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Hurtado on Christendom

Posted by on Oct 9, 2010 in blog links, church history | 3 comments

Hurtado on Christendom

Back in the day (about 5 years ago) when I was investigating various Ph.D. programs (actually considering potential Ph.D. mentors), I considered studying under Larry Hurtado… assuming he would accept me… and assuming that the University of Edinburgh would accept me as a student. I had read several of his books (and we exchanged a few emails) and I was greatly encouraged and challenged by him.

Not long ago, Hurtado began blogging, at “Larry Hurtado’s blog” no less. Last week, he published a few blog posts concerning his recent trip to China. In one of those posts (“Early Christian Negotiated Existence“), he wrote a little about his views of Christendom. This is what he wrote:

In the Western nations where Christendom once was dominant, it is dominant pretty much no more.  I for one don’t grieve this one bit.  I regard “Christendom” as a morally dubious phenomenon that probably did as much harm to the gospel as it ever did any good.  It consisted more in the promotion of institutional power of churches and church officials.  It may have had some effect in shaping professed public morals, and perhaps even some effect on moral practice.  But I don’t like the idea of any religion being able to exercise social coercion, and I think that religious faiths should live or die solely by their ability to commend themselves to the consciences of people…

So, I find pre-Constantinian Christianity much, much more exciting than what comes later, with much more to say to churches, Christians, and non-Christians too in our modern era in which Christianity is essentially one religious option in a religiously plural world.  If Christians want to figure out how to be authentic and particuarly Christian while also negotiating their contributions to the wider society, it’s Christians and texts from the first three centuries that provide the best resources.

I’ve come to very similar conclusions. So, while I’m glad that I made the choices of Ph.D. program and professor that I made, I think it would have been very interesting working with Hurtado.


3 Comments

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  1. 10-9-2010

    “But I don’t like the idea of any religion being able to exercise social coercion, and I think that religious faiths should live or die solely by their ability to commend themselves to the consciences of people…:”

    Yes! That is what Americans need to learn about the founding of this country. I believe it is not a “christian nation” (nor is there such a thing) and does not explicitly declare the name of Jesus Christ in any founding documents for this reason. The founders already knew what that would bring. They were all too familiar with the Church of England. I am thankful they made America’s government such that it should not prostitute the name of Christ (but still could – take a look on your fiat currency).

  2. 10-9-2010

    Interesting post but a bit ironic. How many seminaries existed in the pre-Constantinian period? How many Christians had Ph.D.’s in the same period? Christendom has its problems, but Hurtado himself is a product of it and earns his living from it.

  3. 10-9-2010

    What I think is interesting is the Chinese government is looking to try some aspects of Christendom because they think it will help their economy become more powerful.