Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Charles Freeman's A.D. 381 Reviewed in ForeWord Magazine
ForeWord magazine offers a review of A.D. 381: "In A.D. 381: Heretics, Pagans, and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State, the historian Charles Freeman pitches us into a world in which a magnificent diversity of opinion and extensive intellectual networking were quashed in 381, when Emperor Theodosius superseded Constantines Edict of Toleration. It stated, no one shall be denied freedom to believe as he deems best suited to himself. But after defeat at Adrianople in 378, when Emperor Valens died on the battlefield fighting the Goths, the Empire desperately needed a single supportive Church, not a divisive set of quarreling Christian communitiesand Theodosius was determined to create it. He decreed, all peoples shall practice that religion which the divine Peter the Apostle transmitted to the Romans And he required acceptance of the single deity of God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, as promulgated in the Nicene Creed. Demented and insane non-acceptors would be smitten by Divine Vengeanceand imperial hostility. American presidential debates pale beside the intensity of the early Churchs theological set-tos in which victory brought power and political prestige. Typically, Theodosius Council of Constantinople failed to promote doctrinal peace: the bishops screeched on every sidea mob of wild young menlike a swarm of wasps. Freeman brilliantly recreates the late-Roman, early medieval world: Origen, Eusebius, Augustine, Ambrose, and other theo-politicos are active players, not textbook figures, while tolerance has a moving voice in Themistius and Symmachus. All is set against an evocative presentation of power, politics, war, and Church-building in the late Roman world, often of surprising modernity."