Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Another excuse to ignore all of Christian history between Paul and Martin Luther.

Who really needs to pay attention to the history of Christianity prior to 1517 because those people really didn't grow up until Martin Luther?

C. Michael Patton illustrates his (tentative) way of thinking about the history of Christianity as being the equivalent of a person growing up, complete with the rebellious and immature ways of thinking characterized by the "Dark Ages," which didn't end until 1517.

So, apparently, all of Christian intellectual developmet from St. Augustine through St. Thomas Aquinas gets swept into a pigeon-hole called the "Dark Ages," where they are completely labeled "not sufficiently mature" for serious Christians. 

Never mind that the Dark Ages ended prior to the 1000 A.D., or that by the 12th Century, Europe was building great cathedrals and had a university system and unrivalled in the world.

I don't doubt that this way of thinking represents the authentic thinking of many American protestants, for whom the period between approximately 60 A.D. and 1517 (or, more likely, the founding of their local church by "Pastor Bob" in 1985) is a dark and obscure period.  Most Americans do conflate the "Dark Ages" with the "Middle Ages," because of the succesful polemics of Protestants and Secular Humanists who wanted to distinguish their "enlightened" age from a darker time. 

Likewise, I had a Baptist law partner who had no embarrassment in telling me, as a matter of simple fact, that Catholicism was "transitional paganism," which meant that the period from Christ to the discovery of the "pure Gospel" by Martin Luther was a long, long period of a pagan culture evolving into true Christianity.

Likewise, this model contains the core theology of American secularism - a belief in progress.  Under the American view of progress, development is always upward, nothing abandoned in the past had any value, and the goal of all history was to lead to us.

Obviously, this model is a cartoon, a caricature that reassures, rather than challenges its adherents to learn some actual history.

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