Chapter 2

 

The Middle Ages

 
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?
  • 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.
  • Nowadays, we expect the state to provide hospitals or deal out charity, and this expectation underlines a vast change in the powers of the modern state as against its medieval counterpart.
  • 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.
  • The church, though often indeed furnishing models of effective economic and political management, was so involved with other medieval institutions that it was frequently difficult for it to be salt to its society.
  • Soon European thought would be divided into two lines, both of which have come down and influenced our own day
    1. The humanistic elements of the Renaissance
    2. The Bible-based teaching of the Reformation.
  • Gradually, the towns freed themselves from feudal restraints to achieve varying amounts of political freedom, expressed in the proud town halls erected in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
  • Thomas Aquinas
    • Had an incomplete view of the Fall.
    • Thought that the Fall did not affect man as a whole, but only in part.
    • Thought that 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.
    • brought this Aristotolean emphasis on individual things–the particulars–into the philosophy of the late Middle Ages, and this set the stage for the humanistic elements of the Renaissance and the basic problem they created.
  • 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?
 
Grace, the higher: God the Creator; heaven and heavenly things; the unseen and its influence on the earth; unity; or universals or absolutes which give existence and morals meaning.

Nature, the lower: the created; earth and earthly things; the visible and what happens normally in the cause-and-effect universe; what man as man does on earth; diversity, or individual things, the particulars, or the individual acts of man
 
 
  • The way was opened for people to think of themselves as autonomous and the center of all things. Causes include:
    • The gradually awakened cultural thought and awakened piety of the Middle ages
    • An increasing distortion of the teaching of the bible and the early church.
    • Humanist elements had entered.:
      • 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
      • There was a mixture of Christian and ancient non-Christian thought (as Aquinas’s emphasis on Aristotle).
  • The teachings of Wycliff and Huss moved away from the humanism which had gradually but increasingly entered the church. Thus the way was now open for two movements which were to have their influence down into our own day: the humanistic elements of the Renaissance and the scriptural Christianity of the Reformation.
Cover Photo: The Romanesque Church of Maria Laach, Germany
 
This post contains quoted and paraphrased passages of How Should We Then Live? by Francis A. Schaeffer. 50th L’Abri Anniversary Edition, © 2005 by Crossway Books.
 

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