Oct 27, 2023

Eusebius of Caesarea


Author Owen Barfield used to chide his agnostic literary colleague C.S. Lewis, for his “chronological snobbery” in his early years. Barfield coined this phrase to describe the attitude that the present is superior to the past. Could the same be said of our time? We boast about our technology and increased efficiency. We preen over our heightened levels of tolerance. Clearly, our arrogance is showing. One reason we read history is to unmask the illusions and distortions of our current age. Eusebius of Caesarea (260-340) has been called “the father of church history.” His detailed review of church history from the time of the apostles until 323 AD is one of a kind. His purpose was to connect the 4th century church of which he was a part to the authentic witness of the early church in following the risen Jesus. Without his extensive ten volume work, much of what we know of early church history would be lost to us. His research was not without its prejudices and limitations. He was blinded in affection for Emperor Constantine and harsh in his condemnation of Jews as responsible for Jesus’ death. He admitted in the forward to his history, “I feel inadequate to do it justice.” Eusebius took a leading role at the Council of Nicaea in 325AD, which rejected Arius’ teaching that the Son was subordinate to the Father. Eusebius delivered the opening address and voted with the majority to adopt the Nicene Creed. He also felt the condemnation for Arius was too strong. Eusebius took the threat to the church’s unity as seriously as he did the damage done by Arius’ teachings. Eusebius’ prayer which follows here seeks to apply Jesus’ teaching on the Golden Rule (Matthew 7.12) to everyday relationships:

May I be no man’s enemy,May I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides.
May I never quarrel with those nearest me:
and if I do, may I be reconciled quickly.
May I love, seek, and attain only that which is good.
May I wish for all men’s happiness and envy none.
May I never rejoice in the ill-fortune of one who has wronged me.
When I have done or said what is wrong,
may I never wait for the rebuke of others,
but always rebuke myself until I make amends.
May I win no victory that harms either me or my opponent.
May I reconcile friends who are angry with one another.
May I never fail a friend who is in danger.
When visiting those in grief
may I be able by gentle and healing words to soften pain.
May I respect myself.
May I always keep tame that which rages within me.
May I accustom myself to be gentle,
and never angry with people because of circumstances.
May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things he has done,
but know good men and follow in their footsteps.

Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.