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Christian-history.org: Recent Developments and St. Augustine
May 24, 2013
Hi! Paul Pavao here, from Christian-history.org:
I am not very good at this newsletter thing, apparently. I don't get these out often, and I suspect I haven't been getting you the best content I could.
Let me make one last excuse for that: it takes a long time to get caught up when you've spent 10 months in and out of the hospital for leukemia, then an entire summer trying to get your energy back after four rounds of chemo, six each full body and brain radiations, and a bone marrow transplant.
But we're back on track at Christian-history.org. I hired my daughter-in-law to help me get my web sites back in order, and she's done a fantastic job. (She has also written a booklet called Slavery During the Revolutionary War which is available on Kindle for just 99 cents. Just look up Esther Pavao slavery on amazon.com. I think it's available on Nook, too. That's a result of a writing assignment for our Revolutionary-War.net site. She is as diligent a researcher as I am.)
So here's our biggest news. Now that we've published three books, we're going to do some promotions and make you some offers. Here's what I think are the two best offers:
1. A contest - we are going to ask for writings on church history that are between 10,000 and 70,000 words. The best work submitted will receive a prize--we're leaning towards a Kindle Fire right now--and publication. We still have to work out all the details of publication because this is the first time we've ever done something like this for someone else. We would, however, publish the work on both Kindle and in print form.
2. I have a new booklet coming out called The Apostles Gospel that is a survey of the Book of Acts. It's going to be the first of a series of booklets on "the faith once for all delivered to the saints," and I want all of you to get a chance to see how powerful and simple these booklets are. So I'm going to put it on Kindle for free within the next two weeks. I will send another email when it's ready with a link to the page.
I don't know how many of you are writers yourself. We are not a large publishing company (yet), but we have learned something about marketing books. (Lesson 1: Don't get leukemia a month after your book comes out! Very bad for the marketing plan!)
So look for another email that gives the details of the contest (and offers the free Kindle booklet). We are not going to charge for this contest, though most contests of this sort have a $10-$20 entrance fee.
I can't leave you with no early Christian history in this newsletter, so let me close with a comment and a couple quotes:
The Faith Delivered to the Saints
Some friends and I have been enjoying "On the Catechising of the Uninstructed," which is a letter by Augustine giving advice on how to instruct new believers who are being prepared for baptism. I'm doing a "basics" class in our church, and the great Augustine is helping me choose topics :-D.
I'm not going to talk about that writing specifically here. I am just going to tell you a bit about Augustine. You can read "On the Catechising of the Uninstructed" yourself.
Augustine was known as a righteous and self-disciplined man. His testimony, in an age when the testimony of the church was not the brightest, was impeccable.
He had some unusual ideas, which I won't discuss too deeply because he is not one of the people I have read extensively. Here are the three "unusual ideas" he is most known for:
Did Augustine Advocate "Sword" Evangelism?
This I have read myself. Augustine did not advocate persecution. However, he made a decision not to oppose it. Concerning the Donatists, he said that when he saw the results of the emperor's forced conversions, he couldn't see how he could speak against it. Those rescued from the Donatists were giving thanks, he said, for their new life and their rescue.
You can decide whether he's giving an unbiased testimony in that respect. Since the Donatist "heresy" was as racial as it was doctrinal, it seems hard to believe that Donatists were really so universally thankful as Augustine suggests.
It's an area for further research. If you're intrigued, you might try searching for books on the history of heresy. They will always cover the Donatists.
You may or may not know that the earliest Christians after the New Testament spoke openly against the idea that God determines who will and won't be saved. The Romans believed in predestination because of the god Fate, and so the early Christians spoke on the subject somewhat regularly. I have a page of quotes from them at https://www.christian-history.org/predestination-quotes.html.
Augustine, because of his own experience of salvation, is the first Christian to teach double predestination: that God chooses not only who will be saved, but who will be condemned. He became bishop in A.D. 396, to give you a time frame, about 70 years after the Council of Nicea.
Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk before he was expelled from Catholicism. He was every bit as "Calvinistic" as John Calvin, and he even wrote a book entitled "The Bondage of the Will," one of his more caustic works, directed against Erasmus. John Calvin was almost 30 years younger than Luther, so the track of the predestination doctrine is Augustine to Luther to Calvin to the rest of us.
Augustine: No Salvation Outside Rome
I am relatively certain that Augustine never said, "There is no salvation outside the church of Rome." I haven't read everything, or even most, of what Augustine said, so I can't say certainly, but I do know this:
Prior to Augustine, pretty much everyone would have said, "There is no salvation outside the church." They just wouldn't have added Rome to it.
Protestants have often lost their focus on the church. Perhaps it's a leftover fear from the usually corrupt and sometimes tyrannical authority of the Roman church in Europe during the middle ages. Nonetheless, the doctrine that being in the church is essential for salvation is not difficult to derive from Scripture. Paul is very emphatic about the word "need" in speaking of one another in 1 Corinthians 12, and his exaltation of the church in Ephesians chapters 1,4, and 5 is remarkable.
The question today has always been: which church?
My personal longing has always been that the local church--the Christians, not any particular organization--could return to what we read about in Acts 2:42-47. The Church in Jerusalem is not the only church that has experienced such delight.
You can read quotes on the fellowship of the early Christians at https://www.christian-history.org/christian-fellowship-quotes.html. Reading them there will save some space in this email that is already so long :-D.
Augustine and the Canon of Scripture
I recently read again that the "Council of Hippo" sanctioned the 27 books of our New Testament in A.D. 393.
That's true, but that was not a Church-wide council, but a local synod with no authority to enforce that canon.
Augustine's relationship to this is that he was the bishop of Hippo! He became bishop in 396, just three years after the Synod. Yet in 412, he wrote that a good student of the Bible must be familiar with which books are accepted by which churches:
Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority to such as are held by the smaller number and those of less authority. (_On Christian Doctrine_ II:8:12)
I'll close with that, a bit of history I hope you found interesting.
Stay tuned for the contest and the book release.
If you have questions or comments, you are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One last note: If I haven't pointed it out already, my first book, both a careful historical description and the thrilling story of the Council of Nicea, is on Kindle. It's called _In the Beginning Was the Logos_, and here's a most recent review (on FB) from a man who is an adult convert to Eastern Orthodoxy: Review
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