paganism

This tag is associated with 4 posts

Book Review: “Apologetics in the Roman Empire” edited by Mark Edwards, Martin Goodman, and Simon Price

apologetics-romanApologetics in the Roman Empire is a collection of essays centered around apologetic interaction between Pagans, Jews, and Christians in the first through fourth centuries. The essays cover a wide range of topics, from Pagan attempts to defend Hellenism to the apologetic writings of Eusebius.

The value of this book is found primarily in a survey of the interplay between Pagan, Jewish, and Christian apologists during this time period, but from these interactions, readers can find a number of applications. The apologetic styles early Christians used allow readers to seek to apply them to their own reasoning. Some of the early arguments Pagans made against Christians have been reiterated in our own time, and the responses Christians gave can be integrated and updated in reply.

Each individual essay has a virtual treasure trove of content that gives insight into how apologetics was done but also in how it might be done into today. I found every essay to be compelling and insightful. Unfortunately, the editors themselves argued early on that few people would be interested in a study like this beyond learning about the time period being discussed (I briefly look at this quote and claim here). I disagree vehemently. This is a book from which anyone interested in apologetics will glean much.

I cannot recommend Apologetics in the Roman Empire highly enough. Its broadness of application is far beyond the seemingly obscure appeal to those specifically interested in this period. Whether one is looking into how to approach apologetic styles, how Christian thinkers of the past dealt with certain objections, or how debates which occurred in the first few centuries of Christianity impact our thought today, readers are treated to a wealth of research and information which will bear fruit in their thought.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

On the Shoulders of Giants: Rediscovering the lost defenses of Christianity– I have written on how we may discover these enormous resources historical apologists have left behind for us. Take and read!

Source

Mark Edwards, Martin Goodman, and Simon Price, eds., Apologetics in the Roman Empire (New York: Oxford, 1999).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

On the Alleged Atheism of Early Christians

apologetics-romanIt is interesting to note that modern atheists of the internet-infidel variety share much with Pagan counterparts in the first few centuries after Christ. “How can this be?” one might ask. Well, the charge of atheism against Christians is shared both by the common internet-infidel comment that “We’re all atheists, I [the atheist] just take it one god further” and Pagans in the Roman Empire. Oddly, some atheists have gone so far as to suggest that the Pagan accusation is somehow evidence for their position.

The early Christians, it is true, were accused of being atheists. However, to suggest that this is somehow synonymous with contemporary usage of the term “atheist” is ahistorical and anachronistic. Frances Young notes several facets of the charge of atheism leveled against Christians:

What the charge [of atheism leveled against Christians] really amounted to was an expression of dismay and distaste over the fact that people were abandoning conventional ritual practices… The charge of atheism against Christians focused on their refusal after conversion to continue to participate in traditional religious customs… Religion, embedded in the ethnic cultures, was a matter not of belief but of loyalty. (99, 101, cited below)

The charge against Christians, then, was that they were abandoning the ways of the Romans. They were outsiders, outcasts, and, by extension, atheists. By refusing to worship the gods of Rome, they became targets. The fact that the Christians did this conscientiously–they intentionally abandoned the gods–led to the charge of atheism. It was a charge related not to belief in deity, but rather to rejection of shared societal practice, with a culturally charged impetus for making it.

In fact, others who yet believed in the gods were also charged with atheism. The Epicureans were accused of atheism, despite believing that the gods existed:

It is significant that these ‘atheists’ [Epicureans] did not question the existence of the gods. Rather, they liberated people from religion by suggesting that the blessed immortals were not the slightest bit interested in what goes on among human beings… (ibid, 100)

Thus, when modern atheists continue to perpetuate the claim that “we’re all atheists,” and then move on to argue that Christians should agree with them because, after all, Christians were considered ‘atheists’ by the Romans, it is difficult to take them seriously. The Pagan charge was made for cultural reasons, and is tied up in the notion of rejection of the societal norms of the time. It was also made even against those who acknowledged those gods existence. This last point is very important, because one attempted rebuttal I have seen from the modern atheist is that “You are an atheist to other religions.” Well, according to ancient Pagans, you could even be an atheist to your own religion! Of course, the point is that Christians are not atheists, but theists.

The word “atheism” was used back then as a damning charge of societal blasphemy–rejecting the ethnic practices of your own society in pursuit of another’s. Now, modern atheists attempt to forcibly include others in atheism with this kind of pithy phrase. The historical charge is interesting, but clearly entirely different from the modern one. Either charge, however, is inaccurate. Christians, by definition, are not atheists–theists cannot be atheists. The ancient cultural charge is of interest for its historical implications, but it is hardly evidence for the modern use of the charge of atheism against Christians.

I suspect that this post won’t silence many who will continue to persist in saying Christians are atheists. At that point, I suggest to others the following: the people who persist in this mislabeling should be written off as being just as irrelevant as the ancient Pagans with whom they share at least this part of their worldview.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

On the statement that “We are all atheists”– I evaluate the claim that atheists make which say that “we are all atheists.” I evaluate it from a philosophical point of view here.

On the Shoulders of Giants: Rediscovering the lost defenses of Christianity– I have written on how we may discover these enormous resources historical apologists have left behind for us. Take and read!

Source

Frances Young, “Greek Apologists of the Second Century” in Mark Edwards, Martin Goodman, and Simon Price, eds., Apologetics in the Roman Empire (New York: Oxford, 1999).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Sunday Quote!- Ancient Apologetics and the Disinterest of the Modern Age

apologetics-romanEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Ancient Apologetics and the Disinterest of the Modern Age

After getting a recommendation from… I don’t remember whom/which book, I picked up Apologetics in the Roman Empire to explore some of the early controversies with apologetics from the perspectives of Pagans, Jews, and Christians. The book is a collection of essays centered around these apologetic controversies. I was struck however, by the editors’ note on the disinterest of the modern age in these works as actual apologetics. After tracing the use of ancient apologetics from the earliest period through the Reformation and into our times, the editors note that these ancient works have fallen out of most people’s interest:

[T]he style of the ancient apologists has estranged them further from practical apologetic than their contents did in any previous century… The only modern scholars, therefore, to whom the [ancient] apologists [like Justin Martyr, Josephus, Tatian, and the like] mean anything are those who take a sympathetic interest in the culture and the interplay of religious traditions in the Roman Empire… (13, cited below)

Thus, according to the editors of this volume, the “only” reason that anyone would be interested in these works in the modern era is because they wish to explore the cultural understanding of the religious traditions in Ancient Rome.

That makes me quite sad, to be honest! As one who is deeply interested in the study of historical apologetics, it seems clear that much of what is discussed in this volume is actually of interest to modern apologists, those interested in church history, and many others. Of course the editors are perhaps merely speaking only of the interest which they have found for their subject, which speaks of the sorry state of how we modern apologists have abandoned our historic roots. Perhaps these words can serve as a rallying cry to raise us from our stupor of historical ignorance and realize the vast, untapped wealth of historical apologetics.

I have written to that end in a post in which I discuss the lost defenses of Christianity. Explore, take, and read!

The book itself has much appeal for those interested in historical apologetics. I’m about halfway through right now and have found it to be quite excellent.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

On the Shoulders of Giants: Rediscovering the lost defenses of Christianity– I have written on how we may discover these enormous resources historical apologists have left behind for us. Take and read!

Source

Mark Edwards, Martin Goodman, and Simon Price, eds., Apologetics in the Roman Empire (New York: Oxford, 1999).

SDG.

Sunday Quote: Aliens and Paganism?

sm-herrickEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Aliens and Paganism?

I’ve been entering notes into my computer and because of that I’ve been rereading a bunch of books. Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs by James Herrick has been on that list for a while, and I’m glad I finally got to it. So far, it’s been very interesting. Herrick’s thesis is basically that new mythologies are being created through science fiction and the mythologizing of science itself. Thus, people look to the stars for salvation from aliens, life is said to be seeded from benevolent aliens, etc. Herrick describes the phenomenon:

[W]e are witnessing nothing less than the emergence of new transcendent narratives–new myths–to answer our deepest questions. We appear to have entered a second pagan era, complete with a new mythology in which minor deities once again descend from the stars, seek intimate involvement in our lives, direct our course into the future… Our mythologies… have a way of shaping who we are and what we are becoming. (17, cited below)

Have you witnessed any kind of “new mythologies” being followed or created through science or science fiction? I think that sci-fi is a great way to convey a worldview, and I’ve commented often on various ways people have used it for just that purpose. What ways might new scientific mythologies shape our perceptions of ourselves and others? Do you think Herrick’s point is to be well taken, or is he wrong? Why/not? I encourage you to check out the fascinating book. Thanks to my friend Josh over at No Apologies Allowed for so long ago introducing me to it.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Materialists: Where is hope? Look to the stars!– I analyze one aspect of materialism: the way that some look to hope in the “beyond” of the outer limits of the universe. Hope, for materialists, may come from the stars. Our salvation may lay beyond our solar system, in benevolent aliens who will bring great change and advances to us.

Source

James Herrick, Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008).

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