Reflections on Method, Women, and Early Christianity

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be running a series of reflections stemming from a doctoral seminar on Women and Gender in Early Christianity, taught at Saint Louis University by Carolyn Osiek. These posts will proceed in (more or less) chronological order, beginning with today’s reflections on methodology.

Randi R. Warne

Randi R. Warne

Introducing a “special edition” of Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, Randi R. Warne (“Introduction: Gender and the Study of Religion.” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 13 (2001): 141-152.) advocates gender studies as a necessary category for scholarly investigation of religion. Engaging the “one sex/flesh” model of androcentric approaches to religion—which presume the normativity of maleness and view “woman” as the “other” and deficient—Warne outlines the limits of an exclusive religious focus on men and “man.” Continue reading

MHT: The Rise of Modern History

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting on the appropriate approach to and method for historical theology.

Lord Acton

Lord Acton

This was first great Modern shift in historical thinking, coming to recognize that human existence exists within changing space and time.[11] While this fact was first the product of Biblical and Humanistic scholarship, Enlightenment thinking soon became the “intellectual movement under whose aegis this recognition of the fact of change came to be widely, if not universally shared.”[12] This growing preoccupation with history engaged the changes and developments in certain Christian dogmas throughout the ages. Studies which demonstrated problems with the Church’s claims to timeless continuity eventually helped foster secularization, where Christian religion lost authority over social institutions and the sciences—including history—began to reign supreme. Continue reading

Poems, Protest, and a Dream

Sor JuanaOf the various perspectives within the confines of post-Reformation Church history, perhaps none is more interesting than the writings of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. A Catholic writer (and later a Catholic nun) living in the New World during the 15th century (xxiv), Sor Juana’s theological perspective exhibits the increasingly uneasy place of traditional Catholic faith in the midst of the rise of Modernism. Sor Juana’s reflections remain extant primarily in poetic form, though at least one major treatise is available to us. Through our examination of Sor Juana’s writings found in Poems, Protests, and a Dream, we see that Sor Juana conceived of her Catholic faith in terms of increasing awareness of the relationship of faith and reason and the importance of individuality with regard to intellectual and personal faith. Continue reading

Medieval Misconceptions

One of the problems of living in an age saturated with knowledge (or at least the claims to knowledge that circulate the portions of the internet that I seem to inhabit) is constantly running into misconceptions about the history of Christianity, especially about the Medieval Age. As we all probably know from personal experience, it’s hard to have a meaningful conversation with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you. Similarly, it’s difficult to have an intelligent conversation with someone who begins their thinking with a different set of historical assumptions than yourself. So today I’ve outlined ten of the most pervasive misconceptions about Church History as a means of helping adjust the historical basis from which have conversations about faith. These are misconceptions from every era of Church History, but you’ll note that misconceptions about the medieval period are especially prevalent.

Luther Poting 95 Theses1. Church history began with Martin Luther. Or at least, nothing good happened between the death of the Apostle John and Luther’s nailing the Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenburg church door. The biggest misconception about Church History is that there isn’t Church History, that there haven’t been Christians throughout the world for thousands of years or that there was no “true Christianity” between the Apostles and the beginning of our preferred denomination or church. Continue reading