Monday, May 16, 2011

Getting the Short End of the Stick

Below are three quotes. Who wrote each of the following?

Commenting on Galatians 4:21-31
However, the free woman Sarah, who bore the free son, signifies the grace of the New Testament that begot the Christian people who are liberated in their baptism not only from original and actual sins but from every form of legal servitude. This is the inheritance of Christ, the homeland of Christ that they will inherit.
On the same passage:
This people was born through the promise because God mercifully promised to save them through faith. It was through the promise, therefore, because this people did not serve God out of any desire for fleshly things, which are visible, but rather out of an affection for spiritual things, which are invisible. They trust that they will obtain these things based upon God's promise alone.
Commenting on Galatians 2:16
In short, there is no way that one can be justified except through the faith of Christ Jesus, referring to the faith by which one believes in Christ...The apostle does not say that by faith good works are thereby made meaningless, for God renders to each person according to that person's works. Rather it is because works proceed from grace - not grace from works. Faith working through love does nothing unless the love of God is poured into us through the Holy Spirit. Nor does faith abide in us unless God bestows it. Paul says that we are to be justified by faith because faith comes first. It is from this that the rest of these are to be accomplished.
Again, who wrote each of these?

The first is by Haimo of Auxerre, the second by Bruno the Carthusian, and the last by Peter Lombard. What do they all have in common? They were all Medieval Catholic theologians. Just like the New Perspective on Paul helped bring some corrective to the ways we understood Judaism, I wonder if we need a New Perspective on Medieval Catholicism.

I haven't read a ton of Medieval Catholic Theology but reading the Galatians commentary put together by Ian Christopher Levy in the Bible in Medieval Tradition series makes me wonder if we're really describing them accurately. In particular from New Perspective advocates, you'll hear something along these lines, "the Judaism of Paul's day wasn't a legalistic works righteousness religion where the Jews believed they were earning their acceptance before God. Luther was just projecting the Medieval Catholic church backwards into first century Judaism."

If you just listen to the way Medieval Catholicism is described by some NT scholars you could very easily get the impression that there was little room for grace. Quotes like the above make me think that that's probably not true. Just like we shouldn't unfairly beat up on first century Judaism to elevate our brand of Christianity, we should also avoid the same with Medieval Catholicism. I'm not saying that there weren't legalistic elements in Medieval Catholic teaching (I haven't read enough of it to fairly answer that), but that we need to be fair.

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