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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Frame: Early Christian Philosophy

I’m more critical on Frame on this section.  I am not a specialist in patristic literature, but I think I am close.  Still, Frame has a number of incisive points that are worth mentioning.

Justin Martyr

Logos is logos spermatikos, the seed of reason in all peoples.   Justin tends to ignore the principle that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness (91).

Via Negativa

Justin says we should prefer negative descriptions of God.  This isn’t biblical.  Scripture doesn’t hesitate to ascribe positive names to God.  Differerence here between covenantal thinking.

Creation

Borderline Gnostic.  God doesn’t create directly “but brings forth subordinate beings to the task” (92).  For a great survey see Colin Gunton’s The Triune Creator.

Irenaeus

rule of faith:  early baptismal creed (Frame 95).

Tertullian:

Stronger doctrine of the antithesis and a development in Christian epistemology (98).  Tertullian was a traducianist.  Tended to confuse metaphysical and ethical categories.

Athanasius

Decent summary of Nicene controversy.  The reader is encouraged to seek out Torrance on Athanasius.  Frame hints that Athanasius was present at Nicea and made speeches (106).  This is highly doubtful.

Augustine

Good survey of Augustine’s epistemology. I can doubt but I can never doubt my doubting.  Truth by nature is imperishable.  If truth passes away, then it is true that truth passes away.  Therefore, truth didn’t pass away.

My criticisms of Frame in this chapter

*He faults Irenaeus for holding to recapitulation (96), thinking it leads to Eastern Orthodoxy.  Well, but what about Ephesians 1:10?