Month: December 2013

16-The Daggers Come Out file | Play in new windowThis week’s episode is titled “The Daggers Come Out.” The Council of Nicaea we looked at last episode dealt with more than just the Arian controversy over how to understand the nature of Christ. The 300 bishops who gathered in Nicaea also issued a score of rulings on issues of church life that had been subjects of discussion for years. Chief among these was setting the date for the annual celebration of the resurrection of Christ. They also set various rules for organizing the Church & the ministry of deacons and priests. As the church grew with more and more congregations being formed, the need for some organization became apparent. So for administrative purposes, the church-world was divided into provinces with centers at Rome in the West & in the East; Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem & Constantinople. It may seem odd to us today that only 1 church was the Western center while the East had 4. Why so many in the East? The answer is that it was in the E that the church had its greatest extend & growth. The bishops at these 5 churches were given oversight of their surrounding regions. This stoked an ancient rivalry between Alexandria & Antioch, the Roman Empire’s 2nd & 3rd largest cities after Rome. The 2 cities vied with each other for leadership of the...

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15-Contra Munda file | Play in new windowThis week’s episode is titled, “Contra Munda” We begin with a quote from the Alexandrian Bishop, Athanasius . . . [Jesus], the Life of all, our Lord and Saviour, did not arrange the manner of his own death lest He should seem to be afraid of some other kind. No. He accepted and bore upon the cross a death inflicted by others, and those other His special enemies, a death which to them was supremely terrible and by no means to be faced; and He did this in order that, by destroying even this death, He might Himself be believed to be the Life, and the power of death be recognized as finally annulled. A marvelous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonor and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death’s defeat. That’s from Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, in his work On the Incarnation. In our last episode we noted how the Emperor Constantine hoped Christianity would be a unifying influence in the far-flung & troubled Roman Empire. But as soon as he & his co-emperor Licinius passed the Edict of Milan granting religious tolerance to all the Empire’s subject, the doctrinal & theological debates that had been in place for years began to surface. When the Church was being hammered...

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14-Keeping a Record file | Play in new windowThis week’s episode is title, “Keeping a Record” I begin with a quite from the Early Church Historian, Eusebius . . . May I gain no victory that harms me or my opponent. May I reconcile friends who are mad at each other. May I, insofar as I can, give all necessary help to my friends and to all who are in need. May I never fail a friend in trouble. That’s from Eusebius’ commentary on the Golden Rule. The first 3 Cs of Church History are at times a difficult puzzle to sort out because there was no coherent historical narrative being kept. Luke’s account in the Books of Acts recounts a time span of about 30 years & roughly narrates the spread of the Faith from Jerusalem to Rome. The next narrative doesn’t come till the writings of the Christian historian Eusebius in the 4th C.  What we have for a period of over 200 yrs are the writings of the Fathers whose letters give little more than a thumbnail sketch of what was happening. We have to infer & assume a lot by picking up what facts we can about what was happening. As we’ve seen, the work of the Church Fathers focused mainly on providing pastoral & apologetic support.  Gaining an historical framework for this period comes from merging...

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13-How Close file | Play in new windowThis episode of is titled, “How Close?” One of the things modern Christians want to know is how close their church is to the primitive church of the 1st & 2nd Cs. Congregations and entire movements claim their particular expression of the Faith is closest to the original. So, what were early church services like? Where did they meet and what did they do? Until the end of the 2nd C, Christians met for services in private homes, deserted buildings, caves, near graves of martyrs, & in catacombs. Catacombs were a common feature of many cities of the Empire. Besides their primary use as burial places, they were the frequent hiding places of refugees, smugglers, and groups that wanted to meet without the watchful eye of the authorities. Rome’s catacombs were a massive subterranean tunnel system. The Christians used these places to meet because during these first centuries they were mostly drawn from the poorer classes of society & couldn’t afford a unique place devoted solely to worship. Their meetings were often banned, requiring they meet in secret. Another reason they tended to meet in locations away from the busy streets was because of the prevalence of lewd graffiti which was ubiquitous in Roman cities. Graffiti isn’t a recent phenomenon; it has a long & storied history. Much of the graffiti encountered in...

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12-The Lapsed Dance file | Play in new windowThis episode of CS is provocatively titled “The Lapsed Dance.” In “Martyrs” the 4th episode, we examined the persecution Christians faced at the hands of the authorities of the Roman Empire. We noted that persecution, while at times fierce, wasn’t one, long campaign of terror that lasted for 1 coup-le centuries. It tended to be rather spasmodic & regional, based on the whim of the current emperor & enforced in a spotty fashion by governors who either agreed or disagreed with the official policy from Rome. There were a couple seasons of persecution in the 3rd C that were Empire wide, and these proved to be the most intense. Following Trajan’s more even-handed attempt to deal with the problem of the Christians in the early 2nd C, 2 Emperors followed a far more rigorous campaign of persecution & pressed its application to the borders of the Empire. In the mid to late 3rd C, Decius & Diocletian considered Christianity a dangerous threat to the Empire. Their reasons for opposing the Faith were several but looming large was the concern that Christianity would weaken the Army, desperately needed to protect the borders. Also, die-hard pagans claimed the old gods who’d overseen Rome’s rise to greatness were angry so many of their worshippers were turning to the new Faith. They warned that disaster loomed, and...

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