Sunday, June 18, 2023

From Chaos to the Church

 A Great Course

In January of this year an email from The Great Courses offering big discounts caught my eye. One course offered for only $25, Foundations of Western Civilization, inspired me. History of Western Civilization had been my toughest course as a Vanderbilt freshmen in the fall of 1960, and, while the title was slightly different, foundations vs. history, this looked like a good chance to make up for what I had missed in that course decades ago. I ordered it, and my wife and I enjoyed the 48 episodes, usually one per night, over the next few weeks. I recommend it. Buy and enjoy it (at their discount prices).


An interesting coincidence was that the lecturing professor, Thomas F. X. Noble of Note Dame, had been our son's History of Western Civ. professor at the University of Virginia almost 40 years ago. Some Goggling of the professor led to "A Noble Farewell: Professor Retires After 41 Years." In that 2015 article, the professor offered this memory: 

"One difference between a public, secular university and a Catholic university, he explained, is that at the latter, "We are actually much freer to talk about things than they are." He continued, "In public universities, there is kind of a soft left orthodoxy to which everyone must hue, or basically, keep your mouth shut. Whereas here we can actually talk about anything, which is really quite opens our capacity to explores and to investigates and to talk-and even to argue."

Very interesting, but I believe that "soft left orthodoxy" may have hardened in the last eight years. 

I mention this because it is a shame the students of 40 years ago at UVA didn't get the same emphasis on Church history as we got in the current presentation by Professor Noble. The current version includes an episode titled The Hebrews - Small States and Big Ideas. Here are some phrases from that episode:

"Three central religious ideas contained in the Hebrew Bible constitute the key foundations of Western Civilization...The idea of the God for one people, not a god for a place or a state...The idea of exclusive monotheism...The idea of ethical monotheism...and this: "Western literature is unimaginable without its fundamental formative text: the Bible."

More recently, I have struggled with some of the writings of G.K. Chesterton, a British writer of a century ago who never found an obscure word he didn't like. But his thinking is profound. For example, he states that we cannot treat the Church as a child once we discover that she is our mother and the mother of our country, "much older and more aboriginal." That is part of a discussion of confusion of patriotism, nationalism, and faith in God, always a serious current issue.

All these preliminaries are leading to presentation of an updated chart I have worked on over the past several years. It depicts, in simple terms, the first 2000 years of the Church, from God's selection, preparation, and education of the pagan Hebrew people, through the Incarnation, to the establishment of The Church. Comments and observations are welcome.

Link to PDF of the chart.