First, a quick review of who Pelagius was before we get to Paul Tillich’s lecture below:
“Pelagius (ca. AD 354 – ca. AD 420/440) was an ascetic who denied the need for divine aid in performing good works. For him, the only grace necessary was the declaration of the law; humans were not wounded by Adam’s sin and were perfectly able to fulfill the law apart from any divine aid. He also, therefore, denied the more specific doctrine of original sin as developed by Augustine of Hippo. Pelagius was declared a heretic by the Council of Carthage. His interpretation of a doctrine of free will became known as Pelagianism. He was well educated, fluent in both Greek and Latin, and learned in theology. He spent time as an ascetic, focusing on practical asceticism, which his teachings clearly reflect. He was certainly well known in Rome, both for the harsh asceticism of his public life as well as the power and persuasiveness of his speech. His reputation in Rome earned him praise early in his career even from such pillars of the Church as Augustine, who referred to him as a “saintly man.” However, he was later accused of lying about his own teachings in order to avoid public condemnation. Most of his later life was spent defending his doctrine against Catholic theologians who held that Catholicism came from the apostles and that Pelagius was spreading novelties in the Faith unknown to the apostolic tradition.”
Due to his status as a heretic, little of his work has come down to the present day except in the quotes of his opponents. However, more recently some have defended Pelagius as a misunderstood orthodox:
Recent analysis of his thinking suggests that it was, in fact, highly orthodox, following in the tradition established by the early fathers and in keeping with the teaching of the church in both the East and the West. … From what we are able to piece together from the few sources available… it seems that the Celtic monk held to an orthodox view of the prevenience of God’s grace, and did not assert that individuals could achieve salvation purely by their own efforts…” [Wikipedia]
Was Pelagius in need of a good course in Systematic Theology with Dr. Wayne Grudem? Perhaps that is unfair to Pelagius. You decide as you listen to Prof. Grudem’s explanation of systematic theology and then read Warfield and Tillich:
Many of you are aware that Paul Tillich is part of a modern liberal theological tradition in Protestantism. Before you begin his lecture notes, those of you who prefer a more conservative theology may enjoy the classic work of Benjamin B. Warfield “Augustine and the Pelagian Controversy”. Click here to go to Prof. Warfield’s essay.
“Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (November 5, 1851 – February 16, 1921) was professor of theology at Princeton Seminary from 1887 to 1921. Some conservative Presbyterians consider him to be the last of the great Princeton theologians before the split in 1929 that formed Westminster Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.” [Wikipedia]
Paul Tillich, Professor of Philosophical Theology, Union Theological Seminary, New York City
(ENTIRE LECTURE SERIES) From Religion-Online.com: “In the Spring of 1953, Professor Tillich offered a course at Union Theological Seminary, entitled ‘The History of Christian Thought: Lectures in Church History (108).’ This was the last time Dr. Tillich offered the course. [Tillich moved on to become University Professor at Harvard.] Students took stenographic notes and distributed copies to the class. What follows are the verbatim notes from that class. There were thirty-eight sessions, but Lecture 11 is missing.”
“Paul Johannes Tillich (August 20, 1886 – October 22, 1965) was a German–American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher. Tillich was – along with his contemporaries Rudolf Bultmann (Germany), Karl Barth (Switzerland), and Reinhold Niebuhr (United States) – one of the four most influential Protestant theologians of the 20th century.Among the general populace, he is best known for his works The Courage to Be (1952) and Dynamics of Faith (1957), which introduced issues of theology and modern culture to a general readership. Theologically, he is best known for his major three-volume work Systematic Theology (1951–63), in which he developed his “method of correlation”: an approach of exploring the symbols of Christian revelation as answers to the problems of human existence raised by contemporary existential philosophical analysis.“
This document below is in the public domain
Lecture 19: Augustine. Pelagius.
We must continue our discussion of Augustine now, and after we have heard about the elements of his development and his psychology, epistemology, doctrine of God and doctrine of history, we now come to that doctrine which is perhaps most important for his position in the development of Church history as a whole: his doctrine of man.
The doctrine of man was really touched on to a certain extent when I spoke about the voluntaristic character of Augustine’s thinking, the idea that the center of man is not the intellect but the will, and the fact that in carrying this through he is the beginner of a development which goes through the whole Western world, through that group of theologians and philosophers in whom the will – center of man – -in a much larger sense than the psychological concept of will – is in the center against the intellect. We shall see when we come to the medieval philosophers and theologians and to the modern ones, that this influence always goes on and is always in creative tension with the tendencies coming from Aristotle. The tension between Augustine and Aristotle is the decisive power which moves the medieval history of thought, and almost everything can be seen in the relationship to this tension.
But this was only a description of man in his essential relationship. If man is seen in the essential relationship to God, to himself, to other men, then he is seen by Augustine as a will whose substance is love. This love, as we have also seen yesterday, is the creative ground of everything that is. It is an idea of love in which agape and eros are united – the Christian form of love and the platonic form of love. But this essential nature of man is not his existential nature, is not actual in time and space. On the contrary, this essential nature is distorted by what Augustine calls, in the tradition of the New Testament and the Church, sin, and especially original sin. His doctrine of sin, the center of his anthropology, his doctrine of man, was developed in his fight with Pelagicus.
We must now turn to this struggle, which is one of the great struggles in Church history, like the Trinitarian and Christological struggles, which we have discussed, and it: is one which repeats itself again and again. We have the tension already in the New Testament between Paul and the writers of the Catholic Letters; we have it in Augustine and Pelagicus; we have it somehow between Thomas and the Franciscans; we have it between Karl Barth and the present-day liberals. It is something which goes through the whole history of the Church. And there is always one point which is decisive. Usually it is discussed in terms of the concept of freedom, but this is misleading because freedom has so many connotations which are not relevant for this discussion. But it is the question of the relationship of religion and ethics, whether the moral imperative is dependent on the Divine grace in its actualization, or whether Divine grace is dependent on the fulfillment of the moral imperative. That is actually the question which is going on through all Church history. In abstract terms, you could say it is the relationship of religion and ethics.
Pelagicus is not a special heretic. He represents simply the ordinary doctrine of people who were educated in Greek thinking, especially in Stoic traditions, and for whom freedom is the essential nature of man. Man is a rational being, and a rational being includes freedom of deliberating, deciding. All this wouldn’t have made him a heretic because most of the Eastern church had exactly the same idea of freedom. But he developed them in a way which brought him into conflict with Augustine. When this conflict was decided, Augustine was at least partly victorious and Pelagicus was an arch-heretic, whose name was used all the time as a name of one of the classical Christian heresies.
Let us listen to some of his ideas: For him, death is a natural event and not a result of the fall. Death would have happened, it belongs to finitude, even if Adam had not fallen into sin. Now you remember what I said about Ignatius and Irenaeus, where the same idea is expressed, namely that man is naturally finite and therefore due to die – as everything natural – but that in the paradise story the participation in the food of the Gods made it possible for man to overcome his essential finitude. What Pelagicus does here s to leave out the second possibility and to state only the first is true and is even in the Christian tradition.
Secondly, the sin of Adam belongs to him alone and does not belong to the human race as such. In this sense original sin does not exist. Original sin would make sin into a natural category, but man has moral existence and therefore the contradiction to the moral demand cannot be a natural event but must be an event of freedom. Everybody must sin, in order to be a sinner. The simple dependence on Adam doesn’t make (one) a sinner. Here again Pelagicus says something which is universally Christian, that without the personal participation in sin, there is no sin. On the other hand, he does not see that Christianity sees the tragic universality of sin and makes it therefore a destiny of the human race. The relationship to Adam as the presupposed first man is of course mythological, but in this myth the Christian Church – whether or not the Church took it literally – has preserved the tragic element which we also find in the Greek world view. So again Pelagicus has some point, but on the other hand he doesn’t see the profundity of the Christian description of the human situation.
Thirdly, children after their birth are in the state of Adam before their fall; they are innocent. But of course Pelagicus could not close his eyes to the fact that the evil surroundings and customs distort their innocence. He follows a modern tendency, namely the psychoanalytic theory of the relationship to the parents, or their representatives, which decide about all the complexes and other negativities which are in the depths of the soul and come to it through the surroundings. There is even today another theory, the biological theory, that the distortion is inherited and cannot be avoided even in terms of the best surroundings you can provide for a child; there is something in its very nature, (from birth.) Here you have a modern restatement of this old struggle, Pelagicus using the psychoanalytic theory in order to avoid the idea of hereditary sin.
Fourthly, before Christ some people were without sin, and :after Christ some people sin. Sin is not a universally tragic necessity, but it is a matter of freedom. Here again you can say that the state of things in this country is very much in favor of this basic Pelagian idea that every individual can always make a new beginning, that he is able in terms of individual freedom to make decisions for or against the Divine. The tragic element of the human situation is very much known in Europe, but is not so near to the heart of the people in this country. On the other hand, in Europe the merely negative Augustinianism – we can call it Existentialism – -has made this human situation inescapable and has reduced the ethical zeal and impact Pelagianism can have.
Fifthly, the function of Christ under these circumstances is a double one: to provide the forgiveness of sins in baptism to those who believe, and to give an example of a sinless life not only by avoiding sins but also by avoiding the occasions of sins, through asceticism – Jesus, the first monk; Pelagicus himself was a monk. He gives the example of an ascetic life, thus avoiding the occasions for sins, and not only the actual sins when the occasion is given.
Sixth, grace is identical with the general remission of sins in baptism. After this, grace has no meaning because after this, man is able to do everything himself. Only in the situation of baptism does man receive the grace of forgiveness. We can say it is a strong ethical emphasis with many ascetic elements, but the tragic aspect of life has been lost entirely. This is Pelagianism. And don’t take him too easily; take him seriously. I don’t say we all are Pelagians, by birth –as I say about nominalism – -but I would say Pelagianism is nearer to all of us, especially in countries which are dependent on sectarian movements, as this country so strongly is. It is nearer to us than we know ourselves, and it is always effective in us when we try to force God down upon ourselves. And this is what we usually called by the much abused term “moralism.”
He says: Good and evil are (performed) by ourselves; they are nothing given. If this is true, then religion was in danger of being transformed into morality. And you know enough about this danger; I don’t need to say anything. So Pelagianism, like all the other great heresies, is not something of the past – otherwise it would not be worthwhile for you and me to dedicate this precious hour from 11-12 each morning to all these old stories. They are, all together, new stories at the same time. And only if I succeed in making it clear to you that they are stories can they have meaning, and then it is worthwhile to deal with Church history.
Now against this we have Augustine’s Doctrine of Sin.. Augustine agrees with Pelagicus and all philosophy that freedom is the quality of man essentially or originally, so that Adam, when he committed his fall, and man essentially – which is always represented by the figure of Adam – is free. Originally man’s freedom was directed towards the good and as we have seen last time, the good is the love with which God loves Himself; it is the being-directed towards good as the loving ground of being; in this sense everybody is free. But this freedom was dangerous, and it was so dangerous that man could change his direction towards God and could direct himself towards the special things in times and space.
Now Augustine saw the danger of freedom as so great that he produced the famous doctrine attutorium gratiae , the helping power of grace, which was given to Adam before he fell. He was not in pure nature (in puris naturalibus), namely the assisting power of grace. This assistance of grace made it possible for him to continue indefinitely in the direction of his will towards God. It made it possible for him. But you see this was a point where the Reformers fought against Augustine. This attutorium gratiae , this assisting power of grace, implied indirectly that nature in itself cannot be good, it must be fulfilled by supra-nature; that if man is in puris naturalibus, in pure nature, then he is so endangered that actually he must fall. Therefore the supernature helps him. The Reformers had such an emphasis on human nature – very similar to the Renaissance, at the same time – that they declined this idea of a donum superadditum, a gift which was added to man’s nature. This is a very profound distinction, and behind this seemingly Scholastic terminology something is hidden, namely the question of the valuation of creation. In the doctrine of the donum superadditum , something of the Greek .valuation of matter as the resisting power, is present. There is some of the Greek tragic feeling which enters here, the Jewish-Protestant-Christian affirmation of nature as good in itself.
Now if we see how Adam was formed, on the basis of all this, Augustine can say that the first man had the freedom not to fall, not to die, not to turn away from the good. In this stage he was at peace with himself – a profound remark in view of our modern depth psychology; he was at peace with all things and all men. There was no cupidity, no desire, in him, not even in sexual life. There was no pain in this state, not even in the situation of birth. ~ . . . .In any case, it was very easy for him not to fall. There was no real reason for it, but astonishingly he did fall. And since there was no external reason for his fall, his fall started in his inner life. Sin, according to Augustine, is in its very start spiritual sin. Man wanted to be in himself, he had all the good possibilities, he had nothing to suffer, from which he would turn away; he had everything he needed, but he wanted to have all this by himself, he wanted to stay in himself, (therefore he turned away. And this is what Dr. Niebuhr calls “pride,” and what I prefer to call “hybris,” self-elevation. In this way man lost the assistance of grace and was left alone by grace. He wanted to be autonomous, to stand upon himself, and this meant a wrong love of himself, not the right love of himself; and this wrong love of himself cut off the love towards God. He says: “The beginning of all sin is pride; the beginning of pride is man’s turning away from God..” Or, if you say hybris instead of pride, then this is profounder, because pride often has the connotation of a special psychological character, and that is not what is meant here. The most humble people psychologically can have the greatest pride.
Now these statements show first of all that Augustine was aware that sin is something which happens in the spiritual realm, namely turning away from the Ground of Being to whom one belongs. It is not a naturalistic doctrine of sin. But more important than this, Augustine shows clearly the religious character of sin. Sin for him is not a moral failure, it is not even disobedience – disobedience is a consequence but not the cause; the cause is: turning away from God, and from God as the highest good, as the love with which God loves Himself, through us. For this reason, since sin has this character – if you say “sins,” is easily dissolved into moral sins, but sin is first of all basically the power of turning away from God. For this very reason no moral remedy is possible. Only one remedy is possible: return to God. But this of course is possible only in the power of God, and this power is lost. This is the state of man under the conditions of existence.
The immediate consequence of man’s turning away from his highest good is the loss of this good. This loss is the essential punishment for man. Punishments in terms of educational or juristic terminology are secondary. For Augustine, the basic punishment is ontological. If God is everything positive, he power of being overcoming non-being, or the ultimate good – which is the same thing for him–then of course the only real punishment possible is the intrinsic punishment of losing this power of being, of non-participating any more in the ultimate good.
Augustine describes it thus: “The soul died when it was left alone, by God, as a body will die when it is left by the soul.” The soul, which, religiously speaking is dead, has consequently lost its control over the body. And in the moment in which this happened, the other side of sin becomes actual. The beginning is pride, or turning to oneself, or hybris, separation from God and turning to oneself. The consequence is concupiscence, the infinite endless desire. The word concupiscentia , concupiscence, desire, libido, (in the forms in which modern psychology uses it) has two meanings in Augustine: the universal meaning, the turning towards the movable goods, those goods which change and disappear; but it has also a narrower sense, namely in the natural, sexual desire, which is accompanied by shame. This ambiguity of the term concupiscence has been repeated by the ambiguity of Freud’s term libido. It is the same situation in Augustine. Both terms are meant universally, the desire to fulfill one’s own being with the abundance of reality. And because of the predominant power of the sexual desire among all other desires, it has received, in both Augustine and Freud, the meaning of sexual desire, and out of this ambiguity innumerable consequences followed. From this followed, for instance in Freud, his puritanism, his depreciation of sex, his bourgeois suppression; and on the: other hand, the revelation of this situation. But he never found a solution to the problem – either suppressing or getting rid of it. And since you cannot get rid of it, according to Freud, you have the desire to death, the death-instinct, as he calls it, which is the necessary answer to the endlessness of desire. In Protestantism, as in all Catholicism first, the ambiguity of the term concupiscence had the ascetic consequences in all its different forms up to the most extreme and disgusting forms. The Reformers tried to reestablish the dignity of the sexual, but did it only in a limited way. They never completely followed through their own principles against the Roman church. Therefore, as every theologian can tell you who knows a little about the history of moral behavior and the history of ethical theory in Protestantism, in this point Christianity is very much uncertain and has produced no satisfactory answer to this question implied in human existence. This has something to do with the ambiguity of Augustine’s concept of concupiscentia.
The sin of Adam is original sin, for two reasons. We all inhabited.. potentially, in Adam, namely in his procreative power, and in this way we participated in his free decision and thus are guilty. This again is of course myth, and a very questionable myth.
Secondly, he introduced libido, desire, concupiscence, into the process of sexual generation, and this element was given by heredity to all the others. Everybody is born out of the evil of sexual desire. Original sin in everybody is, as in Adam, first of all spiritual sin, sin of the soul. But it is also bodily sm, and Augustine had great difficulties in uniting the spiritual character of sin in everybody with the heritage-character which comes from Adam.
In this way everybody belongs to a “mass of perdition,” to a unity of negativity, and the most striking consequence of this is that even the little infants who die early are lost. Since everybody, by hereditary sin, belongs to the mass of perdition, nobody is saved who is not saved by a special act of God. This is the most powerful emphasis on the unity of’ mankind in the tragedy of sin. He denies, in this way, most radically and almost in the sense of his Manichaean past, the freedom in the individual personality. The embracing unity makes us what we are. Now if we look at our modern research into depth psychology and depth sociology, we probably are able to understand better than our fathers did what Augustine means, namely the inescapable participation in human existence, in a social structure and in an individual psychological structure, whether we call it neurotic or something else; it is something which we can see better today. The question which is put before us, of course, is:” What about the participation of the individual in guilt ?, and there is no answer to this in the context of Augustine.
The opposite doctrine is the Doctrine of Grace. Man has lost his possibility to turn towards the ultimate good, because of his universal sinfulness.. We are under the law of servitude, the bondage of the will. Therefore grace is first of all :gratia data, grace given without merit. It is given by God to a certain number of people, who cannot be augmented or diminished; they belong eternally to Him. The other part is left to the damnation which they deserve. There is no reason for the predestination of the one and the rejection of the other groups. The reason is in God alone; it is a mystery. Therefore one cannot speak of prescience, of foreseeing what man would do – as is often done in the doctrine of freedom. This is impossible since God’s willing and knowing are identical. God never can look at something as if it were not carried by His power of being, I. e, His will, in this sense. Therefore God always wills what He knows. “He has elected us not because we would be holy, but in order to have us become holy.” That is the decisive thing in this whole idea. There is no reason in man for predestination. God acts both the willing and the fulfilling.
But Augustine was not a determinist in the technical psychological sense. Predestination does not exclude man’s will. The psychological will of man is preserved and distinguished from external forces, or from compulsory elements in man. But the direction of the will towards Hod is dependent on God’s predestination and this predestination cannot be explored.
Grace is given to everybody who becomes a Christian. The forgiveness of sins, which is first given to him happens in baptism and is received by faith. In this Augustine continues the general tradition. But beyond this, forgiving is a real participation in the ultimate good. This ultimate good has appeared in Jesus as the Christ, without which neither good thinking nor good acting nor loving is possible. Now he describes this side of grace as the inspiration of the good will, or he also calls it the inspiration of love, namely first of all the love towards God. “The Spirit helps,” he says, “by inspiring in the place of bad concupiscence, good concupiscence, that is, diffusing carinas (agape) within our hearts.” Justification therefore is inspiration of love. Faith is the means to get it. But faith at that time already had the deteriorized sense which today makes Christian preaching about faith almost impossible, namely faith as tile acceptance of doctrines which are unbelievable. So Augustine distinguishes between two forms of faith. He calls faith crater deo aut christo, namely believing “to” God or “to” Christ, namely, accepting their words and commands; and the other is believing “into” God and “into” Christ. The first is an intellectual acknowledgment, without hope and love. The second is a personal communion which is created by grace, or by the Holy Spirit, or by love – these words are all the same. This alone is the faith which justifies, because it makes him who is justified just.
Those who are predestined are of course naturally able to fall away again, so they get something else: they get the gift of perseverance, of sticking to what they have received, the gift of not losing the grace. All this, the whole process I have just described, does not depend on any merit, not even on the merit of non-resistance against grace, since grace, as Augustine emphasizes, is irresistible; when it comes to you, you cannot resist it, and you cannot get it if it doesn’t come to you.
Now this is the way in which he has attacked Pelagicus. It is in all respects the opposite. Now Church – historically – I can now tell you that this never was completely accepted by the Church. Of course Augustine was considered to be the greatest of the Church teachers, but he was not fully accepted. Pelagianism was rejected and even semi-Pelagianism, which crept up a hundred years later, was rejected. But the rejection didn’t change the fact that it crept into the Church. Some historians who like additional Greek words have called it crypto-semi-Pelagianism, hidden, underground, spying, so to speak going into the Church half-officially, half-unofficially. And you cannot deny that especially in the Augustinian school, in the later Franciscans, we have semi-Pelagianism very much. No one would repeat Pelagicus in the official Church: that was out of the question. But half-Pelagianism, taking away the irrestability of grace, the necessity that we work in order to keep grace, and things like that; or restriction in terms of predestination and salvation- all this crept into the Church and made the doctrine of Augustine educationally possible. I talked about this before, and this is always a problem: you cannot have such a doctrine if you at the same time are an institution of education; and the only institution of education for a thousand years was the Christian Church. In such a situation you must appeal to the free will of those who are educated, and such an extreme doctrine cannot be presented in a direct way to most people. So the ultimate tragic element did not get lost, but it kept down to a certain extent for the sake of the educational element. This was the situation when the Reformers came in. When they came, the tragic element was reduced almost to nothing, by something else, namely, the educational, ethical, and ascetic element, and the Church lived in these things all the time. The churches are usually, with some exceptions, suspicious, very suspicious, of any doctrine of predestination – at least the Catholic church was.. ..because that makes the ultimate religion to God independent of the Church, or at least it tends to do so, and actually very often did. So we have here one of those tensions of which I spoke, in connection with Origen and other theologians, he tension between the ultimate theological, and the pre-ultimate, preliminary, educational point of view. And this is the tension you will experience in every hour of religious instruction – you always have these two elements: you will have it in counseling, you will have it in preaching. And the great struggle between Augustine and Pelagicus is perhaps the classical example of the problem in the Christian Church.
Lecture 20: Augustine. Donatism. The Medieval Church. Scholasticism. Mysticism.
There was one point remaining to be discussed in Augustine, namely his doctrine of the Church, and since this is of extreme influence in all the Christian churches – not only the Roman – we must deal with it.
I gave you the basic ideas of Cyprian’s doctrine of the Church, namely that the Church is an institution of salvation; the concept of the communion of the saints (communio sanctorum) was largely replaced by that of the institute of salvation, in Cyprian and the whole development of which he is the representative, the institution of salvation being an objective thing, in which we participate.
In this situation Augustine came into conflict with the Donatist movement. The consequence of the institution meant a change in the idea of the holiness of the Church (una ecclesia sancta .). These ideas meant something other than what they meant originally. Originally the emphasis was on the sanctification of the individual members and the group as a whole. Now this emphasis is changed to the sacramental reality of the Church, the holiness of the Church is identical with the sacramental gifts, especially with the sacramental power of the clergy. Sanctus, holy, saint, does not mean now, any more, someone who is personally sanctified, but it does mean someone who has the sacramental power. This of course is a fundamental change in meaning, from the subjective to the objective element, from personal holiness to institutional holiness.
There were people in North Africa, where Augustine was bishop, who didn’t want to follow this development and who were interested in the actual sanctification of the Church and its members, especially of the clergy. The points in which this problem arose were the following:
1) the discipline in the act of penitence;
2) the question whether baptism is valid if performed by heretics;
3) the question whether ordination is a possible thing if it is done by traditores , traitors, who in the persecutions delivered over the holy books, or denied they were Christians.
Are the objective graces valid if they are done by people who subjectively are under a strong judgment of the opposite of holiness? The Donatistic movements excluded them, did not allow them to become ministers, because for them the holiness of the Church is the personal holiness of their representatives. This would have had the consequence that the individual Christian would have been dependent on the moral and religious standing of the clergy. He would have been dependent on the inner holiness of the minister. Now Augustine was clear about the fact that you cannot judge about it, that any attempt to judge about it would lead to terrible consequences – to claiming the position of God who alone can look into the hearts of the people. He wanted to save the objectivity of the Church against the demand for subjective holiness in its representatives. He followed the lead of Cyprian. In order to do this he introduced the distinction between faith (including hope) and love. Faith, including hope, are possible outside the Church, because they are determined by their content. You may live among heretics, you may be one yourself, but if you fulfill the formula of baptism in the right way, then the content is decisive and not your personal heretical or morally unworthy status. The formulas are the same as they are in the Catholic church. Therefore if the heretic churches use these same formulas, the contents make their activities valid.
Love, on the other hand, is something which cannot be found where there is not the right faith. Love is the principle which unites the Church – it is not simple moral goodness, which can be found everywhere, but it is the agape relationship of individuals with each other. And this spirit of love, which is embodied in the Church as unity of peace, as the reestablishment of the original Divine unity which is disrupted in the state of existence – this is something which you can have only in the Church. Therefore salvation is only in the Church, since salvation is impossible without the poured-in agape, the agape given like a fluid into the hearts of men. But this you can get only in the Church, therefore there is no salvation outside the Church, although there may be valid sacraments outside it.
Now this distinction between the faith element and the love element is of extreme importance and makes the Church the only place of salvation for every Catholic.
From this follows a second distinction, namely between the validity and the effectiveness of the sacraments. The sacraments of the heretics are valid, if they are performed n terms of the orthodox tradition. Therefore nobody has to be rebaptized. But they have no effectiveness within the heretic groups. They have effectiveness only within the Church. Baptism, for instance, always gives a “character from the Lord,” as the technical term stated; it is the character coming from God, which one has throughout his life whatever one does. This was very important because it enabled the medieval Church to treat the pagans and Jews differently from the baptized Christians. The baptized Christians are subjected to the laws of heresy, the Jews and pagans are not, because even if they tried to become Jews and pagans – or Mohammedans, etc. – they cannot because they have the indelible character given to them in the very act of baptism – whoever mediates this act, whether a member of the Church or a member of the heresy. But the effectiveness of baptism, its saving power, you cannot have except within the Church.
In the same way, ordination is always valid. The priests who are fallen and excommunicated are forbidden to administer the sacraments, but they are able to do it validly. If in a prison the medieval priest who is excommunicated for a crime meets a couple and marries them, what he does is valid in spite of the fact that it is forbidden him to do so. No re-ordination is needed if the priest is absolved and returns into the clergy, because ordination is and remains valid.
Now all this makes the people in the Church completely independent of the quality of the priest. Nobody knows this quality exactly, anyhow – of course, there are mortal sins which are publicly visible, and then the priest will be excommunicated and forbidden to exercise his activities, but this is quite different – what he does is valid anyway – in this way the institution is effective by itself and has become completely independent f the status of the clergy. What we have here is the hierarchical institute of salvation, which as an institute is I dependent of the character of those who perform it; and also there is the spiritual community of the faithful. According to Catholic doctrine, the first is he condition of the second; according to sectarian ideas, the second is the condition of the first, if it comes to the first at all. These two concepts of the Church were fighting with each other in all the history of the Church. This ends our discussion of Augustine. We come now to the development of that Church which is more dependent on him than on anybody else: the Medieval Church.
The Medieval Church
We can deal with this topic for two semesters, four hours a week, starting only with the year 1000 and ending with 1450. But here we can do it only in a few weeks. Therefore I will do something which some of you may criticize. Others in former years have appreciated it so much that, following Professor Handy’s advice, I will repeat it at this time, namely to give you, in one lecture hour or so, a survey of the main ideas and trends of the Middle Ages, from the beginning to the end, and only after this will I go into a few great figures and their special discussions. This is an emergency method, because this survey should follow the at least four hour semester course necessary for dealing with the Middle Ages. But it cannot. So you must follow me in what is usually called a sweeping statement. Now I hope it is not sweeping as a statement, but sweeping insofar as it sweeps through the centuries!
Now first the basic problem of the Middle Ages, which we find in all its periods: namely, a transcendent reality manifest and embodied in a special institution, in a special sacred society, leading the culture and interpreting the nature. This is medieval though t– a transcendent reality embodied in an institution in time and space, leading all cultural activities and interpreting the relation of man to nature. If you have this in your mind, you can understand everything going on in the Middle Ages. If you have not, you cannot understand anything, because then you measure the Middle Ages by our own measures of today, and this the Middle Ages do not admit. When you come to distorted pictures, you come to the judgment that the Middle Ages were “dark ages” and we are the illumined ages, and we look back at this period of terrible superstition with a kind of contempt, etc.
But nothing of this is true! The Middle Ages were one form in which the great problem of human existence in the light of the eternal was solved. The people lived in these thousand years, and they lived not worse than we live. in many respects, and in other respects they lived better than we do. So there is no reason to look back at the Middle Ages with any form of contempt.
But on the other hand I am not a romanticist. I don’t want us to measure our situation with measures taken from the Middle ages, as does all romanticism.
The Middle Ages are not so united as our ignorance about them makes us regard them. They are very much differentiated. We can distinguish the following periods:
1) Ca. 600, which we all should know as the date of Pope Gregory the Great, in whom the ancient tradition was still alive, but in whom already the Middle Ages started.
From there to ca. 1000, we have 400 years of preservation, as much as could be preserved – which was comparatively little – and of reception, in the tribes which ruled Europe (the Germanic-Romanic tribes.) It was the period of transition from the ancient to the medieval
world. It was a transition which sometimes, in contrast to the real Middle Ages, is called the Dark Ages, especially the 9th and 10th centuries. But they were not so dark as they seem, and great things happened there which prepared a new world out of which we all come, even if we have forgotten it.
2) The second period if from 1000-1200, when new, original forms developed, decisively different from the ancient world. It is the very creative and very profound period of the early Middle Ages, artistically represented by Romanesque art.
3) We come to the High Middle Ages, 1200-1300. Here all the basic motifs are elaborated and brought into the great systems of the Scholastics, of Gothic art, and of feudal life.
4) From 1300 on, we come into the period of the disintegration of the Middle Ages, from 1300-1460, the Late Middle Ages. If I call it an age of “disintegration,” I don’t want to depreciate the tremendous surge of new motifs which developed there and made both the Renaissance and Reformation possible. Thus, to repeat:
1) The period of transition, 600-1000.
2) The Early Middle Ages, 1000-1200.
3) The High Middle Ages, 1200-1300.
4) The Late Middle Ages, 1300-1450.
The first series of problems we will discuss are the main cognitive attitude, the main theological attitude – 1 don’t speak of systems, but of attitudes. There are three of them, and they were always present and influential.
1) Scholasticism: , the main and determinative cognitive attitude of the whole Middle Ages. It is the methodological explanation of Christian doctrine. It is derived from “school, of course, and means “school philosophy,” philosophy as it was treated in the school. Today “school” has connotations of separation from life; “scholasticism” even more so. When we hear the word “scholasticism” we think of lifeless systems, (as thick as a horse is heavy, as was said of one of these Scholastics), and no one can read them, since they have nothing to do with reality. There was a distortion of Scholasticism in the late Middle Ages, but that Scholasticism really is the theological interpretation of all problems of life of these people. Therefore we have an extremely rich Scholastic literature, that has tremendously influenced the whole spiritual life of the Middle Ages.
But there was of course one limit to this. . . A Scholastic(education) … was given only to a small upper class. All the Scholastic books were written in Latin, and although many more of the educated of that time knew Latin, the masses did not know it, nor could they even write or read. So the question was: how to bring the message discussed in these Scholastic systems to the people.
There were two ways: participation in the church services, the liturgies, pictures, the church (structures), hearing the music, and receiving other sense impressions – which do not require much intellectual activity but which give the feeling of the numinous, and some kind of moral guidance. But this didn’t mean that these objective things were really personal experiences. The second attitude therefore developed to introduce personal experience into the religious life, and this was what mysticism in the Middle Ages meant.
Now you are today misled by a Protestant theology which starts with Ritschl and is still alive in the Barthian theology, a misinterpretation of the meaning of mysticism. You are misled by people who immediately identify the word mysticism with either Asiatic mysticism of the Vedanta type, or with Neoplatonic mysticism of the Plotinus type. Now forget about this when you approach the Middle Ages. Every medieval Scholastic was a mystic at the same time I. e. , they experienced what they were talking about as personal experience. That was what mysticism originally meant in the Scholastic realm. There was no opposition between mysticism and Scholasticism. The Scholastic message “experienced” – that was mysticism. The unity with the Divine in devotion and ascetic exercises and prayer and contemplation was the basis of the dogma. Now if you know this, then at least I hope you will not fall. into the trap of removing mysticism from Christianity, which practically means reducing it to an intellectualized faith and a moralized love. And that is what has happened since the Ritschlian school became predominant in Protestantism, and still is very important in many parts of this country. And don’t fall into the trap that if you use the word mysticism, or read it, or hear it spoken, you immediately think of the pattern of absolute or abstract mysticism in which the individual disappears in the abyss of the Divine. Mysticism – – unio mystica , as even the Orthodox theologians of Protestantism called it – is the immediate union with God in His presence. And even for the Orthodox people, this was the highest form of the relationship to God. In the Middle Ages, mysticism and Scholasticism belonged to each other.
3) The third attitude was biblicism. Biblicism is strong in the later Middle Ages and helps prepare the Reformation. But biblicism is not something exclusively Protestant. There were always biblicistic reactions in the whole Middle Ages. These reactions sometimes were very critical of the Scholastic systems, sometimes they ,were critical of mysticism – usually they were united with mysticism, and often also with Scholasticism. They were attempts to use the Bible as the basis for a practical Christianity, especially a lay Christianity. They prepared also in this respect the Reformation: in the later Middle Ages biblicism was predominant and made it possible for many laymen even in that period to read the Bible, before the Reformation.
So we have these three attitudes: Scholasticism, mysticism, biblicism. They could be united in the same person, and were in most cases. They could come into some tension. And we shall see how, for instance, Scholasticism and mysticism came into tension in the fight between Bernard of Clairvaux and Abelard. That is possible. But neither of them prevailed. Both gave what they had to give to the medieval Church. And the biblicistic criticisms were simply (appropriated) as the biblical foundation of the Scholastic system and the mystical experiences.
This is the first group of considerations. The main point is: Take these things for what they really are: Scholasticism is the theology of that time; mysticism is the personal experiential piety of that time – -sometimes going to extremes; biblicism is the continuous critical reaction coming from the biblical tradition and entering the two other attitudes, finally overcoming both of them in the Reformation.
Now we come to something much more difficult, namely the scholastic method. All Scholasticism has one basic problem, namely that of authority and reason. This you must understand again. The first thing is to understand the word “authority.” What is the medieval authority? The medieval authority is the substantial tradition on which medieval life is based. Authority is first of all the Church tradition, and then those places where this Church tradition is expressed: in the acknowledged Church Fathers, in the creeds, in the Bible, in the Councils. This is authority. Now if we hear of “authority” today, we always think of a tyrant – be it the father, the king, the dictator, or sometimes even a teacher – I think some teachers exist who are tyrannical, but very few, I suppose, who would dare. In any case this is what authority means for us. Now don’t be betrayed when you go to medieval sources and read the word auctoritas , or “authority”, and identify it even with the Pope at that time – this is much later, toward the end of the Middle Ages. But in the earlier and High Middle Ages, authority is the living tradition. This is perhaps the way in which you can translate the word authority. So the question is: What is the relationship of reason to the living tradition of the Church in which everyone lives and there is no other tradition? This is the tradition which is as natural for us as he air we breathe. There are no places of the earth that have different kinds of air to breathe, and we can choose one or the other. We breathe the air, and if it is not polluted by human activities, it has everywhere the possibility of keeping us alive. This is an analogy you must understand if you want to understand what living tradition in the Middle Ages means.
But in contrast to my example, the tradition was composed of many elements. It happened that these elements didn’t all say the same thing, if you inquired into them. In many cases you had to make decisions. The Middle Ages experienced that first of all in the realm of practical decisions, namely of canon law. The canon law is the basis anyhow of medieval life; the dogma is one of the canon laws – this gives it its legal authority within the Church. In this sense, practical needs produced people who had to harmonize the different authorities on the meaning of the canon laws, as they appear in the many collections of c anon law. Here we have first the harmonizing method, the, method of harmonizing the authorities. One called this the method of yes and no, the dialectical method, which intends to harmonize.
Now we know what reason means in the Middle Ages: it is the tool for this purpose. Reason combines and harmonizes the sentences of the Fathers and the sentences of the Councils and their decisions – first practically and then also in the theoretical realm of theological statements. Therefore the function of reason was to collect, to harmonize, and to comment on the given sentences of the Fathers. The man who did this more successfully was Peter the Lombard , whose sententiae , the sentences of the Fathers, was the handbook of all medieval Scholasticism; everyone commented on it when writing one’s own system.
But another step was taken, namely, this tradition which is now harmonized in the “sentences” of Peter the Lombard, or some others, must be understood; they need commentary; they must be interpreted. The next function of reason was to interpret the meaning of the given tradition expressed in the sentences. This means that the contents of faith had to be interpreted, but faith is presupposed. Out of this situation came the slogan: credo ut intelligam, I believe in order to know. But this simply means: the substance is given; I am living, participating, in it; it is not that I exert a will-to-believe – this is nonsense for the Middle Ages. The creed is given, like nature which is given. Natural science does not create nature; no natural scientist would tell you this. But he calculates the structures and the movements of the given nature. Similarly, reason has the function of interpreting the given tradition – it doesn’t create the tradition. If you keep strictly to these analogies, then you can understand the Middle Ages much better.
This was carried through in the next step, less speculatively, very cautiously, by that group of thinkers which took Aristotle into their theology, and formulate – especially Thomas Aquinas – the relation in such a way that they said: Reason is adequate to interpret authority; reason at no point is against authority, but you are able to interpret that which is given in the living tradition in rational terms, and you don’t need to hurt or destroy reason in order to interpret the meaning of the living tradition. This is the Thomistic position even today.
But then the last step developed, namely, the separation of reason from authority. Duns Scotus, Occam the nominalist, asserted that reason is inadequate to the authority, the living tradition; reason is not able to express it. This was stated very sharply in later nominalism. But if reason is not able to interpret the tradition, then the tradition becomes authority in a quite different way. Now it becomes the commanding authority to which you have to subject yourselves even if you don’t understand it. We call this positivism: the tradition is given, positivistic ally: there it is, you simply have to look, at it and accept it, subjecting yourselves to it; and it is given by the Church. Thinking never can show the meaning of the tradition; it can only show different possibilities which can be derived from the decisions of the Church and the living tradition. Reason can develop probabilities and improbabilities, but never realities. It cannot show how things should be. They are all dependent on the will of God. The will of God is irrational and is given. It is given in nature, so we must be empiricists in order to find out how the natural laws are. We are not in the center of nature. They are in the Church orders, in the canon law, so we must subject ourselves to these decisions, positivistically; we must take them as positive laws; we cannot understand them in rational terms.
Now this was the end of the Middle Ages. And these different steps in the relationship of reason and authority, or reason and living tradition, must be kept in mind when coming to the last step, where Scholasticism dissolved itself. I repeat these steps:
1) Collecting and harmonizing the different expressions of the tradition – called authority .
2) The commenting upon them, making them un-understandable in a quasi-systematic way.
3) To-speculate about them, but on the basis of faith (Anselm).
4) To say cautiously: you cannot really produce them, but they are adequate to reason.
5) They are inadequate to reason and you cannot reach them at all with reason; you must subject yourselves to them as they are given by the authority of the Church.
This is the development in many steps, and if you take them all together and say the medieval Church was “authoritarian,” you don’t know what you are saying. These different steps must be distinguished.
In Protestantism both things came to an end, the Church authority and to some extent reason. Reason then elaborated itself completely and became creative in the Renaissance. In the Reformation, tradition was transformed into personal faith. But the Counter Reformation tried to keep reason in the bondage of the tradition, but now this tradition was not so much living tradition as formulated tradition, tradition which was identical with the authority of the Pope.
Now this is very important for our present situation. Keep this in mind. We all have to deal, even today, with the problem of living tradition. Living tradition is often confused with authority, but this confusion is wrong. Authority can be natural, factual authority, authority which is not created by a break in ourselves, by a break of our autonomy, and by a subjection to a foreign law ofheteronomy. This was the situation in the early Middle Ages. In this situation, authority was natural, so to speak, as our relation to nature is natural.. But at the end of the Middle Ages the situation was changed. And then that concept of authority arose against which we must fight – which is embodied in the preservation of one tradition against other traditions by subjection to one. The dictators today go even beyond this. They exclude the other tradition. The so-called “iron curtains” which we now build to a certain extent by not admitting books from the East, etc., are attempts to keep the people in a definite tradition and prevent it from touching other traditions, because every authoritarian system knows that nothing is more dangerous for a given tradition then the contact with other traditions, which puts the individual into the point of decision between the traditions, and this they want to avoid. Therefore the iron-curtain methods, which were not necessary in the early Middle Ages because there was no other tradition and one lived in this tradition as naturally as we live in nature.