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

MHT: Medieval and Reformation History

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

Erasmus

Erasmus

In the medieval period, conceptions of the changelessness of the Church solidified through the works of Bernard of Clairvaux, the Venerable Bede, Dante, and Otto of Freising.[6] Rome—which was generally not thought of as “fallen” until Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire—was increasingly identified as the seat of the elect of history. Such a view was radically challenged by the Protestant Reformers and their heirs, who increasingly advocated a narrative in which, far from being changeless, Roman Christianity had fallen into corruption and was in serious need of restoration to the pristine faith of the ancient Church. This perspective is especially evident in a work like Edward Johnson’s The Wonderworking Providence of Sion’s Savior in New England (1654), wherein the Church of New England was called to recapitulate the true and atemporal nature of ancient Christianity by encouraging a return to the separation of Church and State.[7] In the post-Reformation years, Catholics and Protestants alike proclaimed a form of Semper Eadem, best summarized in the words of fifth century Father Vincent of Lerins, that the truth of the Church is “what all men have at all times and everywhere believed must be regarded as true.”[8] Continue reading