Posts Tagged With: europe

Luthers Schism. And, ” The Dark Ages? “

Please read this with an ounce of whimsical and a pound of sincerity.  Martin Luther, 95 Theses

I was kept up last night about what the issue at hand was for Martin Luther. I am preparing for teaching the book of Romans. Since Romans and Galatians are the two books Luther found the most life changing and useful in his endeavors for change in the church I have been thinking a bit about him. I have read and written quite a bit on the middles ages preceding the reformations. As I have often set out to defend the church of the middle ages it is also something I have aimed to clarify, that the church was no doubt in need of reform.

I have laid out in other places that the church indeed had a couple of reforms take place throughout the middle ages. Specifically the Reform of Pope Gregory VII. Though Gregory VII denied the honor saying that honor was to be given to Gregory the Great whose name he took as Pope. Pope Gregory the Great never sought to have a position in the high church. Against his will he was forced into office. Though it was essential for the church to have actually given the Papal office to a man of humility and integrity. Pope Gregory VII sought to honor Gregory the Great by taking his name and continuing the work of reform that Gregory the first had brought. Simony (the buying of priestly offices) was a serious problem in the church. Along with the buying of offices by corrupt men came the depravity of the priesthood. These were area of great concern for the early reformers. 5751120-M

So Luther had sought to bring about his own reforms. Though he went further than any others had ever gone before. His challenge of the Pope’s authority took on greater meaning as the Papal bull of 1302 ‘Unam Sanctum’ was drawn up. A document that most historians consider to be the most extreme statements of Papal authority ever made. So the problems in the church had never been worse then the century leading up to the time of Luther. It is also of important note that Luther was not the first monk to respond to the abuse within the church in those early times. John Wycliffe in 1384 attempted reform in England, then the Czech Jan Hus in 1415 in Prague. Later we come to Luther in Germany, Calvin and Zwingli in Switzerland (there influence spreading throughout other parts of Europe into Scotland, Germany, France, and Hungary.) This is only to mention a few of the locations breaking into reform or schism with the Roman Catholic Church. There was a great need that the church had for change, reform, and even schism. It is important to note that it was reform that men like Luther sought. But they soon realized they could only settle for a break with the previous Roman Catholic institution.

Thus the story of the church throughout the middle ages is rife with corruptions, wheat and tares. But it remains the church until a split has taken place. Though there has been some actual reform in the Roman Catholic church there has also been a sinking into more error. The Roman Catholic Church like any other denomination has issues that need to be addressed, some more serious then the rest. Clarity about salvation and papal infallibility to name just two. The Catholic church was not wrong to attempt to exercise some control over the translation of scriptures for the sake of protecting them and assuring they would be translated well. The need for the Reforms I believe had less to do with the availability of bibles in the language of the people then it had to do with a) how someone gets saved, b) who has the authority. The need was to recognize scripture as having authority where the Pope did not, and for salvation by Faith and Grace rather then by mere association and participation in catholic church rites. The issue at hand with regards to common people having access to scripture was about the need for people to learn to read at all.

The Latin Vulgate could be read by anyone with an education in most of Western Europe. If you were from Eastern Europe you spoke and likely read in Greek and could read the bible. If you were form Africa there were a number of translations available to those who could read. Even in Europe there are a handful of German translations the predate Luther’s bible.  Again, only to name a few. Bibles were available, though not as many because the printing press was innovated around the time of Luther’s reform and made it possible for Luther’s bible and theological material to spread quicker to the public then any other materiel before it. In fact though Luther translated his work into German it would still only have been readable by someone who could actually read. That is the reason that during the middle ages if you wanted to hear the reading of scripture in your own language you had but to go to a church where that was made possible. It is therefore easier to say there was a great need for the printing press and more frequent work done to translate scripture into other languages. This was a task that the Catholic Church was up for but did so at a slower rate then we would be satisfied by. They were scared of letting just anyone take on this task. We take this for granted today because we know that now large teams of scribes work together to carefully translate the bible from its original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic text.

I feel sad discounting the work of scribes and devout monks who worked hard to translate and copy the scripture before the printing press. Their work is significant and important to say the least. But I think we bring shame on the church and its saints by repeating the mistake of calling this broad era of 1,000 years ‘dark’. Luther’s challenge and subsequent schism with the church of Rome was necessary. But was this an era of 1,000 years of darkness that preceded Luther? Hardly.

Though, it is not easy because of the blanket statements that have continued to shape our thought about history in that period. Instead of blanket statements and generalizations about the churches control over western Europe it helps to see that Europe was fractured into many kingdoms throughout most of the middle ages.  The church only gained “control” or at best “influence” over the kingdoms at certain times, during certain reigns, in certain places. Then, there is the dilemma of the state or kingdom exercising its “control” or “influence” over the church. You see it is not always the church with the power to control. Many of the corruptions came because of the opposite being true. Though both had its way of corrupting the right influence of the church in a culture and period of time. Sadly the middle ages had its moments of Wenzelsbibel03darkness but I would hardly call it an era of 1,000 years of darkness. If there is a dark ages within the church then I would say it existed during the 10th-12th Centuries leading up to the time of Luther. But the ‘dark ages’ was a term given to the entire period from the fall of Rome to the Enlightenment. It is a secular term used to smear religion and Christianity and the very idea of God being something to be banished from the public sphere so mankind could get on with its anonymous progress. By using it as protestants we simply mean it to be a slant against a certain kind of church rather then the church. But by using the term we give credence to the movement of the “enlightenment” and its anti-God (not just anti-catholic) bias. What we aught to do as Christians is recognize what Christ said about his church that it would be full of good wheat and creeping tares that corrupt and distort its message of hope. We need to do a better job observing the details and avoid criticizing those who came before us. Thus I would not even go so far as to use the ‘dark age’ term as it is a secular term used to condemn the church as a whole of holding back human progress. When in fact the period from the 10th-12th century was one of the most exciting times of technological and scientific exploration by Catholic scholastic Universities across Europe giving way to the Scientific Revolution of the 13th-14th century. Again, blanket statements and generalizations confuse and are the opposite of learning. If you want to know truth about this issue you need to look closer and observe more carefully.

Luther’s Reforms/schism was needed for the church as a whole to go on being the true church of which the Catholic church is part of and always has been, even though it has had its issues and still does.

The “Dark Ages” (a term coined by Petrarch, an Italian scholar, in the 1330’s to describe the decline of Latin literature) was a term used heavily by enlightenment figures as a sweeping criticism of the Roman Catholic church and the lack of technological, scientific, philosophical, and artistic progress as the result. To which I say, “ABSOLUTELY POPPYCOCK!”

A closer look is warranted for the serious Christian scholar, minister, and social activist. Dark Ages is a term to avoid in order to ever find unity with Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a term to avoid in order to not invite unwarranted criticism on the body of Christ of which we are a part. It is a term to avoid because it is far to general and directed (even by the most well meaning folks) at the church and not other important spheres of society of which God is also glorified in.

Read these books for further study.

1. Church History in Plane Language – Bruce L. Shelley

2. The Triumph of Christianity – Rodney Stark

3. The book that made your world – Vishal Mangalwadi

4. For the Glory of God – Rodney Stark

5. Hinges of History Series – Thomas Cahill

6. The Genesis of Science – James Hannam

7. The Victory of Reason – Rodney Stark

8. Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature – C.S. Lewis

9. Story of Christianity: Part 1 & Part 2 – Justo Gonzalez

10. Those Terrible Middles Ages – Regine Pernoud

11. Scripture and the Authority of God – N.T. Wright

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Categories: Bible, Church, Culture, Enlightenment, Faith, History, Medieval Period, Philosophy, Science, Society/Culture, sociology, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Medieval Man – Modern Man – Post-Modern Man

clovis_baptizmThe Medieval Man had God and Religion at the center of all things. Kings were baptized and whole kingdoms across Europe   became Christian before the individuals that make up that Kingdom ever heard the gospel of Christ. On the surface this is neither encouraging or something to boast about as a Christian. But what does the gesture imply for the future of that nation. Again, your answer may be that the implications lend toward a Christian culture in name while remain ignorant to what God has done and desires to do in the world through the church. This may be true as well. Wow! I’m really digging myself a hole here. 🙂 However disastrous we may think these types of things to be that happened throughout the middles ages they do say something of the place of God and religion in a culture. And that is to say that God and Religion were right at the forefront of things. Kings and other rulers were baptized and whole kingdoms “became” Christian. Over time this had an extraordinary effect. At some point individuals hearing the gospel caught up a little bit and the presence of Popes, local Bishops, perish priests, and enclaves of hermits and monks brought something of the essence of real Christianity to Europe. Though not thoroughly and as we might wish. And from an early time God and Religion were understood to be essential to the life and culture of the West. Though I am dealing primarily with the West there was a similar emphasis with Christians in the East and in Africa. Placing God at the center had an extraordinary effect. Great advances in technology and science culminated around the 1400-1500’s to spark the Scientific Revolution with great contributions coming from Roman Catholics and Protestants across Europe, from some Persians in the East, and a handful of Africans. It was however primary an endeavor of European Christians. In other words the scientific revolution was an outgrowth not of recovered Greek learning but of Christian doctrine. There is so much upheaval then taking place at this point in history. The protestant reformations, the secular revolutions, and the so called enlightenment. I believe the enlightenment term to be useful in explaining that what many experienced as a result of reformations, and revolutions, was that having God and religion at the center no longer seemed valid.  Philosophers such as Edward Gibbon, Voltaire, and Rousseau to name a few were a large reason for the violent dismantling of matters of faith from matters of real life and philosophy. It is by understanding the work of enlightenment figures and their influence that we can approach the Modern era clear headed about the nature of it. Of course I believe it helps to have a realistic honest look at the Middle Ages if we want to look critically at these “Enlightenment” figures and what the propose to be true about life and faith.

The Modern man is now a man who has removed God from the center. He may not have removed God completely but like many of those original figures mentioned above, God was banished to the clouds. He no longer belonged anywhere near thisPSM_V21_D154_Charles_Darwin reality and what we mean we speak about reality in the universe. It has been throughout this Modern era that man removed God from Science. Once you arrive at the current time, science has become something seemingly incompatible with God and matters of faith. This took place over a period of time. Two great leaps forward from God happened with the enlightenment figures of 1600-1700 and with one particular individual during the mid 1800’s, Charles Darwin. The first leap was to place God off in the distant, and the second leap to banish God completely from reality. Before the turn of Darwin’s century a man by the name of Friedrich Nietzsche said that “God is Dead” and in the coming century men would no longer speak of him. So confident men became in a Science that is free from God and religious talk that eventually we make our way to the horrors of the 20th century. It is only here in the first 50 years of the 20th century that man begins to have sensible doubt regarding the unchecked positivism in human endeavors. But what could one do with God out of the picture, and now man out of the picture? Where can we turn. For Americans at least there was turning back to God, and a putting your hand to the work of rebuilding your life with God and family at the center. But another war dragged on stirring up doubt and mistrust in “the man” at the center. Young people sought an escape, sought a revolution, clung to ideologies, experimented with drugs, sex, thrills, and rock n’ roll.

The Modern man is now a Post-modern man. Uncertain of anything he tries everything and hesitantly agrees with everyone unless someone believes in absolute claims about truth, meaning, morality, origins, and destination. Man is no longer certain 7051-33about placing any one thing at the center. So he places many things at the center and is unsure what he believes and why, and where it is taking him. If he is sure of anything it is that he can not be sure of anything, that he is broken, frustrated, confused. Yet he constantly seeks validation and does not wish to be corrected. He is looking for someone who will agree with him and feels obligated to agree with everyone else. Unsure of what is up and what is down the post-modern man is tempted simply to take a step back, to place himself, his endeavors, and his own gain at the center of everything. What you then have is a post-modern man being reborn as a Modern drone-man without a soul. A man who hesitantly placed something specific in the center only for the sake of getting on with life. Even though he embraced some of the ideals of the modern life he is still a post-modern man. The original Modern man still had God in view and could not completely push him out. It is these lifeless zombies of post-modernism that lack God and eventually hopelessly leap into the dark for meaning.

Conclusion: Post-Modern youth have grown up and eventually and hesitantly re-embraced the modern ideal. If you want to have a job and get on in life then you need to re-embrace those ideals. But again, that does not make you modern. There is a real transition we have undergone. The answer to understanding post-modern man actually lies in our knowledge of Modern man, and the Medieval man. If your are a christian trying to learn to communicate you need to be able to paint the picture as I have. To see the ways in which the church engaged and came under the influence of each era and to what degree did Christians resist and maintain a biblical worldview and way of looking at reality. In other words though the Middles ages were rife with problems, corruptions, and tares among the wheat, it was a time in which God was placed at the center. Men like Martin Luther saw the corruption and error of the time piling up to something intolerable and sought to preserve the centrality of God, scripture, and faith at the center. It was the middle ages that gave us men like Luther, Augustine, and Francis of Assisi. Though God may be given a high place in culture it takes the work of devoted men and women of God to make that a lasting thing with depth. Without such men, their is such a high level of hypocrisy that people will get tired of it and seek to remove religious folk and their ‘god’ along with them from the center place. I’m crazy enough to believe that good people seeking to place God at the center and not man or even the church in the center will bring about a great healing. God at the center is the answer. I’m not advocating that we need a replica of the Medieval Christian world, what I am really aiming at is the principle at play in that era which culminated in more freedom, more churches, more education, more science, more human potential, and more progress. That the idea of human progress can not sustain itself without God, without morality, without meaning, without truth, without origins and destination.

For more on the middles ages. A personal favorite area of research and study for me check out these posts.

The Myth of the Dark Ages

Two Historical Myths – Two Historical Revisions: Part 1

Two Historical Myths – Two Historical Revisions: Part 2

“Enlightenment” Myth

Reformation Rethought

Reńe Descartes: Foundations for Modern Science

Categories: Bible, Church, Culture, Enlightenment, Faith, History, Medieval Period, Modern, Post-Modern, Science | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Church History: Recovering Kingdom Heritage

9thSinaiAscensionChristian History begins in Acts with the ascension of Christ. Right before he is seen by his disciples going back into the clouds his disciples ask him, “Are you going to establish the Kingdom of Israel now?” Whenever I read this I laugh out loud. But I also recognize its rich significance. That was a question any person in their sandals would ask. After all that was what it was all about for the Jewish people. They had a great story about their origins as a nation and where it was all heading. For them it was the reestablishment of the Davidic Kingdom. A new era that would surpass all the wonders of Solomon’s Kingdom in all of its glory.

But then Jesus was so patient with his friends. After he makes them aware that they are not to know the time or periods they were asking about he speaks of the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth as in heaven. He spoke of a time when they would begin in Jerusalem, being filled with the spirit, they would bring that same message Peter spoke at Pentecost, and the same spirit that fell, to the ends of the earth.

The beginning of the church saw multiple types of persecution. They were as Christ spoke of in Matthew 10, to be dragged into the synagogues and before the government of Rome. This persecution lasted long into the 3rd century until the conversion of Constantine. The shift that took place may be understood by referring to the early church as the apostolic age, and then from Constantine until the fall of Rome as the Imperial era of the church. There were various blessings and damages done by this new era of the church. The church benefited from the ceasing of persecutions and began gathering for important decisions about the nature of heretical text and sacred inspired text that the church used from the earliest times. Given that these gatherings of Bishops began in the time of Constantine the major consensus was that the large amount of Gnostic text had been something done within the lifetimes of those present at the gatherings. Gnostic gospels distorted the eyewitness accounts of those 1st century apostles who recorded and shared the message of what they had seen and heard. These early gatherings did not give the church the bible, they merely guarded what for centuries had already been regarded as authoritative and true accounts of historical eyewitnesses.

conThe untold stories of the Cannon Communities of early Christianity are now being hijacked by the resurgence of gnostic belief in pop-culture movies and books. Common people have begun to get their education of history from the History Channel, Youtube videos, facebook timelines. New Gnostic text are constantly being discovered though near not as often as apostolic texts. The new finds are published and added to the growing “evidence” for a new narrative about the origins of the Christian faith. That story begin told can be summarized as something beginning with Constantine, who is responsible for the growth and widespread popularity of Christianity because he made it so by his own conversion and the subsequent conversion of the entire empire to the new faith. Actually this is not true. If anything his conversion and acceptance of Christianity may have been more of a political move to protect his own power. The growth trend happening in the apostolic age was reaching its height by the time of Constantine. Also his conversion may also begin to be seen as something sincere. But lets not get overly sidetracked with Constantine.

When Rome fell the church did not. It remained. So even if Constantine did help get the church going, (which is a garbage theory) It was not dependent on the state. Many of the the damages brought about by the imperial church effected the church negatively throughout the middle ages. However the new era of the church was not “dark” as many have suggested. It most obviously can not be seen as “dark” simply for the sake of Augustine of Hippo who lived in the 3rd and 4th Centuries of the church. He was influenced heavily by the monastic movement that began before his time, as a response by those who despised the new damages done by the Constantine era of imperial power behind the church. Augustine is just a bit of glue aiding us to see the benefits of the devote monastic communities. But then on the other side Augustine is the rise of medieval education. Augustine is really a primary origin point for the creation of Universities as we know them. It was not the Greeks, though they did schools.  No lasting universities give evidence for any actual universities existing and Greek and roman times.

Saint_Augustine_PortraitNot only did men like Augustine, influenced by the monastic communities begin to have a profound effect on the development of European culture. But “the high church” can also receive some credit. They were not always corrupted by power and greed. The monastic communities had occasional victories in the church at large when men like Gregory the Great were elected Pope. The church began as early as the 5th century seeing many reforms. If anything the Reforms begin here rather then the 14th century. Even the reformer John Calvin recognized Gregory as a good Pope. These illustrations point out that this new era was again, not something “dark”. Though it had its share of issues, calling it “dark” robs us of understanding that it was the church that assisted all of Europe in recovering their own multiculturalism lost under the Roman empire. No longer were peoples creativity bound by a ruling elite who sucked up all the production of the lower cast. Rome had fallen, along with it the ruling elitists. Feudalism is often looked as evidence of a “dark” era rather then an era of state rebuilding and individual progress.

This bring us up to about the 10th & 11th century. The bridge between the early medieval period and the later are the events of the  Muslim Empire and the Christian Crusades. The rise of what many Christians regard as the cult of Mohammed did not shy away from its involvement in the state. The expansion of the Muslim empire came by force and had stretched deep into Spain before the Europe’s response. Of course in order to get Europe to respond at all some campaigning needed to be done. Petitions had already been sent to Rome for aid to be sent to those seeking safe access to the Holy Land. The desire for Christian tourism or pilgrimage was very common and encouraged. Just as it is today very important to many Christians to one day go to the place where God was made incarnate. There was a flurry of responses over the following centuries. Again, Europe was not a centralized government as it would have been under the Roman empire. It was necessary for someone, somehow, to promote the war against the Islamic empire before it took control of all of Europe. The church was at that time the most centralized source of public influence and took it upon itself to organize feudal Lords, Barron’s, Kings, and Knights to take up the call to defend Europe and reclaim territories as far as the Holy Land. It is unfortunate for the Christ-like reputation of Christianity that the church needed to use its influence to help organize armies to go up against the Muslim Conquest.

There were no doubt troubling elements within the church of the middle ages. Though this era can not either be refereed to as dark because the situation as a whole was very dark and called for a drastic step for the sake of all of secular Europe. Though it is often referred to as the “Christian Middle Ages” most common people remained pagan and superstitious. There also at this time remained a devote remnant. The era of the Crusades was not simply Europe vs. Islam, but Church Tradition, and Papal Authority vs heretical movements such as the Waldensian’s or Catharians. These “heretical groups” were also on the receiving end of a holy war influenced by the power of the church to organize armies. All of these events are unfortunate for the reputation of the church as something following the example of Christ. Though Europe’s response to the growing Islamic Invasion has found justification by many.

This brings us to the dawn of the “Reformation era”.

Many wonderful characters illuminate the 14th-16th century; Jan Hus, John Wycliffe, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Ulirch Zwingli, and a good many more. There men of the reformations fought valiantly for the minds and lives of Europeans. Their influence is massive, so much so that when people think of church history these names are often the first that any good protestant would think of.

Ijohn-wycliffe-oprea-nicolaef you are Catholic however then these names, though they are known, are not hero’s. After all they themselves were not successful in bringing a reform to the Catholic church. When the protestant movements began to break forth from the church the Catholic church went on later to make some necessary reforms. But the reformation era was crucial.

What was at the core of the motives of men like Luther, Calvin, Hus, Wycliffe, and Zwingli was to see scripture in a place of higher authority then tradition or papal authority. It becomes clear when these human authorities of mans tradition and mans hierarchy become corrupt that something else needs to be the source of authority. For the reformers it was not their version of truth, or in other words, their own traditions regarding scripture. The work of Luther, and Calvin did later become tradition that led to later schisms with the Lutheran and Reformed churches. But for the actual lives of the reformers, their aim was to see the church with the bible at the center, and Christ’s sacrifice at the central event of theology. No further mass was needed to bring propitiation for sin.

The reformers did more for Europe then challenging the church and creating the protestant movement. Their influence in the church touched much more then the church itself. Remember that the church was for more engrained in the public life. The church had in fact helped to rebuild the entire civilization of the west after the fall of Rome. So the reformers challenge of the church was in part  the beginning of a reform to the state. Overlords and Kings began to face new challenges. If the people of Europe were willing to see the hierarchy of the church challenged and its influence undermined by scripture then maybe following the OT model, Kings and overlords could be challenged with the rule of Law.

Retracing our steps we can see that the church was a growing and thriving source of education and social reform capable from the earliest days of the church to step out and lead a broken civilization. The middle ages saw many such advances, the whole modern enlightenment principle of ‘human progress’ was already in full swing long before the “enlightenment” or “modern era” began. In fact the whole idea of moral or human progress was not something disconnected from those who could be considered religious. The church faced the challenge of helping rebuild Europe, and they gave it universities, science, many new technologies, the rule of law, capitalism, implemented democracy, and abolished slavery. All of this developed long before the enlightenment or modern era.

What many Christians do at this point in their grasp of history accept that the reformers did a great thing and now we move on to today and try to implement their passion for truth in our own pursuit of it. But that would be to dismiss the enlightenment altogether as something that does not have any effect on the modern christian mind. It is however, very important to realize that we moravian_sealare all children of the enlightenment. Much of what we may think is common sense is actually accepting for better or worse what began in the enlightenment era. I have already written a good deal on the enlightenment. But here I wish to show how the church behaved in the modern era. Early on among the Lutheran community there developed another schism. Just as many Philosophers such as Descartes, Hume, or Kant had discussed the importance of reason as a means of discovering truth versus experiment so the Lutheran community did. The early schism was an attempt to get away from the head and into the heart of things were man may touch and feel his way toward the truth of God. This lead into the Moravian and eventually Wesleyan missionary movements and churches. These movements also saw schisms on the issue of public versus private outer-workings of the faith. Not only that but the modern era working all around the church was more and more scary for those who drowned themselves in theology but had nothing to say about the new work of Charles Darwin. The church had turned inward and became a private sphere only concerned with theology, gospel, and saving souls for heaven. They lost touch with bringing the kingdom of God on earth as in heaven. The missions movement has been massive and the world is being evangelized with the message of salvation for eternity in heaven. But not here on earth, not bringing sense to the mess we are facing here and now. The current missions movement and evangelicalism we find ourselves in today has also developed another schism. Instead of working to convince men and women of the soundness of our gospel we have bought into trying to entertain, give a good speech, and proclaim the gospel and call it a day. There is very little persuasion in our proclamation.  And today we have a kingdom of God theology where our faith is all heart and no head, all private and not public, and all proclamation and no persuasion. We fall short because we have given in to the modern tide and have a fractured Christian inheritance.

Knowing history may help us begin to recover what true nature of Christ centered Kingdom living is. It is not something in the heavens we might one day escape to, nor is it a utopia on earth were man is the center of all things. But it is Gods redemptive rule of all of his creation.

 

Categories: Authority, Bible, Church, Culture, Enlightenment, Faith, History, Medieval Period, Modern, Modernism, Philosophy, Science, Society/Culture, sociology, Worldview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Enlightenment” Myth

enlightenersOne of the most fascinating areas of the ‘enlightenment’ myth is that while the primary figures of the enlightenment, Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, Gibbon, and Hume -all being literary men and not scientists felt they could use scientific revolution as proof that there had been a great enlightenment, once the church had lost most of its influence.

The odd reality is that the primary figures of the scientific revolution were actually religious men, both protestant and catholic; Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus, Descartes, Newton, and Pascal.

Both the scientific figures as well as the enlightenment literary men of philosophy mentioned about have had a massive influence on the way that all western people think. There are in effect three groups of men who had a massive impact on the western modern man. 1) The group of men associated with the scientific revolution, 2) those associated with the enlightenment, 3) and finally those who sought to reform the church.

Scientific_Revolution_-_ThinkersIf you want to understand the modern-western world you need to start with Reformation, Scientific Revolution, and Enlightenment. Reformations and those men who fought continue to remind us today that the church had some problems and needed to address them. The Scientific Revolution represents the climax of medieval scholasticism and is a symbol of the outgrowth of Christian Doctrine, Evidence that the Medieval Period was not “Dark”. Enlightenment therefore represents to some extant the secularization of western civilization. Reformations did not initially seek to separate church from state. The Scientific Revolutions as well was not something detached from Christian scholarly vocations. It was the hard work of many to see not just the church separated from state but God separated from reality.

Here it is in an even more simple form.

1. Reformation heavily influences Church and culture

2. The Christian Middle Ages launched the Scientific Revolution

3. The Enlightenment primarily sought to remove God, Church, and Religion from the realm of state, science, and education.

reformers-wall-close-upOvertime the work of enlightenment figures has been effective. The reformed church has gone on to see many more reforms, and many more schisms. Science has gone on as well and continues grow. But along side science and the work of Darwin some have sought to deify the science. Thus today we have, science, and Scientisim. The belief that science and technology can find and hold answers for all people. Nothing else is needed. Though Science continue to thrive as a wonderful service to our humanity.

This should be alarming not only for Christians but for all westerners. The inherited civilization need not be completely secularized. The trouble is we believe a completely different story about the middle ages, and the negative effect of religion. This story, or narrative has been compounded by the literary figures of the enlightenment. They created influential narratives about the previous era that we have all believed. I have off hand mentioned the figure David Hume who was one of the first to reject the existence of miracles. For many the non existence of miracles is common sense. It is common sense because these enlightenment figures had a massive impact. And many were not even scientists. They were philosophers who commented on science and religion.

So am I saying then that our modern era is due to Christian beliefs alone that the modern era blessings have all begun with reformations, and middle age integration of faith? I will take some more time to unwrap my answer to that.

guns-germs-and-steele-diamondLet us consider the influential work of Jared M. Diamond, “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. Just the other day my good friends were referring to this important work. I believe that this is only part of the answer. Many have set out to explain the rise of the west to simply materialistic origins. That is in essence a large part of the work of Jared Diamond, and William McNeil. These theories including other agricultural theories for the rise of western civilization are only a product of the secularization of culture. They are part of the truth. Social Scientist Rodney Stark, in his book devoted to the reason for western success, narrows it down to four categories.

1. Faith in the progress of Christian Theology

2. How Faith in progress translated to technical, and organizational innovations, many fostered by monastic estates.

3. Thanks to Christian Theology, Reason informed both political philosophy and practice to the extant that responsive states, sustaining a substantial degree of personal freedom, appeared in medieval Europe.

4. The Application of Reason in commerce, resulting in the development of capitalism within the safe havens provided by responsive states.

So Rational theology leading to technical and organizational innovations. Rational theology informing the state affairs bringing a greater level of personal freedom culminating in the rise of capitalism. 400000000000000078274_s4

The views of represented by Stark then add another dimension to the understanding of the Triumph of the West is that not merely having access to steal, ships, and good soil. But we should be asking, “Why did westerners excel in shipbuilding, steal work, and farming?” These are in fact the many areas were faith in rational theology lead to faith in innovative progress.

The climax of the middle ages is not only symbolized by the scientific revolution but also by the triumph of reason, rationality, and an integrated faith culminating in the rise of metallurgy, technology, better agricultural practice, and capitalism.

Shocking that medieval Europe believed in reason, rational thought, faith, theology, bringing about innovation, science, technology, new systems of commerce, agriculture, and a political system that provided commoners with greater levels of personal freedom. It becomes very obvious that without many of the enlightenment figures who sought to secularize the state, culture, and education – we would still have all of the many freedoms and innovations we enjoy in our modern era. We do not owe our modern experience solely to those enlightened men of France but also to medieval Europe and the Reformers.

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Reformations Rethought: Part 1

Intro: When Did the Reformations Start? Jan_Hus_2

Wikipedia gives the most common start date for the Protestant Reformations in the early 16th Century. The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions gives the same date. Wikipedia also identifies this as the schism that took place rather then an actual reformation of the church.

I want to take a look at the nature of what we call the reformations. Every October Lutherans around the world celebrate Reformation Sunday to commemorate the events of Martin Luther and other figures of the German reformation. However, this is a narrow view of the reformations. Our understanding of the reformations as something to do with Luther and the German church is obviously not hitting the whole church. There was an English Reformation, there was Calvin, Luther contemporary working to bring reform to France. There was the Bohemian Reformations initiated by the Czech Jan Hus. Only recently, and you can see it in the timeline on the Wikipedia page, that historians have begun to trace the beginning of the reformations to the 11th century.

The main body of this post will be to discuss the reformation spirit seen even earlier then 16th or 11th century. But generally it is a way of referring to the actual schisms that took place in the life of Martin Luther.

Generally speaking, most people are aware that Acts highlights the growth of the organic move of the spirit, and the work of the apostolic community. But were did the real trouble with the church begin. Before jumping to the time of Constantine i think it is important to remember what Jesus said about wheat and tares. Jesus knew that even in the Old Testament community of faith, there were those among the faithful who sought there own good and were not concerned with being the people of God. The early church, though it was a time of ‘organic’ growth, was a time when Judaizers sought to distort the message, Greek pagans, and Christian Gnostic attempted, and often succeeded in weakening the witness of the church.

It is obvious to me but not everyone, that ‘reformation’ may have been needed as early as the apostolic times. If we look at the nature of some of Paul’s letters it would seem that some churches, though young, encountered great error that needed to be addressed and people brought back to the truth. I think were the trouble lies later for the church is who has the authority to speak into the error within the church. Constantine, and the institutionalizing of the church has its pros and cons. I want to consider both when moving forward. But remember things were not perfect before the institution.

Constantine: Church gets Institutional con

To many various claims have been made about Constantine. That he was a blessing to the church because he helped it to triumph other religions and become the world religion it is today. Or that it was a curse to Christianity because it gave the church a sword. These two perspectives are a bit off though.

The triumph of Christianity was already in effect taking place leading up to the time of Constantine. If anything he weakened the expansion of the organic growth by supporting it. But there are some misconceptions here. Constantine did not make a Christianity a monopoly religion of the empire. He did not persecute pagans, many consider him to still be a pagan, and his conversion to Christianity fake. Some make an opposite argument. But in truth he simply ended the persecution of Christianity, sought the blessing of the Christian God in battle, and in time transferred some of the wealth of the state temples to the church. This weakened Christianity, because as Christ said, wheat and tares, there was not more of a reason for tares to come into the church. Also Christian bishops became friends, and influential parts of the Roman empire. The Capital of the Roman empire also became a capital for church policy and doctrine. Thought previous centers in Jerusalem, Antioch, and Ephesus, maintained their influence.

Constantine did work within the church to protect its unity with the sword, at times fighting off the heretics of the time. There is a bit that can be critiqued in the life of Constantine. Much is up for debate. One of the earliest issues within the church was that it became a place of power and influence. Simony, the buying and selling of offices within the church became a play at power for and were filled by sons of the aristocracy. The high office of Pope had its price along with the lowly parishes.  Clerical families took up residence in the high office. Pope Innocent I (401-417) Succeeded his father Pope Anastasius (399-401). This is the earliest example and the latest was 1044. This was far from regular but there are a handful of examples.

This gets me on then to the body of this post. Now that we have reached a somewhat institutional church as opposed to the early grassroots move of the church. What was the nature of the church? When did the reformations begin? Where there successful reforms? Was the church from Constantine to Luther corrupt, hiding scriptures, ignorant, and committed to all the wrong things?

Two Churches: From Constantine to Luther

I believe that this is a very unknown era of history for most Protestant Christians because when being told the story of the church people like to go to the beginning. For Protestants the beginning is often the reformations. Or maybe Acts. But usually not what happens in between. As a protestant young person, I’ve been grown disturbed at not having been adequately acclimated to this long era of Christian history. Not to mentioned it has polarized my faith from that of your average Roman Catholic. Though I remain protestant, some Sunday mornings I would just as soon attend a good Catholic church as I would a charismatic pentecostal church. And I say that not as a slant against either. I find that there are wonderful traditions in the Catholic church just as there are a few I do not appreciate. I also enjoy the emotional stirring of a pentecostal atmosphere from time to time. But it really is not about preference, I’m simply stating what my preferences are from week to week. So while I will remain protestant I will not bash Catholics. In fact I may be caught more often sympathizing with their beliefs and traditions save one or two.

I feel the need to do this sympathizing because there history is my history. Not to mention many of the Catholic traditions have in fact been carried over into Protestantism and it is wrong to claim them as solely protestant. So there is a large heritage protestants enjoy built up by those who’s loyalty to God, and the catholic church will be observed a bit here in this post.

However, when I refer to Catholic I am not using the word as a synecdoche. Catholic includes both the church of power, and the church of piety. Or the high church and the low church. These terms indicate that from a very early time in the history of the ‘institutional’ church that there was a difference in the part of the church concerned with power and those concerned with being the people of God. The early monastic movements as opposed to those buying office and playing politics. These are the two churches of the history from Constantine to Luther. If Luther and other reformers were not successful they would appear likely as another monastic movement within the Catholic church. Or had they been truly successful to reform rather than form a new sect then the catholic church would have remained in place. We may still have a Pope, although a very different version of what the Pope was and is and the authority he holds.

What we are then to be looking for is how much like the true church of Acts was the the two churches of the medieval era? ( also quick disclaimer, the two churches might bring to mind the eastern orthodox church. However, I will not be strongly including it because my knowledge is still limited as to what went on and why, within the Orthodox church.) So we will be looking at the church of Power, its corruption and some of the bright spots. Also we should be considering the reformation work of the monastic communities all throughout this era.

How the Church was the Church and how it was not

It is interesting to remember that the monastic movement was institutional just as the high church of power was an institution. Though many devotees went of in search of solitude and silence, ther reputations grew and soon man more would flock to learn from these hermits. The need grew for organization, rules, and establishments to be provided for many seeking to follow in the footsteps of influential monks. Francisco_de_Zurbarán_040

This is essentially the story of Pope Gregory the Great who was the first monk to ascend the papal throne. He began by seeking the kind of life that the great monastic founder St. Benedict. Upon his becoming Pope he fought endlessly for reform, he sought to reform the churches corruption of offices bought by wealthy families. He also reformed the monastic communities according to the Benedictine Order. He wrote a book on what being a Pope was to be about. For this early Pope, Gregory saw his role as a pastor over the whole church rather then the master of the flock. He understood his role as a servant to the church. After Gregory’s death the roman clergy quickly replaced monks with secular clergy. The church was still a tool for politics. Perhaps exactly what Constantine did, or something that came as a result of his influence given to the church.

He is an example of a number of men who rose to the high church even when this was not easy to do because of corruption and typically needing to buy your way into those positions.

But the traditions that had begun in the deserts of Egypt with monastic communities is a better way to trace the church being the church. Though its not completely one sided. There were two natures of the church during this era that I think are important to maintain. Monastics had a sincere approach and love for God. The High church was committed to public life, sometime to much, and sometimes compromising as I have mentioned.

It is helpful to think of the churches influence not in such drastic terms. The church did not consist of only Popes and Monks. The in-between is the job of the Bishop. When monks had spent time in meditation, discipline, scripture, education, they would then be elected to serve as Bishop. Many did so unwillingly because they preferred the life of a scholar and hermit. When examples came along who served faithfully as Bishop, and also enjoyed scholarly life then you had someone special. But scholastic monks had a great value even before becoming well known Bishops. Saint_Anthony_The_Great

The earliest well known hermit was Anthony the Great (251-356). His life inspired many to pursue the monastic life.  His most influential follower was Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo (354-440). Augustine’s influence is well known. His work as a scholar has likely been the most influential of all scholars. Calvin’s commentaries are like holding a mirror to the work of Augustine. Not only was his work influential for theology but he developed a model for education and modeled a wider education for what would become the Cathedral Universities of the Middle Ages. Not only did monastic communities make way for an educational system, but also for better economic systems.

These are just a few key examples of the movements started. A movement for the reform of both high and low churches had begun with Anthony in the 3rd century (the same time Constantine helped shift wealth and power to the church).  A monastic way of life became what many sought who wanted a sincere approach the service of God. Among the monastics developed an entire educational system for reading, writing, scripture and other important works. The Scholastic movement was an option, men like Augustine lead way in this. And then there was men who dared as Gregory I did to reform the church of power, to fight against Simony, Adultery, and the lies of the high church clergy.

Conclusion:

Perhaps Ive done more to open up a can of worms here then anything else. However, I think there are a couple of main conclusions. That there are obvious characters throughout what some call a “dark ages” who’s aim was to bring the light of reform long before men like Martin Luther. Luther, well known for his challenge of Papal authority and his educational reforms had many who came before him. Pope Gregory, and Augustine both sought and achieved these kinds of reform but compromise and corruption persisted. Öèôðîâàÿ ðåïðîäóêöèÿ íàõîäèòñÿ â èíòåðíåò-ìóçåå gallerix.ru

The Sequel to this post will be to include what character’s, and events of the 10th century until Martin Luther hold. Protestants owe more to their Catholic, Monastic, roots then they realize. In order to continue to see our own needed reforms we need to understand our past and try to implement what we can from a true biblical worldview. We are not attempting as in a revolution to break off from the past and forget any of the lessons we could be learning from.

Knowing History is a precursor for Reformation.

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C.S. Lewis: On a Flat Earth Theory

This comes in addition to my recent post on “Myths” associated with the Middle Ages. An era of ignorance and superstition imposed upon Europe by the influence of Christianity.

flat_earthThe commonly held myth is that Medieval Christendom believed in a flat earth. The origin of these myths can be traced back to intentional slants against Christianity. It was the effort of ‘Enlightened” men to make a break with the past. To discredit useful information intentionally in order to over turn the foundations of the Medieval world and create new foundations for the coming modern age.

Along with intentional historical error are many misconceptions about the Medieval period. It takes the work of experts really to determine that the literature of the ancient world, though it is filled with seemingly barbaric beliefs, they are anything but barbaric. C. S. Lewis had a lot to say about this in his lectures on Medieval Literature. Thankfully this work has been preserved in literary form as well.

“Lewis, perhaps the least familiar to most of his admirers and critics: the distinguished Oxford don and literary critic who packed lecture theatres with his unscripted reflections on English literature, and who went on to become the first occupant of the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at the University of Cambridge.”
Excerpt From: Alister McGrath. “C. S. Lewis; A Life.”

Lewis, therefore, became a foremost scholar, speaking, and writing on the interpretation of literature of the middle ages; its romance, history, poetry, theology, and its science.

On the point of a flat earth. Were Medieval people ignorant as to the spherical nature of the earth?

“Physically considered, the Earth is a globe; all the authors of the high Middle Ages are agreed on this. In the earlier ‘Dark’ Ages, as indeed in the nineteenth century,we can find Flat-earthers [as well as 21st century for that matter]…

The implications of a spherical Earth were fully grasped. What we call gravitation-for the medievals ‘ kindly enclyning ‘-was a matter of common knowledge. Vincent of Beauvais expounds it by asking what would happen if there were a hole bored through the globe of Earth so that there was a free passage from the one sky to the other, and someone dropped a stone down it. He answers that it would come to rest at the centre.Tempera­ture and momentum, I understand, would lead to a different result in fact, but Vincent is clearly right in principle. Mandeville in his Voiage and Travaile teaches the same truth more ingenuously : ‘ from what part of the earth that men dwell, either above or beneath, it seemeth always to them that dwell that they go more right than any other folk. And right as it seemeth to us that they be under us, right so it seemeth to them that we be under them’ (xx). The most vivid presentation is by Dante, in a passage which shows that intense realising power which in the medieval imagination oddly co-exists with its feebleness covercslewis_sm_6386in matters of scale. In jerno, xxxrv, the two travellers find the shaggy and gigantic Lucifer at the absolute centre of the Earth, embedded up to his waist in ‘ Speculum Naturale, VII, vii. ice. The only way they can continue their journey is by climbing down his sides-there is plenty of hair to hold on by-and squeezing through the hole in the ice and so coming to his feet. But they found that though it is down to his waist, it is up to his feet. As Virgil tells Dante, they have passed the point towards which all heavy objects move (7o-ur). It is the first ‘science-fiction effect’ in literature.

The erroneous notion that the medievals were Flat­ earthers was common enough till recently. It might have two sources. One is that medieval maps, such as the great thirteenth-century mappemounde in Hereford cathe­dral, represent the Earth as a circle, which is what men would do if they believed it to be a disc. But what would men do if, knowing it was a globe and wishing to represent it in two dimensions, they had not yet mastered the late and difficult art of projection? Fortunately we need not answer this question. There is no reason to suppose that the mappemounde represents the whole sur­face of the Earth. The theory of the Four Zones taught that the equatorial region was too hot for life. The other hemisphere of the Earth was to us wholly inaccessible. You could write science-fiction about it, but not geography. There could be no question of including it in a map. The mappemounde depicts the hemisphere we live in.

The second reason for the error might be that we find in medieval literature references to the world’s end. Often these are as vague as similar references in our own time. But they may be more precise, as when, in a geographical passage, Gower says

Fro that into the worldes end
Estward, Asie it is.

But the same explanation might cover both this and the Hereford map. The ‘world’ of man, the only world that can ever concern us, may end where our hemisphere ends.”

* Excerpt from C.S. Lewis, Discarded Images: An introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature

In conclusion.

The Myth of middle age Christian imposition of ignorance concerning a flat earth has been compounded intentionally, and unintentionally. The stories are simply not historically accurate. In fact there is a massive contrast in that there is neither any such ignorance at all regarding the relation of the planets, or to earth and its motion.

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Surviving University: A Brief History

1. Universities are a Christian Invention

That’s right, Christian Scholastics invented the university.

“We can trace the birth of universities to the magnetism of single teachers, whose skill and enthusiasm for learning attracted students wherever they happened to be”[1]

Saint_Augustine_PortraitFrom influential visionaries such as St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo (AD 353-430), Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassidorus (AD 40-585), and Ancius Manlius Severinus Boethius (AD 480-524), some monasteries and cathedral schools grew into universities.

The development of schools can be traced back much further to the ancient world of Greece where other individuals in Athens or Alexandria, ran schools. But we are talking about the university that during the middle ages had developed into “corporations.” [2]

Universities unlike schools were not dependent on a few individuals and could survive long after the death of influential people.

These “Dark Age” universities were not as many of thought, pathetic places where Christians argued over, “how many angels could dance on the head of a needle”. Instead medieval scholastics;

“reviewed past authorities and current opinions, giving analysis of them and reasons for rejecting some and accepting others. Altogether, the methodology already in place by the early twelfth century shows the scholastics’ willingness, and readiness, to criticize the foundation documents of their perspective fields. More than simply receiving and expanding these traditions deemed to have outlived their usefulness. They also freely realigned the authorities they retained to defend positions that these authorities might well have thought strange and novel.”[3] 

“The early Scholastic scientists did not just sit in their studies and think about the world; they increasingly relied on careful observation of the matters involved, that is, on empiricism. For example, the Greeks, Romans, Muslims, Chinese mostly based their “knowledge” of physiology on philosophy and introspection, and some dissections of animals, but they rejected and condemned cutting up humans. Christian Scholastics were the first scholars to build their anatomical knowledge on human dissection!”[4] Mundinus

This was done for the first time in 1315 by Mondino de’Luzzi in front of an audience of students and faculty of the University of Bologna.

Most common histories will be very quite with regards to the Christian origins of university. It is typically said to have been developed out of Greek and Roman learning, brought about by help from Muslim lands, and the few who in Europe were brave enough to oppose the authority of the church. These ideas can be traced to men like Edward Grant, or A.D. White. In reality universities was like a child of the Papacy. This does not mean that papal control over universities existed. There was as I have already said, freedom to explore and expound theories because issues of theological orthodoxy was fixed.

It may help quite a bit to know while attending university as a Christian that scholarly empiricism, the sciences, history, grammar, and logic are actually what have brought students to the door of spiritual wisdom as well as what we deem sacred study.

The chief aim in the middle ages was the search for spiritual wisdom. But their approach to such wisdom was not confined only to the bible. The bible held each field in check. A beautiful union had taken place between religion and liberal arts. Many make this union out to be a bloody battle in which science and intellectual freedom finally broke free from when we reach the enlightenment. But this is not complete reality. Just as in any loving union, there is to be tension. So in this union of church and scholastic education which became university was an ongoing healthy tension where church 743px-Laurentius_de_Voltolina_001orthodoxy was at times stretched or readdressed and new theories had to be put in check with Christian orthodoxy.

Your struggles as a university student are nothing new. In fact there is a wonderful heritage you are walking into. The bible remains key to education simply because it is a library. A unique collection of books selected with extreme care. Sixty-six books, forty plus authors, sixteen-hundred years, three different languages, all telling a single story. Beginning with creation and ending with recreation. Offering students a expanding, progressive, and yet coherent view of life and the world. [5]

Just as monks did not study scripture because they were looking for a job, we are not simply attending university because we are seeking a job but the knowledge of truth.

Even the historical critic of the Catholic church, H. G. Wells admitted,

“The Catholic Church provided what the Roman Empire had lacked, a system of popular teaching, a number of universities and methods of intellectual communication. By this achievement it opened the way to new possibilities of human government… possibilities that are still being apprehended and worked out.” [6]

These institutions, unlike Chinese academies for training Mandarins of a Zen masters school, were not content to settle for repeating the wisdom of the Greeks. They were fully prepared to criticize and correct the ancients. Something that scholars of Islam were unwilling to do, though translation of the works of Aristotle and Plato took place in Arab lands. [7]

A final testimony to the willingness within these scholastic communities to adjust theological views was the development of the rise of Capitalism. Not something simply invented in Venetian countinghouses, or protestant banks in Holland, but within the ninth century monastic communities. Monks found it necessary to adjust their view, that “money and pleasure is the root of all evil”. They were able to see the blessing in well managed finances, mix that with their value for hard work and entrepreneurship and a perfect environment for the rise of capitalism was given to the western world. [8] This was not the same corrupted capitalism one might explore today but one based on principles of moderate living, value in work, and community building. Medieval monks were not concerned with consuming capital gains but with learning to value wealth for its proper use in community building. Monks were able to re-evaluate the passage, “the love of money is the root of all evil” and began to see the value of wealth as a service to God.

In conclusion; there is no need to feel like a fish out of water when stepping onto campus of secular universities. Though there is a real challenge facing you, it is not a challenge that the church is not familiar with. It is a challenge that needs really, to be meet head-on. Literally and figuratively. That brings me to theology. It is essential that for Christians we know that reason, and intellect are not something to be detached from the spiritual wisdom we claim to have gained by our faith in Christ, and scriptures.

2. More Knowledge does not need to make your Faith Smaller

A Passage for expounding Knowledge

According to Genesis 1-2, man is made in the image of God. Keep in mind the intricacies of creation. God is without any doubt an intelligent creator, far beyond what we can comprehend. However, if we are in Gods image we may begin to comprehend all that God wishes us to in this life. In other words, we are creative, intellectual, beyond what realize. Man is always pushing the limits, and finding new things. It seems there is endless potential for the human intellect. Maybe that is true, maybe that is because we are made in the image of an immensely intelligent God.

A passage “against” expounding Knowledge

According to Corinthians 1:18-31, it would seem to some that Paul is discouraging knowledge, or the pursuit of it beyond the pursuit of Christ and the foolishness of the cross. I do not however, believe this passage is meant to discourage 21st Century Christians from going beyond knowledge of the cross. Paul himself, in order to write so eloquently and convincingly for both Jews and Greeks had a large knowledge of Jewish culture, scripture, language, as well as Greek culture, language, literature, and Greek rhetoric in particular. Scholars of the Middles ages grew quite adept at understanding Greek rhetoric of masters like Cicero because Paul’s style is almost identical.

Beyond that, a full observation of this passage and you will find verses like, The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of Man (v25). All the wisdom of Jews and Greeks may have pointed to a messiah, but all pale in comparison to the revelation of Christ and his work. So it is not that God wishes man to be foolish, ignorant, intellectually lazy. In fact quite the opposite is obvious. It is considered foolishness, but it should never be considered foolishness by those who believe. It is to be considered the power of God, and the wisdom of God (v18 & 24).

A final exhortation from this passage, and something that I’m sure will prove very useful for those in university. Because your views will be considered foolish by worldly standards, the best way to move forward is in humility. We don’t get to boast before God or man because of our power and wisdom. Its been revealed to us. We did not earn it. Through humility and intellect God will reveal himself to others around you. cs-lewis-from-gospel-coalition

C.S. Lewis is a powerful reminder of what that can look like. His ‘Mere Christianity’ on display during his career at Oxford University was not just a book he wrote, it was his constant way of life among intellectuals who deemed his wisdom as foolishness. But very few today would call him foolish, or unintellectual, or unchristian.

Bibliography

[1] Church History in Plane Language; 3rd Edition: Bruce L. Shelley. 2008 – Thomas Nelsons Publishers (Ch 12 pg 196)

[2] The Genesis of Science: James Hannam,  2011 – Regenery Publishing (ch4 pg66)

[3] Medieval Foundations of Western Intellectual Tradition: Marcia L. Colish, 1997 – Yale University Press

[4] Triumph of Christianity; Rodney Stark, 2011 – HarperCollins Publisher (ch16 pg281)

[5] The Book that made your World – Vishal Mangalwadi, 2011 – Thomas Nelsons Press (ch12 pg211)

[6] The Outline of History; H.G. Wells, 1961 – Garden City Books  (pg 587-88)

[7],[8] The Victory of Reason; Rodent Stark, 2005 – Random House Publishers, (pg 52-53 & 55-56)

Disclaimer: I have not yet been to university, hopefully sometime in the next couple years. This post is for friends who are in University right now. Some at secular schools and some are in bible seminaries. I want to offer what I think will help these friends and anyone else who is facing years of study before you can get on with whatever is next. The post is particularly in mind for those attending secular universities. However, I think the principles can apply to many attending Christian Seminaries. Faith is endangered in both environments. Perhaps a follow up to this post will specifically for Christian Seminaries.

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Two Historical Myths – Two Historical Revisions: Part 2

498px-Christopher_ColumbusAndrew Dickson (1832-1918) is responsible for one of the most influential books every written on “the conflict between science and theology”. His summary that has been copied in almost all common textbooks is as follows;

“The warfare of Columbus [with religion] the world knows well: how the Bishop of Ceuta worsted him in Portugal; how sundry wise men of Spain confronted him with the usual quotation from Psalms, from St. Paul, and from St. Augustine; how, even after he was triumphant, and after his voyage had greatly strengthened the theory of the earth’s sphericity… the church by its highest authority solemnly stumbled and persisted in going astray… the theological barriers to this geographical truth yielded but slowly.”

I remember hearing this from a young age. Even as most of my curriculum was christian because of my home schooling. The problem is that most accounts such as these are almost completely false.

It is obvious that today there is a common belief that science and theology or religion are at odds, and can not be reconciled. That is part of the myth is wish to help bring light on.

In fact all educated men of the medieval period knew the earth was round. As for Augustine, anyone who looks into his work will determine that he lacked enough information to make a case for a round earth. But one might actual interpret his work as a man who believed in a flat earth. He was engaged in a battle against belief in a flat earth in which their were people on the other side. Many believe he is fighting against a spherical earth theory. When he is simply engaged in argument over a disc shaped earth that had people upside down on the other side. Strange story really, but he was not opposed to reason.

Boethius (480-524) wrote some of the most influential and widely known works throughout the middle ages. He used the Microbian model of a spherical earth repeatedly in his work. the-copernican-revolution

Bishop Isidore of Seville (560-636) also wrote of a wheel shaped earth, in which many believe he was able to grasp the five zones with adjacent arctic zones.

The Venerable monk Bede (673-735) taught that the world was round as did Bishop Virgilius of Slazburg (720-784), Hildegard of Bengin (1098-1179), and Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274), and all four became saints.

“Sphere” is the title of a popular medieval text book of astronomy written by Scholastic John Sacrobosco (1200-1256). And if that was too late, then there is ‘Ptolemy’s Almagest’ which was the most common textbook on astronomy used all throughout the middle ages, (It discusses the earths spherity, watch the video at the bottom of this page). It is obvious then that any well trained monk or Bishop would have known these things.

And just to be sure, in the very century of Columbus’ journey, Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly (1350-1420) noted, “although there are mountains and valley’s on the earth, for which it is not perfectly round, is approximates very nearly roundness.”

“as for the “sundry wise men of Spain” who challenged Columbus and advised against funding him, they not only knew the earth was round; they also knew that it was far larger then Columbus thought it was. They opposed his plan only on the grounds that he had badly underestimated the circumference of the earth and was counting on a much to short a voyage… in modern measures, Columbus claimed it was about 2,800 miles from the Canary Islands to Japan, when it is actually about 14,000 miles. Had the Western Hemisphere not existed, and Columbus had no knowledge that it did, he and his crew would have died at sea.” -Sociologist Rodney Stark

Historian Jeffery Burton Russel knew that it was not religious fanatics who clung to a scriptural claim that the earth was flat. Rather that,

“nearly unanimous scholarly opinion pronounced the earth spherical, and by the fifteenth century, all doubt had disappeared.”

Edward Grant, who received a “lifetime scholarly achievement” as a historian of science noted, that there is not mention of flat earth among medieval scholars, except for refuting perceptions of flatness, as did Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly.

None of Columbus’ contemporaries, including himself, his son, or Magellan, make any mention of a flat earth. Everyone knew.

The reason many still get this wrong is has a lot to do with Enlightenment and Renaissance figures like Voltaire, Gibbon, and Diderot, themselves not scientists. There writing, history, and encyclopedias became so popularly that anything else became buried under the amount of histories re-written using Enlightenment sources.

Philosophers of science from the modern period as well as our own contemporaries, such as; A.D. White, Thomas Hobbes, Carl Sagan, and Richard Dawkins, continue making false claims, stirring the pot of religion versus science.  A historical myth has created become a culture war where it is completely unnecessary.

Just as the myth of the “dark ages” was propounded by Enlightenment figures seeking to validate their own era as one of intellectual freedom, ans superiority. There was a self-congratulatory claim to science.

Rodeny Stark outlines a list of the 52 scientific stars of the 14-15th Century.

Out of 52 scientific hero’s in physics, astronomy, mathematics, biology/physiology, 61% were considered devout, 34% conventionally religious, and 3% skeptic. Again, this was the 14th-15th century. A time when intellectual freedom was allowed, yet many remained devout, or nominal, whether Catholic or Protestant. Justus_Sustermans_-_Portrait_of_Galileo_Galilei,_1636

One such hero, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) much like Columbus has been a story in which many have set out to prove the constant battle with religion and science. In most histories Galileo is persecuted for his science by the Catholic church. Maybe an other time I could expound upon the weak historical outlook on the life of Galileo. In short he is a hero of faith, and reason, -theology, and science. He was also arrogant, and antagonistic towards a friend who happened to be the Pope Urban III. He was imprisoned, but his work was eventually recognized and reconciled with faith and scripture.

There was no battle between faith and science in the middle ages. It was loving union, in which there is bound to be a bit of tension. But it was out of the Christian faith that me were inspired to look to the heavens and begin to grasp Gods Handiwork.

Where most scientist got in trouble was when they overstepped their bounds, and challenged fundamental Christian doctrine not in connection with any new evidence. Sir Isaac Newton got in trouble for trying to rearrange the trinity. But he was a brilliant physicist who believed he had proved that behind all things in existence is an intelligent, aware, Omnipotent God.

Not only did medieval scholars and clergy believe in a spherical earth, science was not at odds with religion. In fact Christianity had an essential theological climate that gave rise to the sciences. Science was birthed out of monasteries and christian universities, and at times held in check with theology but science has aided theology as well.

Science developed in Europe because of widespread “faith in the possibility of science… derivative from medieval theology.” Alfred North Whitehead a philosopher and mathematician spoke this in 1925 to Harvard intellectuals, they were shocked, so were the many who read his papers on the subject. World famous author (Whitehead), who Johannes Kepler Kopie eines verlorengegangenen Originals von 1610co-authored with Bertrand Russel are not somehow missing the point.

“The chief aim of all investigation of the external world should be to discover the rational order, and harmony imposed on it by God and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics.” – Johannes Kepler

Robert Boyle likewise, in writing to the Royal Society of London, wish success in “their laudable attempts to discover the Nature and Works of God”.

In conclusion it is at times said, that Greek and Roman culture is responsible for the rise of science, or that China started it, or that it was the Muslims who translated the works of Greek thinkers. In reality Greeks did astrology, and philosophy, and some of it was quite good. Thought it did not amount to science. So then to say, simply translating the works of Greek thinkers brought about science is false as well. (Also Latin speaking Europe translated the work of Ptolemy, Euclid, Aristotle, and Plato as well). Muslim scholars have often held that efforts to formulate natural laws are blasphemy in that they would seem to deny Allah’s freedom to act. Though the Chinese had many inventions, potential for science was always cut short of it in the same way it was cut short in the Roman world. There was an inevitable lack of belief in the possibility science. Christianity does not need all the credit, and I have not sought to give all credit for science to Christianity. But it is the only culture in which astrology lead to astronomy, or alchemy lead to chemistry.

The Christian Middle Ages of Europe is the place where Science became Science, very few believed in a flat earth, and scientist were not persecuted for their work. Rather than ignorance, faith and reason prevailed, and Europe made progressive strides separating itself intellectually from the rest of the pack.

C.S. Lewis was one of the most well read of all of his colleagues at Oxford on medieval times. Here is a nicely put together video with voice over from one of his papers on the subject. Enjoy.

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Two Historical Myths – Two Historical Revisions: Part 1

Myth Number OneImage

For centuries it has been commonly held that after the fall of Rome came the “Dark Ages” -many centuries of ignorance and superstition imposed across Europe by Christianity.

“a dark, dismal patch, a sort of dull and dirty chunk of some ten centuries, wedged between the shinning days of the golden Greeks… and the brilliant galaxy of light given out jointly by those twin luminaries, the Renaissance and the Reformation.” -Anne Fremantle

Voltaire (1694-1778) described the long era as when “barbarism, superstition, and ignorance covered the face of the world”. These same sentiments were carried on by Edward Gibbon, and Rousseau. Likewise popular historian Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) agreed that “it is not inappropriate to call these centuries dark, especially if they are set against what came before and what came after.”

The terms Renaissance and Enlightenment often appear simultaneously, at times along with the word, ‘Reformation”. This is because, of course, they all took place within a single century, and stretching into two or perhaps three. The Renaissance is the french word for “rebirth”. According to standard historical accounts, the Renaissance occurred because of the decline in church control over major norther Italian cities such as Florence.

Western history in summary;

  1. Classical Antiquity, to the fall of Rome
  2. Dark Ages, when the church dominated
  3. Renaissance-Enlightenment, which birthed…
  4. Modern Times

This has been the prominent theme in most standard historical textbooks despite the many historians who have known for some time that this is a complete historical myth. Looked upon by defeated historians as “an indestructible fossil of self-congratulatory Renaissance humanism.” (J. H. W. Liebeschuetz)

It is not appropriate to stop using the terms Enlightenment or Renaissance completely. Rather it is better to understand these eras in light of a more accurate portrayal of the so called “Dark Ages”.

Rome

Since it has been said, that it is appropriate to refer to the “dark ages” as ‘dark’ in comparison with the lights of Rome and the continued Greek learning of the Renaissance, lets take a look then at just how great Rome and Greek culture really was. After all it was the Enlightenment and Renaissance era that brought about such a deep Romanticism for the ancient civilization. What if all such reminiscing of the past was exactly that. Romantic ideas about a time long past, a time thought to have been the ideal civilization worth patterning the future after.

What is often forgotten about Rome even in an era when the French fought for revolution and a republic, is that the Roman Empire was, well, an empire. Where constant power struggles took place among the ruling elite, and that beyond border wars that brought wealth to the empire, and some impressive public work projects, very little happened. Change, whether technological or cultural, went on very slowly.

“Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for future developments.” – Roman engineer Sextus Julius Frontinus (40-103)

“Of course half the population of the empire consisted of slaves… Most free Romans lived at a bare substantial level, not because they lacked the potential to achieve a much higher standard of living, but because a predatory ruling elite extracted every ounce of surplus production. If all production above the bare minimum needed for survival is seized by the elite, there is no motivation for anyone to produce more. Consequently, despite the fabulous wealth of the elite, Rome was very poor.” -Sociologist Rodney Stark

“emperors amassed vast wealth but received incomes that were nevertheless small relative to Imagethe immensity of the territories and populations governed” – Economic Historian, E. L. Jones

“When the collapse of the Roman Empire released the tax-paying millions… from a paralyzing oppression, many new technologies began to appear and were rapidly and widely adopted with the result that ordinary people were able to live far better, and, after centuries of decline under Rome, the population began to grow again. No longer were the productive classes bled to sustain the astonishing excess of the Roman elite, or to erect massive monuments to imperial egos, or to support vast armies to hold Romes many colonies in thrall.” (Stark)

What many historians have been content, along with Enlightenment and Renaissance writers, is to simply write off slavery, and become transfixed by the ruin’s of Rome and its ancient monuments. We make the mistake of mourning at the fall of an empire that bled the productive classes when we should be morning the immense sacrifice of the ordinary. There is of course something we could learn from a correct understanding of such an empire as Rome was.

Hence, there was no fall from the glorious Roman empire into the “Dark Ages” of Christian ignorance and superstition. No glorious empire existed, only for the elite ruling class, and only in the minds of intellectual giants of the Renaissance who’s history had been severely flawed by their Romanticism.

So what good happened in the “Dark Ages”?

As I have already mentioned. The elaborate hoax was created primarily by two famous “Enlightenment” intellectuals, Voltaire, and Gibbon. One of the down falls was that most intellectuals had little interest in anything but literary matters. The medieval period was not an era well known for eloquent Latin. At least not as good of Latin as the best from any Roman era. There was limited though not a complete lack of attention paid to the works of Plato and Aristotle, this was taken as ignorance.

I believe it will be sufficient to simply list the achievements made in this era then to expound on the areas where myths have become legends.

Technology.

As has been said, much of the great Roman empires work force came, not from great technologies, but off the backs of slaves. As soon as the ninth century one-third of the estates along the Seine River, near Paris, had water mills, most of which were church-owned properties. Several centuries later there were mills every seventy feet along the river. (Walter Burkert, Franz Cumont)

By 1086 there were already 5,624 water-powered mills operating in England. “This mechanized the production of woolen cloth and allowed England to dominate the European market.” (Liebeschuetz)

Dams were also constructed and Europeans excelled in bridge building. A five hundred foot bridge was built in Ireland as early as 803. Europeans learned to harness the wind and not only used the power for the same purposes as water mills but used in order to pump water. The Netherlands, and Belgium used wind mills to pump out the sea and restore large portions of their flooded land.

Europeans developed a three-field agricultural system in which one-third of the land was left unplanted each year while still being cultivated and fertilized. This increased production tremendously. The invention of heavy plows brought better cultivation of wetter, more dense soil. Similarly the introduction of horse-collar supplanted the need for slow oxen teams. In monasteries the introduction of plant breeding produced more hardy crops. All together, these “Dark Age” inventions brought far more production with far less effort and time spent.

Chimneys also were invented, so no more holes in roofs letting rain and not allowing smoke to leave houses.

Eyeglasses were invented improving many peoples quality of life.

We all know the middle ages as an era of mounted knights. Well, before the “Dark Ages” there were no heavy cavalry. Stirrups, proper saddles, and lance where an innovation of the middle ages. (Stirrups, and a saddle with a high back brace would allow for knights to charge headlong into battle without falling off horses).

While the Chinese get credit for the creation of ‘gun powder’, Europeans are credited with the most functional cannons used eventually in naval and land battles.

What is so glaringly obvious is the great technological advancement of this era in comparison to that of the Roman times.

Along with great technological advancements came the well documented rise of capitalism. I realize that capitalism alone according is not the great cure all for a culture. Nor is democracy. But, even the infamous Karl Marx regarded the rise of capitalism as creating a “more massive and more colossal productive force than all preceding generations.” In short by the thirteenth century there were 173 banks in Italy having hundreds more branches across Europe. The grassroots of capitalism rose out of an unexpected source; The monasteries. Much more could be said about this. (Check out my Library for recommendations).

A great bit more could be said of moral progress throughout the medieval period. For example, by comparison, Roman philosophers were all slave owners, who viewed women in the same regard. Even an uneducated glance into their work would be offensive to any modern or post-modern person.

The “Dark Ages” saw many attempts and a handful of successful emancipation projects. Not only as a direct result of technological innovation, but as a result of theologians; popes, and monks alike. Slavery did not die easily as we well know. It re-surged in various part of Europe, at a number of times throughout the middle ages. Image

A seventh century King of the Franks Clovis II married his British slave, Bathilda who later reigned when Clovis died.

Charlemagne apposed slavery in the eighth century along with the Pope and other influential clerical voices.

Ninth Century Bishop of Agobard voiced: “All men are brothers, all invoke one same father, God: the slave and the master, the poor and the rich man, the ignorant and the learned, the weak and the strong… there is no slave or free.”

In the eleventh century, St. Wulfstan and St. Anselem successfully campaigned to remove the last vestiges of slavery in Christendom.

I have written previously on “High Culture” in the “Dark Ages”. You can check out a more lengthy explanation at the link. But again, in summary, the middle ages saw great advances in music and the development of polyphony. Wonderful art is littered throughout the period in the great Gothic architecture, stained glass, and “Romanesque” painting.

Literature was regarded as a lost art by Gibbon, Voltaire, Cervantes, Machiavelli, and Da Vinci. The Irony however, is that “each of their native languages had been given their literary form by medieval giants such as Dante, Chaucer, the nameless authors of the chansons de geste, and the monks who, beginning in the ninth century, devoted themselves to writing lives of saints…thus the vernacular prose was formulated and popularized” (Stark)

The next two great developments are left off here until later. The rise of universities, and higher education -specifically science will be be discussed in my next blog. And a second common myth exposed.

Conclusions:

Common Myth: The “Dark Ages” existed from 500-1500 AD. Christianity imposed an era of ignorance and superstition all across Europe. A period preceded and followed by the glorious lights of Greek and Roman antiquities, and the Enlightenment-Renaissance.

Common Revision: The Period from the fall of Rome until the Enlightenment across Europe was not ‘dark’ rather, the fall of Rome initiated a great and accelerating learning curve of innovation and progress that was only beginning to reach maturity as is neared the time of the “Enlightenment-Renaissance” era.

Click HERE for PART 2 of this Post – Myth #2

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Gods Battalions

This was a book I wanted to read because of educational reasons. What happened for real in the crusades? This book gives the gory details of the Muslim Conquest of the Holy Land and as far as Spain, France, and Italy. It gives the details of gbEurope’s response. The gigantic question for many Christians like myself is; “was it a Christian response.”  Some are quick as I myself often am to say, “NO”! Violence is never a Christian response. However, that is not Rodney Stark’s conclusion. Rodney sticks to a sociological perspective. We can not judged one time period with the 21st Century presumption of what is right or wrong. But I think its interesting to see Rodney, now a Christian himself toeing a line where Christians have always sought to judge right and wrong based on what Christ would do or what the bible would say. Certainly there is a lot of criticism of the crusades. However, much of it brought about during the “Enlightenment” by strong figures such as Edward Gibbons, an influential historian and writer who sought to vilify the Catholic Church for centuries of what is referred to as the “Dark Ages”.  A period in which the church guided the whole of Europe into ignorance and stinted progress. (It was completely the opposite). The other criticism comes during the missions movement during the 20th century. When missionaries began attempting to reach Arab nations with the gospel of Christ. Certainly in order for Western Missionaries to be effective in Arab nations, apologies may open a door. So that is to say both Christians and Humanist Historians convince the masses that the crusades were almost entirely the fault of barbaric Europeans forcing their backwards way of life on peaceful, tolerant Muslim cultures. To use Rodney’s Words, “Nonsense”. No apologies needed. However, maybe apologies are something that help us build relationship with Arabs. You decide.

Maybe there could be one practical take away from the criticisms that happen when we think of the crusades. Maybe we could decide not to judge Europe’s response any differently then we judge the Muslim Empires conquest of Christian and Jewish lands. That the conquest done by Muslims of north Africa and all of the Mid-east is barbaric and cruel. With a close look Muslim conquerors  were not peaceful tolerant regimes but oppressive. That Muslim conquerors were not more culturally advanced then Europe. In fact in order to navigate the seas and build the ships they needed Egyptian ships, and Coptic Christians to navigate them. The Highly acclaimed Arab architecture also turns out to be of a Persian and Byzantine origin. The reason the architecture of both the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher resemble each other is because both were achieved by Byzantine craftsmen. The many intellectual books written in Arabic did not make them Arabic. Most often such scientific and medical books were the work of Christian Persians and Jews. Even considering mathematics. “Arabic Numerals” were entirely of Hindu origin. “Arabic Medicine” is actually Nestorian Christian work mistakenly attributed to Arabs because the works were translated into Arabic. Not to say Arab Muslim culture attributed nothing progressive or intellectual but must often what is attributed to them is done so because they conquered lands and people and laid claim to what they liked, or most often needed. Like ships, navigation, physicians, bankers, accountants, scientists, military technology, and agriculture.

As always there is plenty from Starks work that can offend good Christians, and offend those who are annoyed by Christians. Its a challenging book to read because you have to face some realities of history that some Christians and non-Christians alike would not wish to engage with. Fun stuff. Check it out.

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