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Lactantius the Theologian


Lactantius and the Doctrine of Providence


This book examines the doctrine of providence as it appears in the works of the North African Latin apologist, L. Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-0723-6
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Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Oct 3,2017
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 289
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-0723-6
$120.00
$72.00

This book dissertation examines the doctrine of providence as it appears in the works of the North African Latin apologist, L. Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius (c.245 - c.325). In the early fourth century the Roman Empire was struggling to come to terms with its own religious self-identity. While the persecutions under Diocletian were still raging, the rhetorician Lactantius authored several apologetic works in order to advocate for Christianity’s inclusion into the traditional Roman culture. Lactantius’ apologetic goal is twofold: ‘to defend and build up’ (defendere et instituere) (cf. DI 5.4.3). The apologist is not merely concerned with the tearing down of fallacious arguments, but also with the constructing of a positive Christian theology; in Lactantius’ own words, with the totius doctrinae substantiam (DI 5.4.3). Throughout his apologetic corpus the doctrine of providence functions as Lactantius’ grundaxiom; a foundation upon which he can construct his own positive Christian theology. At the same time, the near unanimity among philosophers as to the existence of providence allowed Lactantius to engage his non-Christian audience through a concept of shared philosophical inheritance. By employing the doctrine of providence to support and integrate his entire theological system, therefore, Lactantius has made the linchpin of his theology a doctrine which finds common ground among both Christians and non-Christians.

This book dissertation examines the doctrine of providence as it appears in the works of the North African Latin apologist, L. Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius (c.245 - c.325). In the early fourth century the Roman Empire was struggling to come to terms with its own religious self-identity. While the persecutions under Diocletian were still raging, the rhetorician Lactantius authored several apologetic works in order to advocate for Christianity’s inclusion into the traditional Roman culture. Lactantius’ apologetic goal is twofold: ‘to defend and build up’ (defendere et instituere) (cf. DI 5.4.3). The apologist is not merely concerned with the tearing down of fallacious arguments, but also with the constructing of a positive Christian theology; in Lactantius’ own words, with the totius doctrinae substantiam (DI 5.4.3). Throughout his apologetic corpus the doctrine of providence functions as Lactantius’ grundaxiom; a foundation upon which he can construct his own positive Christian theology. At the same time, the near unanimity among philosophers as to the existence of providence allowed Lactantius to engage his non-Christian audience through a concept of shared philosophical inheritance. By employing the doctrine of providence to support and integrate his entire theological system, therefore, Lactantius has made the linchpin of his theology a doctrine which finds common ground among both Christians and non-Christians.

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Contributor Biography

Anthony Coleman

Anthony Coleman is Assistant Professor of Theology at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, OK. He gained his PhD, on Lactantius and the Doctrine of Providence at Boston College. His areas of interest are the contributions of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition to theology, philosophy, art, music, and literature.

Table of Contents (v)

Abbreviations (vii)

Acknowledgements (ix)

Introduction (1)

Chapter 1. Vita et Opera (7)

Chapter 2. Lactantius and Method (29)

   I. Method (29)

   II. Audience (33)

   III. Sources (37)

      A. The Bible (37)

      B. The Poets (40)

      C. The Philosophers (42)

      D. Oracular Literature (45)

   IV. Christian Truth (54)

Chapter 3. Lactantius and Divine Providence (61)

   I. Developing the Arguments (62)

   II. The Arguments for Divine Providence (64)

      A. The Argument from Consensus (E consensu omnium) (64)

      B. Responding to Opponents (67)

      C. The Argument from Design (Ex operibus dei) (74)

      D. The Argument from Absurd Consequences (Ex gradibus entium) (87)

   III. Conclusion (88)

Chapter 4. Lactantius’ Doctrine of God (93)

   I. Theology of God (93)

      A. God’s Oneness (94)

      B. God’s Transcendence (99)

      C. God’s Incorporeity (Excursus) (103)

      D. God as Eternal Mind (106)

      E. God and the Passions (109)

   II. God the Creator (113)

      A. Creatio ex nihilo (113)

      B. Refutation of Atomism (117)

      C. Theodicy (122)

   III. Conclusion (134)

Chapter 5. Lactantius’ Anthropology (139)

   I. Anthropology and Providence in De opificio Dei (140)

      A. Chapters 8–13 (141)

      B. Chapters 14–19 (146)

      C. Conclusion (151)

   II. A Systematic Treatment of Lactantius’ Anthropology (154)

      A. The Creation and Composition of the Human Person (154)

      B. The Human Person in the Created Order (159)

      C. Status Rectus (164)

      D. Vera Religio (168)

      E. The Virtues, Immortality, and Justice (174)

      F. Conclusion (185)

Chapter 6. Lactantius and Salvation History (191)

   I. Theology of History (191)

   II. Soteriology (203)

      A. Soteriology and the Virtues (203)

      B. Christology (210)

      C. Eschatology (227)

   III. Conclusion (231)

Conclusion (235)

Bibliography (245)

Index (269) 

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