Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Found it - Overview of Church History!

I have wanted a good overview of church history for quite a while.  I was a European history major in college but I have spent quite a bit of  energy trying to balance out what I learned from those classes. Enter Stratford Caldecott's "Outline of the History of Christian Europe to 1850".  WOW!  It is what I have been looking for.  I was tempted to outline the whole article but I restrained myself.  

Here are a few highlights:
This eternal newness, like a spring of fresh water coming from the presence of Christ, is something that every generation of Christians has to rediscover for itself.  Every Christian culture will fail and fall but the Church renews herself like the Phoenix, and with her, a new civilization arises that is different from the old, yet inspired by the same truth.
(found this "newness" of Christianity interesting in light of Ken Myers' lecture about our cultural craving for the new and the cool).

Concerning monasticism:
The Rule of St. Benedict was, and still is, a very sane and balanced document.  It rejected the extremes of asceticism, linked prayer to manual labor (ora et labora), enjoined hospitality and care of the poor, encouraged learning, and emphasized stability in one place.
He later provides an overview of Franscican monks:
The ideals of his fraternity were founded on those of romantic chivalry rather than those of Benedictine Monasticism.  It was to be an order of spiritual knighthood, dedicated to the service of the cross and the love of Lady Poverty. . . Thus the courtly ideals of courtesy, joy, generosity and romantic love found a new religious application of which the life of St. Francis himself was the perfect manifestiation.  quoted from Dawson's Medieval Essays

In talking about the guilds of this period he references Russell Sparkes who asserts

[The guilds] were the means whereby a society for two centuries was based on social justice and the ethical teaching of the Church.   Second, as a consequence . . . ordinary men had a level of prosperity that they did not see again for four centuries, until the post 1945 Welfare State and the rapid economic growth that followed. 
As he enters into the Renaissance he claims 
An interesting case could be made for tracing the Renaissance and the civilization that followed it to the inspiration provided by St. Francis of Assisi.  Dante, Leonardo and Columbus were all Franciscans.  
I was also reading the SCL's notes about math instruction and found this insight interesting. 
first in its attention to nature, and then in its sense of the world's radical dependence on God.  But another ingredient was necessary, and that was the application of mathematics to the investigation of nature. As commentary he adds
By applying mathematics to the design and analysis of experiments, as scientist could probe beneath the surface of reality and unlock the secrets of nature's power. This was what the magicians had always craved and now at last science had begun to deliver the goods. 
With the application of mathematics, 'universals' had in fact returned through the back door - now they were safely separated from theology. 
Now add that to a conversation about math in a high school or college class!  

As he enters into the Reformation my favorite line of the whole work appears: 
Because of our English genius for compromise, what we ended up with was an attempt to be neither one thing nor the other: namely the Church of England. 
He does finish off discussing the Industrial Revolution and how these conditions formed the Church's (meaning Catholic) teaching on social justice.  He discusses the French Revolution and finishes with some thoughts about the dictatorships of the 20th century.  

Once again this made we want to learn more about monasticism and the medieval period in general.  I have already checked out Chesterton's book on St. Thomas Aquinas to get started.  


  1. Highly interesting quotes on both history and math. The article by Caldecott looks intriguing. Now for some extra time....

  2. There are some good thoughts in there. Printed out it is only 18 pages - so not too long.

  3. Sounds like a great article - clicked over and read a bit but I'll have to come back later for more, and maybe print it out like you suggested. Of course I have the rest of Beauty in the Word, by Caldecott, sitting on my shelf waiting, so maybe that should go first. :) I skipped right to his quoting of CM the first time I picked it up, and then started back at the beginning. Glad to have found your blog. Your pollinating blogs are some of my favorites!

  4. Very interesting. I've been reading Mangalwadi's, The Book That Made Your World & he discusses how Christian monks such as Benedict developed technology.