19 September 2006

Historical Mythology

From my wife's LJ:

"Christianity did not take 1100 years to discover violence by any measure. Read Dark Ages history and see how many tribes were converted because their leaders were defeated in battle, and the conversion was part of the settlement. I cannot say that I see Christianity as a religion of peace until 1100, nor can I excuse what it during the Crusades based on not having access to a given piece of property that had historically had belonged to the Jews."

Now, being the snarky and well-read sort of amateur historian that I am, I wondered what sort of history this person had been reading. Perhaps Wiccan history, about 'peaceful Earth religions' in pre-Roman Gaul and the "Burning Times".

Now, I recall that Chucky of the Magnificent Ego (King of the Franks, no matter what title the Bishop of Rome handed him) tried to mandate that the defeated Saxons convert to Christianity, and I know that the Teutonic Order in the 13th century fought pagan Baltic tribes, but I'm trying to think of other examples and failing.

I'm also baffled as to what crack the person is smoking regarding the Roman province of Palestina, which was part of the (Christian) Roman Empire for centuries before the Muslims conquered it. Even then, it wasn't until the Seljuks started murdering pilgrims and invading Anatolia that the Crusades kicked off.

I note that the person has not responded to my request to cite source or retract.


Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

Random Thoughts:
Christianity has a long, sordid history of adapting itself to the cultures to which it was exposed. That is one of the attractions of the religion--one of its main selling points as well as a weakness.

The competing religions were focused on a single tribe or geographical region or a temple in a certain place. Christianity is focused on the individual, the motivations and the thoughts of that person.

Even the most radical jihadist doesn't give a wet-slap about a persons motivations/thoughts/beliefs. Islam is not a religion of thoughts, it is, at its core, a religion of what a person DOES, not what he/she thinks. As long as a person BEHAVES in the prescribed manner, the Islamist does not care what the beliefs are.

As Christianity spread outward from its origins in its birthplace in the Middle East, it adapted, and sometimes co-opted the other religions to which is was exposed. It became a tool of the politicians and generals. A lot of stuff was added.

The Reformation began the process of recovering the original religion...to purify it. Hence the early Reformers were called "Puritans"--a name which to many is an epithet but is really a technical description of the religious belief. The next step of Puritanism is fundamentalism ..or the stripping away of even Puritan thought to get to the kernel...the core of the religion.

A true fundamentalist has a lot in common with any other variation of Christian belief. The wise fundamentalist concentrates on these similarities rather than allowing the differences to cause division.

I've seen Roman Catholicism described as "unabridged christianity". I don't find that a re-assuring description.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous cmad said...

Thus spake the Decurion:

Now, being the snarky and well-read sort of amateur historian that I am, I wondered what sort of history this person had been reading. Perhaps Wiccan history, about 'peaceful Earth religions' in pre-Roman Gaul and the "Burning Times".

This person probably read somewhere:

"In hoc signo vinces".

Reading about history is kind of like reading US Army Field Manuals:
there are so many of them that, even though you may be well read, you are in danger of missing the most relevant information.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...

Your old lady rocks.

Her post reminds me of how the Kevin Costner character in "Bull Durham" described the women in "the show":

"long legs and brains"

You're a lucky fellow.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

Consul: Yes, yes I am.

cMad: Answered at greater length.

Chris: You must remember that I do despise most of what came out of the Reformation as pointless innovation divorced from the mind of the Church as expressed over the previous 1500 years. Hell, I consider Roman Catholics to be wild innovators--et filioque comes to mind.

Also remember that when an Orthodox Christian refers to "innovation" he's being perjorative. I believe in the Faith of the 318 Fathers of Nicea, and the successive councils. You know, the guys who codified little things like what books are scripture and which are heresy, defined the doctrine of the Trinity, and fully developed the implications of the Incarnation of Christ. Not some fly-by-night bunch younger than some of our bishops.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Tim Covington said...

The only forced conversions I know of where at the hands of kings (I am the king and I say all of my subjects have to be Christian), not the church itself.
The one possible exception I can think of is in the Spanish colonies in the new world. There were some missions that took natives as slaves and forced them to convert. Though, this didn't happen everywhere.

11:16 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

There was also a Spanish policy that Indians who weren't Christian were fair game for slavers, and perhaps (one speculates) the motives of some of these monks might have been to protect their charges from disappearing and getting shipped off to to a silver mine.

I speculate, of course. I don't have the resources at hand to properly research the question, which is in any case both outside the time period in question (the so-called "Dark Ages", which is a term any Roman historian despises) and the specific terms of the statement.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

I do despise most of what came out of the Reformation as pointless innovation divorced from the mind of the Church as expressed over the previous 1500 years.

I suppose this all depends on what your definition of "innovation" is. Fundamental Protestantism at its core is a REJECTION of those innovations. Its basic tenet is sola scriptura IOW: if it ain't in the Bible, we view it with a LOT of suspicion. Church councils, traditions, great teachers, mystic saints, songs/poems, hagiographies, words of one saint or another.....all of these may be nice as an academic study by those of a mind to do so. But they ain't SCRIPTURE. It is the catholic (Eastern and Western) Christian variants (which is what they are) that are the innovators.

Puritans & Fundamentalists invented little, but they recovered much. I believe there is much more recovery yet to do. And may I add that a lot of self-professed fundamentalists AREN'T. They freely add to Scripture every day and think nothing of blabbering their ignorance.

But us fundies, for example, accept the Nicene creed because it reflects Scriptural truth. The catholic traditions (note the lowercase letters) accept Scripture because of the Nicene Creed. We take Scripture SERIOUSLY: especially this passage:

(18) I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; (19) and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

These are very nearly the last words in the Bible (Revelation 22 NAS). It was written by the last living Apostle (of the original 12) in the last days of his life. The book we call the New Testament was already in wide circulation, with some parts of it having been written up to 45 years previously. It is very rational (wonderful word) to conclude that these are the final words that God Himself wants us to hear. But there are several ways to view this.

First, this could be a warning to copiests--to get the copies RIGHT. Whether this applies to the letter of John called the Book of Revelation, or whether it applies to the entire Bible (Old and New Testaments) I will leave to your own conclusion. Both are valid, AFAIC.

A second way to view this is that these words close the Canon of the Revealed Word of God. Nobody--and no teaching which came after John is to be added to Scripture.

Hence, any "innovation" after John is to be rejected. Fundamentalism is a RECOVERY of this teaching and NOT an innovation. Again: sola scriptura

11:12 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

Chris, who do you think decided that the 27 books commonly known as the New Testament should comprise the canon of Christian Scripture, and not 27 OTHER books floating the Roman Empire in the 3rd century AD around claiming Apostolic authorship and authority?

Hint: Jesus Christ didn't write a thing while on Earth that we know of, barring something he scrawled in the dirt (which we do not have a clue what it was) and a half-legendary letter to the King of Edessa. He also didn't leave a leather-bound King James Edition Bible behind when he ascended to heaven. He DID found a Church, led by 12 men, who appointed others to found churches around the Roman Empire and beyond, and passed down the teachings and traditions thereof. (2 Tim 3:14, 2 Tim 2:2, 2 Thess 2:15) You don't get even the Synoptic Gospels for some decades afterwards. Are you saying there was no Christianity in those decades?

Sola Scriptura is decried in the Bible itself as bunk (2 Pet 3:15-16, 2 Pet 1:20-21) and at any rate, every time the term 'Scripture' is used in the New Testament, it is speaking of the Septuaigaint which Protestants have 'edited' down anyway.

Chris, I believe in One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Nowhere in the creed is a belief in "The Bible" or "Scripture" stated. The Gospels and the Epistles are the crown jewels of Holy Tradition, and they are the absolutely most authoritative element of Holy Tradition, but they are not something seperate from the Holy Tradition from which their authority is derived!

I don't have time to address this properly, but the idea you have presented of a "New Testament" which was compiled and completed on the Isle of Patmos by St. John the Theologian is ludicrous and insupportable.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

who do you think decided that the 27 books commonly known as the New Testament should comprise the canon of Christian Scripture, and not 27 OTHER books floating the Roman Empire in the 3rd century AD around claiming Apostolic authorship and authority?

I don't think ANYONE "decided" this. Thats the difference between you and me, between Prods/Fundies and the various "Catholic" traditions.

Let me see if I can put this in simple terms:
IF an item is the Word of God, then it is so whether or not any group of folx (hereinafter called a "church") say it is so. Apply the "duck test" to the question: if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck: its a duck. The sky is blue, the sea is green, whether or not any person or group of persons say it is so--and whether or not they ever had a personal experience with either water or colors. If a person is born blind, the sky is still blue.

Reality is objective: it can only be observed, not interpreted. It exists apart from the observation of it. Proposition "A" can not exist as proposition "A" and not NOT exist as proposition "A" in the same manner of existance. This is the basis of all rational thought.

To bring this back on-topic, this is the EXACT subject of B16's speech that riled up so much ire in the Moslem world. To the Greek/Western mind, wherever rationality or reality conflict with faith, then faith must be in error. To the Eastern/Muslim mind, if rationality or reason conflict with faith, then RATIONALITY and/or REALITY must be in error. The (ahem) "fundamental" heresy of Islam concerns the nature of the transcendance of God. To a Christian, God can not make a square circle. To a Muslim, God could do so if He wanted.

To return to my original point: IF a book/letter is the Word of God, then it is so whether you, me, the Church or anyone says it is so.

Let me illustrate this further: I have a cousin who won the Silver Medal in the 2 meter Diving competition in the Seoul Olympics. He has that medal mounted in a frame on the wall of his office. Were I to steal that medal, or mount that medal on the wall of my office, would that make ME the winner? If I were to purchase it on Ebay, would that make ME the winner?

I think we would both agree that such an activity would make me the OWNER of an Olympic Silver Medal, but it would not make me an Olympic Silver Medalist.

In the same way, the 27 books/letters of the New Testament are the Word of God whether or not any Church Council says it is so. Merely bestowing that honorific on a book/letter DOES NOT MAKE IT SO. The book/letter IS the Word of God WHETHER OR NOT A CHURCH COUNCIL SAYS IT IS.

To return to my medal analogy: the Church did not MAKE those 27 books/letters the word of God, they ACKNOWLEDGED (or awarded the "medal of canonicity") to those items that were already, intrinsically the Word. The Church councils ratified something that already existed. Sola scriptura: these books/letters are the Word of God. The Church acknowledged that the sky is blue, the sea is green, and that those 27 books are what we are willing to die for.

Were a church council to "canonize" the poetry of Kinky Friedman or the songs of Janis Joplin, the writings of Joe Smith or L. Ron Hubbard, THESE WOULD STILL NOT BE SCRIPTURE. If they removed the book of Romans, the book of Romans would still be Scripture.

Martin Luther, for example, thought that the book of Hebrews should be removed from the Canon of Scripture. Brother Martin was wrong--not because the Council of Nicea says he is, but because REALITY says he is.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

You kill me. You didn't answer the question.

Why those 27 books and not any others? What is specifically unique about those 27 that isn't unique about the rest? Why did Martin Luther ditch 10% of the Old Testament and you Prods went along with it to this day, such that your average Prod pew-warmer doesn't know who the Maccabbees were?

Please answer in concrete terms rather than sophistry. Elaborate circular reasoning is still circular.

6:42 PM  
Anonymous cMAD said...

Proposition "A" can not exist as proposition "A" and not NOT exist as proposition "A" in the same manner of existance. This is the basis of all rational thought.

Proposition 2B can exist as proposition 2B and NOT exist as proposition 2B as long as nobody asks, and nobody tells. This is the basis of quantum mechanics.
(Unfortunately, some guy named Shakespeare ruined this particular example.)

I was about to speculate on Mr Nerdasaaurus's argument. This is unnecessary; he can speak for himself.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

You kill me. You didn't answer the question.

You didn't read the answer. Or you believe that somehow the sky isn't blue and/or the sea isn't green unless a church council tells you that it is.

9:37 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

Imagine a man living in Kansas, surrounded by a horde of babbling fools who claim the sky is green, pink, mauve, orange, polka-dotted, striped like a Black Watch Tartan, blood-red, and an awful taupe shade.

How is he to tell? Circular reasoning is for the already convinced, who want a pat on the head for being clever enough to be right.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

EDIT: I havn't had my coffee yet.

The sea. I meant the sea. That's why I said he lives in Kansas.

If I wanted to use the sky, I'd have said "Seattle"

7:48 AM  
Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

It matters not whether the illustration is the sea or the sky. At issue is the nature of reality itself.

At issue is not whether the CLOUDS are blue. At issue is the color of the SKY.

We might agree that the sky is blue. But the [ahem] "fundamental" difference between us is the nature of that observation.

My claim is that the sky is blue because it is inherently blue. It is by nature blue, and nothing can change this. It is still blue even if the Church or any organization says it isn't.

To quote Gallileo, "Still, it moves." It moves even if the Church says that it doesn't. And 16th century doctrine said that it [the Earth] didn't move [around the Sun]. Gallileo was correct, and the Church incorrect.

If the Church can be wrong about a matter so unimportant as celestial dynamics, so too can it be wrong about an important matter, such as what is and isn't Scripture.

The sky is blue, the Earth moves around the Sun, whether or not the Church says it does. A particular writing is or isn't Scripture whether or not the Church says it is.

Your claim is that the Church defines Scripture. My claim is that Scripture defines the Church.

But we CAN agree that Scripture is important. I want to focus on that agreement, and not on our disagreements. Its "us against them" and it as always been so. We need to stand TOGETHER in Christian unity, or surely we fall.

I will pray for you, and ask that you pray for me. Lets be united now, even in our differences. I will acknowledge that your relationship with God through Christ Jesus may be different than my relationship with God through Christ Jesus. My view is that God has a sense of humor about our differences, and is impressed when we overcome them. Lets impress Him, shall we?

And let us fight the good fight together against those that stand against Him, demonstrating His Grace by becoming apostles of love. And that love starts here, today, and carries on for the rest of our lives, and even beyond.

Just FWIW: I am something of an evangelist. Of all the people in the world who have come to Faith directly or indirectly through Gods use of my words, most have ended up in some form of Catholicism. My record of evangelism to the Protestant variants isn't very good. Without counting, I'd say that its a 60/40 ratio. I only know of one, and only one, that joined my home church. I'm not a very good recruiter. But God has allowed me to participate in His Grace many times, and somehow I know that there will be many to thank me when I meet them on the streets of Glory. Of course, I will refer them back to the Source of that Glory, as I have merely been His tool. But it has been my greatest joy, my greatest honor, to represent Him to this fallen world.

John once said that I'm not a very good Protestant. That may have been the highest compliment I've ever been paid.

12:52 AM  

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