Catechism

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Writer's Block

I am suffering from writer's block at the moment. A severe case. I have to hand in a draft chapter of my thesis on Friday, some 3000 words. I'm about 2,700 words in, so it's not there is no chronic seriousness, but there are some considerable holes in my evidence at the moment.

In any case, here is the "introduction" of chapter three. At this stage it still needs to be revised once I've got the entire chapter. I will probably move things about, paragraph order, or tighten things up.

Someone recently suggested that putting samples of my drafts on this blog was not a good idea-- that I should only put up the "polished" finish. This blog was partly created for me to consider my thesis, and I found my ponderings earlier to be useful, in particular the draft plan. Because this is just a blog, I don't feel a need to put up polished versions. You can all wait for the final thing. However, some friends have noted that the most interesting entries on this blog are the ones regarding my thesis.

For those of you who are interested in re-familiarising yourself with my earlier chapter, check here, or you could read my thesis plan.

Anyway, here is the intro:

+++

‘Give me the earth purified of heretics, your majesty’ implored Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, ‘and I will give you heaven in return.’[1] Thus, the end of religious toleration in the Empire was proclaimed,[2] and was followed in 391CE by imperial laws proscribing pagan worship. Discord and chaos was one great fear of the Christian (and pagan) Emperors, and discord in faith was one cause for the summa divinitas to be ‘moved to wrath’. The Christian Emperors therefore we‘Give me the earth purified of heretics, your majesty’ implored Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, ‘and I will give you heaven in return.’ Thus, the end of religious toleration in the Empire was proclaimed, and was followed in 391CE by imperial laws proscribing pagan worship. Discord and chaos was one great fear of the Christian (and pagan) Emperors, and discord in faith was one cause for the summa divinitas to be ‘moved to wrath’. The Christian Emperors therefore were eager to ensure unity and stamp out discord in practice and also in the altern intellectuals.[3] Christian elites were becoming increasingly influential but pagan philosophy and religion still held the weight of a thousand years of tradition and cultural inertia, an inertia that even influenced church leaders.[4]

The institutional structures of the Christian Church were unlike any equivalent pagan religious leader,[5] and within this unprecedented form of uni-polar authority in dominance, it was no longer acceptable to see as legitimate certain other faiths. With a limit to the amount of negotiation Christian leaders were willing to undertake, any pagan activity or thought beyond that limit had to be de-legitimised, or risk undermining the new Christian era’s authority. The form of this delegitimisation was directed primarily at the elites within pagan circles, aimed to re-imagine the history of the Roman state and had little to do with popular (mass) pagan practices, which was characterised in the fourth century as ‘If not dying’ then ‘fading’.[6]

Augustinian Christianity linked aggressive conversion of non-Christians to the spiritual well-being of the faithful: ‘It follows, therefore, that he [the faithful Christian] will be concerned also that his neighbour should love god, since he is told to love his neighbour as himself’.[7] Such concern for the ‘well-being’ of one’s ungodly neighbours, scripturally sanctioned in 1 Timothy 5:8, granted the faithful Augustinian heavily direction to extend Christ’s dominion ‘from a dutiful concern for the interests of others’.[8] With Christians now in senior imperial positions, including Emperor, Augustine believed that imperial power could be used as a vehicle of Providence, but whose entire good fortune rested upon God’s will.[9] The Africa in which Augustine lived and preached was one filled with violence: imperial-sanctioned violence against pagans and inter-Christian schismatic violence.[10] The very basis of Augustinian Christianity’s supernatural authority was undermined by the schismatics and pagans alike, leading the Bishop of Hippo to declare ‘There is no salvation outside the Church!’[11]

Footnotes
1. Citation from A. H. M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire 284-602: A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey, Volume II, p.935
2. Peter Brown, Authority and the Sacred, p.31
3. A. H. M. Jones, p.934; also Frend, ‘XIII: Augustine’s reactions to the barbarian invasions of the West, 407-417: Some comparisons with his western contemporaries’, in Orthodoxy, Paganism and Dissent in the Early Christian Centuries, p.254
4. Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians, p.494
5. RLF, Pagans and Christians, p.495, 545
6. RLF, Pagans and Christians, p.574
7. DCD, XIX, 14, p.873
8. DCD, XIX, 14, p.874
9. Frend, ‘XIII: Augustine’s reactions to the barbarian invasions of the West, 407-417: Some comparisons with his western contemporaries’, p.249
10. H. Daniel-Rops, The Church in the Dark Ages, Audrey Butler (trans), p.23
11. H. Daniel-Rops, p.26, citing Augustine

9 Comments:

  • At January 19, 2005 12:58 pm, Blogger Liam said…

    I have two tactics I use for writer's block.
    1. Move. Pick up a notebook and a pencil and go and write in the kitchen, or in the loungeroom, or in the park, or down at the pub. A change of scenery does wonders.
    2. Discipline. This is a bit wierd, but if you try and make silly rules for yourself, like 'this paragraph must include a semicolon' or 'this paragraph must start with a sentence in the active voice, without modifiers or adjectives' you stress about that instead of the topic.
    Good luck with it.

     
  • At January 19, 2005 1:02 pm, Blogger Alex said…

    The hardest part is slogging through the 1000 or so pages of City of God in order to find the evidence I need.

     
  • At January 19, 2005 1:43 pm, Blogger Marcel said…

    'Self-indulgent' should be in CAPS

     
  • At January 19, 2005 1:46 pm, Blogger JP said…

    I'm not an expert on fourth century Christianity, but the grab for political power by so-called "Christian" leaders which occured in that period was tragic.

    I grew up in Istanbul, as a Protestant but with the history of Orthodox Christianity all around me. I can remember being taught that the pursuit of political power by Christianity in this period (i.e. seeking official state sanction and support) was a rejection of Jesus' missionary call in the great commission. This example was then used to justify seperation of church and state (becuase the power and interference of the State was believed to corrupt Christianity).

     
  • At January 19, 2005 2:06 pm, Blogger Alex said…

    Believe me, there is plenty of scriptural evidence for the interweaving of church and state. The "so-called 'Christians' leaders" were keenly aware and immersed in scripture.

    (Romans 13:1-4) ‘Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of authority? Then do what is good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear its sword in vain!’

    (Wisdom 6:1) ‘Listen therefore, O kings and understand; learn, O judges of the ends of the earth. Give ear, that you rule over multitudes, and boast of many nations. For your dominion was given you from the Lord, and your sovereignty from the Most High; he will search out your works and inquire into your plans.’

    (1 Peter 2:13-17) ‘For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants/slaves of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

    The point however was not a theocratic state (at least for Augustine), but rather a secular state within a "Christendom" *defined and mediated* by the church and its hierarchs. Note, the point of the above passages indicate that the state has authority over its members, but only so-long as they are legitimised through (Christian) virtue.

     
  • At January 19, 2005 8:17 pm, Blogger Le Driver said…

    Looks very promising. Are you going to show us the polished version when you're done? I'm sure plenty of people will be willing to help with critiquing and proof-reading.

     
  • At January 21, 2005 1:10 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Totally off the subject, but I hate the use of "CE", "BCE", and "BP" rather than "AD", "BC", and "years ago". Especially ridiculous is the notion that "BP" is however many years before 1950. I mean, really!

     
  • At January 21, 2005 5:11 pm, Blogger Jellyfish said…

    Sorry to resort to the most horrible cliche ever, but I have recently found that walking along a beach and marvelling at nature in all its... naturalness is quite useful. Barring proximity to a beach, maybe a river or some time near the ponds with the angry swans in the Botanic Gardens.

    Hope you got it sorted, anyway. Thanks for visiting my site. I'm glad someone noticed my choice of cruel and unusual punishment for Amanda Vanstone :) Come visit again someday.

     
  • At January 21, 2005 10:48 pm, Blogger Alex said…

    AD = Anno Domini = Jesus ain't my Lord.

    BC = Before Christ = Jesus ain't my Messiah.

    Ergo, I use CE (Common Era) and BCE (Before Common Era).

     

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