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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Wednesday, July 25 2001

Eclipse of human history?

(Note: Despite the opening setup, the following note is not mainly "religious" in subject or intent.)

One of the pleasant surprises in my journey to Orthodoxy for the past six years has been the discovery that the world in the early centuries after Christ's incarnation was not the planet of Neanderthals it is often thought as. The dominant folk religion of Americans (which tends to remake our organized belief system over to fit the circumstances of the current generation) seems to conspire with a naively understood "evolution" to make us think that after the Apostles passed away humanity reverted to illiteracy and were deprived of both science and common sense.

My quest for Orthodoxy has led me to read dozens of books written between the year 100 A.D. and the following half millenium. I was, at first, surprised that the writing is just as intelligent and accessible to modern readers as the Old or New Testament. All the writers I've read from St. Ignatius, one of the leaders of the church immediately after the time of the Apostles and an early martyr in Rome, to St. John Chrysostom in the fourth century, and in a continuous stream onward to our time are as well schooled in the Old Testament and the New Testament as the Baptist and Presbyterian preachers I sat under most of my life, quoting those sources to reinforce similar lesson and sermon points.

"Evolution" has propounded a theory that certain leaders in their generations (which could include Jesus and the Apostles), may be far more "evolved" than the general population of their time. After their passing, the masses of their people lose the momentum the more highly evolved inaugurated, and the general population requires many generations, even many centuries, to climb back up to their former leaders' stature. A simplistic summary of European history explains the "dark ages" as the virtual destruction of all the gains previous generations achieved, in support of that evolutionary point. Even the most simplistic versions of the history of the Christian era in both Catholic and Protestant schools of thinking support a corroborating theory: The Catholic history, reduced to its bare bones, suggests that the great thinkers of the Christian era were the Apostles, especially Paul (first century), Augustine (third century), and Thomas Aquinas (13th century). The Protestant version is: Paul (first century), Augustine (third century), and Martin Luther and John Calvin, 16th century).

My reading counters these scenarios by showing the dark ages were an interruption in education, progress, "great thinking," and production of books, that characterized only Western Europe. In the Greek- or Byzantine-dominated world (and, incidentally, the Islamic world, which began in the sixth century) there was no break in development. Of course, this is not an original idea of my own; it only seems "original" because it was so long dawning. It's been propounded by far greater minds than mine, and also is the thesis of a four-part lecture-travel television series produced by an international consortium and broadcast on the Discover Channel in 1997: "Byzantium, the Lost Empire." (The link jumps to a page with additional information.) But even the series' title is misleading...hundreds of millions of people in the world knew about the Byzantine Empire during the millenium that it flourished; it was only in the Roman (later Frankish-dominated) Western European world that it was "lost" from public reckoning.

My purpose here is not, as it may seem, to promote the Eastern mystique or approach to life, but merely to support my original point: that from the first century on, there was never an eclipse of progress in thinking, theology, preaching, and the production of worth-reading books. The fall of Rome may have launched a devolution of the West, but there was never any shutdown of evolution in the rest of the world.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Martha Stewart's Way vs. My Way
(collect all 19)

Martha's way #4: To prevent egg shells from cracking, add a pinch of salt to the water before hard boiling. My way: Who cares if they crack, aren't you going to take the shells off anyway?

Martha's way #5: To get the most juice out of fresh lemons, bring them to room temperature and roll them under your palm against the kitchen counter before squeezing. My way: Sleep with the lemons between the mattress and box springs.

Martha's way #6: To easily remove burnt-on food from your skillet, simply add a drop or two of dish soap and enough water to cover bottom of pan, and bring to a boil on stovetop. My way: Eat at Chili's every night and avoid cooking.

Sent by Bonnie Turner


God has a history of using the insignificant to accomplish the impossible.

Sent by Zan

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