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Lactantius concerning equality.

26 May 2011

“God who creates and gives life to all human beings wants them to be equal. He put us all into the same condition of life; he made us capable of wisdom; he promised immortality to all; he excluded no one from the heavenly benefits . . . With him no one is master, no one is slave. For if he is the same father to all, we are all free by equal right.”

– Lactantius (3rd Century)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Oliver Nicholson permalink
    11 July 2011 9:54 am

    But Lactantius makes it equally clear that equality before God does not mean everyone should possess the same material resources: in the Golden Age before the corruption of paganism took hold ‘the barns of righteous men stood open to all…’ (Institutes V, 5), but they still had their barns. Lactantius advocates taking away the arrogance of the rich, but not the abrogation of their riches. And he is worth taking seriously as he is the earliest Christian whose writing survive who was actively involved in Roman imperial political life (e.g. as tutor to the son of Constantine the Great).

    • 12 July 2011 4:16 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. You seem however to be twisting Lactantius into affirming a social arrangement that Lactantius himself would have condemned as unjust. The economic system that rules in the West is one organized in the service of wealth. This is a poor reflection of Christ’s teaching that, “man cannot serve both God and Mammon.”

      Prosperity can be seen as a blessing from God, but for Lactantius the truly rich are those who use what has been given them for works of justice and charity. That is a teaching that should trouble the conscience of any would be Christian who finds himself in possession of material wealth. Lactantius saw the pagan Greeks and Romans as lacking justice, because of the chasm that existed between poor and rich, between vulnerable and powerful. Without some form of equity there is no real justice.

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