I’m reading through the “deliverance” section of The Oxford Book of Prayer this week and came across this prayer by the Venerable Bede. Join Bede and I in praying this for our world:
O God that art the only hope of the world,
The only refuge for unhappy men,
Abiding in the faithfulness of heaven.
Give me strong succor in this testing place.
O King, project thy man from utter ruin
Lest the weak faith surrender to the tyranny,
Facing innumerable blow alone.
Remember I am dust, and wind, and shadow,
And life as fleeting as the flower of grass.
But may the enteral mercy which hath shone
From time of old
Rescue they servant from the jaws of the lion.
Thou who didst come from on high in the cloak of flesh,
Strike down the dragon with that two-edged sword,
Whereby our mortal flesh can war with the winds
And beat down strongholds, with our Captain God.
This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting on the appropriate approach to and method for historical theology.
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. 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. 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.” Continue reading
“When the thinker thinks rightly, he follows God step by step; he does not follow his own vain fallacy.”1
Studying the Middle Ages is a complex process, not only for the plethora of information one must process in order to have a halfway-informed perspective into the period, but also for the multitude of ways in which contemporary—modern and postmodern—attitudes that illuminate Christian opinions of this important period of Christian history. One need look no further than the recent kerfuffle over President Obama’s remarks concerning the Crusades to realize that perspectives on the Middle Ages are varied and often ill-informed. Some commentators reacted along political lines,2 others out on religious grounds,3 and still others from a historical basis.4 But what everyone functionally agrees on is the fact that contemporary Western culture does not really understand medieval Western culture, at least not on their own terms or with any sort of sophistication or charity when it comes to something as verboten as the Crusades.5 Continue reading