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Read chapter 2. The Middle Ages in How Should We Then Live?

Here are some quotes to consider:

“Nevertheless, the pristine Christianity set forth in the New Testament gradually became distorted humanistic element was added: Increasingly, the authority of the church took precedence over the teaching of the Bible. And there was an ever-growing emphasis on salvation as resting on man’s meriting the merit of Christ, instead of on Christ’s work alone. While such humanistic elements were somewhat different in content from the humanistic elements of the Renaissance, the concept was essentially the same in that it was man taking to himself that which belonged to God. Much of Christianity up until the sixteenth century was either reaction against or reaffirmation of these distortions of the original Christian, biblical teaching.

“These distortions generated cultural elements which mark a clear alternative to what we could otherwise call a Christian or biblical culture. Part of the fascination of medieval studies is to trace the degree to which different aspects of the complex Western cultural inheritance were emphasized or deemphasized according to the moral and intellectual response of people to the Christian God they claimed to worship. It would be a mistake to suppose that the overall structure of thought and life was not Christian. Yet it would be equally mistaken to deny that into this structure were fitted alien or half-alien features—some of Greek and Roman origin, others of local pagan ancestry—which at times actually obscured the outlines of the Christianity underneath.

“This was not and is not a peculiarly medieval problem. From the earliest days of the Christian church, when Christianity was a small minority movement, believers had struggled with their personal and corporate response to Christ’s prayer that they be in the world but not of it.” (p.32)

“The medieval situation was at the same time easier and more complex than it had been for the Roman officer Maurice. It was easier insofar as Europe was regarded as Christ’s kingdom—Christendom. Thus, Christian baptism was not only spiritually but socially and politically significant: It denoted entrance into society. Only a baptized person was a fully accepted member of European society. A Jew was a non-person in this sense, and for this reason he could engage in occupations (such as moneylending) which were otherwise forbidden. But if the church baptized or consecrated the state, this only made more complex the problem of conscience, because a government which is to all appearances in tune with society can, for that very reason, betray society with the greatest impunity. This, of course, was and is true of the church as an organization, too.” (p.39)

“Considering our own day, it is interesting that one of the marks which is shown characterizing good government is that it is safe for a woman to walk alone in the streets, while under bad government she is subject to being attacked, raped, or robbed.” (p.39)

“Indeed, they set out thoroughly to domesticate [Greek and Roman thought] within the context of a majestic curriculum of Christian education which became the general model followed right up to the Renaissance. But if a robust Christian faith could handle non-Christian learning without compromising, it was all too easy for Greek and Roman thought forms to creep into the cracks and chinks of a faith which was less and less founded on the Bible and rnore and more resting on the authority of church pronouncements. By the thirteenth century the great Aquinas (1225-1274) had already begun, in deference to Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), to open the door to placing revelation and human reason on an equal footing.” (p.43)

“Under Charlemagne, the church became a more general cultural force. Church power became coextensive with state power, and culturally the two spheres fed one another….Charlemagne and his scholar-courtiers laid a base for the unity of ideas throughout western Europe.” (p.44)

“During the change from the Romanesque to the Gothic, Mariology began to grow in the church. The Romanesque churches were not dedicated to the Virgin, but the Gothic churches of France were overwhelmingly dedicated to her. Here again we see and feel a growing tension: The birth pangs of the Middle Ages were characterized by an awakened cultural and intellectual life and an awakened piety. Yet at the same time the church continued to move away from the teaching of early Christianity as distortions of biblical doctrine increased. Soon European thought would be divided into two lines, both of which have come down and influenced our own day: first, the humanistic elements of the Renaissance, and second, the Bible-based teaching of the Reformation.” (p.48)

“Having said all that, we must recognize that there eventually came a change which does merit the name Renaissance. But we should realize that it was not the rebirth of man; it was the rebirth of an idea about man. There was a change in thinking about man, a change which put man himself in the center of all things, and this change was expressed in the arts.” (p.51)

“Aquinas’s contribution to Western thought is, of course, much richer than_we can discuss here, but his view of man demands our attention. Aquinas held that man had revolted against God and thus was fallen, but Aquinas had an incomplete view of the Fall. He thought that the Fall did not affect man as a whole but only in part. In his view the will was fallen or corrupted but the intellect was not affected. Thus people could rely on their own human wisdom, and this meant that people were free to mix the teachings of the Bible with the teachings of the non-Christian philosophers.” (p.51)

“This problem is often spoken of as the nature-versus-grace problem. Beginning with man alone and only the individual things in the world (the particulars), the problem is how to find any ultimate and adequate meaning for the individual things. The most important individual thing for man is man himself. Without some ultimate meaning for a person (for me, an individual), what is the use of living and what will be the basis for morals, values, and law? If one starts from individual acts rather than with an absolute, what gives any real certainty concerning what is right and what is wrong about an individual action?….Beginning from man alone, Renaissance humanism—and humanism ever since—has found no way to arrive at universals or absolutes which give meaning to existence and morals.” (p.55)

“Two things, then, laid the foundation for what was now to follow: first, the gradually awakened cultural thought and awakened piety of the Middle Ages; and second, an increasing distortion of the teaching of the Bible and the early church. Humanist elements had entered. For example, the authority of the church took precedence over the teaching of the Bible; fallen man was considered able to return to God by meriting the merit of Christ; and there was a mixture of Christian and ancient non-Christian thought (as Aquinas’s emphasis on Aristotle). This opened the way for people to think of themselves as autonomous and the center of all things.” (p.56)

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