Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January 7 - Lucian of Antioch, Martyr, Theologian, Falsely Accused


Lucian had received a good education and his desire was to share it with others who felt a calling to the theological life. He had been born to Christian parents with enough money to provide him with a classical education and train him further in theology. Following in the footsteps of his parents, he was active in the Church. Further, he had a significant impact as he served in different roles within the ecclesiastical structure. He was ordained as a relatively young man by the congregation in Antioch and opened a school of theology. His students were well-trained and accepted by congregations of Christians throughout the Roman Empire but somehow he became associated with Paul of Samosata. It might have been because of accusations from opponents or it might have been based on spurious evidence but, regardless, Lucian's name was connected to Paul's. When Paul's theology was labeled suspect--and eventually heretical--Lucian's reputation and influence were crippled.

Since he was rumored to be heretical, his students were less accepted by other Christians. Then, since his students were experiencing difficulty, prospective students soon found other teachers. For nearly twenty years, Lucian struggled through false accusations and mistaken impressions. As he did so, his own personal spiritual life deepened and intensified. Years later when Church historians would look back at him they would insist that Lucian had been better known for his Christian practice than for his Christian theology and that is saying something since Lucian was one of the chief proponents of literal reading of the scripture in juxtaposition to the allegorical readings suggested by the Alexandrians (in the tradition of Origen). It wasn't that Lucian felt that figurative reading was a poor practice but, rather, that literal reading was essential in understanding some passages that otherwise might be glossed over and their powerful meaning missed. In his attempt to insure that the words of the scripture not be avoided or not be overlooked, he taught a literal reading that allowed the scripture to speak powerfully and directly when appropriate.

Eventually, his students were accepted again and his reputation was cleansed by continued piety and faithful Christian practice. False accusations simply could not stick to Lucian over the long term and melted away when faced with the intense heat of his personal devotion to Jesus. But once his school of theology was regaining its notoriety and influence, it attracted the attention of the Emperor. As Maximian's persecutions continued, Lucian was arrested. Unlike many of the Church's martyrs, it was not a short process for Lucian. Over a period of nine years he was tortured as the Empire hoped to manipulate him to deny his faith. Every time they asked over nine years, Lucian refused to deny his faith--a faith that had already cost him dearly and would likely cost him even more dearly if he continued to refuse. Finally, the Empire tired of their efforts and executed Lucian with little pomp or show.

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