Saturday, November 08, 2008

AD381 by Charles Freeman

This new book by historian Charles Freeman looks good.
"'We authorise followers of this law to assume the title of orthodox Christians; but as for the others since, in our judgement, they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious names of heretics.' Emperor Theodosius"
In 381 AD, Theodosius, emperor of the eastern Roman Empire, issued a decree in which all his subjects were required to subscribe to a belief in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This edict defined Christianity; all other interpretations were now declared heretical. Moreover, for the first time in a thousand years of Greco-Roman civilization, free thought was unambiguously suppressed. Yet surprisingly, this political revolution, intended to bring inner cohesion to an empire under threat from the outside, has been airbrushed from the historical record. Instead, it has been claimed that the Christian Church had reached a consensus on the Trinity which was promulgated at the Council of Constantinople in 381.

This groundbreaking new book shows that the Council was in fact a shambolic affair, which only took place after Theodosius’s decree had become law. In short, the Church was acquiescing in the overwhelming power of the Emperor. Freeman argues that the edict and the subsequent suppression of paganism not only brought an end to religious and philosophical diversity throughout the Empire, but created numerous theological problems for the Church that have remained unsolved. The year AD 381, Freeman concludes, marked “a turning point which time forgot.”

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