Saint Augustine of Hippo, playing hot potato with his heart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Following introductory material from C S Lewis here, here, and here, the affective devotion chapter of my Getting Medieval with C S Lewis opens its tour of medieval heart religion with a peek into Origen, Augustine, and other early Church Fathers:
Origen, early fathers
Although affective piety was “a mood and form of expression which advanced over all of Europe between the eleventh and the sixteenth centuries,” (ATK: 130-131), the writers of that period, from Anselm to Bernard to Julian to Dante, were merely passing on a tendency from the early church, described by Robert Wilken: “Nothing is more characteristic of the Christian intellectual tradition than its fondness for the language of the heart.” Even in the most detailed theologizing of the early and medieval fathers, “The goal was not only understanding but love.”
The very first systematic commentator on Scripture, Origen of Alexandria (185-254), interpreted the Song of Songs as an allegory of the believer’s relationship with God—erotic emotions and all. In Origen’s reading, the song’s male lover is God or Christ and its female lover is Israel, the church, or the believer. Augustine, Gregory the Great, and a long line of medieval interpreters would pick up Origen’s approach to the Song of Songs, using similar sexual language of our desire for God. As Gregory mused, “‘what force of love exists in the bedchamber of the Bridegroom.’” Continue reading
From a fascinating book by Darrel W. Amundsen—Medicine, Society, and Faith in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996)—come the following observations on early Christian attitudes toward medicine and physicians. These excerpts come from chapter 5, “Medicine and Faith in Early Christianity” (sentences not in quotation marks are comments from me). See here for further insights from Amundsen, on what medievals thought caused illness. And see here for some of his observations on the spiritual usefulness of illness and the meaning of plague.
“While among pagans  and Christians the same range of attitudes toward medicine and healing existed, there was one essential difference between pagans and at least those Christians who had actively embraced the gospel. . . . This pervasive difference between pagans and Christians resulted from the highly personal relationship existing between the individual Christian and an omnipotent God who was typically viewed as a having a direct concern with and involvement in the life of the believer. Continue reading
Posted in Resources for Radical Living
Tagged Augustine of Hippo, Gregory Nazianzen, healing, health, Jerome, John Chrysostom, medicine, Origen of Alexandria, paganism, stoicism, suffering
Here I am at the Calvin seminar on the seven deadly sins, at Calvin College. What are we talking about? Here’s a sample, on the deadly sins (better: “capital vices,” that is, dispositions from which a bunch of other nasty dispositions and sins flow) in the thought of Evagrius Pontus, whose list included eight of the suckers:
Calvin Seven Deadly Sins seminar Day 2
A survey of the seven deadly sins (capital vices) in Evagrius’s Praktikus, Gregory the Great’s Moralia, and John Cassian’s Conferences, conference 5
Presenters: Rebecca Konyndyk Deyoung (Calvin College) and Robert Kruschwitz (Baylor University):
Evagrius (345 – 399; died as Origenist controversy breaking out) inherited and joined well-established desert tradition. Showed up in late 300s. Not an innovator re inventing the desert experience.
What he did do was try to gather, systematize, innovate a bit, but right down what was going on already. Compiler in a creative way.
Cassian (365 – 435?) joined him out in the desert for around 2 decades. When Evagrius died, he set out for Southern France, set up a monastic version of the desert tradition out in France. Continue reading
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants, Resources for Radical Living
Tagged Aristotle, Cappadocian Fathers, desert fathers, Evagrius Pontus, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory the Great, John Cassian, moral philosophy, moral psychology, Origen of Alexandria, Plato, seven deadly sins, sin, stoicism
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