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Voting About God in Early Church Councils Hardcover – October 10, 2006
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One thing that really helps is MacMullen's ability to make a thoroughly-covered subject seem new again. He begins the book by asking the reader to imagine a visitor from Mars visiting Earth in the 4th century, viewing Christians in the empire voting about God. "He was the reason for their being. This much, they determined by consensus. But just how was the Christian consensus arrived at? The answer, well known is, is: by majority vote of group leaders in occasional assemblies." (pp. 1-2) Here are some things I learned in the book that I didn't know before:
* The Episcopal hierarchy was modeled on the Roman Senate. Most bishops were part of the aristocracy, though they were elected to their positions by popular vote.Read more ›
Ramsey MacMullen is trying to get inside the head of an "ordinary bishop" to see how he was shaped and formed and how he would react during the actual council. The "ordinary bishop" would be at least fifty years of age and well read in the Bible. He may or may not be learned and will probably not have the political connections of the bishops of the largest and most influential cities that had close ties to the emperor. The "ordinary bishop" is a deeply religious man and superstitious by modern standads. Such a man is deeply passionate about his religion and is willing to suffer for it. He is so passionate about his religion and his particular version of orthodoxy that he is also willing to inflict suffering on those who oppose the "true" faith. Thus, one sees bishops at their most ceremonious and most reverent during the councils that decided who Jesus was in relation to the other persons of the trinity and other such theological complexities. One also sees them at their most passionate with tears and outbursts and waving of their hands and supplicating the president of the council on their hands and knees.Read more ›
MacMullen purposely does not focus on such luminaries as Ambrose but on, in his words, "those persons who made up the graet mass of any council" who were who were neither superhuman nor prominent. The format of the book itself examines four "shaping elements": democratic, cognitive, supernaturalist and violent. He then takes us through scenes from some of the church councils "to show the four elements at work."
Brought into focus for the reader is a world that is not talked about in Church of Sunday school and probably not even in the home: how belief in God was determined by consensus, a consensus arrived at only after long and often bitter debate, and not infrequently, violence. The belief in God that came to be handed down in the wake of Constantine's reign was imposed. It did not flow naturally out of the mythical world created by the author of Acts of the Apostles and then flow with smooth continuity into the present.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an excellent book that covers much of the ancillary societal environment surrounding the means by which members of the church hierarchy decided doctrinal issues at the time... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Ray L. Bieber
This work speak of how the Church Councils formed themselves around secular models and gives some good insights to how and why this would happen. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Harold King
I've had a long time interest in religion. I also enjoy history. This is a nice piece of scholarship which I found enjoyable to read. Read morePublished on February 8, 2013 by Chris Macintosh
I was looking for a historical book about the early church councils, and thought that this book would be a good start. Read morePublished on January 19, 2013 by Not So Avid Reader
The manner in which Christianity has been governed from the beginning has had its partisans. Lately Catholicism has been driven by an ever-contracting committee in an... Read morePublished on October 31, 2011 by D L Keleher, MD
The council of Nicaea is normally depicted as the meeting of great men with great minds to decide the most basic doctrine that Christians believed, but there is another side to the... Read morePublished on November 20, 2008 by Crazy Horse