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Christian Church and the 'god phenomenon'


Fr Patrick McCafferty and other correspondents raise some interesting points about the nature of the Christian Church, faith and God.

WA Miller is right to observe (Write Back, November 24) that Western Christendom was not all light and sweetness prior to Martin Luther's intervention, but wrong to limit his observation to the West, or to recent history.

Early Christians could be brutal, both to pagans and other Christian denominations alike - and there were many denominations.

What interests me most, though, is where the discussion touches upon the nature of God.

When I published my thesis as The Early Byzantine Christian Church (Oxford, 2014), I included a chapter entitled, Postscript: the 'God phenomenon'.

In it, I observe that archaeologists may never get to excavate a living fire, but that, by using scientific techniques currently in use today by forensic scientists (think CSI) and fire investigators, they can sometimes determine the nature of those fires that once consumed church buildings during the early Christian period; their origin, travel, intensity and cause.

I argue that, just as we can determine the nature of fires, both extant and historical, so we can use the same laws of physics to measure and quantify the nature of the 'God phenomenon', through both direct and indirect measurement.

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My research identified the location of the diakonikon (the house of the deacons) in a building adjacent to the church, the Byzantines kindly left inscriptions in mosaic pavements saying "this is the diakonikon" and that the rite of prothesis likely took place in the diakonikon, where there was often evidence for a second altar table behind a chancel barrier for preparation of the Eucharist.

This configuration in itself suggested that only priests had access to the diakonikon, but that not all priests had privileged access to the altar table in the diakonikon.

From this we might derive a working hypothesis that, should God work through, or influence, the priesthood more than the lay congregation, then we might compare the church building to the diakonikon for key differences and measure and quantify that influence.