OrthodoxChristianity.net
October 31, 2014, 01:15:15 PM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: Reminder: No political discussions in the public fora.  If you do not have access to the private Politics Forum, please send a PM to Fr. George.
 
   Home   Help Calendar Contact Treasury Tags Login Register  
Pages: 1   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: Charles Freeman  (Read 1397 times) Average Rating: 0
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
Justin Kissel
Formerly Asteriktos
Protospatharios
****************
Offline Offline

Posts: 30,096


Goodbye for now, my friend


« on: May 01, 2010, 12:52:05 PM »

Has anyone read anything by the historian Charles Freeman, and if so, what did you think? I guess he is best known for The Closing of the Western Mind. However, I was in Barnes and Noble today, and picked up a book by him titled A.D. 381: Heretics, Pagans, and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State. I've not started it yet--and most likely wont for a couple weeks--but I was wondering if anyone else had read it (or one of his other books) and had some thoughts. Based on what is on the back cover, I'm guessing that this book takes a rather dim view of how things turned with Christianity:

Quote
In A.D. 381, Theodosius, emperor of the eastern Roman empire, issued a deree in which all his subjects were required to subscribe to a belief in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This edict defined Christian orthodoxy and brought to an end a lively and wide-ranging debate about the nature of God; all other interpretations were now declared heretical. It was the first time in a thousand years of Greco-Roman civilization that free thought was unambiguously suppressed. Why has Theodosius's revolution been airbrushed from the historical record?

In this groundbreaking new book, acclaimed historian Charles Freeman shows that Theodosius's edict and the subsequent suppression of paganism not only brought an end to the diversity of religious and philosophical beliefs throughout the empire, but created numerous theological problems for the Church--problems which remain unsolved to this day. The year A.D. 381, as Freeman puts it, was "a turning point which time forgot."
Logged

Paradosis ≠ Asteriktos ≠ Justin
Justin Kissel
Formerly Asteriktos
Protospatharios
****************
Offline Offline

Posts: 30,096


Goodbye for now, my friend


« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2010, 12:58:36 AM »

Only 12 views, and no replies? I think I should have come up with a snappier title...  angel
« Last Edit: May 02, 2010, 12:58:54 AM by Asteriktos » Logged

Paradosis ≠ Asteriktos ≠ Justin
minasoliman
Mr., Sir, Dude, Guy, Male, tr. Minas in Greek, Menes in white people Egyptologists :-P
Section Moderator
Toumarches
*****
Online Online

Faith: Oriental Orthodox
Jurisdiction: Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America
Posts: 12,339


Strengthen O Lord the work of Your hands(Is 19:25)


WWW
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2010, 06:10:14 PM »

I haven't read this book, but I'll give you my speculation.

First off, this author seems to neglect the fact of Christian suppression and persecution in the Roman empire.  If there was true freedom, wouldn't the emperors not force people to burn incense to their gods?

I'd say the closest thing to religious freedom was Constantine the Great.  Before he became a Christian, he ended the Christian persecution and restored their churches.

As the empire became Christian though, I admit, we too have repeated the mistakes of the pagan Roman empire's past, but meddling into theological affairs, thinking to unite the empire based on the Church's teachings, when they would have done better uniting the empire for the sake of the empire.  The idea of the Church working with the empire was abhorrent and should never be sought after again.  The idea people had about bringing back the "Holy Orthodox Empire" where there was usually lack of holiness, even in Constantine himself makes me shudder, and this is one issue we need to confront as a Church.  This is the thorn on the side of Orthodox churches today, and unless they recognize it, the Church will never grow like it did in the first three centuries, with its proper freedom and struggle, and there will never be Church unity either.

Was there a Church father who publicly did not endorse the burning of pagan temples and persecution of pagan peoples?
Logged

Vain existence can never exist, for \\\"unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.\\\" (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.
Justin Kissel
Formerly Asteriktos
Protospatharios
****************
Offline Offline

Posts: 30,096


Goodbye for now, my friend


« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2010, 03:36:51 AM »

Thanks for the post, I think you make some valid points. But regarding your last question, I don't know. I'll post a review here after I'm done reading the book.
Logged

Paradosis ≠ Asteriktos ≠ Justin
Gebre Menfes Kidus
"SERVANT of The HOLY SPIRIT"
Merarches
***********
Offline Offline

Faith: Ethiopian Orthodox
Jurisdiction: Orthodox Tewahedo / Non-Chalcedonian
Posts: 8,361

"Lord Have Mercy on Me a Sinner!"


WWW
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2010, 03:51:45 AM »

I haven't read this book, but I'll give you my speculation.

First off, this author seems to neglect the fact of Christian suppression and persecution in the Roman empire.  If there was true freedom, wouldn't the emperors not force people to burn incense to their gods?

I'd say the closest thing to religious freedom was Constantine the Great.  Before he became a Christian, he ended the Christian persecution and restored their churches.

As the empire became Christian though, I admit, we too have repeated the mistakes of the pagan Roman empire's past, but meddling into theological affairs, thinking to unite the empire based on the Church's teachings, when they would have done better uniting the empire for the sake of the empire.  The idea of the Church working with the empire was abhorrent and should never be sought after again.  The idea people had about bringing back the "Holy Orthodox Empire" where there was usually lack of holiness, even in Constantine himself makes me shudder, and this is one issue we need to confront as a Church.  This is the thorn on the side of Orthodox churches today, and unless they recognize it, the Church will never grow like it did in the first three centuries, with its proper freedom and struggle, and there will never be Church unity either.


I agree. But I think it is important to distinguish between "separation of Church and Empire" and "separation of Church and state." Ethiopia has never sought to establish a Christian "empire;" but she has endeavored to preserve the integral unity of Church and state. And as you point out, Ethiopia's Orthodox essence has brought upon her immense struggles and persecutions. But this only proves Ethiopia's authentic Christian Faith. I know the Coptics and Armenians can relate.


Selam
Logged

"Beauty is truth, and Orthodoxy is beautiful." +GMK+
Justin Kissel
Formerly Asteriktos
Protospatharios
****************
Offline Offline

Posts: 30,096


Goodbye for now, my friend


« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2010, 04:03:14 AM »

... Mispost! Sorry!
« Last Edit: May 04, 2010, 04:04:14 AM by Asteriktos » Logged

Paradosis ≠ Asteriktos ≠ Justin
zoarthegleaner
Elder
*****
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox
Jurisdiction: ROCOR
Posts: 398



« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2010, 12:29:07 PM »

I disagree, but I am generally disagreeable about broad sweeping conclusions to which I myself have made broad sweeping conclusions.

I also disagree with the idea that The idea of the Church working with the empire was abhorrent  what utter nonsense.

Should it ever be sought after again, I think it is inevitable; the idea of separation of Church and State is not an absolute reality and neither can it be (I am assuming here that Church is being used broadly rather than specifically).

Furthermore: SAINT Theodosius was way ahead of his time in perceiving that anything of Earth which can be saved must be saved through the Church.  The world around us is not separating the Church (i.e., religion) from the State, but rather Christianity and more specifically Orthodox Christianity from the State.  The world will produce an ecumenical confession to which everyone will be required to subscribe to be an accepted member of the new world order.  Already this is taking place and though I deplore the increase of Is lamatry, I believe the modern warfare of it is fundamentally an attack against that coming world order.

It is slowing it down and facilitating its increase at the same time, but I diverge.

The political genius of Orthodox Rulers has not (in my opinion) been thoroughly examined; rather it is viewed with suspicion and without open mindedness that these things too are included in the work of the Holy Spirit. 

Lack of Holiness?  what is does that mean?  and by what measure do you judge?  If we take your words at face value then we must say there has never been holiness in any State...but that ain't true.   

John
Logged

Courteous is my name,
and I have always aimed to live up to it.
Grace is also my name,
but when things go wrong
its Courteous whom I blame;
but its Grace who sees me through it.
Fr. George
formerly "Cleveland"
Administrator
Stratopedarches
*******
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox (Catholic) Christian
Jurisdiction: GOA - Metropolis of Pittsburgh
Posts: 20,095


May the Lord bless you and keep you always!


« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2010, 12:31:37 PM »

I suppose that I'm fascinated by the premise, but on the other hand I don't think I want to give the fellow my $.  I'll search for it used or something like that.
Logged

"The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the one who can't read them." Mark Twain
---------------------
Ordained on 17 & 18-Oct 2009. Please forgive me if earlier posts are poorly worded or incorrect in any way.
pensateomnia
Bibliophylax
Archon
********
Offline Offline

Faith: Greek Orthodox Christian
Posts: 2,359


metron ariston


« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2010, 01:37:06 PM »

Freeman is a classicist/intellectual historian with a masterful command of the ancient sources. He really loves his Aristotle and the Ancient Greek scientific corpus.

This particular book, however, seems to be (1) overly influenced by Gibbon; and (2) unaware of the extent of scientific knowledge in Constantinople.

For example, Freeman is concerned that the greatest Christian intellectual, Augustine, is unable to actually read the sources in Hebrew or Greek, and that no one, until Aquinas, knows Aristotle. Obviously, that was not the case in Constantinople. That said, you'll probably learn a lot about certain points of fourth and fifth century history. However, if you want to get a better picture of intellectual history in this time period, including the parts of Europe that were still part of the Empire, you should read Colin Wells' Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World . Wells is also a classicist, and, like Freeman, a great author.

FYI, Mark Edwards published a good review of Freeman's book in History Today. I could PM it to you. In it, he points out some specific matters of disagreement, but, I think, really captures the ultimate contradiction in his final paragraph:

Quote
Most questionable, however, is the title. Freeman seems to subscribe to the erroneous syllogism that since tolerance is rational and paganism was tolerant, paganism itself was rational. The fallacy escapes detection because his exemplars of the 'Greek tradition' are always sober and empirical writers -- the ones whom Christian scribes thought fit to preserve -- and not the superstitious multitudes against whom they aimed their satires. Rome in any case oppressed the Christians -- a fact that is only mentioned here and there in the book, though measures of reprisal against the pagans after Constantine's accession furnish a theme for several chapters. If it is a crime to raze a temple, it must surely be a greater crime to throw the congregation to the lions, and of the half-dozen philosophers who triumphed over the ashes of the martyrs in the first three Christian centuries, Porphyry was the only one to be punished by the burning of his books. Augustine is rated lower than his contemporary Themistius, as though it were especially meritorious for a pagan to employ his education in making paraphrases of Aristotle and grooming ancient platitudes for the delectation of Christian autocrats. Although the eighteenth chapter carries the story of western Christendom from 395 to 640, barely four pages are given to the two centuries that followed the irruption of the barbarians--just enough to remind us that the title 'Pope' was not always the prerogative of one bishop (p. 309). Yet it was after all the Saxons, Franks and Goths who felled the Empire in the west, and it was only because they all came under the sway of the Roman pontiff that the language, law and literature of the classical epoch -- and with them the pagan testimony against Christians -- have survived.
Logged

But for I am a man not textueel I wol noght telle of textes neuer a deel. (Chaucer, The Manciple's Tale, 1.131)
Justin Kissel
Formerly Asteriktos
Protospatharios
****************
Offline Offline

Posts: 30,096


Goodbye for now, my friend


« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2010, 01:41:58 PM »

FYI, Mark Edwards published a good review of Freeman's book in History Today. I could PM it to you. In it, he points out some specific matters of disagreement, but, I think, really captures the ultimate contradiction in his final paragraph:

If you have it easily accessible, yes, please do pm it or email it to me, I'd like to read it in addition to reading the book. Thank you, also, for the quote and your thoughts.
Logged

Paradosis ≠ Asteriktos ≠ Justin
minasoliman
Mr., Sir, Dude, Guy, Male, tr. Minas in Greek, Menes in white people Egyptologists :-P
Section Moderator
Toumarches
*****
Online Online

Faith: Oriental Orthodox
Jurisdiction: Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America
Posts: 12,339


Strengthen O Lord the work of Your hands(Is 19:25)


WWW
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2010, 03:07:55 PM »

The Lord Christ said His kingdom is not of this world.  Orthodox empires are worldly as any other empire or government, and as Christians when the time comes for injustice, we stand against them.  So you have a moot point about the world making an "ecumenical confession."  We stand above all things worldly and against it if necessary.

If we listen to the words of a certain anonymous Christian, he displayed exactly how a Christian should work with his government.  Obedient to its laws, good citizenship, etc.  With the plight of Orthodox Christians today in predominantly Islamic countries, we would stand as hypocrites for condemning the Muslims for religious suppression, and at the same time supporting the so called "Holy Orthodox Empire."  There is no holiness in enforcing religious dogmas as laws.  There is no holiness in burning down pagan temples and giving the last remaining pagans second-class citizenship.  There is no holiness from Constantine when favoring the Arians almost up to his death bed and having St. Athanasius hide as a fugitive.

An empire that seeks to enforce religion is an empire doomed for instability.  Heretics will rise and ignorant emperors may go either way.  Egypt was able to fight against both persecution and Gnostic heresies without the help of an "Orthodox Christian leader."  It was by the Christian witnesses, not by Christian mobsters, that helped the Church flourish.

So yes, "Holy Orthodox empire" is nonsense.  We can agree on certain principles with our government, and learn to become good citizens, but what the Christian empire in the past did was shameful, and in the end I believe Islam flourished because of it, why communists flourished in other places, and why atheists are flourishing today.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2010, 03:12:10 PM by minasoliman » Logged

Vain existence can never exist, for \\\"unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.\\\" (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.
minasoliman
Mr., Sir, Dude, Guy, Male, tr. Minas in Greek, Menes in white people Egyptologists :-P
Section Moderator
Toumarches
*****
Online Online

Faith: Oriental Orthodox
Jurisdiction: Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America
Posts: 12,339


Strengthen O Lord the work of Your hands(Is 19:25)


WWW
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2010, 03:48:09 PM »

I forgot to give my source to the anonymous Christian:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.iii.ii.v.html

Quote
For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring.  They have a common table, but not a common bed.  They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.  They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.  They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life.  They are poor, yet make many rich;  they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

By this, a true Christian should have no desire whatsoever to seek a "Christian government" on Earth, for we are already part of the eternal government.
Logged

Vain existence can never exist, for \\\"unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.\\\" (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.
Tags:
Pages: 1   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.18 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!
Page created in 0.064 seconds with 38 queries.