I recently wrote up an article for the website Libcom. The article is basically a teaser for my book, as well as a very little history of early Christianity and its social framework.
I recently finished a rather interesting book on Christianity and wealth, specifically from the periods 350 to 550. This post isn’t going to be a book review or anything like that, just some things that I learned from the book that I think are important. The author, Peter Brown, travels through the Western Roman Empire during late antiquity following various characters; from the pagan nobleman Symmachus to the North African titan of theology Augustine. In following these characters; their writings, their arguments, their biographies, their communities—Brown weaves a history of wealth, the view of wealth, the position of wealth, the power of wealth, in the west during late antiquity.
This post is continuing from a previous post examining the article from the First Things journal called “The Pacifist Temptation” by William Doino Jr. that defends Just War theory against Christian Pacifism. In the previous post we looked at the earliest records of Christianity’s relationship with the Military, in this post we’ll look a little more at the pragmatic argument for the “Just War” theory. Just war theory doesn’t depend usually on in depth theological thought, or on the basis of the early Christian practice. Rather, generally the defence of a Just war theory is on the basis of Pragmatism. Back to the Article “The Pacifist Temptation” William Doino Jr. says:
Starting with Saint Augustine Christianity had always had a concept of ”Just War, ” whereas Christian pacifism has always been a force in Christianity, historically the “Just War” theology won over. The conservative religious journal “first things” published an article recently By William Doino Jr. where he defends the Catholic “Just War” theory against what he calls “The Pacifist Temptation.” The temptation he’s referring to a conference held by the Pontifical Council for Justice and peace and the Pax Christi movement, which led to a declaration by Pax Christi that appealed to a commitment to Nonviolence and insisted that there cannot be such a thing as “Just War.”
Saint Augustine is one of the most influential theologians in history; he’s almost synonymous with western Christianity. In my opinion, all theology needs to start with biblical hermeneutics, what do the scriptures tell us? How are we to read them? What is and is not authoritative? How can they be interpreted? These are the questions that are going to have to come first in theology. Saint Augustine wrote many interpretive works, most famously “the literal meaning of Genesis.” But in his work “on Christian Doctrine” he lays out some general hermeneutical principles, given his influence, I’m going to go over two that I find interesting and pertinent to modern theology.
The last post on this blog was about the Not peace but a Sword saying found in Matthew 10:34-39. The impetus for that post was actually a lecture I saw recently given by Reza Aslan on the connection between religion and violence. I’ve written on Reza Alsan before. His argument is based on a few fallacies, one of which is found around the 20 Minute mark, he says:
A Muslim is whoever says he or she is a Muslim, the end.
Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν· οὐκ ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἀλλὰ μάχαιραν.
And in the NRSV:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
This scripture is used over and over again, by Reza Aslan types who want to prove that the New Testament and Christianity is just as potentially violent as the Koran, the Old Testament, or any other religious text, or to show that Christianity is entirely open to any and every potential interpretation. The argument goes something like this usually, the first person says “Such and Such religious text is problematic because of what it teaches,” and the Reza Aslan type responds with “well, the new Testament says I came not to bring peace but a sword” and Christians choose to ignore than, or interpret it away, so we can do the same with other religious texts. I is not legitimate to simply isolate a text in any religious tradition that may be violent and think that this in and of itself shows anything, for Christianity or any other tradition, you need to do exegesis and theology, and think the whole tradition through. So can this scripture be legitimately used to defend violence? Well let’s examine it.