I have been blogging at Blogger for the past year. I might have a new project in the works at WordPress on the healing of the human person, evangelism, and the like drawing upon the Patristic tradition.
sorry to keep doing this
I’m keeping this up but changing my whole project. trying to be more irenic or something.
And I am a monarchist again. That is not accidental with the title of the new blog.
I’ve gotten rid of a lot of titles on here because I just don’t see how…well, I’m not going there. And I’ve changed some works by some authors. I think Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago is far more powerful and infinitely more relevant to FEMA-Camp America than are his novels. I’ve BOLDFACED the ones I have already read.
- Homer – Iliad; Odyssey
- The Old Testament
- Aeschylus – Tragedies
- Sophocles – Tragedies
- Herodotus – Histories (I’ve read it but I need to reread it)
- Euripides – Tragedies
- Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War
- Hippocrates – Medical Writings
- Aristophanes – Comedies
- Plato – Dialogues
- Aristotle – Works
- Epicurus – “Letter to Herodotus”; “Letter to Menoecus”
- Euclid – Elements
- Archimedes – Works
- Apollonius – Conics
- Cicero – Works (esp. Orations; On Friendship; On Old Age; Republic; Laws; Tusculan Disputations; Offices)
- Lucretius – On the Nature of Things
- Virgil – Works (esp. Aeneid)
- Horace – Works (esp. Odes and Epodes; The Art of Poetry)
- Livy – History of Rome
- Ovid – Works (esp. Metamorphoses)
- Quintilian – Institutes of Oratory
- Plutarch – Parallel Lives; Moralia
- Tacitus – Histories; Annals; Agricola; Germania; Dialogus de oratoribus (Dialogue on Oratory)
- Nicomachus of Gerasa – Introduction to Arithmetic
- Epictetus – Discourses; Enchiridion
- Ptolemy – Almagest
- Lucian – Works (esp. The Way to Write History; The True History; The Sale of Creeds;Alexander the Oracle Monger; Charon; The Sale of Lives; The Fisherman; Dialogue of the Gods; Dialogues of the Sea-Gods; Dialogues of the Dead)
- Marcus Aurelius – Meditations
- Galen – On the Natural Faculties
- The New Testament
- Plotinus – The Enneads
- St. Augustine – “On the Teacher”; Confessions; City of God; On Christian Doctrine
- The Volsungs Saga or Nibelungenlied
- The Song of Roland
- The Saga of Burnt Njál
- Maimonides – The Guide for the Perplexed
- St. Thomas Aquinas – Of Being and Essence; Summa Contra Gentiles; Of the Governance of Rulers; Summa Theologica
- Dante Alighieri – The New Life (La Vita Nuova); “On Monarchy”; Divine Comedy
- Geoffrey Chaucer – Troilus and Criseyde; The Canterbury Tales
Leonardo da Vinci – Notebooks
- Niccolò Machiavelli – The Prince; Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy
- Desiderius Erasmus – The Praise of Folly; Colloquies (I’ve read different parts of Erasmus
- Nicolaus Copernicus – On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
- Thomas More – Utopia
- Martin Luther – Table Talk; Three Treatises
- François Rabelais – Gargantua and Pantagruel
- John Calvin – Institutes of the Christian Religion
- Michel de Montaigne – Essays
- William Gilbert – On the Lodestone and Magnetic Bodies
- Miguel de Cervantes – Don Quixote
- Edmund Spenser –; The Faerie Queene
- Francis Bacon – Essays; The Advancement of Learning; Novum Organum; New Atlantis
- William Shakespeare – Poetry and Plays
- Galileo Galilei – Starry Messenger; Two New Sciences
- Johannes Kepler – The Epitome of Copernican Astronomy; Harmonices Mundi
- William Harvey – On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals; On the Circulation of the Blood; Generation of Animals
- Grotius – The Law of War and Peace
- Thomas Hobbes – Leviathan; Elements of Philosophy (It’s on the Shelf)
- René Descartes – Discourse on the Method; Meditations on First Philosophy;
- Corneille – Tragedies (esp. The Cid, Cinna)
- John Milton – Works (esp. the minor poems; Areopagitica; Paradise Lost; Samson Agonistes) (In progress)
- Molière – Comedies (esp. The Miser; The School for Wives; The Misanthrope; The Doctor in Spite of Himself; Tartuffe; The Tradesman Turned Gentleman; The Imaginary Invalid; The Affected Ladies)
- Blaise Pascal – Pensées;
- Boyle – The Sceptical Chymist
- Christiaan Huygens – Treatise on Light
- Benedict de Spinoza – Political Treatises; Ethics
- John Locke – A Letter Concerning Toleration; Of Civil Government; An Essay Concerning Human Understanding; Some Thoughts Concerning Education (Currently reading)
- Isaac Newton – Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy; Opticks
- Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz – Discourse on Metaphysics; New Essays on Human Understanding; Monadology
- Daniel Defoe – Robinson Crusoe;
- Jonathan Swift – The Battle of the Books; A Tale of a Tub; A Journal to Stella; Gulliver’s Travels; A Modest Proposal
- William Congreve – The Way of the World
- George Berkeley – A New Theory of Vision; A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (On the shelf)
- Alexander Pope – An Essay on Criticism; The Rape of the Lock; An Essay on Man
- Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu – Persian Letters; The Spirit of the Laws
- Voltaire – Candide;
- Henry Fielding – Joseph Andrews; Tom Jones
- Samuel Johnson – The Vanity of Human Wishes; Dictionary; Rasselas; Lives of the Poets
- David Hume – A Treatise of Human Nature; Essays Moral and Political; An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; History of England (Currently on the shelf)
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau – Discourse on Inequality; On Political Economy; Emile; The Social Contract; Confessions
- Laurence Sterne – Tristram Shandy; A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy
- Adam Smith – The Theory of Moral Sentiments; The Wealth of Nations (Currently on the shelf)
- William Blackstone – Commentaries on the Laws of England
- Immanuel Kant – Critique of Pure Reason; Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals;Critique of Practical Reason; Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics; The Science of Right; Critique of Judgment; Perpetual Peace
- Edward Gibbon – The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire;(Currently reading)
- James Boswell – Journal; The Life of Samuel Johnson
- Antoine Laurent Lavoisier – Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry)
- Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison – Federalist Papers (together with the Articles of Confederation; United States Constitution and United States Declaration of Independence)
- Jeremy Bentham – Comment on the Commentaries; Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation; Theory of Fictions
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Faust;
- Thomas Robert Malthus – An Essay on the Principle of Population
- John Dalton – A New System of Chemical Philosophy
- Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier – Analytical Theory of Heat
- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel – The Phenomenology of Spirit; Science of Logic;Elements of the Philosophy of Right; Lectures on the Philosophy of History (I’ve read most of these)
- William Wordsworth – Poems (esp. Lyrical Ballads; Lucy poems; sonnets; The Prelude)
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Poems (esp. Kubla Khan; The Rime of the Ancient Mariner );Biographia Literaria
- David Ricardo – On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation
- Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice; Emma
- Carl von Clausewitz – On War
- Lord Byron – Don Juan
- Arthur Schopenhauer – Studies in Pessimism
- Michael Faraday – The Chemical History of a Candle; Experimental Researches in Electricity
- Nikolai Lobachevsky – Geometrical Researches on the Theory of Parallels
- Charles Lyell – Principles of Geology
- Auguste Comte – The Positive Philosophy
- Honoré de Balzac – Works (esp. Le Père Goriot; Le Cousin Pons; Eugénie Grandet;Cousin Bette; César Birotteau)
- Ralph Waldo Emerson – Representative Men; Essays; Journal
- Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter
- Alexis de Tocqueville – Democracy in America (Halfway through reading)
- John Stuart Mill – A System of Logic; Principles of Political Economy; On Liberty;Considerations on Representative Government; Utilitarianism; The Subjection of Women;Autobiography
- Charles Darwin – On the Origin of Species; The Descent of Man; Autobiography (Currently reading)
- William Makepeace Thackeray – Works (esp. Vanity Fair; The History of Henry Esmond;The Virginians; Pendennis) (On the shelf)
- Charles Dickens – Works (esp. Pickwick Papers; Our Mutual Friend; David Copperfield;Dombey and Son; Oliver Twist; A Tale of Two Cities; Hard Times)
- Claude Bernard – Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine
- George Boole – The Laws of Thought
- Henry David Thoreau – Civil Disobedience; Walden
- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – Das Kapital (Capital); The Communist Manifesto
- George Eliot – Silas Marner
- Herman Melville – Typee; Moby-Dick; Billy Budd
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment; The Idiot; The Brothers Karamazov
- Gustave Flaubert – Madame Bovary; Three Stories
- Henry Thomas Buckle – A History of Civilization in England
- Francis Galton – Inquiries into Human Faculties and Its Development
- Bernhard Riemann – The Hypotheses of Geometry
- Henrik Ibsen – Plays (esp. Peer Gynt; Brand; Hedda Gabler; Emperor and Galilean; A Doll’s House; The Wild Duck; The Master Builder) Currently reading
- Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace; Anna Karenina; “What Is Art?“; Twenty-Three Tales (Currently reading)
- Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court; The Mysterious Stranger
- Henry Adams – History of the United States; Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres; The Education of Henry Adams; Degradation of Democratic Dogma
- Oliver Wendell Holmes – The Common Law; Collected Legal Papers
- William James – The Varieties of Religious Experience; (Currently reading)
- Henry James – The American; The Ambassadors
- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche – Thus Spoke Zarathustra; Beyond Good and Evil; On the Genealogy of Morality; The Will to Power; Twilight of the Idols; The Antichrist
- Georg Cantor – Transfinite Numbers
- Jules Henri Poincaré – Science and Hypothesis; Science and Method; The Foundations of Science
- Sigmund Freud – The Interpretation of Dreams; Three Essays to the Theory of Sex;Introduction to Psychoanalysis; Beyond the Pleasure Principle; Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego; The Ego and the Id; Civilization and Its Discontents; New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
- George Bernard Shaw – Plays and Prefaces (Have on shelf)
- Max Planck – Origin and Development of the Quantum Theory; Where Is Science Going?; Scientific Autobiography
- Henri Bergson – Time and Free Will; Matter and Memory; Creative Evolution; The Two Sources of Morality and Religion
- John Dewey – How We Think; Democracy and Education; Experience and Nature; The Quest for Certainty; Logic – The Theory of Inquiry
- Alfred North Whitehead – Process and Reality; (I have on shelf)
- George Santayana – The Life of Reason; Scepticism and Animal Faith; The Realms of Being (which discusses the Realms of Essence, Matter and Truth); Persons and Places
- Vladimir Lenin – Imperialism; The State and Revolution
- Bertrand Russell – Principles of Mathematics; The Problems of Philosophy; Principia Mathematica; The Analysis of Mind; An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth; Human Knowledge, Its Scope and Limits; History of Western Philosophy
- Albert Einstein – The Theory of Relativity; Sidelights on Relativity; The Meaning of Relativity; On the Method of Theoretical Physics; The Evolution of Physics
- James Joyce – “The Dead” in Dubliners; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man;Ulysses (Have on shelf)
- Jacques Maritain – Art and Scholasticism; The Degrees of Knowledge; Freedom and the Modern World; A Preface to Metaphysics; The Rights of Man and Natural Law; True Humanism
- Franz Kafka – Metamorphoses (Currently reading)
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – Gulag Archipelago, vol. 1-3. Currently reading.
I posted my Musings on Methodius on Puritanboard. They didn’t like my dichotomy of Hebrew vs Hellenic thought. I’ve spent almost a decade reading Greek (pagan and Christian) sources. What I say is beyond dispute. I’m also (not) surprised they didn’t take up the line of Methodius’s neo-Galatian two-class Christianity, but enough of that.
I’m fairly harsh on the Fathers for the idealization of angelic celibacy. But as I reflect upon it, I can kind of get where they were coming from. They lived in a decaying, overly sexualized debauched culture of the late Roman Empire (nominally Christian or not). The appeal to monasteries fairly obvious: faced with starving poverty, unfulfilled sexuality, and lack or order, monasteries offered a stable alternative. Does that justify later monastic trends? Of course not, but it’s worth remembering. If the Fathers were over-reacting to what is below, then I can understand, even if I do not approve.
(Wisdom prevailed and I didn’t post any pictures)
All citations taken from Schaff’s Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 6
Pros of Methodius
- His prose often exquisite and always lyrical. He occasionally approaches the talent of Gregory Nazianzus, the Christian Pindar.
- While he often gets off track of his topic, his “wanderings” are very interesting and usually more sound than his main point.
- I do not believe Methodius lost the gospel. I do think he came within a razor’s edge of losing it.
- His use of excessive allegory is subject to the critiques of that position. If allegory is true, it is impossible to falsify since there is no permanent standard to say “X is wrong.”
Banquet of the Ten Virgins
Like many ancient Christians, Methodius held perpetual virginity to be the summum bonum. Unlike other ancient Christians, his defense of it, while suffering in terms of exegesis and argument, is the best-written defense (Augustine’s is confused and he knows it; Tertullian’s ranks as the worst treatise in the history of written thought).
- “Virginity mediates between heaven and earth” (312-313).
- Methodius bases much of his argument on legal analogies from Old Testament shadows: 327-329; 344. Even though this is a form of the Galatian heresy, even here he is not consistent, for he knows that people can bring up another OT text: Genesis 1:27ff about procreating (and even worse, maybe enjoying it). Indeed, he calls such men “incontinent and uncontrolled in sensuality” (320).
- “The likeness of God is the avoidance of corruption.” A problematic statement, but not too bad. It gets worse when he adds another premise: virgins have this likeness (313). This brings up a troubling conclusion: can married people have the likeness of God?
- Indeed, if you are married you need to work towards the goal of never having sex again. Methodius writes, “Until it removed entirely the inclination for sexual intercourse engendered by habit” (312). It gets worse: if married people enjoy sex, “how shall they celebrate the feast” (347)? What does Methodius mean by feast? Probably not the liturgy in this section (though of course he would draw that same application); it could be either “the kingdom of God” or the “proper Christian life.” The narrative isn’t clear.
- He knows the prohibition against marriage is a demonic doctrine, so he hedges his bets: marriage is to produce martyrs (314).
- He has a fascinating discussion on numerology (339) and his commentary on the Apocalypse, while wild and fanciful, is no less arbitrary than any other “spiritual” interpretation of it
It is not accidental that Methodius used OT legal shadows to buttress his argument. He picked and chose from God’s law and supplemented it with the doctrines of man. Gone is the freedom of the Christian life. Indeed, the Gospel has become a New Law (348-349).
Concerning Free Will
This is an important text because it summarizes ancient thought on freedom and necessity. What is the origin of a human action (357). Methodius wants to make sure that God is not the author of evil, but without the categories of “ultimate and proximate causality,” it’s not clear he can avoid giving evil a semi-independent existence.
His larger point is worth considering, though. The form of necessatarianism he fights is some mixture of astrology and fatalism. Methodius wants to free God from the charge of evil by noting he is separate from matter. (Nota bene: in ancient thought matter and necessity were linked. It makes sense if you think of it. If the above two are connected, and the will is immaterial, then the will is free).
As a full treatise on freedom it is inadequate, but his suggestions on matter and freedom are quite interesting.
Oration Concerning Simeon and Anna
“and preserved his mother’s purity uncorrupt and uninjured” (385). the last two words suggest Jesus was born miraculously without damaging Mary’s ‘lady parts.” He “opened the virgin’s womb and yet did not burst the barriers of virginity.” While this sounds absurd, it is consistent. The evil for men, per Methodius and ancient Christians, is corruption. The tearing of the vaginal canal, for example (forgive the rough illustration), is corruption. Therefore, the Logos, the Incorrupt One, could not have caused it.
The only way to really combat this idea is to attack the original premise.
Minor Works and Fragments
Many of these are corrupted mss and/or lyrical panegyrics on deceased saints. Not much of history except we see early Marian devotion. While this is perhaps uncharitable towards Methodius, one wonders if the point of Jesus in our lives is so we can praise Mary.
Evaluation and Conclusion
Methodius is a good witness to Eastern Christianity before the Nicene Council. He has some interesting suggestions on free will and determinism. Unfortunately, he exalts man-made ideas of perpetual celibacy to the first-order level of the gospel. It is instructive that we see why: sex–assuming it to be married sex–is messy and smelly and arouses extreme passions between man and wife. This is low on the scale of being and it does not become the one who wants to transcend finitude to the realms of the passionless.
This is very good Hellenistic philosophy, but is an open attack on an earthy Hebraic Christianity. Methodius himself suggests as much (see page 344).
He is worth reading for the occasional insight, but even where he is right (e.g., the Trinity) he has been surpassed by other luminaries. Where is wrong, he is fatally wrong.
People think I make this stuff up. Now if someone says, “You aren’t reading the context,” fair enough. But if we have to qualify it with “context,” then we need to stop making blanket condemnations of Protestants.
“Whoever denies Orthodox hesychasm is excommunicated by this Council (of St. Gregory Palamas), and whoever cannot understand the hesychastic life shows that he does not have the mind-set of the Church.” Eminence Hierotheos Vlachos, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos
Concerning the necessity of not permitting heretics to come into the house of God, so long as they persist in their heresy. (Canon 6 of the Council of Laodicea)
Do not err, my brethren: if anyone follow a schismatic, he will not inherit the Kingdom of God. St. Ignatius Of Antioch, Epistle to the Philadelphians, 3:2-4:1
He that saith not ‘Anathema’ to those in heresy, let him be anathema. (Seventh Ecumenical Council) [I can agree with this statement depending on who means what by heresy]
Neither the Papist nor the Protestant church can be considered as the True church of Christ. The first was altered by a number of innovations and the accursed despotism (Primacy) due to which resulted the schism from the Orthodox. The same goes for the Protestants whose innumerable innovations lead to total anarchy and chaos. Only the Orthodox church maintained the teachings of Christ flawlessly without a single innovation (St. Nektarios of Aegina)
Those that are not reborn by the divine grace in the only One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, they do not consist of (comprise) any church, neither visible nor invisible. (St. Nektarios of Aegina)
This line of posts will be somewhat different. Normally I go on the attack towards Orthodoxy and such. Orthodox Bridge recently posted a contrast between theosis and Reformed sanctification. I have a detailed response to it but I will forego posting it because the author mentioned S. Wedgeworth and Derek Rishmway. Those two gentlemen are far more competent Calvin students than I am. Secondly, when I don’t comment that site doesn’t really have many comments and gets less traffic.
Today I want to explore the ancient prayers of the church, particularly as they formed personal devotion. My source is the Orthodox Study Bible (which as study bibles go is better than most, but with a few shortcomings). I realize this isn’t the only source of Orthodox devotion, but it is the most accessible.
I think it is important to examine these ancient prayers because the content is richly Trinitarian and even in my tamed Americanized study bible, the language is dignified and noble. Further, imbibing these prayers will provide the devotee with a manner of praying that avoids the tendency to end every prayer with “Lead, guide and direct us” “Lead guide and direct us.” Etc.
And as I reviewed the OSB NT, I noticed that these prayers lack the appeals and going throughs of Mary. With the exception of two lines in the benediction, a Protestant can say these prayers without changing anything.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to you, O Lord, glory to you.
O heavenly King, O comforter, the Spirit of Truth who are in all places and fillest all things. The treasury of good gifts and the giver of Life. Come and abide in us, cleanse us from every Stain and save our souls, Amen.
The above is a rather ancient prayer and is worth incorporating into one’s spirituality. This is only the beginning.
Before people jump to the conclusion, “He’s just a Protestant so what does he know?” please let me finish the review then you can start throwing objections and seeing what sticks.
Christopher Hall argues that Evangelicals should make the Church Fathers routine conversation partners in our interpretation of Scripture. Not to make them the last word, since much of their exegesis is rather forced, but because a regular *re*reading of the Church Fathers provides an important epistemological service: it forces us to examine our own presuppositions and culture as we come to the text.
What is a Church Father? Admittedly, any definition of this term is somewhat arbitrary. Hall summarizes the definition along the lines of someone who has received traditional teaching (Hall 50; cf Irenaeus) and faithfully preserved conciliar conclusions. A Church father must have antiquity, holiness of life (although this can be stretched when it comes to things like temper and gentleness) and orthodox doctrine. Granted, a number of questions are begged at this point, but we must move on.
Hall then survey eight fathers: four Eastern (Athanasius, Nazianzus, Basil, and Chrysostom) and four Western (Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great) and points the reader to certain works. Much of this section is a summary of what you would find in textbooks on the Nicene and post-Nicene period. I won’t go into it here.
He then contrasts the allegorizing of Alexandria with the more literal approach of Antioch. And while I know that men like Chrysostom rejected the allegorizing approach, I didn’t know how widespread such a rejection was. Hall gives the standard reasons why all allegories (possibly excluding Paul’s unique usage) are doomed to failure: allegories by definition are impossible to falsify.
What can we take from the Church Fathers? Unlike modern academic tendencies, they did not divorce the reading of Scripture and the doing of theology from liturgy (happily, with the coming demise of the German-based post-graduate system in America, we might be approaching a period when this is possible).
Even more, the Fathers had mnemonic powers that Americans can only dream of. This allowed them to be remarkably sensitive to motifs in Scripture that a concordance might miss. While Hall doesn’t cover this, to be a bishop in the ancient church one must have memorized the entire Psalter. (And later, to be a Cossack warrior in Russia one must also have memorized the Psalter. When you get captured by Muslimists chanting the Psalter would help you endure torture).
And to be honest, if you want to memorize large chunks of Scripture, you probably need to chant it. Not recite it nor re-read it, but chant it. That’s likely why John Chrysostom had the entire Bible memorized.
As a whole the book is outstanding. Some repetition and for those who have read widely on the Nicene debates, parts of the book can be skipped. On the other hand, this is probably the best introduction to the Church Fathers.
- More often than not they are not asking the same questions–and this is a historical inevitability that cannot be helped.
- With the exception of Chrysostom and a few others, most did not go systematically through the Bible. This means if you want an exposition of your favorite verse, odds are it won’t be there or it won’t be developed in any real length.
- I also believe that the church fathers would have rejected this quasi-infallibility that we place on them. Yes, they themselves tended towards it in their hagiography (interesting side note: Gregory Nazianzus called Athanasius the Pope of the entire world. Boy, that has ecumenical ramifications! LOL).
So again, what point the church fathers?
- They can teach humility in reading past theology. Of course, Orthodox interlocutors will call foul at that point since I don’t seem like the most humble person. Fair enough, but I am only sharp when people advance theologies that attack my hope in Christ’s saving me. If anyone denies that Yeshua gave me his Holy Spirit as a down payment and that my sacraments are graceless, well then…
- What I mean by the above is that we should be careful of throwing heresy charges because people don’t believe what we believe at a later date. Be careful of calling heresy what would condemn earlier fathers of heresy.
I know, I know. He’s a Protestant so he really doesn’t understand Christianity [end sarcasm], but since he has written a cutting-edge book promoting the Fathers, I figured he knows what he is saying. I plan to review that book later. hese look to be tinteresting.