The Nominalists shake up the establishment. Questions for Discussion: Lesson 26A Chapter 23 “Nominalists, Reformers, & Humanists Challenge the Scholastic Synthesis” from  The Story of Christian Theology by Roger E. Olson

1. Olson says, regarding the Renaissance, that it can be “summed up in one word: humanism.” What did this concept of “humanism” entail during the Renaissance? What does it connote to modern-day Christians? Some universities today have “humanities” departments. What is the subject matter of study in this field today?

2. Wycliffe is known today for his accomplishments in early English bible translation, but, can you cite some of his other important contributions to pre-reform theology? Who did he influence, and how and where was this expressed by those under his influence? What was his position on medieval realism and the universals controversy? The Eucharist?

3. What is Lollardry? Define the movement and the beliefs that characterized it? Can you cite any modern-day parallels; that is, can you cite any modern practitioners of the doctrines promulgated by the Lollards?

4. How does Olson summarize Ockham’s great contribution to logic and philosophy: “Ockham’s Razor”? Why do you think this principle is still used in the 21st century? What are the potential problems with the Razor? What would you recommend for managing any problems that could occur.

5. Ockham is also respected for his contribution to late medieval philosophy in the nominalism controversy. How did he define nominalism? What is conceptualism? Can it be distinguished from nominalism? What philosophical position did Ockham’s main opponents espouse?

6. Was Ockham’s influence the cause of any theological “mischief”. What is voluntarism? What is conciliarism in ecclesiology?

7. Though not the first (see Petrarch), many consider Erasmus the leading voice in Renaissance humanism. What would you point to in his career accomplishments if you were asked to explain the respect he is shown today? What would be of particular interest to a Lutheran audience? Would such an audience find anything he did offensive?

8. What was Luther’s response to Erasmus’ writings, specifically Erasmus’ position on grace and salvation? What was Erasmus’ response to Luther and his reformation writings?

See Lesson 26B for Correlated Readings

Bible Verses for Reflection


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