• The 13th Century Article by Nicholas Needham

    FROM TABLETALK | September 2013

    More traditionally minded Roman Catholics have seen the thirteenth century as the golden age of Roman Catholic civilization. Certainly it witnessed the papacy achieving the summit of its power over the politics and culture of Western Europe. THE REIGN OF POPE INNOCENT III The pope who presided over this Catholic “high noon” was Innocent III, who was bishop of Rome from 1198 to 1216. His baptismal name was Lothario Conti. Born in 1160, he came from one of Rome’s most ancient aristocratic families. After studying theology and law at Rome, Bologna, and Paris, he lectured at Bologna law school … View Resource

  • The New Mendicant Orders Article by David Hogg

    FROM TABLETALK | September 2013

    From the earliest days of the medieval period, bishops were expected to preach regularly as they visited congregations throughout their dioceses, and in their absence, there was broad support for ordained presbyters (elders) to fill the vacancy. As in our own day, however, there was unevenness in the quality and commitment to preaching such that the success of training pastors and keeping them accountable to a high standard had mixed results. What was needed in Europe by the thirteenth century was a fresh infusion of vigor to the preaching of the Word both inside and outside of the walls of … View Resource

  • The Significance of Thomas Aquinas Article by Ryan Reeves

    FROM TABLETALK | September 2013

    Thomas Aquinas has always been a whipping boy for theologians. In his own lifetime, his classmates referred to him as the “Dumb Ox” (a play on both his oafish size and the way his critical thinking appeared slow and pondering). The scorn continued after his death, when theologians such as William of Ockham and Duns Scotus attempted to have Thomas’ works condemned. Martin Luther, too, found need to reject Thomas’ approach to theology. Aquinas had, according to Luther, relied too heavily on Aristotle in his theology, and so Luther warned his readers that philosophical terms from pagan sources could only … View Resource

  • Bernard of Clairvaux and Mysticism Article by Stephen Nichols

    FROM TABLETALK | September 2012

    One has to appreciate a medieval figure whom Martin Luther and John Calvin looked on with favor and, to a certain degree, approval. The figure in question is Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian monk, abbot, mild mystic, and formidable theologian. It’s an understatement to call him an abbot. His monastery eventually founded a daughter institution, then another, then another. By the time of his death, seventy monasteries had been directly planted or started by him, with those institutions responsible for establishing hundreds more. So revered was Bernard that Dante left his faithful Beatrice behind as his guide and had … View Resource

  • Peter Abelard and the Development of Scholasticism Article by Gregg Allison

    Peter Abelard (AD 1079–1142) served as professor of philosophy and theology at the University of Paris and was a notable scholastic theologian. Scholasticism is the discipline and method of bringing together philosophy and theology to make God and His ways understandable. In the medieval context, in which theology was “the queen of the sciences” and philosophy was employed as “the handmaid of theology,” scholasticism addressed vexing questions such as “Are revelation and reason compatible or contradictory?” and “Can reason demonstrate what theology affirms about God?” Abelard contributed significantly to the scholastic endeavor. In terms of its method, his most famous … View Resource

  • Peter Lombard, Master of the Sentences Article by Andrew Hoffecker

    FROM TABLETALK | September 2012

    The roots of Christian doctrine extend back to God’s revelation in the Old and New Testaments. In the early centuries of the church, apologists defended Christian beliefs. Ecumenical councils affirmed the Trinity and theologians fleshed out these beliefs. True systematic theology owes its origin in large part to Peter Lombard (AD 1100–60). Educated at Rheims and Paris, Lombard rose through the ranks to become professor at the cathedral school of Notre Dame. He came into contact with Hugh of St. Victor and Peter Abelard, leading theologians of that era. Lombard wrote commentaries for classroom instruction that earned him respect … View Resource

  • Peter Waldo and the Waldensians Article by W. Robert Godfrey

    FROM TABLETALK | September 2012

    By the twelfth century, the church in Western Europe was indeed powerful and impressive. In the emerging Gothic architecture, we can see something of the devotion of the people and the wealth of the bishops. In the developing scholastic theology, we can see something of the intellectual dominance and refinement of thinking among academic theologians. In the Crusades against Islam in Jerusalem and heretics at home, we can see something of the coercive strength of the church in cooperation with the state. This success, however, alienated some in Europe. To them, the church seemed greatly corrupted by its power. To … View Resource

  • The Twelfth Century Article by Nicholas Needham

    FROM TABLETALK | September 2012

    The twelfth century was one of the most colorful of the medieval era. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that it was the age of some of the most famous and influential Christians of all time. We need only think of Peter Abelard and Peter Lombard in the arena of theology, Bernard of Clairvaux in matters of spirituality, and Peter Waldo as the first great “forerunner of the Reformation.” The end of the century also witnessed the ascension to power of Pope Innocent III, in whom the papacy reached its dizzying height of political power across Western Europe … View Resource

  • The Meal That Divides Article by Keith Mathison

    FROM TABLETALK | April 2009

    On the night of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus prayed for His disciples and for those who would become His disciples, “that they may all be one” (John 17:21). This was a profound prayer for unity among Christ’s disciples. Sadly, the occasion for this prayer, the “Passover” of the new exodus, the meal commemorating the death of the Lamb of God for His people, has become the focal point for some of the most serious controversies and divisions in the church. It is no longer the meal that unites us but instead has become the meal that … View Resource

  • Gottschalk Article by Steven Lawson

    FROM TABLETALK | April 2009

    Amid the swirling controversies of the ninth century, there was raised a strong voice for sovereign grace belonging to an unknown German monk named Gottschalk of Orbais (ca. 804–869). Like Augustine before him and Luther and Calvin after him, Gottschalk possessed an overriding sense of the sovereignty of God in salvation, and he brought it to bear upon his turbulent generation. It was in this dark hour of history that this medieval theologian stood in the gap to uphold the banner of the doctrines of grace. Born at Mentz in modern Germany, Gottschalk was the son of a respected nobleman … View Resource

  • A ‘Great’ Leader Article by Gene Edward Veith

    FROM TABLETALK | April 2009

    These days it’s easy to become cynical about politicians, government officials, and other national leaders. Governing a country takes hard-nosed, practical realism. Morality and religion are well and good, many of us say, but someone who follows such ideals in the political arena will be eaten alive. Yet, consider the example of a ninth-century king named Alfred the Great. In his day England (“Angle-land”) consisted of isolated Germanic tribes whose kings were closer to tribal chiefs than heads of state. The various Angles and Saxons had converted to Christianity thanks to seventh-century missionaries, but holdover practices from paganism such as … View Resource

  • Our Hope in Ages Past Article by Burk Parsons

    FROM TABLETALK | April 2009

    Pray with your mouth, cry out with your heart, make petitions while you work, so that every day and night, every hour and moment, God may always assist you.” These are the words of the ninth-century, Christian noblewoman, Dhouda. She penned these words of admonition to her son William. She was concerned that her oldest son, a page in the court of Charles the Bald, would understand what it means to be a godly man. Dhouda’s Handbook for William contained wise counsel to her son concerning the necessity of daily prayer, his conduct in public worship, and the importance … View Resource

  • What if the Muslims Won? Article by Gene Edward Veith

    FROM TABLETALK | July 2008

    On October 10, 732 a.d., some 80,000 Muslim cavalrymen attacked 30,000 Frankish infantrymen near Tours in present-day France. Those Muslims had already conquered Northern Africa and Spain, and they were poised to sweep over the rest of Europe. Normally, foot soldiers are no match for horsemen with lances, especially when outnumbered. So the Frankish king, Charles “The Hammer” Martel, arrayed his men at the top of a steep wooded hill, hoping that having to charge uphill and avoid trees would at least slow down the Muslim cavalry. Most importantly, he had his men huddle together to form … View Resource

  • Graven Images? Article by Robert Letham

    FROM TABLETALK | July 2008

    In 726, Emperor Leo’s order to destroy the image of Christ at the imperial palace provoked a riot, and a long and virulent controversy engulfed the Eastern church. Not until the Empress Irene called the second council of Nicea in 787 was the issue settled in favor of images. Even then, a revival of iconoclasm followed and only in 843 was the turmoil finally ended by Patriarch Methodius, an occasion marked thereafter as the Feast of Orthodoxy. The controversy was savagely violent. Monks were publicly lashed to death or had their nostrils slit; one was torn to pieces by a … View Resource

  • A Western Renaissance Article by Nicholas Needham

    FROM TABLETALK | July 2008

      Western Europe in the eighth century was dominated by what historians call the “Carolingian Renaissance.” Not to be confused with the later fifteenth and sixteenth-century Renaissance, the eighth-century variety got its name from the ruling dynasty of France, the Carolingians. At first they were the hereditary mayors of the French royal palace, enjoying real power under the figurehead monarchy of the Merovingians. The most famous of the Carolingian mayors was Charles Martel (690–741) — Charles “the Hammer,” so named for his decisive military victory over the Spanish Muslim armies. It is often forgotten that for much of … View Resource