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
The Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijnants (1670) shows the Good Samaritan tending the injured man. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Here’s the next bit of the “hospitals chapter” in Getting Medieval with C S Lewis. It follows from this bit on Lewis and this introductory bit.
So how did all of this translate into a Christian emphasis on bodily care? For the early and medieval churches were notable for healing. Yes, miraculous healing, on occasion. But also, and much more frequently, the sort of healing that comes from basic nursing care and the application of medical knowledge (however rudimentary during most of the period we’re studying).
The Pagans in the Roman world of Christianity’s birth had no such distinctive. They had “no religious impulse for charity that took the form of personal concern for those in distress.” Indeed the Pagans taught neither compassion nor active mercy as virtues. To be merciful only helped the weak—those who were drags on society.
It is important that we “get” how radical this change was, from the Pagan to the Christian attitude toward illness and healing: “In the cramped, unsanitary warrens of the typical Roman city, under the miserable cycle of plagues and famines, the sick found no public institutions dedicated to their care and little in the way of sympathy or help.” Continue reading
Well, I’ve gotten a bit behind on posting – been busy writing the chapter of Getting Medieval with C S Lewis about medieval compassionate action – through the case study of a thoroughly medieval institution: the hospital. Did get the whole thing written, so I’ll be posting it bit by bit over the next few days.
I don’t think I have to start this chapter on how medievals pioneered the hospital by making a case that compassion, mercy, and healing are good things. I’m pretty sure people of every age and religion will agree on that one. Nor will I indicate some flaw in evangelical culture on this matter of compassionate ministry. The healthcare system, schools, social services departments, and NGOs are full of compassionate evangelicals, as well as compassionate non-evangelicals and compassionate non-Christians. But as I have researched the ancient and medieval development of that innovative institution in world history—the hospital—I have wondered more than once: do modern Christians really “get” the relationship of mercy and the Gospel the way medievals did?
So, allow me to open this case study in Christian compassion with a question . . .
How central is mercy to the Gospel?
We know the story. Mary the sister of Lazarus got to where Jesus was. She fell down at his feet, overcome with grief and just a bit of accusatory anger: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” He saw her crying. The others with her were also crying.
What was Jesus’ response? Continue reading
Folks, I know this is considerably “late to the party,” but I just discovered my friend Edwin Woodruff Tait’s recent review of Rob Bell‘s controversial Love Wins, and I believe it’s worth pointing you all to. This is in part because the kerfuffle over Bell’s book has not yet entirely died down, as thoughtful evangelicals (and many polemicists) are still discussing (hurling vitriol at) the book and its author. [For an excellent historical “backgrounder” on the issues raised by Bell in his book, see the article by Christianity Today managing editor Mark Galli here.]
First, the review link, so you can look at it yourself, and then a few clips.
The review may be read here. (And may I add: Edwin, I’m proud to know you!)
Now a few clips (of course, several links of several logical chains are missing in what follows–if you are interested in the whole argument, you should go to the link above):
As I understand this broader argument, it works something like this:
1. Salvation is God’s redeeming and transforming work in the world, overcoming our sinfulness and restoring us to a right relationship with God, one another, and creation.
This seems like it shouldn’t be controversial to me, but certainly many evangelicals speak as if
salvation was simply about having our sins forgiven and going to heaven. Continue reading
Cross of the Coptic Church, mistakenly called a “monophysite” church
This post follows from “Who do you say that I am: Controversies about Christ in the early church,” Controversies about Christ in the early church, part II: The hybrid Jesus and the Second Council, and Controversies about Christ in the early church, part III: The werewolf Jesus and the third council.
So now we’re in the run-up to the fourth council: the council of Chalcedon. The major issue here was this: Eutyches was abbot of a large monastery. He was a strong supporter of Cyril, who had started to fight the Nestorians. This Eutyches was not going to compromise his position against Nestorius: he eliminated all possibility of a werewolf-Jesus by saying Christ had only one nature: his divine nature.
Remember the orthodox position: from the moment the 2nd person of the trinity became incarnate, this divine nature or person also possessed a human nature.
But how did Eutyches explain our salvation if Christ had only a divine and not a human nature? Continue reading
Justin Martyr, the Christian philosopher, about to say something profound about the Logos
This post follows from “Who do you say that I am: Controversies about Christ in the early church“:
[The following paragraph is adapted from an appendix to Philip Jenkins’s fascinating new book, Jesus Wars:How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 years. I do think this subtitle is significantly misleading–these decisions were in fact made “ex corde ecclesia”–out of the heart of the church. But Jenkins tells a rollicking tale, and with scholarly care–a rare combination]
The emperor Theodosius I called the second ecumenical council of the church, called the First Council of Constantinople, in 381. This council met mainly to settle continuing debates concerning the Trinity. Arianism remained powerful long after the Council of Nicea, while some groups denied the full divinity of the Holy Spirit. The Council of Constantinople tried to resolve these issues, and it defined the role of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity. Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Apollinarianism, Apollinaris, Christology, First Council of Constantinople, heresy, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Justin Martyr, Logos, Nicene Creed
Glory of the newborn Christ in the presence of God the Father and the Holy Spirit; ceiling painting made by Daniel Gran (1694-1757), Annakirche, Vienna
The Council of Nicea in 325 established as orthodoxy the belief that Jesus Christ was co-eternal with the Father–an equal partner in the Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit (though a full theology of the Holy Spirit had yet to be developed).
But another controversy was beginning to heat up–one that would cause the first great schism of the church. And this one involved many more heretical bunny trails than the controversy with the Arians–even counting all of the Eusebians, Homoians, and so forth who muddied the Trinitarian waters between Nicea and the First Council of Constantinople (381).
This is the story of the tangled web of controversy about the person of Christ: how it was woven, what its strands were, and how at last the controversy was resolved. If you’re like I was when I first learned this stuff, this will stretch your mind and make you ask some questions you’ve never asked before: Continue reading
Missed this yesterday but better late than never. Here’s Christianity Today news editor Ted Olsen’s blog piece on what the Feast of the Annunciation means, why it’s on March 25, and why even pro-life evangelicals ignore this commemoration of the conception of Jesus (and his personhood even in Mary’s womb).