• The Fifteenth Century Article by Nicholas Needham

    FROM TABLETALK | August 2015

    The fifteenth century is best known as the age of the Renaissance, which in many ways sowed seeds that would bloom into the sixteenth-century Reformation. This aspect of history was well captured in the sixteenth-century saying “Erasmus [prince of Renaissance writers] laid the egg and Luther hatched it.” Defining the Renaissance The Renaissance (“rebirth”) was not primarily a religious phenomenon, although it had religious elements. Actually, it is hard to define exactly what the Renaissance was; its character varied from one land to another, and even from one individual to another. Perhaps the nearest we can get to the heart … View Resource

  • Setting the Stage Article by Ryan Reeves

    FROM TABLETALK | July 2015

    Of all the centuries of church history, the fifteenth century is one of the most pitiable. In popular imagination, it is a bridge between the medieval and the Reformation worlds. And while it may be important for the journey, few stop to admire a bridge. We need to avoid this perspective if we are to understand the transition between the medieval and Reformation ages. The fifteenth century was an era of destruction and exploration. In Africa, the rapid expansion of Islam brought first pressure and then destruction to the kingdoms of Nubia—an expression of Christianity that stretched back to the … View Resource

  • Into the Mystic Article by Peter Lillback

    FROM TABLETALK | July 2014 | Luke 10:27

    The fourteenth century saw the blossoming of mysticism, a movement that has influenced the church to this day. Mysticism asserts the earthly possibility of a personal, immediate union of the soul with the being of God Himself. It offers direct knowledge of God by extraordinary experiences and states of mind. Mysticism as a whole is not unique to Christianity, being found in religions and philosophies worldwide. Christian mysticism claims roots in the Scriptures, but it was also influenced by Neoplatonic philosophy via the author Pseudo-Dionysius and the scholastic philosopher John Scotus Erigena, the eighth-century translator of Pseudo-Dionysius. The fourteenth century … View Resource

  • 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. In … 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 Bernard … 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 among … 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

  • Understanding the Times: An Interview with Carl Trueman Article by Carl R. Trueman

    FROM TABLETALK | September 2012

    Tabletalk: Please describe your conversion and your call to ministry. Carl Trueman: I first heard the gospel at a Billy Graham rally in Bristol, U.K., in 1984. I then started going to church and reading the Bible along with Christian literature. It was through J.I. Packer’s God’s Words that I really came to understand God’s grace. My call to ministry came much later. While teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary, I became convinced of the need to be under church oversight. Thus, I pursued ordination in the OPC. Last winter, the church where I also served as teacher voted to … View Resource

  • Anselm Article by R.C. Sproul

    FROM TABLETALK | May 2011

    Anselm held the position of archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. A Benedictine monk, philosopher, and theologian, he stands as one of the most significant thinkers in the history of the Western church. His influence is not due to the sheer volume of his writings but to his ability to expound profound subjects biblically and thoughtfully in just a few words. In general, the assumption exists that to make a significant contribution to the body of literature that shapes scholarly thought requires the production of massive tomes. Anselm’s impact completely overthrows this notion. His thought has had far-reaching consequences, … View Resource

  • Schism and the Local Church Article by Michael G. Brown

    FROM TABLETALK | May 2011

    Although the Great Schism occurred in the eleventh century, dealing with schismatic people in the local church has been a problem since the days of the apostles. Writing to the church at Corinth around AD 55, Paul said, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported … that there is quarreling among you, my brothers” (1 Cor. 1:10–11). The word the apostle … View Resource

  • Separation of Church and State Article by Nicholas Needham

    FROM TABLETALK | May 2011

    Western Europe was shaken to the heart in the eleventh century by the investiture conflict. It saw kings humbled by popes, popes driven out by kings, wars between armies, dissensions within the church, and, ultimately, a new Europe. A theological dispute pulsed at the center of the conflict. To understand it, we have to step back even further in time to the development of feudalism. The Roman Empire’s disintegration in the West, from the fifth century on, gave birth to a new social landscape, where ownership of land rather than money or political office was all-important. More-powerful figures made grants … 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

  • A Reformation Before the Reformation Article by George Grant

    FROM TABLETALK | December 2004

    The fourteenth century was a time of Dickensian paradox. Though it was a calamitous time of war, plague, corruption, and social disintegration, it also enjoyed a surprising number of reforms — which would in time bring renewal and restoration to the whole fabric of western civilization. All through the century, the peace of Christendom was shattered as the Hundred Years War raged between the kingdoms of France and England. At the same time, the catholicity of the church was sundered by the Great Schism — the apostasy of both the Avignon usurpation and the “babylonian captivity” scandalized the faithful across … View Resource