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“Silence” – a film by Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s new move “Silence” opens this Christmas day.

It is based on Shusaku Endo’s book.

For historical background on the movie and the book, check out our post (the last essay on the bottom) about this topic here.

 

 

 

 

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Plotinus and Neo-Platonism’s Influence on Augustine

Plotinus (205 - 270)

Plotinus (205 – 270)

Before we delve into Confessions, we will start exploring the development of Augustine’s philosophy and theology.

For a while, Augustine had been influenced by Manichaeism, a Persian adaptation of Christianity, which added in Zoroastrianism, speculative philosophy and superstition.  Augustine was a Manichee for nine years.  Then during a trip to Rome in 383, due to his education in the liberal arts, he began to question Manichaeism when he saw that its understanding of the universe owed more to astrology than astronomy.

The next year, he met the formidable figure of Ambrose, bishop of Milan.  His great intellect and fiery sermons left a deep impression on Augustine.  In Ambrose, Augustine found someone who could communicate at his own intellectual level, further confirming his rejection of the Manichees and opening the way for his return to the Christian faith.

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Brief Overview of St. Augustine’s Philosophy

I know that I stated that we’d be doing Augustine’s Confessions later on this month, but I’ve decided to hold off a bit longer to see if we can recruit some more people into the group, so we will not begin until June.

In the meantime, we will spend the rest of the month getting to know Augustine and the world he lived in better.

The video above gives an overview of Augustine’s philosophy and the world he lived in, which is vital to understand what and why he wrote.  Although much of the video focuses on his monumental The City of God, we still get a good general overall sense of his beliefs, especially his political philosophy, and why he is still relevant today.

UPDATE: Final Thoughts on Diarmaid MacCulloch’s “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years”

Well, we’ve come to the end after two years of reading “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years” and we share our final thoughts here.

Howard and Chris share what they have learned and gained from reading this book; Michael writes about the historical development of how Greek pagan philosophy seeped into Western theology and how it has affected our contemporary reading of the Bible; I share my thoughts on divine intervention (or non-intervention more specifically) and history or my attempt to understand God’s role in history after having read this book.

We hope and pray that we will use the knowledge gained from this session wisely.  I believe that this is just the beginning of our journey into learning more about the history of the Church.

Final Thoughts on “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years” by Diarmaid MacCulloch

 

After a long hiatus, we will share our final thoughts on MacCulloch’s book.

 

Please write a summary of these main points:

  1. Go back to your very first essays here to see if reading this book fulfilled some or all of your expectations.  What were the strengths and weaknesses of this book in relation to your expectations from the start?
  2. Provide one (no more than two if need be) area or moment of Church history as told by MacCulloch that was most interesting for you or changed your perspective of Christianity.
  3. Finally, how has your faith been affected after having read through Church history? What lingering questions or thoughts do you still have?

 

We will have our final meeting on Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years next Sunday, May 3.

 

 

‘The Confessions of St. Augustine’

"The Conversion of St. Augustine" by Fra Angelico,  (circa 1395–1455)

“The Conversion of St. Augustine” by Fra Angelico, (circa 1395–1455)

 

 

‘You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness.

You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness.

You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you.

I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you.

You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.’

– Augustine of Hippo, Confessions (Book 10.27)

 

Starting in May, we will be taking an in-depth study into one of the most influential books ever written by one of the greatest and influential minds of the West, Confessions by Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, otherwise known as Augustine of Hippo (or St. Augustine).

 

Perhaps you had to read Confessions as a requirement for your classics or liberal arts classes during college, but only spent a couple of sessions on it. Or maybe you read it a long time ago and now want to visit it again and ruminate on Augustine’s thoughts a bit more thoroughly now. Whatever the reason may be, we invite you to join us as we begin a new venture into the heart and mind of a man deeply and passionately committed to his faith and whose thoughts still resonate vibrantly till this day.

 

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“The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin” by Kurt Eichenwald in Newsweek

A friend sent me a link to this article about the Bible and biblical illiteracy among evangelicals today from the January 2015 issue of Newsweek.

The author makes the argument that modern American evangelicalism (aka the popular conservative portrayal of Christianity many have in mind in America) is quite at odds with what the Bible actually teaches, particularly when it comes to issues about the inerrancy of the Bible, issues on homosexuality, women’s roles in the church, the formation of the canon, and other issues.  In fact, the Bible condemns the style of Christianity modern evangelicals are practicing now, the article states.

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UPDATE: Chapter 25: Culture Wars (1960 – Present) – Part II: Doctrine of Hell in 20th century and the Orthodox Church after the Soviet Union

Russian church

Russian Orthodox Church has enjoyed a resurgence since the end of atheist Soviet Communist rule in 1991. (Reuters)

This will be our next to last submissions on MacCulloch’s Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years: two essays on the relevancy of the doctrine of hell in churches today and how the Orthodox Church has changed after the collapse of communism in Russia after 1991.

In our last entry for this series, coming next month, we will reflect on how a knowledge of Church history has impacted our understanding of the Christian faith.

Chapter 25: Culture Wars (1960 – Present) – Part II

Pope John Paul II (1920 - 2005)

Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005)

It has been a long journey that dated back almost two years ago in April of 2013 when we first started reading Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years.  And now we have come to its conclusion.

Please read the remainder of Chapter 25, the last chapter of the book, where we will cover: A Cultural Revolution from the Sixties, Old-Time Affirmations, and Freedom: Prospects and Fears.

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UPDATE: Chapter 25: Culture Wars (1960 – Present) – Part I – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, the Civil Rights movement, apartheid in South Africa, and minjung theology in South Korea

 

Notice at a beach in South Africa.

Notice at a beach in South Africa.

 

 

Here are our submissions for the first half of Chapter 25.

 

We see both the good and the bad side of the Christian church’s actions during the 20th century – much of it having to do with political action in the United States, South Africa, and South Korea.