Madonna of humility by Fra Angelico, c. 1430. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The final, trumpets-and-cymbals chapter of my Medieval Wisdom: An Exploration with C S Lewis explores a theme that I think can most benefit modern Western Christians, if only we grasp it. This is the opening bit, which starts with a biblical figure who modern Protestants regard with some nervousness as a symbol of Roman Catholicism–the Virgin Mary:
I was working at Christianity Today in the early 2000s, as managing editor of Christian History magazine. After getting a few issues under my belt, I hesitantly offered the suggestion that we do an issue on “Mary in the Christian Imagination.” Though the idea met with more support than I had feared (at that distinctively evangelical Protestant magazine), my art director did hazard the prediction that we would lose readers if we did the topic. Imagine my surprise when in the end, not only didn’t we lose any readers (that we knew), but we actually won the Evangelical Press Association’s award that year for best single-topic issue. This told me we’d hit a nerve with our evangelical Protestant readers. Apparently, there’s “something about Mary,” even for the descendants of Protestant fundamentalists. Continue reading
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants
Tagged Annunciation, Catholic Church, Christian History magazine, Christianity Today, crucifixion, embodiedness, embodiment, Incarnation, Jaroslav Pelikan, Jesus, Mary
Complete writings of church fathers before, during, and after the Council of Nicea (325)
Why did C S Lewis so strongly rely on the integrity of the Christian tradition? Why was he a “traditional” Christian–a reader of the church fathers, a student of the medieval mystics, an appreciator of scholastic theology? For one thing, he saw what many modern Christians do not: that the boundaries marked out by tradition and the interpretive frameworks provided by it strengthen our ability to understand and live the primary revelation of Scripture.
Tradition in the early church: Irenaeus and the Cappadocians address the heretics
One barrier that still stands in the way of broader acceptance of tradition among free-church Protestants is the misunderstanding of the Reformation that says that medieval Christians treated tradition as a source of authority separate from Scripture. The notion would have been ludicrous to medievals. Scripture and tradition had never been separated in the early church. The church had met together in councils repeatedly to discern the meanings of Scripture. The resulting creeds (elaborated out of long-repeated local church creeds that developed out of the heart of worship) became part of tradition, as protections against wildfire teachings such as Arianism, docetism, and monophysitism.
The very New Testament canon itself, whose now-accepted list of books did not appear until 367 AD in an Easter letter of Athanasius, emerged out of a process of communal discernment led, as they believed, by the Holy Spirit. Which books and letters, when read in the congregations, evidenced spiritual power and truth by supporting and edifying the congregants and building up the church? No serious Christian thinker until the Wycliffes and Huses of the late medieval period—when tradition had become a crutch and a tool of power on the part of some of those at the top of the church—seriously doubted the seamlessness of Scripture and tradition and their necessity to one another. Continue reading
A fascinating modern exploration of Benedictine ways
The following are brief excerpts and quotations I marked while reading Dennis Okholm’s Monk Habits for Ordinary People (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007). Along with works by Kathleen Norris, Phyllis Tickle, Leighton Ford, Karen E. Sloan, Tony Jones, and a growing group of other Protestant authors, Okholm’s book explores medieval monasticism–especially the Benedictine tradition. The forward is by Kathleen Norris.
As with the David Bell and Jaroslav Pelikan “glimpses” and the glimpses of Benedict and Francis by Columba Stewart, William Short, G. K. Chesterton, and Mark Galli, I thank my t.a., Shane Moe, who transcribed these and inserted brief contextual tags where helpful. Page numbers are at the beginning of each excerpt. The designation “Q” means I wanted to save the text as a quotation, for use in teaching and writing. “D” means the definition of a term. “U” means I want to use an idea or statement in my teaching:
Q, 9 (from Kathleen Norris’s forward to the book, on Ockholm’s discussion of Protestants being attracted to monasteries): “He demonstrates that it is not just another case of Americans shopping around for their spirituality, but a genuine reclaiming of the taproot of Christianity, a reconnecting with a religious tradition and way of life that predates all of the schisms in Christendom.” Continue reading
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants, Resources for Radical Living
Tagged Benedict of Nursia, Benedict's Rule, Benedictinism, G K Chesterton, Jaroslav Pelikan, Kathleen Norris, Medieval, Middle Ages, monasticism, Protestantism
I’m currently reading Many Mansions: An Introduction to the Development and Diversity of Medieval Theology, by David N. Bell of Memorial University, Newfoundland. The volume also includes a host of medieval images selected and described by Terryl N. Kinder. The book is from the excellent Cistercian Studies Series (#146) (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1996).
This is a rare book in the field of introductions to the history of Christian thought, in that it deals with both medieval Western and Byzantine (medieval-era) Eastern theology in a clear, compelling, accessible manner appropriate for use in an undergraduate or graduate classroom—though students in either may occasionally have to look up words that the author uses without glossing; part of a winsome and erudite style. Continue reading