Readings in Christian Ethics (O’Donovan list)

Focusing mainly on more classical and patristic texts.  These are the texts in the O’Donovans’ work.  So, if you wanted to read in the patristic tradition and how earlier Christians engaged in political reflection, this is a good list.

Justin Martyr,

  •  First Apology. Sections 1, 2, 4, 10, 11.
  • Letter to Diognetus 5-7

Irenaeus of Lyons: Empire as a demonic force; Christ’s coming into the world was already an act of judgment (O’Donovan 16).

  • Against Heresies V.24-26.  Also contains some of his eschatology.

Tertullian. A strong rejection of military service, though Tertullian’s later arguments begin to shift…

  • Apology 4, 30, 38.
  • “Military Chaplet,” 11
  • Against Marcion, IV:16.

Clement of Alexandria: Contrary to Plato, philosophical kingship is already present because God manifested it in His Son (O’Donovan 31).

  • Stromateis I:24-28.

Origen

  • Against Celsus 8:68-75.

Lactantius: The meaning of property is given by the structures of community relations in which material goods are communicated (O’Donovan 47).

  • Divine Institutes III:21-22; V:5-7, 14-15; VI:10.

Eusebius: The Word (Logos) of God mediates the kingship of God.

  • Dedication Holy Sepulchre 16

Ambrose of Milan: emergence of episcopacy; renounced private property in favor of an “ecclesial sociology.”  Institutionalized charity.  Explores different forms of economic slavery (O’Donovan 69ff).

  • Epistle 75a, 1-8; 24-37.
  • Story of Naboth, 1, 2, 4, 11, 12, 36, 37, 52, 53, 63.
  • Letter 7:4-19
  • Letter 50
  • Duties of Clergy I:28-29; II:15-16

John Chrysostom: aesthetic of Christian government: “the drama of overcoming wrath with mercy” (O’Donovan 91). In giving charity, the giver reasserts the original community of goods.

  • 24th Homily on Romans
  • 17th Homily on the Statutes
  • 11th Homily on Acts
  • 12th Homily on 1 Timothy

Augustine: the law of Christ can be obeyed in time of war if the right attitude is sustained.   Civil justice prepares the way for penitence.  We must look behind the tasks of authority to the society that gives authority its rationale (O’Donovan 109).

  • On Free Choice of Will I:5
  • Against Faustus, 19:18, 19, 25, 26; 26: 74, 75, 76
  • Letter 153
  • Letter 93: 3, 5, 12
  • Letter 189
  • Letter 24
  • City of God II:20; IV:3-5; V:24-26; 14:28; 15:1, 2, 4, 5; 19:5, 7-15, 16, 20, 21, 24-27.

 

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The Scandal of the Incarnation

This is the most accessible treatment of Irenaeus’s works. Hans urs von Balthasar provides a fine introduction, discussion, and brief critique of Gnosticism–showing how Irenaeus’s theology is relevant today. Further, von Balthasar provides a matrix for interpreting St Irenaeus (von Balthasar 9ff):

 

The Scandal of the Incarnation: Irenaeus Against the Heresies
(1) Unity of Old and New Testament: God’s Logos.
(2) The crossbeams are the world’s true center–it is here where creation is renewed (13). The four points of the cross match the “four corners/dimensions” of the world (Irenaeus 16).

Doctrine of God

By God’s simplicity, Irenaeus means he is non-composite. God is “wholly mind, wholly thought, wholly reason, wholly hearing, wholly seeing” (Irenaeus 19, quoting AH II 13, 3). Since God is rational, he produces things by his Logos and orders them through his Spirit. The Spirit manifests the Word (Defense of Apostolic Preaching, 4-10). God’s thinking is His Word and the Word is Mind (AH II.28.5).

God is not a Groundless Void, for where there is a Void and Silence, there cannot be a Word (II.12.5). Irenaeus offers several reductios: can a void fill all things? How can he be a spiritual being if he does not fill all things? (II.13.7)

Irenaeus affirms the analogia entis

“He is rightly called the all -comprehending intellect, but he is not like the intellect of man. He is most aptly called light, but he is nothing like the light we know” (AH II 13, 3). God confers proportion and harmony on what he has made (II.25.2).

saint_irenaeus_oflyons

Incarnation as Recapitulation

“The second Adam is the repetition, in divine truth, of the first Adam…The second Adam repeats the whole natural development of man at the higher level of divine reality” (von Balthasar 53). Indeed, “what was bound could not be untied without a reversal of the process of entanglement” (AH III.22.4).

Anthropology

(Redeemed) Man is body, soul, and spirit (AH V.6.1). Without the spirit man may have the image of God but not his likeness. The Spirit saves and forms the flesh and the soul finds itself mid-point between the two. The breath of life (ruach) is not the same as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). The former makes man a psychic being; the latter makes him spiritual (V.12.2).

Conclusion:

I think this is the best entry point for Irenaeus. True, the complete text of Against Heresies (such as it is) is too important to ignore, but most beginning readers will get lost in the Gnostic genealogies. Until, of course, one sees their modern counterparts, listed below:

Gnosticism today:
(a) Hegelianism
(b) Marxism
(c) Idealism
(d) Romanticism
(e) Freemasonry
(e) The American University System
(f) Hollywood (the symbolism is there, if you know where to look)

You better do more than just agree

I told some on Puritanboard that I was not necessarily committed to premillennialism and I was ready to deal with other systems.  In short, I was going to give amillennialism (nota bene: that may be the ugliest term in all of systematic theology) a chance.

So, if amillennialism were true, the following conditions had to obtain:

a) Revelation still had to be anchored in history.  A denial of history is gnosticism and must be violently hated and resisted by Christians at all times.

b) Antichrist is real.  Frankly, I don’t think this is up for debate.  In any case, it doesn’t make any sense to speak of a darkening of culture (which the NT does) without an antichrist figure.  Yes, I know it doesn’t actually say that, but you get the idea. Further, I am not committed to whether it is an individual or a system.

c) There must be a flooding of history and creation with God’s glory.  On earth.  Doesn’t have to be a millennial reign. But it must happen on earth.  If you disagree, you are closer to Valentinius.

And I was told I was closer to Left Behind.  I said “No, the church fathers.”  You see, for the past seven years I have been steeped in the church fathers. Particularly the Eastern ones.  Mainly Irenaeus (yeah, he ministered in France but he was still Eastern).  TRs just don’t know anything about the church fathers beyond a few snippets from Augustine, so they really can’t contribute to this discussion (which is probably a summary of TRs in general).

And then to top it off, a magus then told me that “carnal views of the millennium” are not acceptable.  Whenever this guy comments the discussion always reaches Monte Python levels.

So what did we learn on the internet today? You can’t just agree in general with TRs. You need to line up on the specifics.  It’s a hyper-overreaction to Roman Catholicism.  Medieval Catholicism said you had to have an “implicit faith” to be saved.  That was because Rome had a million small doctrines that no one could keep count of, so they covered it by saying “just implicitly believe that.”  I’m not attacking Rome at the moment, but hyper-Reformed have a microscopic doctrines that you better line up on.

Vladimir’s Irenaen Moment

One of the most interesting–and underdeveloped–aspects of Patristic thought is St Irenaeus’s “Recapitulation” view. On its broadest level it is simply Ephesians 1:10–Christ sums up all things in heaven and earth in himself.  But what does that really mean?  How far can you take it?

Maybe far.

Irenaeus uses it as the key to at least four events in Scripture: God’s covenant with Adam, Noah, Moses, and the final covenant that renews man and recapitulates everything in itself, that which by the Gospel raises men and wings them for the celestial kingdom (3.11.8).

The structure of anakephalaiosis is this:  events repeat one another;the story involves not just progress, but restoration.  Certain signal events are contained within later events which recontextualize familiar motifs. The repetition of these motifs helps us understand liturgy and history.

(1) Recapitulation causes positive events or structures to come about.

How is this relevant to Vladimir of Russia? Upon conversion (and I will accept the Chronicle as more or less accurate) Vladimir put away his concubines.  Contrast this with Solomon, who gained concubines.  Before conversion Vladimir had drunken orgies.  After conversion there was still alcohol, but he now invited beggars to feast with him.

Some more meditations on recapitulation.

If Christ sums up all things in himself, and time is a created entity, and hence a thing, then time itself is affected/effected.

(2) The structure of time–at least in theory and according to Ephesians 1–is fundamentally altered.

What does it mean to say “time is altered?”  An easy answer is the Platonic one:

(2*) Time participates in eternity.

There is something true about this but not quite adequate. For Plato, time would have participated in eternity regardless of Christ.  That’s been the problem with Plato.  Perhaps Hans Boersma answers this:

(2′) sacramental time is when past, present, and future coincide (124). Chronological time thus opens up to eschatological time.  Thus, “eschatological realities are able to enter into time.”

This is good so far, but the emphasis in Ephesians (and Irenaeus) is on Christ’s person, not the sacraments.  We can revise the statement:

(2**) The exalted Jesus is where past, present, and future coincide.

Jesus opens our reality to the eschatological reality.   Therefore,

(3) We meet the eschaton in Jesus.

Works Cited

Boersma, Hans.  Heavenly Tapestry

Irenaeus.  Against Heresies