Archive for September, 2005

St. Ignatius: Holy or Insane?

September 30th, 2005 5 comments

St. IgnatiusThis week my Christian Spirit class here at Regent College looked at martyrdom in Christianity; specifically in the early church. The early church often saw martyrdom as a means of connecting with the crucified Christ. The ultimate act of devotion and service was to imitate Christ by dying for their faith. Martyrdom is still present in Christianity although those of us in the western world will very rarely have to deal with this (persecution, maybe, martyrdom, probably not). Martyrdom specifically marked the early church before c. 312AD when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman world. Before 312AD Christians had to suffer harsh persecution (up to and including martyrdom) through such Roman rulers as (among others) Nero and Domitian (at the local level) as well as Decius, Valerian, and Diocletian (at the state sponsored level). What grasped the Spiritual imagination of Christians of this era was the thought of martyrdom.

A few specific examples arose that exemplified Christian martyrdom. One that is particularly interesting is the story of St. Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius was the third bishop (that is after St. Peter and St. Evodius) and was arrested in Syria (presumably because he would not offer allegiance to the pagan gods) and transported to Rome to be handed over to the lions of the arena. Ignatius was martyred in the Flavian Amphitheatre around 100AD.

While on his way to Rome, Ignatius wrote letters to many of his churches and I would especially like to point out his letter to the Roman church. In this letter Ignatius clearly spells out his desire to die as a martyr in the arena. The question that arises out of this letter (that was posed by professor Bruce Hindmarsh) is: did Ignatius have a holy longing for martyrdom or a neurotic deathwish?

Even after reading some background on Christian martyrdom as well as the specific context of Ignatius himself (see references), it is still difficult to come to an answer. Without the background and just reading his letter to the Romans, I would say that Ignatius was insane. Even with the background, I still lean that way. This is not to say that God did not use him and that he is somehow less “saintly”. In discussion, one thing that came out is what the nature of serving God is. Serving God will look like different things to different people. But I would say seeking death is not necessarily serving God even if you are doing that in the process. Serving God may end in martyrdom (or in today’s context, persecution), but martyrdom shouldn’t be the goal. The amount of sacrifice that persisted in Ignatius’ life could very easily conclude with martyrdom, it would have been completely consistent with his faith and works. But in reading his letter to the Romans, it seemed as though he was seeking martyrdom and not necessarily the service that may happen to lead to martyrdom.

That being said, I also want to mention two things that suggest Ignatius’ intentions were indeed holy. Firstly, Ignatius could have also been looking at the larger issue of church cohesiveness. There were lots of different things going on in the early church (of which many of Ignatius’ other letters address), many of them bad. Ignatius could have been using his martyrdom as a means to unite the churches around him, even in his death. He may have been at the point where he was not able to do anything for the ecumenical church so felt that his martyrdom and imitation of Christ could reinvigorate the early church. Secondly, the letter to the Romans could have been (as one student suggested in discussion) a pep-talk for himself. Essentially to build up the courage to follow his words with deeds. At one point he even says

Even if I were to come and implore you in person, do not yield to my pleading; keep your compliance for this written entreaty instead. Here and now, as I write in the fullness of life, I am yearning for death with al the passion of a lover. Earthly longings have been crucified (literally “my love has been crucified”); in me there is left no spark of desire for mundane things, but only a murmur of living water that whispers within me, ‘Come to the Father.’

This, of course, raises more questions. I do think this clearly shows Ignatius trying to prepare himself for martyrdom. He knows that if he sees the members of his church, he might not be able to follow through in deed what he has said in words so begs them to keep him on the path. But it is also clear that Ignatius wants to imitate Christ’s crucifixion at whatever cost. This still makes me think Ignatius had a neurotic deathwish that would disregard any other possibility for service in order to be like Christ in martyrdom.

As another student pointed out “if he is insane, I want to be as crazy as he is.” Amen to that.

What say you?

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Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans, in Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers, ed. Maxwell Staniforth (London: Penguin, 1987), 81-89.

Kenneth R. Morris, ’Pure Wheat of God’ or Neurotic Deathwish?: A Historical and Theological Analysis of Ignatius of Antioch’s Zeal for Martyrdom, Fides et Historia 26 (1994): 24-41.

Louis Bouyer, Martyrdom, in The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers (London:Burns & Oates, 1963), 190-210.

Categories: Religion Tags:

Christian Carnival LXXXIX

September 28th, 2005 4 comments

Christian Carnival LXXXIX has been posted over at In The Spirit of Grace. I have contributed my look at Genesis and Spirituality from my Christian Spirit class at Regent College. Also, if you would like to read a wider selection of posts, you can visit my Christian Carnival Archive to see all of the previous carnivals. Without further ado, head over and read Christian Carnival #89: A Holy-istic approach.

Its been a busy week. Regent retreat was good. Lots of reading to do. Hopefully get my car back this weekend… more to come.

Categories: Blogging, Christian Carnival Tags:

Google Earth Helps Discover Ancient Ruins

September 23rd, 2005 No comments

I have seen this story floating around and thought it was pretty interesting. Google helps discover Roman ruins (Requires subscription to Nature). Italian Luca Mori (in Italian) was looking through Google Earth and discovered some odd shadowing in some farmland in his home town and has figured out that it is from Roman ruins buired beneath the surface. Pretty cool, eh? If you don’t have a subscription to Nature, you can hear about the story via Boing Boing, Red Herring, SlashDot, and other various blogs. Mori has also created a website (in Italian and some English translation) called Cyber Archaeologist for other information on the project.

Also, if you want to see it for yourself via Google Maps, Click here. Or punch in Lat/Long 44.881722, 10.423450 to Google Earth.

I am going to be away on a retreat this weekend with the Regent College folks, so I will see you later. Have a lovely weekend!

Categories: Around the World Tags:

Emergency Plane Landing at LAX

September 21st, 2005 5 comments

A JetBlue airplane made an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport that worked out amazingly. The front landing gear was twisted so therefore could not land properly. The pilots did a great job and seemed to follow procedures perfectly. One thing that I liked when watching on CNN and FOXNews was they had experts on saying that nothing would go wrong and that there shouldn’t be any problems with the landing. I think that prevented the commentators from getting over excited and freaking out in general because they would have had to blantantly ignore the assessment of the experts. The video is quite interesting to watch. Both the FOXNews report and CNN report have video footage or go to their source: KTLA and their video.

Categories: Around the World, Social Commentary Tags:

Genesis and Spirituality

September 21st, 2005 4 comments

You may (or may not) have noticed that I haven’t been posting much. That will be fairly common I think just because of the nature of my studies right now, but I will do what I can.

One of the readings for my Christian Spirit class was from Deryck Sheriffs’ “Walking with God.” and I liked this quote:

Genesis tells a story of human origins too. Unlike the scientific disciplines of biology and paleoanthropology in which storytelling and teleological language is out of place, the Genesis story interprets human history on earth in terms of a history that is going somewhere with God.

And this from Eugene Peterson’s “Saint Mark. The Basic Text for Christian Spirituality”:

What happens here (in Mark 8:27-9:9) is that we are invited into becoming full participants in the story of Jesus, and shown how to become such participants. We are not simply told that Jesus is the Son of God; we not only become beneficiaries of his atonement; we are invited to die his death and live his life with the freedom and dignity of participants. And here is a marvellous thing: we enter the centre of the story without becoming the centre of the story.

And finally this from Jean Sullivan (as quote in the Peterson article):

The fundamental insight of the Bible… is that the invisible can speak only by the perceptable.

How do you like that?
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Deryck Sheriffs, Walking with God, chap. in The Friendship of the Lord: An Old Testament Spirituality (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1996), 27-61.

Eugene H. Peterson, Saint Mark. The Basic Text for Christian Spirituality, Crux 29 (1993): 2-9.

Jean Sullivan, Morning Light, p. 18.

Categories: Regent College, Religion Tags:

One True God Blog

September 19th, 2005 No comments

I would like to point you to a new blog by Hugh Hewitt called OneTrueGodBlog.

The first question should be: Why? The answer is because theology matters. A lot. I have asked these five excellent minds to ponder occasional questions from a layman that the layman thinks would be of interest to many more layman. I have discovered after 15 years in broadcast journalism that such questions and the answers they elicit are of great interest to the general public.

Sounds like an interesting project. There are five contributors who will add their thoughts to Hugh’s questions. I am not familiar with them (not that that means anything) but they look like a pretty good bunch that will be able to give some varied opinion. Stop by and check it out.

Also, you should visit 75 Degrees South: an interesting look at life in the antarctic (Hat Tip to Sal for the link).

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Categories: Blogging, Religion Tags: