The embarrassing non sequitur of death – and a silent rebellion

“It seemed that episcopal authority had now triumphed in the Church. But worshippers at the Eucharist, seeing the bishop seated before them with his presbyters, might be aware that there was an alternative source of power and spirituality in the Church: an institution which had only gradually emerged during the third century [monasticism]. The closer the Church came to society, the more obvious were the tensions with some of its founder’s messages about the rejection of convention and the abandonment of worldly wealth. Human societies are based on the human tendency to want things, and are geared to satisfying those wants: possessions or facilities to bring ease and personal satisfaction. The results are frequently disappointing, and always terminate in the embarrassing non sequitur of death. It is not surprising that many have sought a radical alternative, a mode of life which is in itself a criticism of ordinary society. Worldy goods, cravings and self-centred personal priorities are to be avoided so that their accompanying frustrations and failures can be transcended. The assumption is that such transcendence has a goal beyond the human life span, the goal which some term God […] The Church might well have seen [the] silent rebellion [of those who lived this life] as a threat […] because […] simply by their style of life, they denied the whole basis on which the Church had come to be organised. ”

Diarmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity


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