Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hart on Julian the Apostate

"The truest sign of the [Christian] revolution's triumph was . . . the reign of Julian. Not because of his personal defeat: the old and rather nasty Christian legend of his last moments--filling his hand with the blood pouring from his wounded side, flinging it at the sun, and crying 'Thou hast conquered, Galilaean!'--is nothing more than a spiteful lie. In fact, his final hours were adorned by a moving profession of faith on his part, full of gratitude to the divine, and free of any trace of resentment or self-pity. The real proof of what the gospel wrought in its first three centuries lay in Julian himself, as he was in the full splendor of his pagan prime. From Constantine to Theodosius, the emperor most genuinely Christian in sensibility--in moral feeling, spiritual yearning, and personal temper--was Julian the Apostate. . . . It is simply one of the great ironies of history that everything Julian wanted from his chosen faith--personal liberation and purification, a united spiritual culture, a revived civilization, moral regeneration for himself and his people--was possible only through the agency in time of the religion he so frantically despised."

David Bentley Hart, Atheist delusions: the Christian revolution and its fashionable enemies (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 198.

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