Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Piety & Theology

Augustine’s piety was rooted and grounded in theology.  For Augustine, masculine piety is inseparably connected with theologizing.  The separation of theology from worship, which has proved so disastrous to modern thought, was unknown to him.  The separation of theology from piety was unthinkable. Theology and devotion were fused aspects of a single faith.  
. . . no one will love what he has no prospect of making his own by understanding; faith without the hope of understanding would be no more than compliance to authority (Brown, Augustine of Hippo. 279).  
No separation of faith and reason.  No opposition.  Certainly no warning, ever, against the dangers of theology. 

The thoroughly modern, and I should say, thoroughly erroneous antithesis between love and logic, feeling and reason, heart and head, practical and doctrinal, etc. had not meaning for him.  Augustine writes no separate treatise concerning the theology of piety or devotion, simply because all of his works, from Contra Academicas to The City of God must be understood as such.  And I might add, they all should be read devotionally.  

Augustine’s devotion is theologically stimulated and regulated just as his theologizing is devotionally sustained and controlled.  Thus the authenticity of a man’s piety is properly tested by the clarity and profundity of his theology and conversely the genuineness of his theology is properly tested by the intensity of his devotion.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Salus extra ecclesiam non est

When Augustine was contemplating becoming a Christian Simplicianus, Ambrose's tudor and assistant, told him a story about Victorinus.  Victorinus was a Roman rhetorician and translator of neo-Platonic philosophical works. He had begun to read the Scriptures and study the Christian faith, encouraged by Simplicianus.  Simplicianus told Augustine that Victorinus once came to him in private saying, "I should like you to know that I am now a Christian."  Simplicianus replied, "That I will not believe, and I shall not count you as a Christian until I see you in the church of Christ."  That was wise advice from Simplicianus to Augustine, the young man for whom contemplation was everything.

The Latin in the title to this post means "There is no salvation outside of the church."  Typically, we add "ordinarily" to that slogan just to be sure that everyone understands that there are extraordinary situations where people do trust Jesus but are not able to join with a local congregation. The point is, however, that becoming a Christian is not simply something that happens in one's head.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Back to Blood

The first chapters of Tom Wolfe's new novel Back to Blood are terrific.  Classic Wolfean social commentary. The spoof on the "green" car is hilarious.  But the book is not for the faint of heart; it's pretty raw, as are most of Wolfe's novels.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Whom Should We Thank?

Rodney Stark comes out swinging right from the bell in "The Victory of Reason," his fiercely polemical account of the rise of capitalism. Stark, the author of "The Rise of Christianity" and "One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism," is sick and tired of reading that religion impeded scientific progress and stunted human freedom. To those who say that capitalism and democracy developed only after secular-minded thinkers turned the light of reason on the obscurantism of the Dark Ages, he has a one-word answer: nonsense.

 "The success of the West, including the rise of science, rested entirely on religious foundations, and the people who brought it about were devout Christians," he argues in this provocative, exasperating and occasionally baffling exercise in revisionism. Capitalism, and the scientific revolution that powered it, did not emerge in spite of religion but because of it.

Read the rest of the NYT article here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Trinity Institute

This morning I return from Birmingham after having two days of meetings for the Trinity Institute for Biblical and Culture Studies. This was the first meeting of the board of directors. We accomplished a lot, but there's still a ton of work to be done. I'm typing this on my iPad, so I'm not going to take the time now to add a lot of links. I'll do that when I get home. Look for more on the Trinity Institute in the coming months. Peter Leithart will be the President and resident scholar. We will be offering all kinds of educational opportunities designed to promote our distinctive understanding and practice of Christian liturgy and life.