More on the Historical Rejection of Patristics

The controversy of magic and miracles in the Reformation, how both sides used Patristics for their own conveniences, and the rise of the word ceased in the Christian religious vocabulary.

The fifteenth to nineteenth centuries were focused on the Church tradition of miracles. The Church, which controlled the civil, and religious laws, established its authority and decision making through the works of miracles. It could not easily be questioned. As was previously written, this mysticism influenced every sphere of life; from politics, to health, taxes, and the natural sciences. It did not allow for dialogue, external accountability, or encourage scientific exploration.

The Medieval and Reformation supernaturalists had a greater propensity towards mysticism and overstated the ancient writers to propel their positions. It makes the modern reader think the Patristic writers were more deeply into the supernatural, magic, and miracles than they really were.

In order to bring a new civil order, the foundation of magic and miracle had to be broken. One of the biggest, and most convincing proofs against the mysticism of the time, was that the age of miracles had simply passed, or in its proper theological term, ceased. As previously noted in The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy, the idea popularized by Conyers Middleton had accelerated over time and became a movement called cessationism. By negating the power of miracles, certain established traditions, individuals, or practices were no longer considered divine, a new social framework could be built.

Both positions were in the extreme, and neither seriously took into account what the earlier writers represented.

If the fourth century writers were allowed to speak for themselves without the perceptions of either camp, miracles were not a priority – not because they had ceased, but it just didn’t fit in with the dialogues and practices of the day. The fourth century writers were more interested in developing doctrines around a Greek philosophical framework than in emphasizing the miraculous. The emphasis was on acquiring knowledge in such a way that changed your worldview and applying these life-lessons in everyday life. In fact, if one does not comprehend the Greek philosophical underpinnings in this period, then understanding of the earlier Church writers is compromised. The author and scholar Panagiotes K. Chrestou agrees, and made this point early on in his helpful book, Greek Orthodox Patrology: an introduction to the Study of the Church Fathers.

Secondly the earlier Church writers did not believe magic and miracles were necessary signs to validate the Church, their leadership or their devoutness, so, not much time was devoted to it. They did occur on certain occasions but neither the Church nor the individual was to be defined by them.

Eighteenth and nineteenth century Protestant theologians and Rationalists interpret the earlier Church writers de-emphasis on the supernatural to mean that the initial miracles of the Church had ceased. The absence should not interpreted this way.

For more info on Patristics and philosophy, read the article, Patrology and Greek Philosophy.

This is an addendum to a previously posted article, The Historical Rejection of Patristics and its Legacy.

charlesasullivan

charlesasullivan

Charles Sullivan is a researcher and writer on topics of textual criticism, linguistics, theology, Christian mysticism and philosophy. He also frequently likes to delve into contemporary social and ethical issues from a faith perspective.
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One thought on “More on the Historical Rejection of Patristics

  1. Historian, Chris Wickham discusses magic and miricles in the christian church in his book, The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000. http://www.amazon.com/Inheritance-Rome-Illuminating-Dark-400-1000/dp/0143117424/ While it’s beginning, the 400’s is slightly later than the beginning of the patristics period, I highly recommend the book. You do not often get books that include historical information about the christian church from actual historians. Often you get them from folks from religion departments. Most people don’t look for this when choosing a book. they may overlook the difference between a historian, and a religion graduate. I can at least recommend this book, as one that talks about miracles and magic in the christian church. Lots of good information about saints bones, and the major cathedrals that contained them, as well as the distribution of monateries throughout europe.

    Cheers! RichGriese.NET

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