About Me and my Blog

Dear reader,

IMG_3485bw3Welcome to this blog. My name is Charlie Johnson; I’m currently a doctoral student studying church history at Princeton Theological Seminary. This blog is a place for me to articulate my thoughts, work through difficult issues, share my research, and make connections with people who share my interests. I hope you find it’s a place for you as well. My posts will be mostly about the humanities, focusing on the history of Christianity. Sometimes more personal and/or contemporary issues will appear.

The name Dear Reader comes from St. Augustine. It expresses my hope for this blog and the kinds of interaction that will occur here:

“Dear reader, whenever you are as certain about something as I am, go forward with me; whenever you hesitate, seek with me; whenever you discover that you have gone wrong, come back to me; or if I have gone wrong, call me back to you. In this way we will travel along the street of love together as we make our way toward him of whom it is said, ‘Seek his face always.’”  ~ De Trinitate 1.3.5

3 comments on “About Me and my Blog

  1. Gary

    Hi, Charlie –
    I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I very much appreciate the invitational and candid tone of your blog and am writing you to respectfully converse on the subject that follows, hopefully for our mutual benefit and understanding. I have been interested in learning more about the history of the Arian controversy and evolution of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity (the latter is not an accepted doctrine in my Christian faith) so that I can better converse, understand, and appreciate the devotion to that theology that I see in good friends and associates not of my faith. I have lately been studying some of the writings of R. P. C. Hanson. I read your blog “Messiness in History” (circa 2010) with great interest (https://sacredpage.wordpress.com/tag/r-p-c-hanson/) in which you recounted some of Hanson’s writings, that I had also come across, which depicted Arians in a somewhat fairer or at least “ambiguous” light. I appreciated your straightforward thoughts and considerations expressed in your blog. In connection specifically with the evolution of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, Hanson expressed an unique viewpoint in an essay: “If therefore we are to survey all these critical years from 318 to 381 candidly and then ask ourselves what was the process whereby orthodoxy was achieved during that period, we must abandon the old shibboleths. It is no use referring to a ‘majestic pondering’ on the part of the church. It is no use pretending that this was a story of orthodoxy being defended strenuously against the attacks of heretics. We must remember that the great majority of our sources for this period were written by people who belonged to the school of thought that finally triumphed, and that they are consequently infused by a bias for which we must make allowance. In these circumstances it is clear that the way in which orthodoxy was achieved was a process of trial and error. Though this conclusion is very different from that which historians of the period favoured till quite recently, it is not really surprising. This is, after all, the method by which human beings arrive at truth in any area of human knowledge and investigation, whether scientific, technical, literary, aesthetic or philosophical. It was indeed the method which had obtained in the history of Christian doctrine before the Arian controversy, and that controversy itself was no exception.” **

    Would you be willing to express your thoughts and perspective about this quote and/or would you also know of any other sources or theologians who have responded in any way to Hanson’s drawn historical conclusion that the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity resulted from a “process of trial and error”?

    Thank you.

    Sincerely and respectfully,

    Gary Allred

    **Hanson, R., “The Achievement of Orthodoxy in the Fourth Century AD,” in Rowan Williams, ed., The Making of Orthodoxy: Essays in honour of Henry Chadwick (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 151.

    1. Charlie

      Hi Gary,

      Good questions. One historian who has taken a similar line on the ecumenical councils is Philip Jenkins, Jesus Wars. He stresses the politics of theology. On a more doctrinal level, you might look at Rowan Williams, Arius. As the former archbishop of Canterbury, Williams is sympathetic to orthodoxy, but he acknowledges that the move to Nicaea was in fact a development and that there is a kind of Origenistic conservatism in Arius. A dense but invaluable book on the topic as a whole is Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy.

  2. Fariba

    It is great to find other bloggers interested in Church history. I’m currently deciding on PhD programs. I will have an MA in French in May. I’m interested in late medieval and early modern French religious performance. I found your blog through a review you wrote on Augustijn’s biography of Erasmus. I’m currently reading it to get a general overview of the man and his period. Definitely an impressive book for its size.

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