Re: You might get an argument
- Subject: Re: You might get an argument
- From: Margaret Davis <margd@FLASH.NET>
- Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2002 19:17:36 -0600
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
and for this so many die....................
and people worry about Harry?
Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men. John Stuart Mill........"On Liberty", 1859
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, January 27, 2002 3:07 PM
Subject: You might get an argument
on your statement that "Catholics were the first Christians."
1) the first place which the followers of Jesus were called Christians was Antioch, which always remained part of the Eastern (Orthodox) Church
2) the first nation to become officially Christian was probably Armenia, which is now an "oriental Church, closer in belief and practice to the Orthodox than to the Roman Catholic Church
3) the first bishop to function as we think of a pope functioning that is, bossing around the secular authority, was not even in Rome, but rather in Milan - St Ambrose
4) at the first great Church Council, that of Nicea, most of the bishops were from the East, There is no evidence that the pope was even granted the respect of primus inter pares, as by then the civil authority was nearby in Constantinople (today's Istanbul), and in fact the council had been called by the Emperor Constantine
5) the pope came to have have secular functions because of the decline of civil authority in the West. Thus we see several clear examples, that of Leo going out to persuade Alaric not to sack the city in 410, and also later (circa 590) Gregory, who had been civil administrator and retired to a monastery, being called back to become Bishop of Rome. One can argue that he is the first Bishop of Rome to truly function as we normally think of popes functioning.
You would be on firmer grounds to say the Catholics and Orthodox and Oriental churches all trace themselves back to a time before Christianity became the official religion of the empire under Constantine. Speaking now as a non-Christian (note the last name), all three ancient branches can claim apostolic succession, all three have legitimate arguments against the other two, and all three could do with a bit of humility.
A couple of other points. The primary creed of the Eastern churches is not the Apostle's creed, which has never been definitely dated as earlier than around the 5th century, but rather the Nicene creed, which dates from several early Church councils, beginning with that of Nicea in 325.
Many Protestant churches claim that they were restoring primitive Christianity based on the text of the Bible. The only problem is, it was the Church which decided what should be included in the Bible - again, the Council of Nicea gives a list of books that were to be accepted as scripture. But now there's a problem - that does not mean that the text as we have it today as the text as they knew it then - that is clear in the case of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest manuscripts of which do not have the current ending. There were more than the current four gospels. Those that were accepted as "canonical" were because each was believed to have the authority of one of the Twelve behind it, a point on which most biblical scholars today would probably disagree.
Religion makes decisions not based on independent history, but on personal commitment, and on a sense of faith. There is an unfortunate tendency in many religions to divide the world into those inside (the elect, the saved) and those outside (the damned, the nations, etc.). There are religions that deliberately choose not to take such a path - the Bahai's are perhaps the best known recent example.
This is part of to what I was alluding in my response to JP on the subject of blasphemy - - there are those who call themselves Christian in some way whoa re not accepted as such by just about any other Christian denomination - the Mormons, whose official name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, would be one example, The Bible and Watchtower Society, aka the Jehovah's Witnesses, would be another. Very few denominations of any kind would accept the Unification Church (Rev. Moon) as Christian.
Where does one draw the line? To some Baptists, Rome is "the whore of Babylon." I have already described the position of the Feeneyites in the Catholic church. In Judaism similar things can be seen - unless you follow one particular hasidic Rebbe you are not "really" Jewish." In islam, the disputes between Shi'a and Sunni have led to major military conflicts in recent decades.
I remember on a visit to Mount Athos in Greece visiting a skete (very small monastic establishment) that claimed that the few there - the spiritual father and his 5 spiritual children - were all that was left of the true Church, as everyone else had apostasized (left the faith as they defined it). When I asked how they could continue the Church, considering that only their spiritual father was a priest, and none was a bishop capable of ordaining further priests, that said that God would provide. The reminded me of the priestless Old Believer in Russia, who lacking any new priest, maintained themselves for years by reserving some of the sacrament (the eucharist) to place in another cup so that they could still have communion, even absent an ordained priest.
Let me, as a a non-Christian, but as a student of comparative religion, make one last set of remarks before I let go of this thread, at least on the list serv. In general, a little humility is in order when in discussion or disputation on any subject - one should never presume all knowledge, otherwise it is not a dialog, merely an attempt to drown out, silence or convert the other. That is not meaningful communication in any arena, and rarely does it lead to positive results. This is especially true when dealing with beliefs held religiously, as these are often not subject to tests of reason. I make this last remark on this board because far too often the remarks made by many on subjects to which this board is dedicated, that is, education and assessment, are delivered from what is fundamentally a religious perspective, which means dialog is difficult and the chance of persuading one to change is quite unlikely. A religious perspective can dominate a worldview so completely that anything that does not fall within that worldview is by definition blasphemy or heresy or even worse. It is not to given any room, because it might mislead those not as knowledgeable, leading them to a kind of damnation. I might remark that this mindset is in fact more characteristic of some of the alternatives with which early Christianity competed. In general theses are often descried as gnostic religions. Some resume that there is an elect which is not going to be tarred with the sins of human weakness, and this is often used a s a justification for any "sins" that might be committed by the leadership. Ultimately it represents a rejection of the reality and potential goodness of this world.
If one want to argue what is truly radical about Christianity, it was the belief that the material world was redeemable - after all, jesus of Nazareth took a form of the created universe - there is in the Eastern Church a hymn to his mother that begins "all of creation rejoices in you, o full of grace." Note that it does NOT say "all humans rejoice in you" but rather "all of CREATION." In a sense this is a reference back to Bereshith (Genesis, in the greek) - "and God looked on all that he had created, and behold, it was very good."
If we start with that attitude, that includes even those with whom we dispute. As George Fox (founder of the Society of Friends) notes, there is something of God in every human, nd each should be treated accordingly. To return again to Genesis: mans was created "in the image and likeness of God." In The Gospels jesus once asks "how can you say you love God whom you have not seen when you hate your brother whom you can see?"
I would suggest that we maintain a greater degree of humility, even when provoked, not only in our discussions on this board, but in all of our endeavors. We just might find the results more to our satisfaction.
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