Where was Jesus?

Ramsay MacMullen discusses the Christianizing of the Roman Empire and looks at what was taught in face to face encounters between Christians and pagans. He says:
“…monotheism, to begin with. That was taught, and God was compared, in familiar fashion, to a monarch with his companies of servants about him; and contrast was drawn between Him and mere imitations, the daimones that passed for gods by animating idols and so forth. Word was spread of divine wrath and punishments, the more readily imagined through being leveled at evildoers resurrected in the flesh; while immortal delights were also known to await the blessed. The very stark blacks and whites of this whole crude picture of Christianity, and the very unsteady focus on the role of Jesus, are most striking.”
In a footnote to this paragraph, MacMullen says:
“…on Jesus in the theology being presented, [see] the curious paragraph in Athenag., Leg. 10, with really no explanation of Jesus’ role; his entire absence in Minucius Felix (striking at 29.6) and in Theophilus, Ad Autol. (striking at 1.12, 2.9, and 2.22); and his total unimportance for the one recent convert whose theology we can actually form some idea of, namely, Constantine. See Kraft (1955) 60 and passim and Frend (1952) 153.”
The passage MacMullen refers to in Athenagoras is here and it is terrible as regards mentioning Jesus – the central figure of the universe and the Church. The Minucius Felix passage is here and is also a disaster when it comes to Jesus the Messiah. I haven’t read the works in question, so I’m taking MacMullen’s word for it, but it is painful to see these presentations of Christianity as a philosophy that really didn’t need to focus much on Jesus.

Ramsay MacMullen discusses the Christianizing of the Roman Empire and looks at what was taught in face to face encounters between Christians and pagans. He says:

“…monotheism, to begin with. That was taught, and God was compared, in familiar fashion, to a monarch with his companies of servants about him; and contrast was drawn between Him and mere imitations, the daimones that passed for gods by animating idols and so forth. Word was spread of divine wrath and punishments, the more readily imagined through being leveled at evildoers resurrected in the flesh; while immortal delights were also known to await the blessed. The very stark blacks and whites of this whole crude picture of Christianity, and the very unsteady focus on the role of Jesus, are most striking.”

In a footnote to this paragraph, MacMullen says:

“…on Jesus in the theology being presented, [see] the curious paragraph in Athenag., Leg. 10, with really no explanation of Jesus’ role; his entire absence in Minucius Felix (striking at 29.6) and in Theophilus, Ad Autol. (striking at 1.12, 2.9, and 2.22); and his total unimportance for the one recent convert whose theology we can actually form some idea of, namely, Constantine. See Kraft (1955) 60 and passim and Frend (1952) 153.”

The passage MacMullen refers to in Athenagoras is here and it is terrible as regards mentioning Jesus – the central figure of the universe and the Church. The Minucius Felix passage is here and is also a disaster when it comes to Jesus the Messiah. I haven’t read the works in question, so I’m taking MacMullen’s word for it, but it is painful to see these presentations of Christianity as a philosophy that really didn’t need to focus much on Jesus.

Converts can’t let it go

It seems that often when Protestants convert to becoming Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox they do the following:
– Convert their blogs into a constant stream of Patristic quotes. You’ll see a fine example of this here. Do they think no one has ever read these quotes before? Do they think people are hanging on these words and converting themselves due to reading them? Or does it merely feed their own self-narrative of being part of the new, most correct church? How is it that a brand new convert is best qualified to teach the world about his newfound Church?
– Turn all of their energy to attacking their previous, woefully mistaken ways as Protestants. Protestants had this, that and the other wrong. Augustine was bad, preaching was over-emphasized, art was neglected, Tradition ignored, Authority not thought through, etc.
These attempts at converting other Protestants who have not made whatever leap these individuals have made are puzzling. Do they need the justification of others making the same choice that they have made in order to feel better? Why is it that you never (in my experience) see these bold new converts out in the world evangelizing the lost? Where is the Great Commission in their new life? So let’s just say to them:
“Hey, you converted, that’s great. Now why don’t you go fulfill our Lord’s command and evangelize the lost world? Get back to us and tell us how that goes. Until then, lay off the constant attempts at proselytization of Protestants.”
It seems that often when Protestants convert to becoming Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox they do the following:
– Convert their blogs into a constant stream of Patristic quotes. You’ll see a fine example of this here. Do they think no one has ever read these quotes before? Do they think people are hanging on these words and converting themselves due to reading them? Or does it merely feed their own self-narrative of being part of the new, most correct church? How is it that a brand new convert is best qualified to teach the world about his newfound Church?
– Turn all of their energy to attacking their previous, woefully mistaken ways as Protestants. Protestants had this, that and the other wrong. Augustine was bad, preaching was over-emphasized, art was neglected, Tradition ignored, Authority not thought through, etc.
These attempts at converting other Protestants who have not made whatever leap these individuals have made are puzzling. Do they need the justification of others making the same choice that they have made in order to feel better? Why is it that you never (in my experience) see these bold new converts out in the world evangelizing the lost? Where is the Great Commission in their new life? So let’s just say to them:
“Hey, you converted, that’s great. Now why don’t you go fulfill our Lord’s command and evangelize the lost world? Get back to us and tell us how that goes. Until then, lay off the constant attempts at proselytization of Protestants.”

Romanism and Orthodoxy

Steven Wedgeworth’s lectures on the subject are now available here. The subjects are:

“Why I’m Not A Roman Catholic”
“Lost in the Shamayim: A Psychology of Conversion”
“The Eternal City and the Seven Councils: Just Who is the Church?”
“What’s a Reformed Catholic to Do?: Towards an Equilibrium of Christendom”
“Why I’m Not A Roman Catholic”
“Lost in the Shamayim: A Psychology of Conversion”
“The Eternal City and the Seven Councils: Just Who is the Church?”
“What’s a Reformed Catholic to Do?: Towards an Equilibrium of Christendom”

Hans Kung downgrades the Bible

I am sort of reading Hans Kung’s book Does God Exist? When it comes to theologizing Kung parrots the tired liberal line that peaked in the 60‘s. I am reading it because he does a good job of outlining various philosophical high points in recent history that I am too ignorant of.
Kung seems given to the notion, at least at the time of the writing of this book, of an advancing secularism. He mentions the “modern process of secularization and emancipation…” This ‘modern process’ strikes me as a widely-held fallacy of modernist Westerners writing in the post-war period and seems to still hold sway in the minds of the plebs in America. Quite to the contrary, much of the world is becoming more religious all the time.
Kung embraces evolution and sees that doing so necessitates abandoning the Biblical account of Creation and the Fall. He writes:
With regard to the origin and evolution of the world and man, has not science established the very opposite of such a perfect original state of the world and man: that there is no place in the scientific understanding of the world for a story of paradise and of the sin of a single human couple, if this is understood as a historical account and not a statement of principles?
Kung of course embraces higher criticism. In discussing Blaise Pascal he wishes that higher criticism had been embraced earlier:
A precondition, of course, for a different approach would have been a new critical understanding of the Bible in the light of the discoveries in astronomy and physics and increasingly in biology and medicine.
This doubt in the Bible is of course nothing new. It is everywhere present in modern thinking and has infected every corner of the Church. People want to be taken seriously by the world and the Academy and so they abandon the embarrassing notion of Creation in the Bible, never mind that Jesus himself said “the Scripture cannot be broken” which is about as high a view of Scripture as you’re going to find and it comes from a pretty reliable source! Contrast Kung’s surrender of the text to scientism with James Jordan’s thought in his Through New Eyes:
Moses, educated in all the learning of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22) – which was thoroughly “evolutionary” in its commitment to a “scale-of-being” philosophy – was doubtless as surprised at Genesis 1 as any modern philosopher would be. No impersonal forces here! No gradual shades of “being” from animals to man with all sorts of things (satyrs, sphinxes, etc.) in between. No huge cycles of time. Just a series of immediate personal acts, in a brief span of time, initiating linear time. This was not what Moses had been taught by his Egyptian tutors.
Jordan takes the text seriously, Kung doesn’t.

I am sort of reading Hans Kung’s book Does God Exist? When it comes to theologizing Kung parrots the tired liberal line that peaked in the 60‘s. I am reading it because he does a good job of outlining various philosophical high points in recent history that I am too ignorant of.

Kung seems given to the notion, at least at the time of the writing of this book, of an advancing secularism. He mentions the “modern process of secularization and emancipation…” This ‘modern process’ strikes me as a widely-held fallacy of modernist Westerners writing in the post-war period and seems to still hold sway in the minds of the plebs in America. Quite to the contrary, much of the world is becoming more religious all the time.

Kung embraces evolution and sees that doing so necessitates abandoning the Biblical account of Creation and the Fall. He writes:

With regard to the origin and evolution of the world and man, has not science established the very opposite of such a perfect original state of the world and man: that there is no place in the scientific understanding of the world for a story of paradise and of the sin of a single human couple, if this is understood as a historical account and not a statement of principles?

Kung of course embraces higher criticism. In discussing Blaise Pascal he wishes that higher criticism had been embraced earlier:

A precondition, of course, for a different approach would have been a new critical understanding of the Bible in the light of the discoveries in astronomy and physics and increasingly in biology and medicine.

This doubt in the Bible is of course nothing new. It is everywhere present in modern thinking and has infected every corner of the Church. People want to be taken seriously by the world and the Academy and so they abandon the embarrassing notion of Creation in the Bible, never mind that Jesus himself said “the Scripture cannot be broken” which is about as high a view of Scripture as you’re going to find and it comes from a pretty reliable source! Contrast Kung’s surrender of the text to scientism with James Jordan’s thought in his Through New Eyes:

Moses, educated in all the learning of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22) – which was thoroughly “evolutionary” in its commitment to a “scale-of-being” philosophy – was doubtless as surprised at Genesis 1 as any modern philosopher would be. No impersonal forces here! No gradual shades of “being” from animals to man with all sorts of things (satyrs, sphinxes, etc.) in between. No huge cycles of time. Just a series of immediate personal acts, in a brief span of time, initiating linear time. This was not what Moses had been taught by his Egyptian tutors.

Jordan takes the text seriously, Kung doesn’t.

Augustine’s On Christian Teaching

I finished reading St. Augustine’s “On Christian Teaching.” Like all the books of Augustine that I’ve read, it has flashes of brilliance and times where you can really feel his personality and picture him as a person talking to you. But it also has stretches that bore me to tears and probably demand a better grasp of life in Rome than I have.


His discussions of rhetoric at the end of the book were mystifying and dull to me.  The discussion of exegesis were far more interesting and shed light on how he approached the Bible. There are several sections that I love and which make me think that he is my favorite writer. Here he discusses the final day:


And as he is expected to come from heaven as judge of the living and the dead, he instills great fear into the uncommitted, so that they may develop a serious commitment and yearn for him in lives of goodness rather than fear him in lives of wickedness. For what words can express, and what thoughts can conceive, the reward which he is going to give at the end?

Catholic Inclusion ~ Catholic Exclusion

The logic of the Roman Catholic Church is that you are better off not ever hearing the gospel or knowing about the Church than you are in knowingly refusing to enter her. In other words, pagans who have not heard are better off than those who hear and do not join the Church. Current Catholic theology bumps up against universalism while at the same time magnifying the necessity of Rome for salvation, [as an aside, this is also the position of the Latter Day Saints, something I hope to write about soon].

The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this astounding statement:

“The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” (§841)

Also, if someone ‘through no fault of their own’ does not know of Christ and the Church, he is good to go. “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience–those too may achieve eternal salvation.” (§847)

But if you have the misfortune of having heard about Christ and the Church and you stay outside, you’re in trouble:

“Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” (§846)

Writing in the February, 2008 edition of First Things, the late Avery Cardinal Dulles confirms this line of thought:

“Piux IX and the Second Vatican Council taught that all who followed their conscience, with the help of the grace given to them, would be led to that faith that was necessary for them to be saved. During and after the council, Karl Rahner maintained that saving faith could be had without any definite belief in Christ or even in God…[but] In Christ’s Church, therefore, we have many aids to salvation and sanctification that are not available elsewhere.”

I take this view to be a dangerous delusion that provides false comfort to people in contradiction to what God has told us in the Scriptures. The Bible tells us, “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” We are told by Jesus that, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Saint Peter says that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Hopefully, the living Word of God will work its way in the Catholic Church and in time she will revert to her more ancient views on this subject.

The Cult of the Saints

I finished Peter Brown’s book today. I was disappointed in it. I wanted a book that clearly traced out exactly how and where the cult of the saints came from but Brown’s book is more about how it transitioned into widespread use and displaced existing attitudes towards the dead. Brown does not give us a detailed history of the origins of the cult, he provides a detailed account of what it looked like in the 3rd and 4th centuries.

Brown’s writing in this book is somewhat hard to follow and gauzy. There is a lot of untranslated Latin and French in it which of course I cannot read. This book fits a niche, but it’s not the niche I had hoped it would fill.