A Brief History of Communion: Medieval Christianity

This post is part of an ongoing series on the history of communion.

The Medieval Church

During the medieval period, the Church began to use a common liturgy for Eucharistic celebration, with prescribed texts and traditions for services and practice. Some differences emerged between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity, differences which were formalized following the Great Schism of 1054 CE.1 In the Roman West, the liturgy increasingly occurred in Latin, even in non-Latin speaking areas which were evangelized. In the Byzantine East, Greek liturgies were the most common, although in many locations liturgy continued to be held in vernacular languages. Continue reading

On the Misuse of Christian Tradition: A Response

sola_scriptura_forumsThe proper relationship between the authority of Christian Scripture and authority of Christian Tradition avails itself to no easy answers. From a historical viewpoint, much of the early development of both remains hotly debated. From a theological perspective, centuries (and sometimes millennia) old debates continue to shape thinking and lead toward answers long before any explicit consideration of this relationship comes into focus.

Yet there seem to be boundaries—a “highway of orthodoxy” if you will—which suggest (or perhaps demand?) a certain perspective on the Christian understanding of the interplay between Scripture and Tradition, a stance which holds a) Scripture as inspired and authoritative (overly precise definitions aside); b) Tradition as important for properly interpreting Scripture (or, if you prefer more Protestant phrasings, “interpreting within the community” or even “Scripture interpreting Scripture”); and c) both Scripture and Tradition as necessarily in conversation with one another (i.e., neither allowed to dominate the other). Continue reading

Blogging and Saint Patrick

SLU

Saint Louis University

The past two weekends have been especially busy, as I’ve attended and presented at two conferences. The first was ‘That They May Be One’: The Past, Present, and Future of Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue”, hosted by Saint Louis University and the St. Irenaeus Orthodox Theological Institute. Though I am neither Orthodox or Catholic (yet, as my colleagues like to remind me), I really enjoyed this conference, especially keynote speaker Fr. John Daley of Notre Dame. I had the opportunity to present a paper titled “Blogging Ecumenically: The Present and Future of Online Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue” based on my experiences as managing editor at Conciliar Post. I’ve been running this paper as a series here the past couple of weeks, but I’ve also posted the full version of the paper to my Academia.edu profile. (You can also comment below if you’d like me to send you the paper.) Continue reading

Bible Translations, Not Inspired (Redux)

Open BibleSome time ago I published a brief reflection titled “Bible Translations, Not Inspired,” in which I argued that we must not assume that our contemporary Bibles—because they are translations—are the same thing as the inspired (inherent) words of God. While I don’t want to disagree with that post, I do want to reflect upon the inspiration of the scriptures, spurned on by Jaroslav Pelikan’s Whose Bible Is It?, which I’ve been reading the past couple of days.

Occasionally I will run into someone who holds an unusually high view of a certain version or translation of the Bible. This is true across denomination lines: Catholics have the Apocrypha and the Vulgate, the Orthodox have the Septuagint, and various Protestants have their Scofield Reference Bibles, the King James Version, or the dearly-beloved ESV. And because we have our version of the best Bible, clearly our theology must be more fully informed (and therefore accurate). Continue reading

Book Review: Restoring All Things (Smith and Stonestreet)

“Christians are called to live for the good of the world. This requires understanding and action. We must think clearly about the world and engage deeply when and where we can.”

Restoring All ThingsIn his essay “On the Reading of Old Books”, C.S. Lewis once admonished his readers to engage numerous old books for every new book that they read. The prevailing attitude of Lewis’s day (and, indeed, that of our own) often emphasizes the new. In opposition to this “cult of innovation” we are often encouraged to return to the foundational classics of civilization and culture, and rightly so. Yet along with the wealth of the past, we must also read new books—this very website contains my reflections on a new book almost every week. Many of these new books I fully expect to make only limited lasting contributions to the shape of our world (if they make any substantial contribution at all). There are exceptions of course—though I shall not delve into a catalogue of what I perceive to be the most influential contemporary books in this particular review—and these writings are to be engaged with great eagerness. Certain other books are highly descriptive in nature, accurately taking the pulse of our world from a particular moment and perspective. The best of these are works which not only offer a catalog of contemporary culture but also connect that description with principled analysis. Though I have read many a writing claiming this dual role of description and analysis, none in recent years hold a candle to the work which is the topic of today’s review. Continue reading

Numbering the Psalms?

Book of PsalmsThe Psalms have long been the hymnal of Christian worship. Jesus and his disciples sang the psalms of the Hebrew Bible and the practice continued with Paul and other early followers of Christ. In fact, insofar as we can tell, Christians of the first two centuries used the Psalm more than any other book of the Christian Old Testament.[1] As the Church continued to grow and other Christian liturgical materials appeared (for example, the Odes of Solomon and hymns of Ephrem and Ambrose), the Psalms continued to form the basis for much Christian worship. By the fourth and fifth centuries, numerous commentaries on the theological and historical meanings of the Psalms had appeared, further cementing the Psalms as the foundational source for Christian worship of God in Trinity. Continue reading

PRV2: Protestant-Catholic Dialogue

This post is part of our ongoing series examining Protestant Reactions to Vatican II.

VaticanAnother facet of the Second Vatican Council that has garnered a variety of responses from Protestant Christians involves those documents discussing the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian Churches. While not universally affirmed, the general perspective of Protestant scholars on this issue has affirmed the position taken by Vatican II. Clearly the council gave special attention to Eastern Orthodox churches, which until Vatican II were summarily ignored or feuded with by Rome, as in Orientalium Ecclesiarum the Eastern Church was acknowledged to have an antiquity, continuity, and ecclesial validity rivaling Rome itself.[1] Regarding Protestant-Catholic relations, Lindbeck argues that, despite of reports concerning numerous unintended consequences of Vatican II, the renewal of Protestant-Catholic relations remains very much an intended consequence of the council.[2] Indeed, he argues that the placement of Marian dogma within the constitution on the Church was an important step along the road of ecumenical Protestant engagement and an important step away from pre-Vatican II Marian maximalism.[3] Continue reading

PRV2: Divine Revelation and the Church

This post is part of our ongoing series examining Protestant Reactions to Vatican II.

DeiVerbum_web-754736Dei verbum and Lumen gentium, the constitutions on Divine Revelation and the Church, respectively, remain two of the most discussed documents among Protestants responding to Vatican II. Historically such interest follows from the concerns of the Protestant Reformation, where early reformers often took issue with the Medieval Catholic Church’s conceptions of scripture and tradition as well the hierarchy and order of the church. Several Protestant scholars have affirmed Vatican II’s position on these issues. Writing on the Constitution of the Church, Patterson notes that the “Church is defined primarily as the People of God composed of various groups and including Bishops and laity. Historically the tendency has been to emphasize the hierarchical conception of the Church….”[1] Continue reading

Living Conciliarly

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”–Stephen R. Covey

Conciliar PostI have forgotten where I first saw that quote, but I do remember that I was immediately impressed with its accurate assessment of contemporary culture and discourse. How often do we listen, discuss, or read with the intention of learning? How much worse do those skills become once we’ve opened our web browser and entered the world of 140 character Twitter interaction, sound-bite news, rhetoric-oriented politics, #hashtagactivism, internet forums, Facebook statuses, and polarizing worldviews? In my assessment, Covey is right–today, people don’t seriously, thoughtfully, and civilly dialogue, we have it out in the comments section, we engage so that we may “show” people where they are wrong. Does it really have to be this way? Continue reading