Bionic Mosquito has read a book by Carl R. Trueman called “Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution” (2022) and written a multi-part review.
Here is an excerpt from his final part:
Trueman concludes his book with the recognition that the narrative he has told is a somewhat depressing one for traditional Christians. What, then, is to be done? First, Trueman notes: face our complicity in the expressive individualism of the day.
He offers an example that makes clear the reality that every Christian in the West is, in a manner, Protestant. We are each free to attend any type of church – all forms of Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches are available to almost all Christians. It is, if you will, a manner of expressing our individualism.
We go to the church that makes us feel good, or that doesn’t stress us too much. In other words, where our felt needs are met. We are more concerned with how the church makes us feel than how well the church conforms to Biblical issues that might makes us feel…uncomfortable.
Do we look back to the Reformation for the model that offers the solution to our time? The high Middle Ages in the Western Church? The synergy of the Eastern Church? No. Trueman suggests we look back to the first and second century Church, a time when the Church was also the outlaw, the persecuted minority. A time when Christianity was a marginalized sect, little understood, considered immoral and seditious.
This idea fits with something Justo L. Gonzáles writes in the first volume of his “The Story of Christianity” (2010), which I am currently reading, in the chapter on Constantine:
“[W]hat is of paramount importance . . . is not so much how sincere Constantine was, or how he understood the Christian faith, as the impact of his conversion and his rule both during his lifetime and thereafter. That impact was such that it has even been suggested that throughout most of its history the church has lived in its Constantinian era, and that even now, in the twenty-first century, we are going through crises connected with the end of that long era.” (p. 132)
Further on, Gonzáles adds this point:
Eusebius of Caesarea, “in all probability the most learned Christian of his time” (p. 149), a contemporary of Constantine and his “ardent admirer”, wrote about him in such a way that “one receives the impression that now, with Constantine and his successors, the plan of God has been fulfilled. No longer will Christians have to decide between serving the coming reign and serving the present one – which has become a representative and agent of the Reign of God. Beyond the present political order, all that Christians are to hope for is their own personal transference into the heavenly kingdom . . . Religion tended to become a way to gain access to heaven, rather than to serve God in this life and the next.” (p. 154)
And then, Gonzáles delivers what I perceive as a great promise:
“[A]s long as the Constantinian era endured, most individuals and movements that rekindled eschatological hope were branded as heretics and subversives, and condemned as such. It would be only as the Constantinian era approached an end, particularly in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, that eschatology would once again become a central theme in Christian theology.” (p. 154)
Eschatology is of course a main point discussed in the voluminous work of Gary North.
It’s also noteworthy that even in those early times “not all Christians regarded the new circumstances with like enthusiasm” as Eusebius (p. 155). The most noteworthy reactions were the monastic one and Donatism.
The monastic, one could say “escapist”, reaction to the Christian embrace of “Constantinianism” is highly interesting in that one can say that monks and monasteries did more than any other movement in the early middle ages to civilize the physical and spiritual wilderness of Europe. A point worth pondering.