Having looked, in the “theology chapter” of the forthcoming Getting Medieval with C S Lewis, first at our evangelical problem with Truth, then at the medieval scholastics’ way of understanding and teaching Truth, we now come to the central storyline of medieval theology: its unique attempt to hold faith and reason together.
I start my discussion of this heroic attempt with a brief account of where the early church thought heresy came from (surprisingly: an over-active use of reason) and how early theologians and councils acted to preserve the integrity of the apostolic faith.
The next post will show what medieval thinkers did with this early precedent when it came time to re-explain the mysteries of the faith for new socio-cultural realities.
When I say that medieval thinkers held reason and faith in a delicate balance, I am thinking of their ability to use reasoned understanding and argument not to erase mystery, but to carefully couch and protect it. This was a premodern trait. The modern tendency – let us say, post-Enlightenment – has been to put our trust in what Stanley Grenz called the “omnicompetence” of reason–its supposed ability to fix all humans problems and solve all conundrums. The postmodern tendency, on the other hand, is to point to the man behind the curtain, or the emperor who has no clothes–to assume that anybody who claims to have figured things out via reason is actually making a power grab, disguising baser motives.
I would argue that the postmoderns are now where the nominalists were at the end of the medieval period. They have looked cynically behind the claims that we may know truth, at least partially, via reason, and they have lost faith in our ability to see any truth beside the one each of us makes for ourselves. Conservatives today may even be tempted to identify postmoderns as those who, in the Dantean phrase, have “lost the good of the intellect”—they can no longer access moral truth. But that’s too easy: the fundamental insight of postmodernism is hard to argue with: people do in fact often claim to be following the direct dictates of reason when in fact their motives have little to do with reasoned understanding. (Nor is this even intentional much of the time!)
But when we go back to a brilliant premodern Christian thinker such as the proto-scholastic Augustine of Hippo, we find a different process: Instead of claiming that “reason solves all,” he frequently looks up from an argument he’s just presented (say, on the nature of the Trinity), and he says: “I didn’t say you had to like it.” Continue reading
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants
Tagged Augustine of Hippo, Christ, Council of Chalcedon, faith and reason, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, heresy, Irenaeus of Lyon, modernism, postmodernism, Stanley Grenz, two natures of Christ
Again a re-post, from the Christianity Today history blog. For a related posted on this blog, see here:
Signs and Wonders: The Charismatic Power of Early Christianity
by Chris Armstrong | January 7, 2009
When we teach about the early church, we frequently omit the story of spiritual gifts.
Cessationism is the belief that the miracles of Jesus’ lifetime and the apostolic period happened solely to attest to the authority and inspiration of the apostolic writings, and that miracles and extraordinary spiritual gifts ceased after the writing of the apostolic documents was concluded.
As writers such as ex-Dallas Seminary professor Jack Deere have argued, this is a position with no biblical foundation. But it also has a problem with the historical record. That record shows clearly that the early church was quite active in the charismatic gifts at least through 200 AD. There was a decline in the 3rd century, and then again it became active.
Sadly, many writers and teachers who are not cessationist continue to give the impression that miracles and extraordinary gifts were phenomena limited to the apostolic period. The way the early church is usually taught, we hear much about martyrdom and persecution; much about Gnostics and Arians and doctrinal disputes; much about how bishops and clergy roles evolved, and how the apostolic tradition was passed down and the canon of the New Testament evolved. Continue reading
Posted in Resources for Radical Living
Tagged Adolph Harnack, Augustine of Hippo, charismatic movement, charismatics, Didache, early church, exorcism, faith healing, healing, Irenaeus of Lyon, Justin Martyr, miracles, Origen of Alexandria, prophecy, Shepherd of Hermas, Stanley Burgess
Here is a continuation of my previous post on charismatic phenomena in “non-charismatic” church traditions. This time we head back farther in time and cross confessional lines. As with many of these posts, this was previously posted a few years back at http://www.christianhistory.net. For a related article on this blog, see here:
Christian History Corner: Timeline of the Spirit-gifted
Before Moody, Finney, Edwards, and Mather came a long line of Catholic and Orthodox believers reputed to enjoy the promise of the Father.
Several readers wrote in after last week’s newsletter, “Do non-charismatics ‘Do’ Holy Spirit Baptism?” to chide me for omitting the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians who have sought and taught the Spirit’s empowering work in the Christian’s life.
As I thought about filling that gap in this week’s newsletter, it occurred to me: Why should I try to say again what has already been well said, and exceptionally well researched, by a scholar who has made the history of Holy Spirit baptism his life’s work?
Stanley M. Burgess is a professor of religious studies at Southwest Missouri State University and editor of The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Zondervan, 2002). That indispensable tome displays prominently on its cover an abbreviated timeline of Pentecostal prehistory. Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Augustine of Hippo, charismatics, Francis of Assisi, Irenaeus of Lyon, Justin Martyr, miracles, Origen of Alexandria, Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism, the Didache, the Jansenists, the Shepherd of Hermas, Thomas Aquinas