Posted by: ken98 | February 26, 2010

Wasps, Geese, Gold, Drama, and the Murders of the Holy Inquisition

Day 168 – Ken here (F)(2-26-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.27, pp.30-40)(pages read: 1130)

I’m feeling definitely sick and tired out, but that’s par for the course for me lately. Gibbon helps, in an unforeseen way, focusing on the problems of a wounded, and dying empire does wonders for putting your own ills in their place. And its all fascinating history – the more so because you can see the distinct lines of the Dark Ages-o-come forming before your eyes.

so…

here we go…

We continue in chapter 27 with Theodosius and his relations with the Church. Theodosius outlaws Arianism and persecutes the (majority) church in the East. There was no reason to believe at the time that the whole situation wouldn’t flip-flop in another 20 years and Arianism become the state-approved imperial “version” of Christianity again as it had been for the past 50 years or so. It didn’t as it happened.

But that was probably because Theodosius did what the Muslims did when they conquered a competing Christian territory: he made it impossible to get wealthy or make a living as an Arian by law. We also see Theodosius abandoning his friend Gregory of Nanzianzen (much to his surprise and indignation), and see the First (Holy) Inquisition come into being as Theodosius’s new imperial office of the Inquisition of the Faith. It went into high gear immediately and began torturing and killing (as its later counterpart was famous (or infamous) for 1000 or so years later.

The Story
 
Theodosius Outlaws Arianism – Tritheists (Catholics) Triumphant

  • Theod. re-establishes Catholicism in the capital (1-26-380) – no one is happy – it would be like the Ba’hai taking over the United States as the official religion – and getting property rights to all the churches (although the Ba’hai would probably NOT be as violent and materialistic as the leaders of both the Arians and Tritheists were in Constantinople at the time
  • Theod. has to place imperial storm troopers in the cathedrals (incl the Hagia Sophia) to enforce his wishes – a few people go to church, the million or so other people in the capital have no church – remember the East was predom. Arian, the West (and Rome) Tritheist
  •  
    Council of Constantinople (May 381)

  • Hammers down the Arian faith and all its variants
  • Absolutely forces the Arians of the East to leave the church hierarchy
  • If Theod. wanted to end the 4th century controversies over Arian/Tritheist once and for all – it looks like he’s doing it
  •  
    Gregory of Nanzianzen Abandoned by Theodosius

  • Gregory walks in triumph through Constantinople, is handed the episcopal chair over all Constantinople by Theodosius himself – and takes over Hagia Sophia
  • The populace is not pleased, esp with the celebrity anti-Tritheist Gregory at the helm in Hagia Sophia
  • During the Council of Constantinople – Gregory manages to get the Egyptians mad at him, for his handling of a re-appointment of the Bishop of Antioch (making Egyptians mad at you is always a bad idea, and the Antiochenes are always causing drama and ill-will)
  • Theod eventually replaces Gregory with a Roman senator (Nectarius, an affable, old, un-controversial candidate) – who had to be baptized before he could be ordained as arch-bishop of Constantinople
  •  
    Theodosius Ruthlessly Pursues the Arians by Law

  • Outlaws wills of Arians, Arians holding office, Arian priests, Arians churches, even holding Arian opinions
  •  
    The First (Holy) Inquisition – Theodosius’ Inquisitors of the Faith

  • Inquisition goes after Arians and other sects
  • Tortures and kills directly – as this is an imperial body – not an arm of the Church – although in the Roman empire the Church is practically a cabinet post held under the emperor – very little distinction between church and state after Julian and his immediated successors
  •  
    First Blood Spilled by a Governmental Inquisition Over Heresy – Priscillianists – Extreme Ascetics

  • Priscillians – tortured and murdered without thought by the civil government (Inquisition) – accused of incest and other horrible crimes
  • A little ridiculous as the Priscillians hated the body, hated sex, hated even eating animal products and preached almost gnostic levels of loathing for the material and desire for the immaterial or spiritual
  • Some prominent bishops (Ambrose, Martin) hate the Priscillians but are astounded at the Roman government interfering and killing Roman citizens for spiritual beliefs
  •  

    Icon of Gregory of Nazianzus - friend and follower of Theodosius, scourge of the Arians, at the height of his episcopal power he finally gets the archbishopric of the Imperial capital at Constantinople, only to be ousted in a political gesture and he retires (much to our benefit - as he wrote incredible poetry).   He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age.[2] As a classically trained speaker and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials

    Icon of Gregory of Nazianzus - friend and follower of Theodosius, scourge of the Arians, at the height of his episcopal power he finally gets the archbishopric of the Imperial capital at Constantinople, only to be ousted in a political gesture and he retires (much to our benefit - as he wrote incredible poetry). He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age. As a classically trained speaker and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials - see Wiki for more

     
    The Incredibly Malleable Gibbon: A Highly Political Move
    Gibbon flabbergasts me sometimes. On page 33 he writes what is perhaps a love letter to the Council of Nice and the Nicene creed (in which the very subtle differences between Arianism and Tritheism are distinguished) with an eloquence that leaves you breathless. He is a good writer, I’ll give him that. Five pages prior to this (page 28), he re-tells the popular urban myth about the how even beggars and mechanics (let alone Fathers of the Church) passionately, confidently, and unhesitatingly argue the differences between Arians and Tritheists as they work, rest, and eat – that is constantly.

    The difference is extraordinarily subtle – the homo-ousion versus the homoi – ousion, father and son being SAME or SIMILAR, and although almost all mainstream Christian Churches in the 21st century accept the Council of Nice as a matter of course – you would be hard-pressed in this century to get a decent religious argument going on this logical point of debate on the complicated internal structure of the Christian three-part God. Not only does no one care, no cares to even follow the reasoning very far.

    Gibbon, as you remember, was bitterly upset by the storm of controversy his first somewhat anti-Christian volume of the Decline and Fall caused. He felt betrayed. What’s more (in the conservative Christian circles in which his volumes were being discussed and purchased – as they weren’t cheap) he had to protect himself, I’m sure. In his 2nd volume, every so often, there is an unexpected, sermon-like passage of purple prose lauding orthodox (Anglican?) theology with an almost embarrassing lack of restraint and logic.

    Such is the following – I somewhat doubt that the Nicene Creed succeeded because it was a mean, green, creed machine , built to go from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds, cheaper, faster, more durable, and more flexible than the competing Arian Creeds.

    Hmmmmmmm……

    So, it was manifestly (to Gibbon) easier, more popular, and more efficacious. An efficacious creed? Come on…. Even pairing the adjective to the noun seems to me to reek of toady-ism. But maybe that’s just me, maybe I’m just feeling a little sick and a tad grumpy today (besides I’m just paraphrasing him, you decide for yourself).

    Here is the passage in Gibbon:

    The moral character and conduct of the hostile sects appear to have been governed by the same common principles of nature and religion: but a very material circumstance may be discovered, which tended to distinguish the degrees of their theological faith.

    Both parties in the schools, as well as in the temples, acknowledged and worshipped the divine majesty of Christ; and, as we are always prone to impute our own sentiments and passions to the Deity, it would be deemed more prudent and respectful to exaggerate than to circumscribe the adorable perfections of the Son of God. The disciple of Athanasius exulted in the proud confidence that he had entitled himself to the divine favour, while the follower of Arius must have been tormented by the secret apprehension that he was guilty perhaps of an unpardonable offence by the scanty praise and parsimonious honours which he bestowed on the Judge of the World.

    The opinions of Arianism might satisfy a cold and speculative mind; but the doctrine of the Nicene Creed, most powerfully recommended by the merits of faith and devotion, was much better adapted to become popular and successful in a believing age.

    (DEF II, v.3, ch.27, p.33)

     
     
     

    What Gibbon and Gregory thought the majority of theologians at the highly-respected Council of Constantinople were

    What Gibbon and Gregory thought the majority of theologians at the highly-respected Council of Constantinople were

    Another example of what Gibbon and Gregory agreed the aforesaid Bishops resembled.  Spiteful, stinging insects flying in swarms

    Another example of what Gibbon and Gregory agreed the aforesaid Bishops resembled. Spiteful, stinging insects flying in swarms

     

    Last Word…

    Of Gold and Drama – Gibbon on Late Antique Bishops (Again) – He Despises Them

    Gibbon’s negative asides concerning holy men in offices of highest leadership in the 4th century Church (and before, and after) is legendary.

    Per Gibbon:

    speaking of the bishops attending the Council of Constantinople – one of the pillars of almost all modern Christian Churches’ doctrinal stances:

    In an age when the ecclesiastics had scandalously degenerated from the model of apostolical purity, the most worthless and corrupt were always the most eager to frequent and disturb the episcopal assemblies. The conflict and fermentation of so many opposite interests and tempers inflamed the passions of the bishops: and their ruling passions were, the love of gold and the love of dispute. Many of the same prelates who now applauded the orthodox piety of Theodosius had repeatedly changed, with prudent flexibility, their creeds and opinions; and in the various revolutions of the church and state, the religion of their sovereign was the rule of their obsequious faith

    (DEF II, v.3, ch.27, p.34)

    and later, quoting an ancient source (Gregory of Nanzienzen, the president of the Council!) on the character of the men attending

    Such unjust and disorderly proceedings forced the gravest members of the assembly to dissent and to secede; and the clamorous majority, which remained masters of the field of battle, could be compared only to wasps or magpies, to a flight of cranes, or to a flock of geese

    (DEF II, v.3, ch.27, p.35)

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