I imagine that in a century or two, people will wonder what all the fuss was about today. Why were they so concerned about Brexit back then? Why were they worried about global warming? Why did they ban smoking? Why the fuss about Donald Trump? Didn’t they have better things to be concerned about?
After all, in 325 AD, the Emperor Constantine convened the First Council of Nicaea.
Its main accomplishments were settlement of the Christological issue of the divine nature of God the Son and his relationship to God the Father, the construction of the first part of the Nicene Creed, establishing uniform observance of the date of Easter, and promulgation of early canon law.
What the heck was that all about? Didn’t they have some more important things to attend to – like the state of the roads in Bithynia , or piracy in the Mediterranean?
Constantine might have had similar questions, if presented with a list of things that were in dispute 1,700 years later. Would it have been possible to explain to him what people in 2019 were arguing about?
Of our present matters of dispute, global warming alarmism is the simplest one to explain. And it’s about the belief of some climate scientists that human emissions of carbon dioxide are acting to warm the Earth’s atmosphere, and could end up melting what ice remains on the surface of the planet, in places like Greenland and Antarctica, and covering the Earth with a 70 metre thick extra layer of water, and drowning every coastal city in the world.
In the matter of smoking bans, it’s almost equally simple. Smoking has been banned because of the belief of some doctors that tiny amounts of tobacco smoke in the air cause lung cancer (and any number of other diseases as well). And there’s not really much of a dispute about this, because almost everybody believes it, and those who don’t believe it are ignored.
Brexit? What’s that all about? That’s not so straightforward. But it boils down to whether you think Britain should be a self-governing country, or whether it should be a part of the European Union – which is a sort of new Roman empire of a kind that Constantine would have instantly recognised, seeing as he happened to be a Roman emperor.
And Donald Trump? What’s the fuss about there? Well, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think anyone knows. There’s just something about Orange Man Bad that enrages some people. They think he is completely the wrong sort of guy to have been elected President of the United States. And in this respect Constantine would have completely understood this phenomenon, because there were probably any number of people back in 325 AD who thought that Constantine was the wrong kind of guy to be a Roman emperor.
So I think Constantine would have immediately understood what’s now called the Trump Derangement Syndrome, and he would have immediately understood what Brexit and the European Union were all about too. But I suspect he would have been puzzled about our modern aversion to smoke, because ancient Greece and Rome were very smoky places. There was smoke everywhere from open fires and ovens, and even from candles and oil lamps. The very idea of “smoke-free” would probably have struck him as wishful thinking.
And I think Constantine would have been completely baffled by carbon dioxide. He would have never heard of the modern idea that all materials are made up of atoms tied together to form molecules, with carbon dioxide being carbon atoms joined to oxygen atoms. Constantine would have regarded carbon dioxide as a fictional substance. And carbon and oxygen as well.
But would Constantine have been able to explain to us moderns the difference between God the Son and God the Father (and God the Holy Ghost)? And would he have been able to explain why it was important to get the date of Easter right? He probably would, because he had just convened a council to debate precisely these matters. Is there anyone who can explain these things today? I don’t think there is.
But perhaps a Freudian psychologist might attempt to explain the Trinity by referencing the modern trinity of Superego, Ego, and Id? But can anyone explain what Superego, Ego, and Id are? Probably not. Or probably every psychologist has his own idea of what they are. Which is why Jungian and Adlerian psychologists split from Freudian psychologists. And also why new Christian sects were forever splitting away from the Christian orthodoxy that Constantine was trying to get settled at Nicaea, which was a sort of IPCC climate conference of its time.
It all passes away after a while. One day nobody will give two hoots about the EU, smoking bans, carbon dioxide, or Donald Trump. It’ll be past history. And nobody will have the first clue what the fuss was all about. They’ll be far more worried about Artificial Intelligence, and whether their vacuum cleaners are trying to kill them.