Plumb Lines

May 15, 2009

The Importance of Iotas

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 11:04 am

At Slate, George Johnson says some exceptionally silly things about the Catholic Church in his review of Angels and Demons. We will pass over his informative reminder that “over the centuries, those who differed from the church were branded as heretics,” and not stop to note that this is of course still the case. We will not ask if  Johnson would prefer that the Church politely decline to mention that certain doctrines differed from the doctrines the Church propounds as fundamental to the Christian faith, because the next thing he says is much sillier:

There were the Sabellians, Monophysites, Eunomians, Nestorians, Messalians, and Priscillianists, not to mention the Cathars and the Knights Templar. Their differences with orthodoxy could be literally as small as an iota.

Was Christ similar to God (homoiousios) or of the same substance (homoousios)? Compared with that, the difference between geocentrism and heliocentrism was a pretty big deal.

This is like saying that the only difference between arson and parson is a trivial little p, and as a consequence it should be of no concern to us whether a man decides to enter the Anglican priesthood or burn down Canterbury Cathedral. The difference between geocentrism and heliocentrism is an absolute trifle compared to the difference between Christ being the same thing as G-d or merely a similar thing to G-d. Whether the earth revolves around the sun or vice versa is no more important to the Christian faith than whether a cardinal’s hat is bright red or merely a rich maroon. Whether Christ is G-d or not is a question that provoked the first and greatest ecumenical council — the question, more than any other, that the chief creed of Christianity addresses — in fact, the question at the center of Christian faith: is Christ the very same being as G-d Himself?

David Schaengold



  1. […] Really Matters Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthew Schmitz @ 1:45 pm David has pointed out the inanity of George Johnson’s piece on  Angels and […]

    Pingback by What Really Matters « Plumb Lines — May 15, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  2. Parson/arson – exactly! Bravo. Furthermore, Does Johnson acknowledge (or realize) that that the supposed “iota” criticism is originally Gibbon’s, not his?

    Comment by millinerd — May 17, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

  3. He doesn’t say so, at least. But the 18th century was a foundational one for modern anti-theists of all stripes, I suppose, so its great texts are woven in allusively throughout.

    Comment by David Schaengold — May 18, 2009 @ 8:48 am

  4. For the record, David, this wasn’t a review of the film, but a discussion of the Illuminati conspiracy theory. Slate reviewed the film elsewhere.

    Comment by Michael E. van Landingham — May 21, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

  5. […] Angels & Demons is about cities, religion, and science, I might as well try, though. We did make reference to a Slate column discussing why the Vatican has had trouble ridding itself of the […]

    Pingback by I Wish the Vatican Had Placed “Angels & Demons” under House Arrest « Plumb Lines — May 21, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

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