by the well-established Augustine Scholar Dr. Lewis Ayres. Like I said I have never been too much of a fan of Augustine but Ayres succeeded in grabbing my attention. One of the illuminating things that Ayres discussed in the lecture was his belief, contra most Augustine scholars, that Augustine's religous pilgrimage was not quite like what Augustine himself laid out in his Confessions. In this book Augustine presents his religious journey as moving from a superficial Christianity in his young days to Manicheaism, to Astrologly, to Platonism, to Skepticism, and then finally to the acceptance of a genuine Christianity. Ayres position was that Augustine in reality never completely left the Christianity of his younger days (due to his Mother's influence) but dabbled in these other religions with the hope of answering some hard questions he had concerning Christianity (like the problem of evil for instance). I had never heard of Augustine's journey interpreted in such a manner and so was quite intrigued at the lecture.

Excepting the long drive there and back, Duke was a wonderful visit as well. Without a doubt the highlight of the trip was finally meeting and visiting the father of biblioblogging and genius behind NT Gateway, Dr. Mark Goodacre. Goodacre is especially significant for myself for two reasons. First, it was by chance that I happened upon his blog which ignited my own interest in biblioblogging and which introduced me to the many other blogs that I've come to enjoy reading. Secondly, Goodacre's The Case Against Q was the final push in convincing me to become a Q skeptic. Before reading Goodacre's book I had started to have some problems with the Q theory but was reluctant to investiage further into my misgivings. For one thing, I think many scholars are reticent to even consider the invalidity of Q because, like myself, the idea of an extra source, let alone an earlier extrabiblical source of Christianity, is hard to dispense with. But upon reading Goodacre's book, I was persuaded. Aside from that, it was a, again, a great pleasure to meet with Goodacre. And, Dr. Goodacre, if you read this, many thanks again for taking the time to meet with me.

For those who still wish to see the final post in my Passover series, I will have it up tomorrow. This is my fall break this weekend so I have plenty of time to complete it. I apologize for its belatedness.


Kind of funny that the church admired Augustine so long and damned Pelagius, but today the Catholic church seems semi-Pelagist to say the least.

Augustine also taught the doctrine of infant damnation in no uncertain terms, and didn't seem to have a very high appreciation of either sex or females. He even taught that slavery was God’s will and that Christianity did not make slaves free but made good slaves out of bad ones. (The City of God 19.5) And he applied his theological mind to arguing in favor of worldly coercion to make converts.

For example:

Infants, When Unbaptized, are in the Power of the Devil… The Christian faith unfalteringly declares that they who are cleansed in the laver of regeneration (i.e., the baptismal font) are redeemed from the power of the devil, and that those who have not yet been redeemed by such regeneration are still captive in the power of the devil, even if they be infant children of the redeemed… From the power of the devil… infants are delivered when they are baptized; and whosoever denies this, is convicted by the truth of the Church’s very sacraments, which no heretical novelty in the Church of Christ is permitted to destroy or change, so long as the Divine Head rules and helps the entire body which He owns--small as well as great. It is true, then, and in no way false, that the devil’s power is exorcised in infants, and that they renounce him by the hearts and mouths of those who bring them to baptism, being unable to do so by their own; in order that they may be delivered from the power of darkness, and be translated into the kingdom of their Lord.
-Saint Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence, Book 1, Chapter 22

In the first times, it was the duty to use marriage… chiefly for the propagation of the human race. But now, in order to enter upon holy and pure fellowship… they who wish to contract marriage for the sake of children, are to be admonished, that they use rather the larger good of continence. But I am aware of some that murmur, “What if all men should abstain from all sexual intercourse, whence will the human race exist?” Would that all would… Much more speedily would the City of God be filled, and the end of the world hastened. For what else does the Apostle Paul exhort to, when he says, “I would that all were as myself;” or in that passage, “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remains that both they who have wives, be as though not having: and they who weep, as though not weeping: and they who rejoice, as though not rejoicing: and they who buy, as though not buying: and they who use this world as though they use it not. For the form of this world is passing away.” (1 Cor. 7:7-8, 29-31)
-Saint Augustine (c. 354-430), On the Good of Marriage, Sections 9-10

In Eden, it would have been possible to beget offspring without foul lust. The sexual organs would have been stimulated into necessary activity by will-power alone, just as the will controls other organs. Then, without being goaded on by the allurement of passion, the husband could have relaxed upon his wife's breasts with complete peace of mind and bodily tranquility, that part of his body not activated by tumultuous passion, but brought into service by the deliberate use of power when the need arose, the seed dispatched into the womb with no loss of his wife's virginity. So, the two sexes could have come together for impregnation and conception by an act of will, rather than by lustful cravings.
-Saint Augustine, The City of God, Book14, Chapter 26

Nothing so casts down the manly mind from its height as the fondling of women and those bodily contacts that belong to the married state.
-Augustine, De Trinitate

The historian Ramsay McMullen discusses the joyous pagan festivals, including feasts, dancing, poetry orations and their long presistence in the Roman world despite the opposition of Christian bishops, adding thatAugustine tried to argue that giving friends presents was wicked.

MacMullen also points out the contempt prominent Christians such as Augustine, Ambrose, Lactantius, Tertullian, and John Chrysostom had for ancient philosophy. They denounced Plato and Aristotle by name, and mocked the idea of skeptical study and the scientific attitude. Nor did they stop there. They told stories about appartitions over the battlefield,
miraculous cures, the everpresent existence of demons, people raised to life by Christians, and dragons turned to dust by the sign of the cross.

“It is indeed better (as no one ever could deny) that men should be led to worship God by teaching, than that they should be driven to it by fear of punishment or pain; but it does not follow that because the former course produces the better men, therefore those who do not yield to it should be neglected. For many have found advantage (as we have proved, and are daily proving by actual experiment), in being first compelled by fear or pain, so that they might afterwards be influenced by teaching, or might follow out in act what they had already learned in word.”
- Saint Augustine, Treatise on the Correction of the Donatists

“The wounds of a friend are better than the kisses of an enemy. To love with sternness is better than to deceive with gentleness...In Luke [14:23] it is written: “Compel people to come in!” By threats of the wrath of God, the Father draws souls to his Son.”
- Saint Augustine

[Setting forth the principle of Cognite Intrare (“Compel them to enter”), a church mandate that all must become orthodox Catholic Christians, by force if necessary. Cognite Intrare would be used throughout the Middle Ages to justify the Church’s suppression of dissent. Walter Nigg, The Heretics: Heresy Through the Ages (1962), p.138, quoted from Helen Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History, critical editing by Cliff Walker.]

Augustine was at his most disagreeably impatient when faced by groups whom he saw as self-regarding enclaves, deaf to the universal message of the Catholic Church. He insensibly presented the Church not only as the true Church, but as potentially the Church of the majority of the inhabitants of the Roman world. He was the first Christian that we know of to think consistently and in a practical manner in terms of making everyone a Christian. This was very different from claiming, as previous Christians had done, that Christianity was a universal religion in the sense that anyone in any place could, in theory at least, become a Christian. Augustine spoke of Christianity in more concrete, social terms: there was no reason why everybody in a given society (the Jews excepted) should not be a Christian. In his old age, he took for granted that the city of Hippo was, in effect, a Christian city. He saw no reason why the normal pressures by which any late Roman local community enforced conformity on its members should not be brought to bear against schismatics and heretics. He justified imperial laws that decreed the closing of temples and the exile and disendowment of rival churches [Donatist and other churches]. Pagans were told simply to “wake up” to the fact that they were a minority. They should lose no time in joining the Great Majority of the Catholic Church. In fact, the entire world had been declared, more than a millennium before by the prophets of Israel, to belong only to Christ and to his Church, and Augustine quoted the second Psalm as proof: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron.” [Psalm 2:6,8,9,12].

[Of course not everyone was swayed by Augustine’s arguments.] We have a recently discovered letter that Augustine wrote at the end of his life to Firmus, a notable of Carthage. Firmus had attended afternoon readings of Augustine’s City of God. He had even read as far as book 10. He knew his Christian literature better than did his wife. Yet his wife was baptized, and Firmus was not. Augustine informed him that, compared with her, Firmus, for all his culture, even his sympathy for Christianity, stood on dangerous ground as long as he remained unbaptized.

Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom, 2nd Ed., (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), p.91, 92

They who shall enter into [the] joy [of the Lord] shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness…The saints’… knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted…with the eternal sufferings of the lost.
-The City of God, Book 20, Chapter 22, “What is Meant by the Good Going Out to See the Punishment of the Wicked” & Book 22, Chapter 30, “Of the Eternal Felicity of the City of God, and of the Perpetual Sabbath”

He also lamented:

“There are very many in our day, who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments.”

Nice guy, huh?

And though Saint Augustine seemed inclined to yield in regard to the sphericity of the earth, he fought the idea that men exist on the other side of it, saying, “Scripture speaks of no such descendants of Adam.” He insists that men could not be allowed by the Almighty to live there, since if they did they could not see Christ at his second coming descending through the air. But his most cogent appeal, one that we find echoed from theologian to theologian during a thousand years afterward, is to the nineteenth Psalm, and to its confirmation in the Epistle to the Romans; to the words, “Their line has [already] gone out through all the world, and their words to the ends of the earth.” He dwells with great force on the fact that St. Paul based one of his most powerful arguments upon this declaration regarding the earliest preachers of the gospel (Rom. 10:18), and that, as those preachers did not go to the opposite side of the earth to preach the gospel, no people must exist there; hence those who believe such things, “give the lie direct to King David and to St. Paul, and therefore to the Holy Ghost.” Thus the great bishop taught the whole world for over a thousand years that as there was no preaching of the gospel on the opposite side of the earth there could be no human beings there.
- A. D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, Vol. 1

There were philosophers and other religionists who were saner than Augustine or Calvin. But those two knew how to move people, or perhaps felt it was their duty and/or God-inspired right to move people, i.e., to try and coerce others to agree with them and their views. There was a lot of that going in the world of religion for ages. But that doesn't make it right. And the people in turn got what they deserved, the kinds of theologians they deserved.

Today in certain parts of the world people can now luxuriate in having their own beliefs and/or simply keep their beliefs to themselves without fear of reprisal should they admit their "heresies" to prying ears, and without having their books or bodies burned.

There were people who dared to preach freedom of belief during the days of the Reformation, whom Luther and Melanchthon and Calvin and the Catholic churches silenced. Again, that age got the leaders it deserved. Let's hope the age and leaders continue to change for the better though I doubt things can get very much better since alpha-males seem destined to rise like crap to the top again and again. We're only primates after all, and we seek alpha-male leaders rather that the work of using our intelligence and patience and education.


In 436, the lawyers of Theodosius II (408-450), the grandson of Theodosius I, met in Constantinople to bring together the edicts of his Christian predecessors in a single book. The subsequent Theodosian Code appears in 438…

When early medieval Christians looked back to Rome, what they saw, first and foremost, was not the “Golden Age” of classical Rome (as we would tend to do). The pagan empire did not impress them. It was the Theodosian Code that held their attention and esteem. It was the official voice of the Roman empire at its greatest, that is, when it was the Roman empire as God always intended it to be--a Christian empire. The Code ended with a book On Religion. This book, in itself, signaled the arrival of a new attitude to religion. Religious belief as such was not treated as a subject for legislation. As we have seen, Roman had always been concerned with the correct performance of religions, with the maintenance of traditional rites. But this attitude had been replaced by the new definition of “religion” which, was we saw, had emerged in the course of the third century A.D. Now it was “thought-crime” itself--wrong view on religion in general, and not simply failure to practice traditional rites in the traditional manner--which was disciplined. In the Theodosian Code, extracts from the laws issued from the reign of Constantine to that of Theodosius II were arranged in chronological order. They communicated a rising sense of governmental certainty. There was to be little place, in the new Roman order, for heresy, schism, or Judaism, and no place at all for “the error of stupid paganism.”

Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom, 2nd Ed., (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), p.75

Pagans had not been clear or unanimous in their belief in an afterlife, but those who credited it looked to mystery cults for insurance in their future. Christians were much more positive…The Christians united ritual and philosophy and brought the certainty of God and history to questions whose answers eluded the pagan schools… Whereas pagan cults won adherents, Christianity aimed, and contrived, to win converts…

Paganism was reclassified as a demonic system… If Satan was the source of error and evil, false teaching and wrongdoing were not merely mistaken: they were diabolic. The division between a Christian “community of goodness” and an “outer world of evil” could easily become too pronounced. The idea of Satan magnified the difference between “true” and “false” Christians and between Christian sinners and saints…

Like Satan, the Last Judgment was a force that Christians exaggerated and then claimed to be able to defeat…This teaching was reinforced by an equally powerful ally, the Christian idea of sin. Sin was not just the sin of an action, or even an intention, but also the sin of a thought, even a passing interest in an appealing man or woman. This combination of rarefied sin and eternal punishment was supported, as we shall see, by books of vision and revelation that were probably more widely read than modern contempt for “pseudepigraphic” forgeries allows: acquaintance with the Apocalypse of “Peter” would make anyone think twice before leaving the Church (we happen to know that “Peter’s vision of hell” was still read as a holy text in the churches in Palestine on Good Friday during the fifth century). If fears for Eternity brought converts to the faith, one suspects that they did even more to keep existing converts in it.

Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1987), p.326-327, 330-331, 412

Institutions of higher learning had been largely destroyed. The [Christian] emperors’ attacks had centered on the chief of them, Athens and Alexandria, in the late fourth century and were turned against them again toward the end of the fifth and in 529. [“529 A.D.” was the year that the School of Athens was closed by the decree of the Christian Roman Emperor Justinian, the same Justinian who also outlawed sodomy, because, “It is well known that buggery is a principal cause of earthquakes, and so must be prohibited.”--E.T.B.]. As to the initiators of the persecution, the [Christian] emperors themselves, a steady decline in their level of cultivation has been noticed. Thus books and philosophy were bound to fade from sight.

After Constantine there existed an empire-wide instrument of education: the church. What bishops, even emperors, made plain, and what could be heard in broader terms from every pulpit, was an agreed upon teaching. Every witness, every listener should know the great danger to his soul in Plato’s books, in Aristotle’s, in any of the philosophical corpus handed down from the past. The same danger threatened anyone using his mind according to their manner, with analytical intent, ranging widely for the materials of understanding, and independent of divine imparted teachings.

Another factor that arose specifically out of the ongoing conversion of the empire was the doctrine of demonic causation. The belief in the operation of maleficent forces on a large scale had to await Christianity; and it was of course Christianity that was to form the medieval and Byzantine world.

Satanic agents were to be seen as the cause not only of wars and rebellions, persecution and heresy, storms at sea and earthquakes on land, but of a host of minor or major personal afflictions. So, in consequence, Christians were forever crossing themselves, whatever new action they set about, and painted crosses on their foreheads too, responding to their leaders’ urging them to do so. It would protect them against all evil.

Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries

Art, philosophy, literature, the very psychology of Western man, all suffered by the victory of the bishops.

John Holland Smith, The Death of Classical Paganism


Goodacre accepts the priority of Mark but not "Q" and that means he's got a clear trajectory of redaction from Mark to Matthew to Luke. Matthew changes Mark, and then Luke changes Matthew. Inerrancy therefore becomes nonsense, while redaction is the rule. None of the Gospel authors considered the work of previous authors to be sacrosanct. They altered each others work, one right after the other. That's true of legends in general. And Luke's redactive leap, changing the message at the tomb, was of course brilliant, allowing him to add the legendary stories about Jerusalem appearances. Prior to Luke's Gospel the message at the tomb read, "He has gone before you to Galilee, THERE ye shall see him." What a lie that was, according to Luke.

Good to hear things are progressing for you in terms of grad schools Chris!

Chris: thanks for your kind words; it was good to meet you.

Edward: I would be inclined to be less harsh towards Luke in that he surely knows of or infers Jerusalem resurrection appearances -- after all, our earliest source, 1 Corinthians, lists these characters like James and Peter and in so far as we ever hear of their whereabouts, they are based in Jerusalem (e.g. Galatians 1-2). Perhaps Luke knows or infers that these people never really left Jerusalem after Jesus' crucifixion and so early resurrection appearances must have taken place there.


I wish I would have know that you were coming to Candler--we could have done lunch. Let me know if you apply.

Glad to have you back.

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