I have enrolled in my first seminary course. It is "Church History to the Reformation," and I am finding myself surprisingly riveted. I've always had a sort of passive interest in church history (feed it to me and I'll gobble it up, but no hunting/gathering really happens here), but I think what surprises me most is that the main textbook for the class--naturally a weighty tome--is so well-written. I've never had a textbook, which wasn't a novel for a literature class, that I have looked forward to reading so much. (Well, except for maybe Dr. Blomberg's Jesus and the Gospels.)
As I'm reading it, I'm finding lots of thoughts entering my head, not to mention information I never knew before. Like this: in 1975, when this book was written? The author thought that Gnosticism had totally died out. Huh. Maybe not.
Here's something else. It is impossible, in a post-DaVinci Code world, not to have heard about the bad, bad, misogynisitc, racist, close-minded clerics who gave Gnostics and other heretics a run for their money . . . or tried to get them to totally die out. Said clerics may in fact have been misogyinistic and/or racist--or they may have been products of their time and not been thinking about those issues because they were thinking of whether or not Jesus was both fully God and fully human and what that meant. There were some less-than-pleasant characters among them. I'm just saying, they might not be the villains it is currently fashionable to paint them as.
Among the lesser-known details about these accounts is that on occasion, the heretics won out--at least temporarily. Arius, for example, was sent into exile, but for some time later his doctrine almost completely triumphed, dying out mainly because divisions within the group's own ranks.
I have friends who promulgate something like the Arian heresy and although I disagree, I don't feel inclined to exile them or anything. If I get brave and motivated enough, there may come a post one of these days where I wrestle more with the question of heresy and orthodoxy in general. But right now, because I'm feeling a little fed up with fashionable conspiracy theories, I feel like telling some heretics to stop whining--they had their day, and they still have it . . . heresies come and go and come back, for goodness' sake (or something?), so stop making stuff up about the 2nd and 3rd century theologians (not to mention, say, the apostle Paul) and try to deal with orthodoxy. Accept it, reject it, whatever. Just . . . is it really necessary to make up stories about Paul being a Gnostic and Jesus marrying Mary Magdalene just because we're uncomfortable with Jesus' life and claims?
Okay. Enough soap-box. It's going to come back to bite me (if soap-boxes can bite), via my own words or someone else's--or both--soon enough.
But here's the other thing I just found out. Evidently, in the time of Tertullian, when people got baptised, there was a lot more to the ceremony than there is in most churches I've ever been in, but also, after the baptism, the one who had just been baptised "refrained from the daily bath for a week after having received the rite" (Latourette, p194). I'm glad that tradition didn't stick around . . . although it might explain why people hardly bathed at all during the Middle Ages . . .