There’s a spoof of an ad for Pagan Christianity that’s been going around that’s really quite funny, so I decided to display it here. But seriously, I wanted to pick up the subject again for a bit of an update. Of course, I did a series on the book a while back, consisting of five posts in the book review and another three in an interview with Frank. (Where there’s actually still a bit of discussion going on.)
Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices was a bestseller on Amazon, and is being reprinted. Based at least in part on some of the feedback, reviews, and critiques, the reprint will add definitions for the words pagan, organic church, institutional church, new testament church or first-century church, and biblical or scriptural. The use of some of these words has been commented upon, so the added clarifications on how they are used should be helpful. Additional Q&A will also be added — there is already a lot of supplemental material on Frank’s website.
I also wanted to make mention a discovery from my own library. Alright, I confess — I don’t remember everything that’s on my bookshelves, which has sometimes led to the purchase of duplicate items. On Monday I’ll tell you how my library got so big in the first place. Meantime, back to the subject at hand. I found a little (138 pages) book by E.R. Dodds from 1965 based on lectures he had given in 1963, and because of the discussion around Frank’s book, the title leaped out at me: Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety: Some Aspects of Religious Experience from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine (The Wiles Lectures). You’ve got to love a descriptive title, don’t you? Somewhat optimistically, I’ve transferred it to my oversize reading pile — we’ll see what happens. Gleaning from the cover and table of contents, it’s interesting because it deals specifically with the time up to Constantine, a time of upheaval and change, filled with anxiety as the pax Romana was coming to an end. Dodds examines “the philosophical and spiritual climate of the period between the accession of Marcus Aurelius and the conversion of Constantine.”
Professor Dodds discusses general attitudes to the world and the human condition in the early Christian centuries, and goes on to analyze specific types of daemonic and religious experiences. He also considers both pagan views of Christianity and Christian views of paganism as they emerge in the literature of the time.
Pagan Christianity was called a “scholarly” work, but I would have to disagree with that view somewhat. I found it much more of a popular treatment than a scholarly one — the presence of its many footnotes alone is not enough to characterize it as scholarly. While it was well-researched, it did not directly cite enough original sources to be considered “scholarly,” at least in my view… but this does not change what I wrote about the book earlier. Dodds’ book naturally does cite more original sources directly in its footnotes. Perhaps those who were keenly interested in the topic might enjoy Dodds’ work on the subject.