This is a re read for me from over a decade ago as I recall At the time I had been much struck by its grasp of Classical and patristic themes I was particularly intrigued by Cochrane s discussion of Romanitas which is still a highly useful and nuanced discussion even today After a decade of a fair amount of reading in both patristics and classics Cochrane still wears well but I can see a few of the cracks Cochrane s main concern is to track the transition between the classical ethos to a Christian one in the course of the first five hundred years of Christianity His grasp of the Classical literature is masterful and he continues to produce useful insights with these authors His discussion of patristic writers tends to be concentrated on the Latin writers culiminating in Augustine In fact St Augustine i There are many misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding the advent of Christian culture simultaneous with the loss of classical culture This change is often caricatured as merely the replacement of one ideology for another or the effeminization of pagan culture or even a rank obscurantism Cochrane demonstrates in a manner by no means of apologetic that Christianity gave a coherent answer to the problems in classical philosophy culture and history There aren t many books that are able to combine philosophy with history without sacrificing precision in argument One is usually caught up in the general trends of history at the expense of philosophic rigor Cochrane s work sacrifices nothing His demonstrations from Socrates to Augustine from Caesar to Theodosius the Great show the reader the trend of history while Though himself apparently a christian and sympathetic to Christianity this is nonetheless an excellent and objective view of classical and christian Humanism The classic treatment in fact This is a very in depth read but worth the effort if you re interested in the classical world and the evolution of western culture to the medieval world and ultimately our own time First published in 1940 it s still relevant todayInterestingly the author s name could be rendered as Chuck Norris Very smart long range study I read it primarily to prepare for teaching Augustine and those chapters were truly excellent Cochrane s chapters on lesser lights were also solid as best I could tell But I very much having considered at length the intellectual merits of Cochrane s not to be excelled argument which deftly intertwines thinking both classical Roman and early Christian regret that when considering how such an argument ought to be presented to hoi polloi the conclusion that of all forms by far and away the best was ultra Latinate prose replete with clauses in places distracting and for English unnatural was reached by our author It s a fucker of thing to read on the train What a SAGA The Roman empire was founded upon on its own set of pagan values but as the empire expanded eastward it embraced the Hellenistic values of Greece and cultivated its own form of pagan ideology Romanitas This pagan idea centered upon the state as the embodiment of the people in the nation with the emperor as a divine leader entrusted with the stewardship of guarding civilization against the barbarism on its bordersCochrane shows how Romanitas evolv. Now available from Liberty Fund Christianity and Classical Culture is considered one of the great works of scholarship published in the last centuryThe theme of Christianity and Classical Culture is the fundamental change in thought and action that occurred from the reign of Augustus to the time of Augustine The classical world sought to practice politics and understand the world in purely rational terms but the difficulties of this program were
Surrounded by a vast ocean of change a brute factuality This brute factuality overwhelmed man in his solitary freedom here it crucified him because all the factors in this brute world of factuality being random overpowering factors bore down on man The stars determined him heredity determined him environment determined him his parents determined him his education determined him his society his political order and you name it determined man So man with this radical freedom of will in an ocean of brute factuality ended up a hopelessly determined creature But man created in the image of God and predestined by the Sovereign counsel of God as set forth by the church body in terms of victory moved now in a world which was totally predestined by God in which he himself was totally predestined but in which he had as a creature created in the image of God a secondary freedom a secondary causality so that he was not determined He was God s free man So you have the amazing paradox in all the controversy back and forth between the early church fathers and the pagans The pagans insisting on the free will of man ending up by concluding man was totally determined and being totally pessimistic seeing no hope for man and the Christian affirming God s predestination and ending up by being the champions of man s freedom delivering man you see from this world of environment of heredity of the stars of politics and saying NO these things do not determine man As a conseuence he says intellectually the classical worldview collapsed it was a failure and it could not stand up to the arguments and to the witness of the early church so that philosophically the victory went to the church fathers Let me state again the title of that book because it is eminently worth your while Charles North Cochrane Christianity and Classical Culture It was originally published and I think almost certainly still is by the Oxford University Press Update My outlinenotes on this book by chapter are available here I finally get to categorize this as read It s taken me forever to get through which is partially my fault laziness and partially the fault of the good Dr Cochrane He is a thoughtful and elegant writer but lacks structure and doesn t really do much to eep the book moving forward I mean granted it s a philosophy book but still he really could have given this a once over and made it a bit readable Having said that the content is great and I would highly recommend this for anyone who wants to think carefully about 1 Classical thought 2 early Christian thought 3 the relationship between Christianity and the state 4 the relationship between Christianity and the world Cochrane s point is that there was an inherent tension between Christianity and Classical culture The Classical world particularly the Classical world of the Roman Empire made philosophical and religious claims which ultimately clashed in an unresolvable tension with Christianity And well I don t think I can summarize much than that Cochrane s writing style really defines much summarization Really the best that can be said is that this is a personal and very well informed meditation on the relationship between Christianity and Classical culture and that I am the better for having got to witness it. Ith each rereading”Charles Norris Cochrane 1889–1945 was educated at the University of Toronto and Oxford Corpus Christi College He taught at the University of Toronto then served overseas for Canada in World War I before going back to Oxford for his MA in 1919 Returning to Toronto he became Assistant Professor of Greek and Roman History then Dean of Residence and finally full professor and the head of the department of Greek and Roman History.
Ed how it was inherently flawed as it was based upon the Platonic dualism between form and matter With the growth of Christianity the empire was faced with a theological crisis Constantine pragmatically embraced the new tide of Christianity as it swept through the empire He realized the potential in Christianity to provide a bulwark in the empire s defense against the barbarians and the health of the state He was devout but pragmatic than pious He was sympathetic to the Arians because in them he saw a state friendly theologyJulian a pagan intellectual sought to restore the pagan philosophic foundation of the empire but failed essentially because paganism was an inherently flawed system As the empire grew its decadence and destructive economic policies were too much to overcome and the end of the empire was nigh as Theodosious frantically sought to save the sinking ship But his even heavy handed tactics could not stop the inevitable collapse of RomeCochrane argues that the Christian Roman emperors were seeking to put new wine in old wineskins seeking to save the empire even by abandoning its philosophical foundations Yet they did so not out of selfless desires but out of the desire to eep the empire together The book is a combination of both history philosophy and theology Cochrane weaves a story of a pagan empire its foundational thought and then shows the clash of religions its outworking and how Christianity was both tempted to power and sought independence from state domination The book is a difficult read and written for serious scholars not the amateur historian or philosopher Those looking for a serious history of this era will not be disappointed Those of us not prepared for that won t get nearly as much out of it and will find it difficult reading An excellent work meant for a different ind of reader than me A deep read regarding the relationship between Christianity and classical philosophy from Augustus to Augustine Too deep for me to understand in one reading This review has been copied from a lecture delivered by RJ Rushdoony Now this is a very important point I don t now how many of you have read Charles Norris Cochrane s Christianity in the Classical World How many of you have Now that is sad but I trust you will get it It is available in paperback It is the most important book written in the past fifty years Written by classical scholar not a Christian and yet a most elouent testimony in spite of itself to the Christian faith Because what Charles Norris Cochrane in compelling fashion declares in that book is this and Dr VanTil incidentally was one of the earlier readers and was the one who informed me of its significance so that I read it very early the Greco Roman world affirmed the freedom of man No God up there controlling man or predestinating man So they affirmed a radical freedom on the part of man his free will But says Cochrane as against the Greco Roman emphasis on the free will of man and against the early churches emphasis on the predestination of man by God it was the early church who produced the free man It was the early church and the predestinarian who were the champions of freedom Why this contradictionWell this was the problem In the Greco Roman world view man as an individual was. Lready evident as Christianity began developing a completely new understanding of the human world It is from this revolution in ideas that our modern world was forgedW H Auden wrote of an earlier edition in The New Republic “Since the appearance of the first edition in 1940 I have read this book many times and my conviction of its importance to the understanding not only of the epoch with which it is concerned but also of our own has increased