MEDIAEVAL DEFENCES OF CHRISTIANITY: A. D. 780—A. D. 1611.
§ 1. Preliminary Statements.
The Mediaeval period, which includes 800 years from the first part of the 8th to the first part of the 16th century, was engaged chiefly in reducing the past results of theological investigation and controversy to a systematic form, and a scientific unity. Of this period, however, not more than four centuries witnessed any very great activity of the theological mind. Scotus Erigena, during the 9th century, shows signs of acute intellectual life, and by reason of his active and inquiring spirit becomes a striking object in that age of growing superstition and ignorance. Alcuin, the brightest ornament of the court of Charlemagne, and the soundest thinker between John of Damascus and Anselm, also throws a pure and serene ray into the darkness of the dark ages. It is not however until Scholasticism appears, that we perceive in the Church the reappearance of that same deep reflection which in Augustine settled the principal questions in Anthropology, and that same subtle analysis which in Athanasius constructed the Nicene Symbol. For three centuries, extending from Anselm to Aquinas (1075-1275), we find the theologians of the Church collectively endeavoring to rationalize Christianity and construct a philosophy of religion, with an energy and intensity of thinking that is remarkable. We shall mention only the more general tendencies and results of this mediaeval speculation, in their relation to the History of Apologies.
The old attacks upon Christianity by the Jews and Pagans had now ceased. Mohammedanism, which had come into existence, although it boasted of some learning, and made some few literary attacks upon Christianity, was far more formidable with the sword than with the pen. Defences were now called out mainly against skepticism and doubts within the Church itself. This skepticism was sometimes open and sometimes concealed; sometimes it was conscious and intended, and sometimes it was unconscious and unintentional. This latter species of skepticism, which is a very interesting form of unbelief, and exists more generally than appears at first sight in all ages of the church, springs out of an unsuccessful endeavour to fathom the depths of theology, and to construct a true philosophy of Christianity. The thinker sometimes supposes himself to have solved the problem, when he has in reality only undermined the doctrine. In attempting with perfect seriousness and good faith to rationalize religion, he has in reality annihilated it. Some of the Schoolmen are a striking example of this. Minds like Amalrich of Bena, and David of Dinanto, in attempting to discover and exhibit the true nature of the deity, and the relation between creation and the creator, in reality enunciated a pantheistic theory of God and the universe. These men however were in and of the visible Church, and supposed that they were promoting the scientific interests of Christianity. There is reason to believe that they were sincere in this belief. They were unconsciously skeptical. Seeking to establish Christianity upon an absolutely scientific basis, they dug up the very lowest and most solid stratum upon which the entire structure rests,—the stratum of theism. On the other hand, Schoolmen like Anselm, Bernard, and Aquinas, more profound students of revealed truth, and possessing a deeper Christian experience, continued the defence of Christianity upon substantially the same grounds, and by the same methods, that we have seen to have been prevalent in the Ancient Church.
§ 2. Apologetics of Anselm, Aquinas, and Bernard.
Anselm's view of the relation of reason to faith agrees thoroughly with that of Augustine, and was unquestionably somewhat shaped by it. His two tracts, the Monologium and Proslogion, indirectly exhibit his opinions upon this subject with great clearness and power, and defend the supernatnralism of Christianity with a metaphysical talent that has never been excelled. In the Proslogion, he says, "I desire certainly to [scientifically] understand that truth which my heart believes and loves; but I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For I believe the truth, because if I am unbelieving I cannot [philosophically] apprehend." Again he remarks, that "he who does not believe can have no experience, and he who has no experience cannot understand."1 Unless there be a consciousness, there can be no scientific analysis of consciousness or philosophical construction of its contents; and there can be no consciousness without faith in the object of consciousness. Yet, on the other hand, Anselm is as careful as was Augustine to insist upon the intrinsic rationality of Christianity, and to recommend the endeavour after a philosophical faith. In his tract upon the atonement, he assents to the assertion of his pupil Boso, that although the right order requires that we believe the profound mysteries of the Christian faith before we presume to discuss them upon grounds of reason, yet it is a neglect of duty, if after we are confirmed in our belief we do not study to understand what we believe.1 If after we have obtained the inward experience and consciousness we do not then strive to interpret our own experience, and comprehend our own Christian consciousness, we are guilty of an indifference towards the truth that has in it far more of indolence than of grace, was the opinion of both Augustine and Anselm.
1" Non tento, Doraine, pene- derit, non experietur; et qui ex
trare altitudincm tuain; quia nul- perfow non fuerit, non intelliget.
latenus compare illi intellectnm Nam quantum rei auditum superat
meum, sed desidero aliquatenus experientia, tantum vincit audi
intelligero veritatem tuam, quam entis cognitionem experientia sci
credit et am at cor meum. Neque entia: et non solum ad intelli
enim quaere intelligere, ut ere- gendam altiora prohibitur mens
dam; sed credo, ut intelligam. ascendere sine fide et mandatorum
Nam et hoc credo quia nisi ere- Dei obedientia, sed etiam aliquan
didero, non intelligam." Proslo- do datus intellectus subtrahitur,
gion, Cap. i. "Nimirum hoc ipsum et fides ipsa subvertitur, neglecta
quod dico, qui non crediderit, non bona conscientia." De fide Trin
intelliget. Nam qui non oredi- itutis, Cap. ii.
Aquinas takes the same general view of the relation of faith to scientific knowledge, though his intellectual tendency was more speculative than that of Anselm, and his theology has more of the Romish tone and spirit. He recognizes the fact that there are differences in the doctrines, some being more apprehensible than others, and in reference to such transcendent truths as the trinityr employs the phraseology so familiar in modern Apologetics, that though the Christian mysteries are above reason, they are not against reason. In his defence of the catholic faith against the infidel,1 he remarks, that "there are two classes of truths in the Christian system, respecting the being of God. First, those truths which transcend the entire power of human reason; such as that God is three and one. Secondly, those which even natural reason can attain to; such as that God is one, is infinite, is eternal, and such like, which even pagan philosophers have proved demonstratively, under the guiding light of natural reason." Yet even these latter truths, he says, need the corroboration and fuller unfolding of revelation, because this natural knowledge of God, when unaccompanied with the diffusing and realizing power of a supernatural dispensation gradually departs from the popular mind, and becomes confined to the schools of a few philosophers and sages; and because, furthermore, this philosophic knowledge in its best form is mixed with more or less of error.
1 Sicut rectus ordo exigit nt pro- videtur, si postquam confirmed
fanda Christianae fidei credamus, sumus in fide, non studemus quod
priusquara ea praesumamus rati- credimus intelligere." Cur Deus
one discutere, ita negligentia milii Homo, lib. I. Cap. ii.
That school of contemplative theologians, whom we have alluded to in a previous section under the designation of the Mystic Scholastics, also maintain the same view of the relation of faith to science, only with less regard for the scientific side. These men, because they were somewhat mystical in their intuition, were less inclined than the more scientific Anselm and Aquinas to care for the interests of reason and philosophy, though they by no means disregarded or overlooked them, as does the Mystic in the restricted signification of the term.
1 Sumrna catholicae fidei con- non est contra rationem, sod antra Gentiles. Lib. I. Cap. iii. Hn> pra rationem." Derrrt, Tractatus viii: "Fides
Bernard is the greatest and noblest representative of this class of minds; and an extract or two from him will serve to show his attitude towards Christian science in its relations to Christian faith. "Science," says St. Bernard, " reposes upon reason; faith upon authority. Both, however, are in possession of a sure and valid truth; but faith possesses the truth in a close and involuted form, while science possesses it in an open and expanded one. Scientific cognition not only possesses the truth, but the distinct comprehension of it. Faith is a sort of sure and instinctive (voluntaria) intimation [Germanic6, Ahnung] of truth that is not yet opened up before the mind in clear analysis and outline. How then does faith differ from science? In this, namely, that although faith is not in possession of an uncertain or an invalid truth any more than science is, yet it is in possession of an undeveloped truth, while science has the truth in an unfolded form. Science does not desire to contradict faith; but it desires to cognize with plainness what faith knows with certainty." 1 Hence, in another place, Bernard remarks of invisible and divine things, that "not disputation but holiness comprehends them."
1" Intellects rationi innititur, voluntaria quaedam et certa praefides anthoritati. Habent ilia duo libatio necdum propalatae veritaeertam veritatem, sed fides clan- tis. Intellectnsestrei cujuscnnqne sam etinvolutam, intelligentia nu- invisibilis certa et manifesta nodam etmanifestam. ... Fides est titia .... Fides ambiguum non habet: aut si habet, fides non est, extract employs tbe word "vol
Perhaps the relations of reason and faith have never been more concisely and accurately stated than in the pregnant and epigrammatic Latin of Anselm and Bernard. The practical belief of the truths of Christianity, according to these apologists, contains much that is latent and undeveloped. The Christian is wiser than he knows. The moment he begins to examine the implications and involutions of his own personal and certain consciousness, he finds that they contain the entire rudimental matter of Christian science. Faith, in the phrase of Clement of Alexandria, furnishes the aroi^tta, the elementary materials, of rational knowledge. The Christian, for illustration, believes in the one living and personal God. He possesses the idea of the deity by virtue of his creation and rational constitution. His faith holds it in its unexpanded form. But the instant he commences the analysis of this idea of ideas, he discovers its profound capacity and its immense involution. Again he believes in God incarnate. But when he endeavors to scientifically analyse and comprehend what is contained in this doctrine and historical fact, he is overwhelmed by the multitude of its relations and the richness of its contents. His faith has actually and positively grasped these ideas of God and the God-Man. He is as certain of their validity as he is of any truth whatever. But his faith has grasped them, in the phrase of St. Bernard, in their undeveloped and pregnant form. If now, he would convert faith into science, and would pass from religion to philosophy, he has only to reflect upon the intrinsic meaning and substance of these ideas, until they open along the lines of their structure, and are apprehended philosophically, though not exhaustively. But in this process, faith itself is reinforced and deepened by a reflex action, while at the same time, the intellect is preserved reverent and vigilant, because the cognition, though positive and correct as far as it reaches, is not exhaustive and complete, only by reason of the immensity and infinitude of the object.1
sed opinio. Quid igitur distat ab untary," as tbe earlier English
intellectu? Nempe quod etsi non writers often do, in the sense of
habet incertum non magis qnam "spontaneous,"—as Milton, e. g.
intellectus, habet tamen innolu- does when he defines poetry to be
turn, quod non intellectus." De "thoughts that voluntary [spon
Consideratione, Lib. V. Cap. iii. taneonsly] move harmonious num
Bernardi: Opera, p. 894. (Ed. here."
Par. 1682).—Bernard in the above
1 The distinction between apo>- relates to quality and not to quan
itire and an exhaustive conception tity,—then man's knowledge of
has been overlooked in the recent the infinite is as positive as his
discussions respecting the possi- knowledge of the finite. In this
bility of man's possessing a pos- latter and only proper use of the
Hive conception of the infinite. If term, man's conception of eternity
by a positive knowledge is meant is as positive as his conception of
an infinite or perfect knowledge time, and his apprehension of di
that exhausts all the mystery of vine justice is no more a negation
an object, then man cannot have than his apprehension of human
a positive knowledge of even any justice. Man's knowledge of God,
finite thing. By if by positive like his knowledge of the ocean,
is meant true and valid as far as is a positive perception, as far as
the cognition reaches,—if the term it extends. He does not exhaust
§ 3. Apologetics of Abelard.
In this scholastic and systematizing period, as we have before remarked, the priority of faith in the order was not acknowledged by all minds. Men of a speculative and rationalistic tendency like Abelard and Raymund Lully regarded the intellectual comprehension of the truths of Christianity as necessarily antecedent to all belief in them. The dictum of Abelard (Intr. ii. 3), "non credendum, nisi prius intellectum," is the exact reverse of Anselm's "credo ut intelligam." It ought however to be observed that Abelard, in the outset, endeavoured to provide for the interests and claims of faith by giving a somewhat wide meaning to the term "knowledge," or "intelligence." It is undoubtedly true, as Bernard himself concedes in describing the difference between the knowledge of faith and the knowledge of philosophy (ante, p. 183), that the human mind cannot believe a truth or a fact of which it has no species of apprehension whatsoever. Some degree of knowledge must ever be assumed, as simultaneous with the exercise of belief. The mind must at first know the object of its faith, by feeling (anticipatio, praelibatio), in distinction from conception; otherwise the object of faith is a nonentity for it. Had Abelard recognized this distinction, and thus guarded his statement that "knowledge is prior to faith," he might have come into agreement with his opponents. But, laying down his dictum as he did in terms exactly contrary to those of Origen, Augustine, Anselm, and Bernard, all qualifications were certain to be overborne by the logical proposition upon which he founded his method, and his school. The formal and theoretical precedence instead of postponement of knowledge to faith tended to rationalism in theology, and actually resulted in it. A position though erroneous, when held with moderation and qualifications, by its first author, may not be very injurious to the cause of truth. The element of truth which it contains may be prominent in the first stages of its history, while the elements of error recede from view and influence. But the tendency of the principle, after all, is to error, and as the course of its development goes on, the little truth that is contained in it is overborne, the principle itself is grasped more boldly and applied by a less moderate mind, until in the end it shows its real nature in the overthrow of all truth and belief. The class of men of whom we are speaking is an example. Abelard himself became more and more rationalistic in his views, until he passed the line that separates faith from unbelief, and the church, chiefly through the represervations and arguments of the mild and tolerant, but devout and evangelical Bernard, formally condemned his philosophical and theological opinions.1 The most serious defect in the Apologetics of this Mediaeval period sprang from the growing influence of traditional theology, at the expense of inspiration. Even devout and spiritual theologians like Anselm and Bernard, whose views of truth, with the exception of their Mariolatry, were substantially scriptural, and whose religious experience had been formed and established by revelation, attributed too much weight to the opinions of distinguished church fathers, and to the decisions of Councils, in comparison with the infallible authority of Scripture. They by no means denied the paramount authority of revelation, and both in practical and theoretical respects are at a great distance from that distinctively Papal theology which received its first definite form and statement in the articles of the Council of Trent; yet it cannot be denied that their minds were not altogether unaffected by the influences of their time, and of their ecclesiastical connections. That direct and emphatic appeal to Scripture first of all, and only afterwards to authority, which is the characteristic of the Protestant theologian, and that constant renewal and revivification of scientific theology by fresh draughts at the fountain of theological knowledge, which has rendered Protestant science so vital and vigorous, is found in a too low degree in these men, who were yet the greatest and best minds of this systematizing period. In their successors, this tendency to exalt tradition increased with great rapidity, until error by its very excess brought about a reaction, and Protestantism once more set tradition and inspiration, historical theology and biblical doctrine, in right relations to each other.
ively comprehend the ocean, hut exhaustive or infinite knowledge
this does not render his knowl- of either the finite or the infinite,
edge of the ocean, as to its quali- He finds it as impossible to give
ty, a mere negation. But it is an all-oomprehending definition
the quality and not the quantity of time as he does of eternity, of
of a cognition that determines its an atom of matter as of the es
validity. There is for man no sence of God.
1 Abelard was condemned in at Soissons in 1121, and at Sens nineteen articles of specification, in 1140.