The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The origin of "The Dark Ages"

I wanted to know what you know about the Dark Ages.
Especially, why they happend and how
the doctrin of Hell and Penal Substitution influenced it.
Thank you and
God bless

The doctrines of hell and penal sub didn’t really affect the Dark Ages per se, they just happened to get going about the same time. Arguably, the neo-Arian doctrines contributed a lot more to the onset of the Dark Ages, as many of the “barbarian” tribes who invaded (or counter-attacked) the Western Empire had been converted to neo-Arian Christianity (which was easier to export, because easier to understand, than the complications of the Trinity). When trinitarian emperors regained power in the late 300s, they were strongly proactive about eliminating neo-Arian Christianity, and this contributed to friction between Rome and her tribal allies to the north. (Which is not to say anything for or against either kind of theology, but the steady shift to affirming eternal conscious torment in the West during this same time, and Imperial attempts at quashing Christian universalism in the East, may have had some political weight intended. Augustine’s most bitter affirmations of ECT were written while he was meditating on the recent fall of Rome in his day.) It was still more of a side-effect, though, not an actual contribution to the Dark Ages.

“The Dark Ages” is a very loose term, the extent of which is hotly debated among scholars, or even whether it ought to be used at all. Roughly speaking it can be said to begin with the fall of Rome (or one of the falls), and ends in the 1060s with the invasion of Saxon Britain by the Normans. In other words, it covers the last large period of Roman vs non-Roman warfare, with the Western Empire being taken out of play very early and being divided up among the northern tribal groups, and the Eastern Empire having increasing trouble trying to hang onto (or recovering) territory. Islam also developed and rose to its first cultural heights during this period, and invaded many of the southern, eastern and even western Roman territories. This was also the period of Viking expansion. The period ends and the “medieval” or Middle Ages period begins when there are practically no more non-Christian nations in Europe for Christian nations to fight, and so they start fighting each other; which also soon begins the period of Crusading to retake Palestine from the Muslims.

A historian might even argue that the Dark Ages started in the middle 300s when a rebellion in the Western Empire, fracturing the Empire again after Constantine had managed to unite it, led to a large number of subsequent western rebellions, weakening the West for invasion by the northern tribes and leading to the repeated fall of Rome.

Most historians don’t like the term “Dark Age”, though, and would rather call it Late Antiquity or something like that. But it covers such a large period of time, that “Late Antiquity” seems vague for all the things that happened.

I can recommend several good books in English that cover the period, if you like.

I know that the term ‘Middle Ages’ was coined by Francesco Petrarch the early Renaissance Christian humanist. For him Republican Rome was an Age of light that was begin reborn in the Republic of Florence in the fourteenth century (hence ‘renaissance’ or rebirth). I think the terms Dark Ages is a later coinage for the period when the lights of classical civilisation really seemed to go out altogether. However, today historians talk of mini renaissances before the ‘big one’. The first at Charlemagne’s court in the ninth century ( or perhaps the eight?) - the second in the twelfth century centred on the Cathedral School of Chartres. :slight_smile:

Jason, how does a “neo-Arian” differ from a classic Arian? Is it similar to what used to be called “a semi-Arian”?