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Entries in Church History (70)

Thursday
Mar012018

16th Century Blogging

I'm in the process of writing a book review of the classic biography of Luther, Here I Stand, and starting my term paper on Menno Simons and Anabaptism. Both of these men were engaged in their own kind of blogging: pamphlet writing. Three of Luther's most crucial writings were pamplets: The Babylonian Captivity, Address to the German Nobility, and The Freedom of the Christian Man. Of course, he wrote other, longer works, and other pamphlets, but those three were particularly influential. 

Menno Simons was not as well-known as Luther, but he was a prolific writer. He, too, wrote pamphlets. Just prior to his finanl break with the Roman Catholic Church, he became distressed with the fate of a group of followers from Münster, one whom was his own brother. A group of radicals, they took refuge in an old cloister which was attacked by civil authorities. Simons was distressed that these people followed erroneous teaching and were prepared to die for it. He wrote a polemic against their leader John of Leiden, called The Blasmphemy of John of Leiden. The full title is a bit longer:

A Plain and Clear Proof from Scripture, Proving that Jesus Christ is the Real, Spiritual David of the Promise, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the Real, Spiritual King of Spiritual Israel, that is, His Church, which He has bought with His own Blood. Formerly written to all the true Brethren of the Covenant scattered abroad, against the great and fearful Blasphemy of John of Leiden, who Poses as the joyous King of all, the Joy of the disconsolate, so Usurping the Place of God.

That title may be too long for a Tweet, even with the expanded character count.

The pamphlets were not like the kind we get today, glossy and with more images than words. They were well-presented arguments. It was their way of encouraging debate, much like how we would use social media today, except with more words. 

And I don't know if what they had for dinner was included in the pamphlet.

Monday
Dec182017

Holiday Reading

I'm looking forward to reading for fun. Not that reading this past semester wasn't fun. It was very interesting. However, reading without having to submit a reflection or use it to complete an assignment is always nice. Once Christmas is done with, I have a  couple of weeks and I hope to get a few things read.

Right now, I'm reading Rethinking Baptism: Some Baptist Reflelctions, which is by Stan Fowler. He was my Systematic Theology and Moral Theology professor. He did his doctoral dissertation about Baptist perspectives on baptism, and this is a more popular level book addressing the subject. I have had it for a while, but just had not got around to it.

I also started John Stackhouse's Canadian Evangelicalism in the 20th Century: An Introduction to Its Character. I've had this for a while, too. It's not too late to fit in another book focusing on Canada in this year of Canada 150.

I also plan to read Road to Renewal, which is by Wayne Baxter, my Greek professor. Prayer is something I've been thinking about a lot over this past year. I suppose I could include this as another book for Canada 150, since Dr. Baxter is Canadian.

Because I can't get enough of Hildegard, I'm looking forward to reading Hildegard of Bingen's Medicine. Some of the weird and wacky ways she treated illnesses made me curious for more about this subject.

For comforting, easy to manage bed time reading. I am planning on reading Monk's Hood (still on that Medieval Monastic theme) by Ellis Peters. I really enjoy the Cadfael series of books as well as the television series.

I don't know how much of it I will get into over the holidays, but because my term paper next semester is going to be on the subject of the influence of Menno Simons on Anabaptism, I decided to start early and begin The Complete Writings of Menno Simons. Last semester, I wish I'd started reading Hildegard's own words earlier so that I would have been able to include a wider variety from her in my term paper. This time, I'll start early. I always say that, and I always start early, but I still always find myself working on the paper right up until the end. There must be something helpful about that working under pressure thing.

I'm not going to neglect my Greek, either, over the holidays. I hope to find time for vocabulary review and parsing practice. I recently discovered a really great tool, Daily Dose of Greek. Two minute videos are featured daily, showing a brief exposition of a Greek passage. It is very helpful. It does include material I haven't yet learned, but so far, it's also cemented things I've already learned.

I still have knitting to accomplish before December 25th, and I've been binge watching Vera, one of my favourite British mystery shows. If I finish her before the knitting, I'll find something else from Acorn, where I get my fix of British t.v.

Happy last week before Christmas!

Tuesday
Nov212017

A cure for the Weinsteins of the world

They're dropping like flies. Lately, it seems like every day brings another account of a man being accused of sexual misconduct. Some of the attempts to excuse the behaviour border on ridiculous.

I'm researching Hildegard of Bingen for my term paper in Church History. She, in addition to writing at length about her visions and composing music for liturgy, wrote about medicine. She has some interesting suggestions for helping those who are ailing. Her recommendation for counteracting libidinousness was curious:

Take a sparrowhawk, pluck it, then having discarded the head and entrails put the rest of the body in a new pot perforated with small holes, and put it on the fire without water, and put another pot under it to catch the drippings. Pound some calandria and a little camphor and mix with the drippings and heat it on the fire again and thus make an ointment, and a man should anoint his genitals with this for five days and then his libidinous cravings will be gone in a month. 

Oh, it if were only that simple.

Friday
Nov172017

Monks wouldn't have been good with social media

In Church History, I'm completing a reading assignment on the Rule of Benedict. Benedictine monasticism was very influential to the history of the Church, and today, Benedictine monasteries remain. In fact, my fourth grade teacher, who worked in the public school system, was (and remains) a Benedictine nun.

The Rule goes into detail about attitudes, living arrangements, work, clothing, and even sleeping arrangements. One of the chapters, which deals with humility, gives 12 steps for humility. In the 7th-9th steps, the speech is addressed:

The ninth step of humility is that a monk controls his tongue and remains silent, not speaking unless asked a question. For Scriptures warns, "In a flood of words you will not avoid sinning" (Prov 10:19), and "A talkative man goes about aimlessly on earth" (Ps 139[140]:12).

The tenth step of humility is that he is not given to ready laughter, for it is written "Only a fool raises his voice in laughter" (Sir 21:23).

The eleventh step of humility is that a monk speaks gently and without laughter, seriously and with becoming modesty, briefly and reasonably, but without raising his voice, as it is written: "A wise man is known by a few words."

Now, that tenth step does seem a little extreme. I'll just excuse it by noting that it is taken from an Apocryphal book. However, as a child, one of my report cards (7th grade, I think) said that I would be a better student if I could curtail my giggling. There is a limit, after all.

The sentiment in the other two is worth thinking about, especially the admonition to speak gently and with modesty. There is even something to be said for remaining silent until we have something valuable to say. That, of course, will be dependent upon what we consider valuable. That is when we need wisdom, and we won't get wisdom if we are always talking.

There is a feature on Facebook, "On This Day," whereby you can look at what you were saying on a given date every year you've been on Facebook. I've looked at mine a few times and all I can say is that I say a lot of useless stuff. In my continuing desire to use my speech wisely, I've finally realized that too much time on social media is not going to help. The model of social media is not to say only what is wise. It is to say anything, anytime, to anyone.

Those of us who talk too much have a problem when there is a lull in the conversation. I think we need not fear that lull. In many cases, that silent moment may actually be better utilized by someone who is less prone to talk, because in all likelihood, she doesn't usually talk because she can't ever get a word in.

Personally, I like laughing, although I'm always a little apprehensive around those who are never serious. But as for the admonition to speak less, I think the monks were on to something.

Tuesday
Nov072017

Looking like monastics

I am deep in literature about Medieval women and mystics at the moment as I research for a term paper in Church history. At the same time, in our class readings last week we looked at the Desert Fathers. Some of those saying were just simple common sense, but others reveal a real desire to live a life of self-denial and humility. One of the sayings caught my attention:

A hermit said, 'This is the life of a monk; work, obedience, meditation, not to judge others, not to speak evil, not to murmur. For it is written "You who love God, hate the thing that is evil" (Ps. 97:10). This is monastic life: not to live with the wicked, not to see evil, not to be inquisitive, not to be curious, not to listen to gossip, not to use the hands for taking, but for giving; not to be proud in heart or bad in thought, not to fill the belly, in everything to judge wisely. This is the life of a true monk.

Some of those are very worthy aspirations. I'm all for hating evil and avoiding gossip. I'm against pride in my heart and bad thoughts. But I did raise my eyebrows at the admonition not to be curious or inquisitive. That attitude was not confined to the Desert Fathers. In some of the reading regarding women that I've done, I have discovered the reality of a premium put on the spirit above the intellect, despite the fact that many of the notable women of the Middle Ages were well-educated. For example, Hadewijch, a 13th century monastic woman was herself educated, but she did not believe that reason was the clearest path to God, and placed value on the spirit above the intellect.

The sentiment that a developed intellect interferes with our spirituality is alive and well. On more than one occasion, when women find out I'm in seminary (and even before then, when I said I liked to read theology) I've been met with the comment, "Well, I just really depend on the Spirit to teach me." 

I see some similarities between monastic women of the Middle Ages and groups of women today in the principle of separating ourselves. I saw it alive and well in homeschooling circles when my kids were younger. I've come across it with other women who will vigorously reject the use of a commentary in a Bible study because they want the Spirit to teach them. This notion of a simple life, free from the interferences of the secular world is promoted as the higher spiritual life.

I occasionally feel like my own curiosity and inquisitiveness is looked upon by other women as one of those weaknesses that must be tolerated, sort of like being the one in the crowd with the irritating, loud laugh; probably not something to be encouraged too much.

In reality, it's not the curiosity itself that is the problem; it's the content. Women are expected and encouraged to be curious, but perhaps not about theology. I don't understand why some women are curious about what movie stars wore on the red carpet at the Academy Awards. I am not curious about the lives and happenings of celebrities, but many women are. Curiosity isn't necessarily bad; it's just that there is an expectation of what we should be curious about. 

Men and women who went into monasteries were often looked upon as being elite Christians. I wonder sometimes if we think that by separating ourselves we are demonstrating a superior spirituality. I have yet to be convinced that shunning learning makes me more spiritual.