Constantinople to Chalcedon: Shaping the World to Come

by and Prof. Mark Edwards (foreword)

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Book Details

Rating: ★★★★

Format: Paperback (462 pages)

Publisher: Sacristy Press

Date of Publication:

ISBN: 978-1-910519-47-9

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During a period of great political turmoil which included the demise of the Roman Empire, fifth-century Christianity also found itself in a state of division and potential collapse. The Christological Controversies that lead to the Council of Chalcedon resulted in a divided church. The actors in this great schism were Augustine, Jerome, Cassian, Cyril, Ambrose and Chrysostom.

The teaching of these Early Church Fathers shaped the future of the world to come, through relations between church and state, the development of monasticism and the ascetic life, and the use and translation of the bible (especially in early commentaries and expository preaching). These factors, together with the decline of the Roman Empire in the West and the invasion of German tribes into central and Western Europe, gave shape to the modern world. Only the arrival of Mohammad and Islam in 580 could rival its impact.

The period covered by this book (AD 381–451) is the first in which the church can be said to have exercised a dominant role in political history. For some it is the period in which the church lost its innocence. Yet without the innovations of Constantine and his successors, it is hard for us to imagine what Christianity might have been. Without this time of consolidation and increasing conformity, Europe would not have existed as we now know it—nor, for that matter, would Islam.

It is one of Whitworth’s merits to show that the great doctrinal formulae which we owe to this epoch were framed with reverent care by men of profound conviction; at the same time, we are left in no doubt that the church, then as now, was as secular an institution as any other. This book is neither an apology nor a polemic, but the real history of real people who were trying to uphold eternal truths in a fallen and transitory world.

The clear and faithful, rapid yet detailed narrative that Patrick Whitworth presents here will be equally enjoyable and instructive for those who lament the rise of Christendom and for those who daily give thanks for it; both will admire the accuracy and candour with which he takes us, chapter by chapter, through the political convulsions which accompanied each advance in theological speculation.

—Mark Edwards, Professor of Early Christian Studies, University of Oxford

This trilogy constitutes a lucid and masterly overview of the patristic period in terms of its theology and historical context. … These are books that can be read and re-read with profit and also enjoyment. The writer, and those who commend these volumes, are united in their view that Christians need an accurate understanding of the significance of the Church Fathers for the life of the Church today. To succumb to cultural amnesia is not a Christian virtue, for in Christianity, a living past alone can guide and nurture a living present. This is part of what it means to believe in the Communion of Saints.

—Douglas Dales, Fairacres Chronicle, Summer 2019

The third volume of an ambitious survey of the history of the Church in the first 500 years of its life,  and draws the history to a satisfying conclusion.

—The Revd Dr John Binns, The Church Times, 16 March 2018

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