Thursday, August 16, 2007


Within one week, I will have read Augustin's "Confessions", Cicero's "Ad Herennium", Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death", someone's response to it called "Everything Bad is Good For You", a book on the history of math called "Math through the Ages", the intro and beginning to another book on math about its effects on American culture, Athanasius "On the Incarnation" (Lewis's intro, of course), the First ten books of "City of God" (also Augustin); I will have written 75 entries (acceptable to Nate Wilson entries) in my commonplace book, read some other book on the techniques of writing, some book on how to read a book (followed by one called "How to Read a Book Slowly", which should take about three hours...), as well as doing Latin, choir, rugby (huzzah! Oh wait...I'm not British), and writing a four page paper (30% of my Lordship grade) on Augustin's interpretation of the first two verses of Genesis.

So why am I writing to all (two) of you?

I am waiting for my homework binder to be returned.


rebec said...

Remember--you asked for this. Yes you did.

And I see you've been swayed to the other side of Moscow's intramural debate on the pronunciation of AugustinE's name; I don't know if I'll ever be able to speak to you again.

We have one of your books: How to Read Slowly, by James Sire (or is this the right book?). Is there time for us to send it to you, along with Letter to a Christian Nation? And will it be okay if Caleb doesn't want you to write in his? Let me know.

Well, "toodles", a la Holly. Love you and miss you.


(N. A pear-shaped [that's me!], two- or three-stringed medieval musical instrument played with a bow.)

ash the flash said...

I'm eating marshmellow cereal.
mmmmmmmmhhhmmmm good.

Ben said...

I've managed to spend the first week of my semester without reading any assignments, so with all the extra time on my hands I finally got around to looking at your blog. That’s a heavy load of reading; although I have to agree with Rebec that you did ask for all this.

Augustine should be an interesting read. I am curious about how the founder of the Catholic Church was such a proponent of the doctrines of grace. It seems to me that the doctrines of grace directly assault the doctrines of the Church. Do you think Augustine was misrepresented by the Catholicism? Did he struggle with these two contrasting ideas in his writings?

Take care of yourself and try to eat at least once every 24 hours.


Michele & Lane said...

Hey there, Just wanted to say hello and I love you. I'm glad to read all this about what you're doing, don't forget about us back here (:
*did you get the unfortunate email i sent about Josh and Janet???

Jesse Broussard said...

Ben, Augustin(e) is claimed by the Roman Church, which is as it should be. He is also claimed by the Reformers, which is absolutely right. I have heard it said that the Protestant Reformation was a clash between his soteriology and ecclesiology, and from what I have read of him, that is correct.

"You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless 'till they find their rest in thee."

Jesse Broussard said...

Michelle, I did. I am more sorry than I can say.

Ben said...

Thanks for answering.

I assume that during the time he was living the church fully embraced his soteriology (doctrines of grace), so in his mind there probably wasn’t the clash that we see today after the church took a few wrong turns.

Anonymous said...

This is for Ben. Thought it might be of interest.

Protestant History Dupes

Chris Schlect

We Protestants set ourselves up to misunderstand the Middle Ages. We approach that era of history following this method: 1) We start at the sixteenth century, setting our sights on our founding heroes. In that time we notice a whole lot of ecclesiastical ugliness—Boy, did that church need reform! 2) So we watch our heroes fight for reform, and we see the Roman church reject them along with their key ideas (justification, sacraments, scripture, church authority and polity, etc.). Luther and Calvin: yay! Roman popes and councils: boo, hiss! 3) From here we ask ourselves where all this sixteenth-century ugliness came from, and so we look to previous eras for little faults that will grow up big by the 1500s. Wouldn't you know, we find what we were looking for! Popes, crusades, monks, relics…eewww, yucky! 4) We conclude that what our heroes fought in the sixteenth century was alive and well for the previous thousand years, so we dismiss the whole millennium-long “age of faith” as an ugly papist era.

This method of reasoning is as common as it is wrong-headed, for it leads us to read later concepts and categories back into an earlier era. This is the same retroactive error committed by the fellow who runs across the words “gay” and “discriminating” while reading Shakespeare, and he believes the Elizabethan author was referring to homosexuality and bigotry.

We can illustrate the point by looking back to the turn of the second millennium. From any list of popes, we will discover that Pope Sylvester II reigned at the time. Looking deeper, we discover that this fellow did claim to be Vicar of Christ. Popery! we cry. But if we really studied the period, we would see that the bishop of Rome was not the only man called “Pope” at that time. In fact, in that day many bishops were called “Pope,” not just the one in Rome. In the East, even ordinary parish priests were commonly called “Popes”—after all, “Pope” comes from the Latin papa, which means “father”. “Vicar of Christ” is a similar title; it was held by every bishop throughout Christendom. This title was not reserved for the bishop of Rome for another quarter-millennium.

Now is it significant that Sylvester II was the first Frenchman to be elected Pope of Rome? We might ask how it could have been that the Cardinals would select a Frenchman to be Pope. But Cardinals, as we know them, did not exist in the year 1000. Bishops of Rome were elected by the clergy and laity of Rome—in good proto-presbyterian fashion. We might also ask whether this Frenchman used his weighty position to bring French influence into the Church. And again, after more study, we would find it hard to imagine how he could have. For as with any bishop of Rome in his era, Sylvester II could only nominate candidates for a few other bishoprics; he could appoint nobody, and even this he could do only for the small neighboring dioceses around Rome (and there were only seven of them).

Cardinals would come into the picture soon after Sylvester II, during the pontificate of Nicholas II (1058-61). Protestants want to read popery into this development, but we should view it as a clear move in the right direction. (We who have puritan sympathies should think so.) The change was necessary in order to reverse the trend of Roman bishops being little more than political appointees of the German emperor. The next two popes should be our heroes in this same battle, especially Gregory VII. Gregory’s epic collision with German Emperor Henry IV is touted in Protestant lore as emblematic of papal arrogance. In fact, what Gregory VII fought for was freedom of the church from state control. At the time, Europe’s political machinery had been obstructing Gregory’s program to reform or remove corrupt church officials. What’s more, Gregory’s program focused on local, grass-roots efforts that empowered the laity; it was not a heavy-handed program imposed from the top down.

When we analyze the papacies of Nicholas II and Gregory VII by imposing later paradigms upon them, we will find some seeds of compromise that bore bad fruit later. But our sixteenth-century paradigms do not permit a full picture of the eleventh century. Our own chronological snobbery gets in our way of realizing that these great church leaders fought for causes that we hold precious—causes which Rome abandoned a few centuries later. If we hold fast to our anachronistic assessments, we might as well criticize the Continental Army for its failure to deploy heat-seeking missiles against possible attacks from incoming long-range bombers.

The real problem with popular Protestant historiography is that we follow the lead of our Roman Catholic adversaries. Since the Reformation era, papists have claimed that their doctrines have not changed since apostolic times. When they present us with isolated bits of historical special-pleading, we are too gullible. They tell us that Gregory I and Gregory VII were Popes in the same way that John Paul II is a Pope, and we believe them. Instead, we should be laughing at them. Why do we let them mangle the facts like this? Against their assertions, we Protestants should declare our happy fellowship with our medieval brethren. True to our Protestant ideals, we should agree with our father Pope Gregory I when he said that, “whoever calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, is in his elation the precursor of Antichrist, because he proudly puts himself above all others”.

Copyright © 2007 Credenda/Agenda. All rights reserved.

Ben said...

LOL Anonymous I loved the article! Do I know you ;-)

Chris Schlect made some great points about how we as Christians wrongly view church history, and how we tend to ignore the great leaders before Calvin and Luther. I think the meat of his argument was this statement, “When we analyze the papacies of Nicholas II and Gregory VII by imposing later paradigms upon them, we will find some seeds of compromise that bore bad fruit later. But our sixteenth-century paradigms do not permit a full picture of the eleventh century. Our own chronological snobbery gets in our way of realizing that these great church leaders fought for causes that we hold precious—causes which Rome abandoned a few centuries later.”

I completely concur with Chris Schlect on this point. The eleventh century was a period of great reform in the Catholic Church. Previously, corrupt bishops of Rome had been cycling through the papacy like a game of musical chairs. A powerful prostitute called Marozia “The Mistress of Rome” was the mistress of Pope Sergius IIII. She went on to help maneuver onto the throne Popes Anastasius III 911-13 and Lando 913-14. John XII was probably one of the most immoral leaders the church had ever seen and he ruled 955-63. Leadership in the church could easily be bought back then. The Holy Roman Emperors regularly bought or installed Popes. Benedict sold the papacy in 1045 to Gregory VI for 1500 pounds of gold.

Gregory VII did a tremendous amount to reform the church that was increasingly becoming secularized. His reforms in simony and lay investiture are especially important. I disagree with a few of the Gregorian Reforms or seeds of compromise as Chris Schlect like to refer to them. My main problem with Gregory VII was his reforms on clerical marrige and the stance he took with the Dictatus papae that made himself the universal head of the church to be judged by no one (here is a link to the Dictatus papae if you are at all interested in such things I guess the Dictatus papae is open for debate on wether Gregory VII wrote it or not. It is a very importatn document for papal authority, which seems to equal papal abuse through most of the middle ages.
It is easy for me to envision men like Augustine and Calvin as heros of the faith. Gregory VII may be a bit of a stretch, but he is definitely more in line with protestant (reformed) doctrine than many other Popes and/or Bishops of the time period. Chris Schlect’s point is well taken, Gregory VII and other pre 16th century Church leaders shoudn’t always be written off as just another anti-christ Pope. Its too bad that the Catholic Church always gets to claim the good guys before the reformation.

God Bless

rebec said...

This has been interesting to follow. Here's my 2 cents' worth (and it's not directed to Ben or Anon, their posts just made me think of this):
I've always liked Doug Wilson's response to people who wonder where the true church was before the Reformation: "Where was your face before you washed it?"

Wodehousian Fun