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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.
For our next meeting on Tuesday, August 26, please read the next three sections of Chapter 21: Social Watersheds in the Netherlands and England (1650 – 1750), Gender Roles in the Enlightenment, and Enlightenment in the Eighteenth Century.
We will be having our next meeting on Tuesday, August 12.
Please read the first two sections of Chapter 21: Natural and Unnatural Philosophy (1492 – 1700) and Judaism, Skepticism, Deism (1492 – 1700), and please answer one of the following questions:
- What are the origins and purposes of Freemasonry or Masonic practice? What attitudes of the Reformation did they inherit? What connections did they have with more esoteric sources of sacred literature like hermetic books, Neoplatonic writings, and the Jewish Cabbala?
- Describe the impact of the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries. How did the study and progress of science (or ‘natural philosophy’) impact theology during this time? What were some of the religious ideas of Sir Isaac Newton? What was the primary focus of Francis Bacon’s project in extending human knowledge through empiricism and how did it relate to the story of Adam and Eve?
- Describe the impact the 1492 expulsion of the Jewish population in the Iberian peninsula had upon Europe as they spread to other territories. How did they view the Reformation? How did the culture of doubt and skepticism of religion come about as a result of oppressive Church practices like the Iberian Inquisitions? How did the religiously tolerant atmosphere of places like Amsterdam foster religious skepticism?
- Discuss the impact of the thoughts and works of Baruch de Spinoza. What were some of his beliefs about God and religion that many found so dangerous? Describe his two important works Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670) and Ethics (1677). Why were these works banned?
- Discuss how the Huguenots were behind many of the anti-religious writings during the Enlightenment. Explain how the historical criticism of the Bible during this time led to serious doubts about its divine inspiration.
- How did the observations of Pierre Bayle, Thomas Hobbes, early Quakers, Isaac La Peyrere, and the discovery of other races of people in the Americas affect thought about the authority of the Church and the authority of the Bible?
- What is deism and how did it gain prominence during the Enlightenment? How did Protestant Evangelicals and Pietist counteract deism?
I know some are really excited to read this part of history and the importance of the Enlightenment, so it should be fertile ground for some interesting discussions and insights in the upcoming weeks ahead. Really looking forward to our discussions.
Please submit your essays by Monday, August 11.