Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rice Haggard, by Colby D. Hall

Hall, Colby D. Rice Haggard: The American Frontier Evangelist Who Revived the Name Christian. Fort Worth: University Christian Church, 1957.

It's been about fifteen years since I first read this book. But recently, I've looked at it again. For Stone-Campbell Restoration History buffs, here's a quick report:

This is the only book-length treatment of the life and times of Rice Haggard. Its author, Colby Hall, was for many years a teacher of church history at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. I never met Hall. But his passion for the subject of Restoration History and his personal flair shine through on every page.

The book begins with a chronological table and two photographs of prominent Haggard descendants. (Unfortunately, we have no likeness of Rice Haggard himself).

Chapter I provides a historical backdrop. Hall takes the reader back to Rice Haggard's ancestor, James, who arrived in America in 1689. Chapter II outlines the religious context of Colonial Virginia, the original Haggard family home in America.

Chapters III and IV trace the lines of Nathanael and Edmund Haggard, both sons of James. Rice, the subject of the book, was the son of Edmund. The chapter on the line of Edmund Haggard goes on to tell of Rice's involvement with James O'Kelley and the Republican Methodist Church.

Chapter V reports the contribution that Rice made to the movement associated with Barton W. Stone and the Kentucky Christians.

Chapter VI gives an overview of the family and personal life of Rice.

Chapter VII provides a summary of the sources and the content of Rice Haggard's pamphlet, An Address to the Different Religious Societies on the Sacred Import of the Christian Name.

Two final chapters supply information about the Haggard family in the early twentieth century and the use of the name "Christian" among believers in Jesus. A bibliography, a diagram of the James Haggard family tree, and a general index round out the book.

Bibliographical Note:

Though the book by Colby Hall is the monograph on Rice Haggard, it is now supplemented and corrected by mainly one source: Roberts, R. L. "Rice Haggard (1769-1819) 'A Name Rever'd'," Discipliana 54 (Fall 1994): 67-81.

For a popular-level treatment of the life and significance of Haggard, with photos, see my article, "Rice Haggard: Unsung Hero of the Restoration Movement," Gospel Advocate 139 (March 1997): 26-31.

Better yet, to get the content of my GA article and more, check out the Rice Haggard posts here at Frankly Speaking.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Predestination and Early Christian Writers

Augustinian predestination is not the doctrine of the Church but only the opinion of a distinguished Catholic theologian. --as quoted in D. MacCulloch, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, p. 308. MacCulloch cites G. Bonner, Saint Augustine of Hippo: Life and Controversies. 2d edition. (Norwich, 1963), pp. 394-95.

To see numerous examples of the early church's commitment to the doctrine of human free will as opposed to predestination, take a look at this page at the website of the Austin Graduate School of Theology.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

MacCulloch, Chapters 7 and 8

Part III (= Chapters 7 and 8) of MacCulloch's survey of Christian history takes up the story of the early church in the south and east after the Council at Chalcedon (451). These movements were partly the result of a debate about the nature of Christ.

The formula from Chalcedon said that Jesus Christ was "one person in two natures," human and divine. Most everyone agreed that the reported claim of Nestorius--that within Christ there were two persons--was absolute heresy. But for believers in places like Alexandria, it was also wrong to speak, as Chalcedon did, of Christ having two natures. The detractors explained that as wine and water become indistinguishable when mixed, so the human and divine in Christ were indistinguishable and essentially one. This was the position of the Monophysite movement. (MacCulloch calls this "Miaphysite." Both terms mean "one nature").

With their center of influence at Alexandria, the Miaphysites dominated northeast Africa. From there and also from the east bank of the Red Sea, the faith traveled further south into Africa all the way to Ethiopia. As a way of expressing their differences with Chalcedon, African Christians adopted the language called Coptic. On occasion, leaders at Constantinople attempted to strike a deal, holding to the Chalcedonian creed while maintaining ties with the Miaphysites. These efforts ultimately failed until, eventually, the southern churches became so institutionally and culturally different from Constantinople and Rome that the two sides were practically irreconcilable.

Another group breaking with Chalcedon went in the opposite theological direction and in a different physical direction. The Dyophysites emphasized the separateness of the human and divine in Jesus. Thus the early church's christological debate provided three distinct options: Miaphysite (one nature), Roman/Chalcedonian (two natures in one person), and Dyophysite (the human nature of Christ is separable from his divine person). The Dyophysite movement took root, often as a distinct minority, in various parts of Asia traveling as far east as India, China, and even Japan.

In chapter 8, MacCulloch shows that the rise and conquests of Islam and/or the presence of indigenous religious traditions had the effect of cutting off Africa and most of Asia from Roman and Byzantine expressions of Christianity. Those believers isolated in the South and East were often persecuted and oppressed. Nevertheless, they held to their faith (regarded by the West as heretical). The result is that there are to this day many vestiges of Christianity in Africa and Asia. And MacCulloch is convinced that a large number of these have yet to be appreciated or discovered by the West. He remarks that in the centuries following the break up of these two Christian worlds, what is truly remarkable is

just how little Western Chalcedonian Christians knew about centuries of Christian struggle, scholarship, sanctity and heroism in another world. Western Christianity, heir to Chalcedon, Reformation and Counter Reformation, still has a long way to go before the balance is fully righted.

Western Christians have forgotten that before the coming of Islam utterly transformed the situation in the eastern Mediterranean and Asia, there was a good chance that the centre of gravity of Christian faith might have moved east to Iraq rather than west to Rome. Instead, the ancient Christianity of the East was nearly everywhere faced with a destiny of contraction in numbers, suffering and martyrdom which still continues (284).

To this point in the book, I think this is the most impressive and important section.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

MacCulloch, Chapters 5 and 6

Oxford historian Diarmaid MacCulloch concludes Part II of his book, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, with chapters 5 and 6.

The title of Chapter 5 raises a question: "The Prince: Ally or Enemy?" MacCulloch begins by tracing the history of the church's relationship to the Roman Empire during the second century. Here, he offers a good description of how, to the Romans, the boldness of the Christians seemed like a provocation, how their aloofness created suspicion, and how their distinctive use of political language represented an affront to imperial authority. The Christians worshipped none of the traditional gods. Were they atheists? In their assemblies, it was said that they ate flesh and drank blood. Were they cannibals? Suspicion and resentment sometimes resulted in the martyrdom of Christians, terrible ordeals that resulted in the church having even more heroes. One can only wonder why MacCulloch ignores one of the earliest and most-interesting episodes in the history of Rome's various encounters with early Christianity: the conflict over the Cult of the Emperor in the province of Asia during the reign of Domitian, the unmistakable back story of the New Testament's Book of Revelation.

In a section on the "Third-Century Imperial Crisis," MacCulloch describes how in that period the borders of the Empire were receding. Among the biggest problems was weak leadership and governance. As a result, imperial government was reduced to "a police state" (167). "From Persecution to Persecution" describes the organized attempts of Decius (mid-3rd century) and Diocletian (early 4th) to obliterate Christianity. Finally, in a section on "Kings and Christians," MacCulloch provides a good overview of the Syriac-speaking church in the east. Once again, he makes a few remarks indicating that he has a bit of an axe to grind. Having referred to the "sheer diversity" of early Christianity, he remarks that it serves as "a vital lesson to learn for modern Christians who wish to impose a uniformity on Christian belief and practice which has never in fact existed" (176-77). This section of the chapter includes a good description of the Syriac-speaking church in the East.

Chapter 6, "The Imperial Church," begins with a section on "Constantine and the God of Battles." MacCulloch describes the development of Christianity under the patronage of the emperor who established the city of Constantinople and who led to the development of the church's organizational structure. Next, the author discusses the rise of monasticism as a reaction to Christianity's greater accommodation to and acceptance from the larger society. And he tells the stories of Pachomius, who originated monasteries, and Antony, who retreated to the desert and became the original hermit. MacCulloch also relates the story of Arius of Alexandria who reportedly said of Christ, "There was when he was not." Christ was created by the Father! Eventually, Constantine summoned the bishops of the Empire to Nicaea in 325. Homoousios was the term used in the proceedings of the council to affirm that Christ was "of one substance" with the Father (214). The Council of Constantinople, held in 381, finally outlawed Arianism. But, suppressed, it flourished among the Goths and Vandals, who lived outside the borders of the Empire and who apparently adopted heretical positions as a way of opposing Roman power.

The later Miaphysite (also called "Monophysite") controversy did not deal with the earlier theological question (how God the Father was different from, but similar to, Christ). Instead, this controversy took up the question of how to describe Christ's divine and human nature(s). By this time, the new power-politics character of Christianity clearly shows. Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Constantinople all vied power, not to mention Rome. In the debate over the Christological question, the Antiocheans were much more prepared to talk about Jesus's human nature than were the Alexandrians. Antioch had always given stronger emphasis to the literal sense of the Bible. By the year 400, the term Theotokos, "bearer of God" was already a common way of describing Mary. This was a result of the high Christology affirmed in the Nicean creed. Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, trained in the way of Antioch, rejected the emphasis placed on Theotokos. It should be balanced, he said, by the term Anthropotokos, "bearer of a human." The Council of Ephesus (431) condemned Nestorius. Finally, the Council of Chalcedon (451) proclaimed that the Father and Son are co-equal, and that the humanity and divinity of Christ are co-equal. In this way, Chalcedon was conclusive and definitive regarding both the Trinitarian and Christological controversies.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Graduation at the University of Connecticut

We decided to take some pics outside Chloe's apartment.

Chloe and Abigail

Just outside Gampel Pavillion

Congratulations and best wishes to the University of Connecticut Class of 2011!

Sunday Soccer

Here and there, I've posted a few photos of my soccer daughter, Abigail. She's still playing and had a game this morning in Rocky Hill. However, things are a little different these days: she's a teenager now and does not want her dad taking pictures of her. And since this Papa isn't quite ready to join the paparazzi, well, I didn't get the greatest photos. Here's the best I could do.

Last minute instructions from her coach before getting on the field.

That's her in the center of the photo. Rocky Hill didn't beat Berlin this time around. But they gave it a good try. 2-1 was the final score.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Few Notes on MacCulloch, Chapter 4

Back to Diarmaid MacCulloch's book, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. I mentioned in an earlier post that when it comes to the New Testament and Christian origins, MacCulloch displays a penchant for finding disagreement or contradiction where there isn't any. More of this shows up in Chapter 4.

For example, MacCulloch claims that when Paul refused to accept financial support from churches he was working with at the time, he acted "contrary" to the teaching of Jesus who said that "those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel." But why is it contrary if Paul, for the sake of his mission, chose to relinquished his rights?

In an attempt to bolster his point, he actually makes matters worse with a complete misreading of 2 Thessalonians 3:6. There Paul instructs Christians at Thessalonica to distance themselves "from any brother who is living in idleness." According to MacCulloch, Paul's rigid work ethic here runs counter to the example of "Jesus and his wandering Twelve." The author appears to have forgotten that he had earlier quoted Jesus to the effect that those engaged in a teaching ministry had a right to be supported. The idle Christians at Thessalonica had not left fishing nets in order to follow and to learn from Jesus. As 2 Thessalonians makes clear, assuming that the return of Christ was just around the corner, they had quit working altogether only to become a public nuisance, which is a vast difference. In the words of Paul, they had gone from busy to being busybodies. Not to mention that MacCulloch shouldn't be quoting Paul from 2 Thessalonians anyway since he earlier claimed that the Apostle didn't write it, labeling it one of the "later pastiches of the authentic letters" (see 97, especially note 53 which can be found on 1025).

Shallow reading of the New Testament turns up again in a discussion of Romans 16. Contrary to MacCulloch, in verses 1 and 2 of that chapter, sister Phoebe, a diakonos of the church at Cenchreae, does not receive a greeting from Paul. Instead, the Apostle instructs the Christian community at Rome to receive her and to give her any help she may need from them. The passage makes clear that Paul had given to Pheobe the responsibility and honor of delivering his Letter to the Romans, a bit of evidence that MacCulloch might have used to strengthen his point about the relatively-high status of women in at least some segments of the first-century church (116-17).

Again, I think that MacCulloch is a pretty good researcher and writer. And I still expect that, in later portions of his book, he'll be able to teach me a few things about Christian history. Until then, I'll say that in these early chapters he should have been more careful, not so quick to question the New Testament.