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.Â I for one donâ€™t grieve this one bit.Â I regard â€œChristendomâ€ as a morally dubious phenomenon that probably did as much harm to the gospel as it ever did any good.Â It consisted more in the promotion of institutional power of churches and church officials.Â It may have had some effect in shaping professed public morals, and perhaps even some effect on moral practice.Â But I donâ€™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.Â If Christians want to figure out how to be authentic and particuarly Christian while also negotiating their contributions to the wider society, itâ€™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.