The Coming Christian Renaissance

Holbein-erasmus

The linear conception of history is so seductive, even antagonistic groups like Enlightenment philosophers and Marxists adopt it.  It pervades their attitude toward religion. Both believe society matures as it sheds its religious heritage. Infantile societies practice religion, but progressive societies are secular, they maintain.

Voltaire viciously expressed Enlightenment hostility toward organized religion when he declared, “Every sensible man, every honorable man, must hold the Christian sect in horror.” Yet it was the later philosophe Condorcet who linked progress and secularization. Condorcet argued that societies move in a linear fashion, progressing from tribal times to his own age before climaxing in an era which had yet to come, an era guided by reason. Nothing has impeded human progress, nothing has prevented the arrival of this glorious stage more than religion, specifically Christian antipathy to all things related to science and philosophy. Fortunately, the future is bright since humanity is slowly abandoning religion. Advances in science and philosophy have strengthened the human condition. The trend will continue: “The time will therefore come when the sun will shine only on free men who know no other master but their reason; when tyrants and slaves, priests and their stupid or hypocritical instruments will exist only in works of history….” Reason will replace superstition, paving the way for the elimination of sickness, poverty, and even war.

Marx continues this linear conception of history by arguing that societies advance from the Ancient, to the Feudal to his Modern (bourgeoisie capitalist) Age, the socialist stage and finally, the glorious communist stage, with class struggle driving history. Marx maintained that the bourgeoisie use religion merely to enslave the working class. “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” But the future is bright because the demise of capitalism is inevitable and with it will crumble the religion it bequeaths to the modern world. The decline of religion is every bit as inevitable and magical as the victory of the proletariat. Like Condorcet, Marx didn’t just condemn religion, he proclaimed its demise as society progressed from capitalism to communism, from primitive to progressive.

Why are these linear conceptions of history so seductive? The first and foremost reason these linear conceptions of history seem plausible is because time moves in a linear fashion. We experience things successively because God created a physical world where cause precedes effect. This is true of history too because, at least superficially, historical events proceed from event A, to event B, to event C, ad infinitum. The linear conception of the past seems most rational since humans experience the world this way and therefore interpret history this way.

The linear conception of history also allows us to be self-righteous and dogmatic, further justifying zeal for the cause. In other words, since my values will prevail in the future, I can easily disparage those who are destined for the “dust bin of history.” (The phrase was appropriately coined by one of Marxism’s most famous theorists, Leon Trotsky. Marxists remain one of history’s most linear and dogmatic groups, even insisting their philosophy was scientific.) Alternatively, if horrific ideas may one day reign supreme, or mine are merely transitory, I have to respect differences. This helps to explain why so many secularists will resist ideas that suggest the weakening of their values. They would have to tolerate the ideas they so vehemently protest. And how can we create our own visions of paradise if we tacitly grant respect to the roadblocks?

There is just one problem with linear conceptions of the past: They are undermined by history.

The Italian Renaissance Shows that History is Cyclical
A cursory overview of history reveals cyclical patterns. One of the lessons of the Italian Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is that ideas that lie on the margins of elite culture rise again. Dormant values, seemingly part of a bygone era, return. Anyone who believes that the past is dead conveniently ignores the Renaissance. I want to suggest the probability of a Judeo-Christian Renaissance when intellectuals and philosophers adopt past dominant values in the name of light and progress.

We must analyze the historical conditions that provoked the Renaissance because they are akin to modern secular culture. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, the burgeoning Catholic Church filled the power vacuum that existed in Europe. And the Church, like modern liberal secularists, believed its values to be superior and contrarian to past values, specifically the pagan values of Greece and Rome. Greco-Roman civilization was polytheistic, the new Christian kingdom was rigidly monotheistic. This one God sent his chosen Son to die for the sins of humanity. Anyone who followed the teachings of Jesus obtained salvation. To adherents, this made it inherently more progressive, humanitarian and outright superior to the decrepit values of the past.

Whereas today secularists believe Christian morals impede progress and that societies can advance only with the spreading of secular morals, early Christians believed precisely the same thing about values. Pope Gregory the Great declared it was the purpose of the Church to bring people from the darkness of paganism to the light and brilliance of the Catholic faith. His moment, a moment when the papacy was still in its infancy, Gregory compared to dawn: “The Church of the elect will be fully day only when the darkness of sin is no longer mixed in with it. It will be fully day only when it shines with the perfect warmth of a light that comes from within.” Liberal secularists who dogmatically proclaim the inevitable triumph of their values are hardly unique. Their heritage is deeply Catholic.

The attempt of Christians to spread these values plays a decisive role in the post-Roman Era. St. Patrick, for example, remains an iconic figure in the Catholic faith for his ability to spread Christianity, leaving polytheism in his wake. Christianity, in hindsight, was the wave of the future. Had someone in the year 500 had the foresight to see several centuries into the future, they would have seen the diffusion of Christian values across Europe. The Catholic Church, by definition, is a universal institution and by the year 1000, it darn near succeeding in making its values universal across Europe.

Leading minds in the Middle Ages were steeped in Christianity. They ignored some of the great works of Greek and Roman writers, such as Homer, Sophocles, Lucretius and Ptolemy, believing their works only impeded progress and human salvation. Poems, treatise, philosophical texts and speeches disappeared forever. Since these works were written by pagans—those whose core values were different than theirs—how much wisdom could they possess? The foundation for learning seemed inadequate, therefore the sources needed to be excised. Homer’s Illiad, for example, described the existence of a myriad of Gods. They were stories of myths. Lucretius’ universe was an infinite one without a creator. How reasonable is that?  These values doomed the Roman Empire, according to Catholicism’s greatest philosopher, St. Augustine. History justified the extermination of these sinful values and the suppression of their progenitors.

Modern secular intellectuals forget that their Christian predecessors were profoundly gifted, proving the minds of intellectuals are malleable. Bede, Augustine, Plotinus, Pope Sylvester, Clemente of Alexandria, Tertullian and Origen provide quintessential examples of the Christian intellectual. Few modern intellectuals can match the productivity and significance of these magnificent thinkers. The most educated intellectuals studied these men, then taught and practiced their Christian values in the centers of medieval learning, monasteries. (Today, the centers of learning are Academia. They are secular bastions.)

The Bible remains the most historically significant book ever written, but despite the fact that it has guided Western civilization for nearly a millennium, it is not part of contemporary progressive education. Leading left-wing intellectuals rarely refer to it. Secular progressives consider their values to be fundamentally at odds with its Judeo-Christian past, so the Bible, despite its significance, has suffered the same fate of Homer and Sophocles in the early Middle Ages for the same reason: Progressives see the Bible as a story of myths and values fundamentally contrarian to their own. For progressives, the Bible contains no hallowed truths. Its opinions are deeply disturbing, such as Leviticus “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” In short, the Bible contains the same problems that the works of classical authors did for Christians. Hiding them from our youth seems noble. No rational progressive would ever encourage intensive study.

The obvious flaws in this logic will be a rallying cry for the new Judeo-Christian intellectuals.

It should not take special knowledge of history to realize that there has never been a permanent value or morality adopted by intellectuals. Rather, the minds of intellectuals evolve and change. Although the modern secular intellectual may find a shift back to theology unfathomable or even scary, the Christian intellectual would have felt the same way about a shift to deism, secularism, agnosticism or atheism. Minds change. And when they do, they are naturally drawn to the past since we are all shaped by our past, whether it be at an individual or cultural level.

These linear conceptions of history are intellectually seductive, but history seems to favor cyclical patterns. No one can deny the rise of secularism over the last century, but this does not mean that Christianity has reached its zenith. The Greco-Roman Renaissance proves that marginalized ideas return. Although today secularists lambaste Judeo-Christian values, believing they impede progress, intellectuals during the Middle Ages made precisely the same arguments against pagan Greece and Rome.

A new group of Petrarch’s, Machiavelli’s and Erasmus’s will emerge, preaching a return to the old values. They will find wisdom in the distant past. Like the humanists of the Renaissance, they will be met with resistance by those who seek to maintain the status-quo, those who fear a return to a past age contrarian to their own, but like the humanists, they will see the value and relevance of old ideas. Genesis will be reproduced like Homer, Ezra will be the new Sophocles, Mathew is Aristotle and the Book of Revelation is Cicero. After all, Christianity guided Western civilization for one thousand years and remains the backbone for Western civilization. It’s only logical that one day, a new group of intellectuals, seeking to distinguish themselves, will recognize this truth and seek to return to consciousness the achievements of the past. Judeo-Christian ideas that are scorned by intellectuals and academics will—accordingly—be resurrected.

Editor’s note: The portrait above of Desiderius Erasmus was painted by Hans Holbein in 1523.

David Byrne

By

David Byrne is an adjunct professor of Western Civilization at Loyola Marymount University. His research focuses on the history of ideas, especially the relationship between theology and thought. His most recent publication is titled "The Victory of the Proletariat is Inevitable: The Millenarian Nature of Marxism." It appeared in Kritike: An Online Journal of Philosophy.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    There is much to commend about this perspective. And just as we may look to the late 14th and early 15th centuries for the fruitfulness of the newly-discovered richness of the past in art, architecture, music, etc, so might we look to the fruitfulness of post-Enlightenment atheism and the eschewing of all things religious. Let’s see now, secular humanism gave us 75 million dead under the atheistic communism of Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot and another 6 million dead under the atheism of Hitler. And in progressive-thinking modern America we are now killing our own species to the tune of 55 million dead in just 40 years by abortion. This does not even account for the hundreds of millions of human lives destroyed by abortion across Europe and Asia in the past half century.
    There has to be a cyclic aspect to man’s progress because the alternative will be a complete annihilation of the species otherwise.

    • Malachy

      This is a great article. Thanks. Whether we can survive to evolve back to a Western Civilization is up in the air. There’ll have to be a great upheaval, like a nuclear war or a terrible pestilence to pry folks away from their prideful stupidity. (Let’s give Hitler his 6,000 Jews (many of them followers of Lenin) and another 5,000,000 non-Jewish victims.)

      • poetcomic1 .

        My Grandfather had over 30 relatives in Poland he wrote to and sent money to in the 1930’s. After the war, not ONE alive. Not one of them was ‘a follower of Lenin’ they were all Orthodox Jews living at a level of poverty scarcely imaginable now. I can hear the snide ‘dismissal’ in your voice (let’s give Hitler his 6,000…) and then you practically gloat over mass annihilation. Do you hear your own voice, brother? I have no intention of arguing with you. The voice reveals the soul and yours is in serious trouble – whether you are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is irrelevant. You sound like me at times so I know. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind – it is NEVER remiss.

        • Slainte

          Postcomic1, I am so very sorry for the tragic loss of your beloved family. The content of Malachy’s comment is indeed callous and unconscionable. We must always be on guard against those mere mortals who throughout history have unjustly claimed for themselves the status of Gods and, under this mantle, have mistreated, tyrannized, and murdered the poor and marginalized. Historical “progress” has failed to adequately account for this form of man’s malignant “retrogression”…the rotten fruit of man’s fallen nature. This Catholic will pray for the souls of your victimized relatives that they shall continue to know the peace and love of G-d, and that your living family will be strengthened by the assurance that many people do care about this grave injustice. Please accept my condolences.

          • poetcomic1 .

            Thank you. As a Jewish convert to Traditional Latin Mass Catholicism I hear many careless words about the ‘Jews’. I think it is important to understand that George Soros is no more ‘Jewish’ than Voltaire is ‘Christian’.

            • WSquared

              I just prayed for them as well; please accept my condolences, also.

              And welcome to the Catholic Church.

            • Malachy

              I don’t like the crap aboutr “Hitler’s pope”, either. Very careless…yet persistent. I’m sure you join in my condemnation as we move Pius Xll towards a deserved sainthood.

            • Malachy

              I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.
              Voltaire

              • Bono95

                Speaking of Voltaire, the “Hitler’s Pope” harpers better watch out, because Voltaire observed that “Whoever eats Pope, dies of it”. That’s what happened to Luther. He was at the local tavern drinking with his buddies when the death of Pope Paul III was announced. Luther shouted in exultation that Paul was the 4th Pope he’d seen the death of and that he’d soon see the death of the entire papacy. He never got a chance to do that because #1 Christ promised that the Gates of Hell will never prevail against the Catholic Church and #2 Luther got sick that night and died a few hours later. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say he “drank Pope” rather than “ate” it, but the result was the same.

                • Malachy

                  A great story. Thanks.

                  • Bono95

                    You’re welcome.

            • Gilbert Jacobi

              The resistance to the standard holocaust narrative is part of the suspicion of all received histories that has been growing for some decades now. The holocaust story became part of the hagiography of the “Good War”, in which morally spotless Allied heroes liberated the irrationally hated victims of purely evil Germany. No context, such as the perfidy of Versailles, the exploitation of German misery by Jews during the Great Depression, the threat of Communism, or the bellicosity of the Poles was allowed to penetrate this fable. But with the rise of the internet the veil began to be lifted, and many people are angry at having been deceived. There is also much anger over Jews’ role in that great collapse of morality known as the Sixties, and the undeniable leadership role of Jews in Hollywood and the media, Wall Street, and neo-con war-mongering politics. I personally resist all-out anti-Semitism, but it is a hard slog; there is so much incriminating evidence, and I fall so far short of Christ’s love. But I can pray for your lost family members, and look forward to reading your comments in the future.

          • Malachy

            Slainte, were there 11 million or 6 million victims of Hitler’s death camps? That was my ONLY point. Some people hate to admit there were 11 million, you know, and I mourn all of them..except the communists. We should have let the commies and the nazis go at it until they were all eliminated. Why we saved the communists is anyone’s guess, but it’s coming back to bite us, isn’t it?

            • slainte

              Malachy, Countless millions of Jews, Gentiles and others died at the hands of barbarians who sought to forcefully impose a despicable ideology on others. The Barbarians wantonly murdered human beings just because they COULD. They sought to annihilate people in a campaign of eugenics. No man is God and no man has the right to take another’s life to compel conformity with an ideology. Every man is called to defend against this sort of treachery. That is the point of my posting.
              Despise and condemn the ideology, let God deal with the man.
              I wish you well.

              • Malachy

                My thoughts, exactly.

        • Alecto

          My mother wrote trying to locate relatives in Russia, not one of whom survived Stalin. I commiserate with your grief. I also suspect that none of my relatives were followers of Lenin or Trotsky or Stalin but will never know. I also heed your advice, since I am guilty, guilty, guilty of a lack of courtesy borne of too much intensity and passion for justice, for truth. The music that can deepest reach and cure all ill, is cordial speech.

          • Alecto

            Props to Emerson for that last line, should have credited him.

          • Malachy

            Rage at “slights” that don’t exist aren’t cordial either.

        • Malachy

          Snide? Hitler gassed 11,000,000. You’re seeing “dismissal” where none exists. Was it 6 million or 11 million? Were many communists, given the street fighting initiated by Lenin and Trotsky after the Great War that caused the destruction of the Weimar Republic? Yes. If your relatives weren’t commies….good for them. I hate Nazis AND commies because of their deadly “harvests” of the innocent.

  • http://twitter.com/Londiniensis Londiniensis

    A little confused by the inclusion of Machiavelli along with Petrarch and Erasmus in the last paragraph. Old values? Old Nick’s values, maybe …

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jambe-dArgent/100003865893919 Jambe d’Argent

    This is all very true but isn’t the Christian salvation history linear as well?

    • Louis C. Gasper

      Precisely. The Incarnation is a singular point in history that had no precedent and cannot happen again. Salvation is cyclic only in the sense that the fall from Grace is mirrored in a long re-ascent to the final kingship of Christ at the end of time. Perhaps the better description of cultural history is “epicyclic.”

  • AcceptingReality

    Certainly there will be a resurgence of Christian values and orthodoxy in the Church. But will it happen in our lifetime? The seeds of it likely will be planted…..still that doesn’t bode well for the untold number of souls who will reject God because that is the popular thing to do. The very attractiveness of Christ is that He is counter-culture.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

    Professor Byrne — I am perplexed. The west didn’t have the texts of Sophocles and Homer, and almost nobody in the West read Greek — but everything from the pagan past that they had, they preserved and learned from, including Ovid. They didn’t have the manuscript of Lucretius, either; that was found in the fifteenth century, tucked away in a monastic library — only one manuscript. Gregory the Great also said that the Christians were standing on the shoulders of giants, and instructed Augustine of Canterbury not to tear down pagan shrines in England, but to cleanse them and rededicate them to Christ. For Thomas, Aristotle was simply “the philosopher,” and everything they could get from Plato and Aristotle they treasured. The Renaissance artists wanted to imitate the classical masters, but the poets and thinkers of the Middle Ages wanted to learn from them, which didn’t imply imitation. We’re now a heck of a lot more arrogant than any of them were, because we ignore everything that was written or done before the day before yesterday.

    • David Byrne

      Thanks, Tony. Your specific points are well-taken. I should have been more specific in dating the period I was referring to as the Early Middle Ages rather than the entire Middle Ages. Aristotle was recovered after the Crusades in the Twelfth Century, but before then, I would contend his works were largely ignored in the West. Some of his works had to be translated from Arabic into Latin during the Twelfth Century because none existed in Europe. I would also maintain in the Early Middle Ages, classical works like Ovid, if not completely absent, were subordinated.

  • Patsy Koenig

    Why do you include Origen in the list of great Catholic thinkers, when he was ex-communiccatd for his teachings?! He does not belong in a list of Catholic theologians!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jambe-dArgent/100003865893919 Jambe d’Argent

      “The second topic that [the Second Council of Constantinople] is most known for is the anathematization of Origen, and its 15 condemnations of his teaching,
      which included such things as the pre-existence of souls, supposed
      “subordinationism,” and universal reconciliation of all things,
      including the possibility of Satan’s reconciliation to God in the end
      (something Origen did not teach!). Gregory the Great was one church
      father that did not submit to Origen’s excommunication. Indeed,
      throughout history many have questioned the validity of this council
      since it was called by Emperor Justinian, and not by the Pope.
      Furthermore, in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a homily concerning Origen
      in which he says that Origen was “crucial to the whole development of
      Christian thought.”

      Source: http://marccortez.com/2011/06/02/second-council-of-constantinople/

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        One might add that there is no evidence that Origen ever taught any of the 15 propositions ascribed to him by the Council. An ecumenical council is infallible in matters of faith and morals, not matters of fact. It is no more an article of faith that Origen taught the doctrines attributed to him by the Fifth Ecumenical Council than that Pope Honorius held the views attributed to him by the Sixth

    • cestusdei

      Despite his faults we read Origen in the office of readings. When he was right he was really right and when he was wrong he was really wrong.

  • ColdStanding

    It may be unwelcome news, but I propose that Jesus Christ’s objective in founding the Christian religion upon the rock of St. Peter was NOT for purposes of stimulating les belles lettres. The avalanche of leather-bound pages cascading over us now is largely as a result of, paraphrasing Msgr. Knox, the pressing of claims arising from disagreements over our title documents. The early Christianity had notable writers producing folio after folio of works, but what I find interesting is that there are really very few writers over the time period from when Origen was writing up to Thomas Aquinas. That is because, and this goes back to St. Benedict’s guidance in his rule, the plan was to read, not extensively, but intensively. Lectio Divina, as illustrated by Br. Michael Casey in his Sacred Reading, typically consisted of the monk reading, say, the one Epistle for a month, or three months on the Gospel of St. John, and nothing else. No blogs, newspapers, journal reading. Nothing else. By this standard, the Holy Bible, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas would be more than enough for the cultivating the Christian soul. Would literature suffer? Maybe. Hopefully.

    But aren’t we all just spiting images of Erasmus now? Page after page of… what? When do we get to the point of the story?

    So, I would say that a re-invigorated cultivation of Christians and Christian values will decidedly NOT look like a Christianized version of the Italian Renaissance’s restoration of Pagan authors. There will/should be far fewer things to read, but what we do read will be of the very highest quality. Namely, that which leads us to an ever more intimate union with our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ. Blessed be His Holy Name!

    • Bono95

      What do you have against Erasmus?

      • ColdStanding

        Voltaire.

        • Bono95

          I’m afraid I don’t follow you here. Do you mean that I have misunderstood to be having something against Erasmus when you were really criticizing Voltaire, or do you mean that it is Voltaire who has/had something against Erasmus, or what?

          • ColdStanding

            Erasmus leads to Voltaire.

            Once the president of the public intellectual was introduced, Erasmus being the bridge, disobedience became the standard. Voltaire is the poster child.

            I greatly caution you as you begin your studies next fall at Thomas More. I can not speak to its quality, though I am assured that it is of the very finest. No, to live the Christian life on a steady diet the printed page is a complicated undertaking, fraught with serious risks. There is simply too little fear of God in the hearts of people today. Meditation on the final judgment has been abandoned. Devoted prayer is rare on the lips, to say nothing of the heart.

            I hope you have a strong prayer life. Just to clarify, it is not the professors that I fear but the overwhelming mass of nonsense that passes for study-worthy writing, both in literature and technical & scientific writing.

            • Bono95

              Thanks for clearing the Erasmus/Voltaire thing up for me, and thanks for the words of caution.

              Thomas More College is one of the most faithfully Catholic colleges in the US. Traditional Latin Mass is offered every day, as are Confession and a daily Rosary, and for language study, students learn either Latin or Greek (I’m considering Greek). Prof. David Clayton teaches sacred art and iconography. He did the artwork for the college chapel and paints some of the most beautiful icons I’ve ever seen (I like Renaissance and Pre-Raphaelite religious art better than most Byzantine icons, but Prof. Clayton’s icons, while faithfully adhering to the traditional style, are a bit more naturalistic and less stiff and stern than most Byzantine artwork).

              TMC is a liberal arts school, so rather than using textbooks, students read straight from the classics of Western literature (including both Erasmus and Voltaire in Junior Year). Whatever works aren’t Christian or Catholic are taught and discussed from a Catholic perspective.

              Thank you again for your concern and explanation, but I do think Erasmus deserves a little more credit. He did not attack the Catholic Church like Voltaire and the “Reformers”, he called for honest improvement of the weak human beings within Church. As the illegitimate son of a bad priest, he was all too familiar the real abuses that were rampant at that time. It did take some pep talking from his close friend St. Thomas More for him to formally declare his disagreement with Luther, but he never did agree with the apostate monk’s teachings, he only hesitated to speak publicly because he was rather shy and nervous by nature and knew Luther was going to call him all kinds of names. And he was trilingual. In fact, Erasmus was more fluent in Greek and Latin than in his native Dutch. Erasmus had no intention of fanning the flames of rebellion and apostasy, he simply spoke out against the corrupt clergy who neglected to instruct the faithful, respect their religious vows, study Scripture, or practice charity. He did not know or will that others in his time and after him would hijack his works to attack the Catholic Church.

              On a final note, did you know that Voltaire went to a Jesuit high school? :-D

              • ColdStanding

                That sounds like an excellent program. I’d enjoy it.

                Now as to our dear Erasmus, it is one article, but…

                http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05510b.htm

                it is from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

                Read it, then come back and tell me if you still feel he is deserving of more credit.

                • Bono95

                  I actually looked up and printed out that very article shortly after making my last post. I’ll admit I’m a bit less inclined to credit him now, especially with his Colloquia being on the Index of forbidden books, and while this may be irrelevant, I don’t think Luther had a right to be so offended by it. His own Colloquia devoted 100 pages to unbelievably obscene references to women, and he had no qualms about speaking, reading, or allowing his “wife” and kids to read those. And his “Table Talk”, except in modern, highly edited and heavily purged editions, is wholly unsuitable for reading and discussing around a dinner table, unless one is dining with sailors, rap artists, unionists, or with Luther.

                  Again, I am not as enthusiastic of an Erasmian as I was 2 days ago, but nothing I’d read on him before then was at all critical (my main source was an article in an old encyclopedia that was partially written by Archbishop Fulton Sheen). I haven’t done much research on Erasmus beyond what I’ve learned through studies on St. Thomas More (my favorite saint). Nearly everything I have read on him except the New Advent article and an entry in a Catholic dictionary was positive to some extent (not every source was Catholic, but all the Catholic ones except the 2 above were positive too). Maybe I just haven’t studied him carefully enough.

                  • ColdStanding

                    It isn’t a case of whether or not he was, in and of himself, likeable or praiseworthy. This is because nobody exists in and of themselves. His work can not be taken in isolation, and his legacy needs to be weighed against the licence his actions gave to enemies of Jesus Christ and His Holy Church.

                    Speaking of Luther, check this guy out
                    http://archive.org/details/cu31924029249567

                    Also, do you read daily a life of one of our many wonderful saints? St. T. M. is a good one to be sure, but you might like to read the works of St. Bonaventure or St. Albertus Magnus or St. Lawrence of Brendizi too. It is important to know the doctors of the Church. Much of their work lays neglected. In them is to be found the science of the Saints (and that is a very big deal). Something to really sink your teeth into and nourish the soul at the same time. Bonus points in that they are blessedly free of excessive humanist influences.

                    • Bono95

                      I do not read saints’ lives daily, but I have read any and every book on St. Thomas More that I can get my hands on; collections of saints’ lives, encyclopedia articles, online articles, books on English history, Church history, the Renaissance, Henry VIII, and of course, biographies solely about the Heavenly lawyer (does he get bonus points for going both to law school and to Heaven?).

                      Along the way I have discovered and learned more about other saints (St.s John Fisher, Margaret Clitherow, Thomas Beckett, Augustine, Fiachra/Fiacre, etc.), some who lived at the same time, some who lived before whom More admired, some who lived after and admired More, and some who I saw entries for in the saint books and looked interesting, but honestly, so far I have studied no other saint to the extent that I’ve studied Thomas More. Thank you for the recommendations.

                    • ColdStanding

                      This looks interesting, perhaps you’ve seen it,

                      Lives of the English Martyrs, Vol. 1

                      http://archive.org/details/livesofenglishma01camm

                      And there is John (cardinal in pepito) Lingard’s ever valuable History of England, greatly recommended and contributed to by Hilaire Belloc. Here is the volume on Henry VIII:

                      http://archive.org/details/ahistoryengland42linggoog

            • Bono95

              Speaking of diets of the printed page:

              “Whenever I have any money, I buy books. If there is any left, I buy food and clothes.” – Certain-Dutch-Humanist-Renaissance-Scholar-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless

              No wonder he’s so skinny-looking. :-D

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      I believe our view of Catholicism would be very distorted, without the three Cappadocian Fathers, St Maximus the Confessor, the writings attributed to Macarius the Great and St Isaac of Syria amongst the Fathers

      Of the mediaeval writers, I would consider Bl Henry Suso, Tauler, Bl Jan van Ruysbroeck, the anonymous “The Cloud of Unknowing,” Walter Hilton and Julian of Norwich indispensible.

      • ColdStanding

        Worthy contributions. Most worthy all. And there more worthy writers besides. Nevertheless to the point of what a Christian Renaissance would look like, the library would be considerably smaller than what we have now, with far fewer people trained to write and publish new works. Today, what we have is, sorry for bringing up my idee fixe again, within one language, the curse of the Tower of Babel reigning. There is simply too much to read and too much that is written to no end other than entertainment, resulting in a great hazard to the development of the intellect and the salvation of the soul.

        Careful reading is to brood over a pot of oolong tea. That is difficult to achieve, inundated as we are today.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          I chose them because they are essentially practical -ascetic and pastoral, rather than dogmatic.

          For that reason, Abbé Henri Brémond used to recommend only two books to the many would-be converts who came to him seeking instruction – the Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis and Introduction à la vie devote of St François de Sales. He often quoted Pascal’s “Voilà ce que c’est que la foi parfaite, Dieu sensible au cœur » [This, then, is perfect faith: God felt in the heart.] The convert, said Brémond, does not need book-learning, but the contact and certainty that comes through prayer

  • JERD

    I disagree with this thesis. History is indeed linear. One event in fact follows the next at every moment and in every place. The “cycles” that the writer sees are not repetitions of past historical events, but rather similarities or dissimilarities between distinct, unique events occurring at a moment in time and at a place in reality.

    The error made by the “progressives” is not that they view history as linear (because in fact it is), rather their error is thinking that the consequences of their philosophy will always be “better” than anything before, thus yielding an endless “progress.” Of course, this is nothing but a self fulfilling prophesy. A progressive will judge a pro abortion policy “better” than anything before it because a woman may choose an abortion; forgetting that it is “worse” because fifty million children (half of whom are girls) are dead.

    There is a kind of arrogance when we call our distant relatives savages, when we do plenty if not more savaging ourselves. How many millions of persons died in the war ravaged 20th century?

    This writer makes the same error made by the progressives. The next peak in the Christian cycle (which someone in the future will surely discern so as to self fulfill the prophesy) will be better than the trough of secular history that came before it.

    What makes Christianity a powerful force is its CONSTANCY over time. As truth incarnate Christianity doesn’t trap itself in self fulfilling judgments like those of the secular world. Its truth is always a witness regardless of the point in history in which its voice is sounding.

    So, Christianity is not, as the writer suggests, a “value” that rises and falls in relation to other values. It is not carried along on some sort of oscillating wave of time. As the events in the reality of our world, indeed in our universe, transpire one after the next, the constancy of Christianity is immutable.

    • Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum!

      Hear, hear!

    • slainte

      While I agree that Christianity’s “constancy” has been present in time through the witness of Catholicism and Protestantism, the face of Christianity has been altered radically since the 20th century as both Catholicism and Protestantism align their respective theologies with cultural and social progressivism. I doubt that many faithful Catholics or mainline Protestants from the 1700s or 1950s would recognize their respective churches today. The nature of the change seems to be consistently linear, not cyclical.

      As churches conform their respective theologies, in part or in whole, with modern cultural and social mores, the light of Christianity seems at times to burn more bright, then less bright. One is left to wonder if its constancy in the future is guaranteed.

      Living in a time of constant change makes it difficult to discern what a Christian Renaissance will look like…what time frame in history and/or theological tradition or synthesis of traditions will serve as the model for a reborn church?

      A hundred years ago, a Catholic writer might have elected to title this article “Catholic Renaissance”, not “Christian Renaissance”. My, how times have changed, and history keeps recording it all in linear fashion, and labeling it Progress.

      • Malachy

        The real problem for all Christians is that Jesus Christ has been made into a eunuch, and weakling. There’s none of the just rage the Gospels tell us Christ expressed. There’s absolutely no sign of a backbone in the leadership or the ranks for a Renaissance.

        Typical is Cardinal O’Malley who fell all over the Kennedy Family and weakly says he won’t attend a BC graduation over a pro-abortion speaker.

        If BC is, in fact, still “Catholic” it should prove it or lose that designation once and for all. Toss the Jebbies out of the Boston Archdiocese if need be if they won’t support a simple criterion, “Thou Shall Not Kill”.

        Of course, the same nonsense goes on at Fordham and Notre Dame projecting weakness and defeat in the face of atheism. The devil’s having a hoot watching these spineless nabobs, nervously wearing those red hats that used to stand for something Christ-like.

  • cestusdei

    It might take a thousand years for this to happen and in the meantime…

  • Steve

    I think that Western history alternates between the two main branches of Greek philosophy. Namely, the Platonic and the Sophistic. These are, in any given time, colored by various branches of both. However, Christianity can only flourish in the Platonic and will always suffer in the Sophistic.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Mgr Ronald Knox highlighted another dichotomy, between the followers of Plato and Aristotle. “The issue hangs on the question whether the Divine Fact is something given, or something to be inferred. Your Platonist, satisfied that he has formed his notion of God without the aid of syllogisms or analogies, will divorce reason from religion”

  • http://twitter.com/JohnDale49 John Dale

    Wow! An amazing and very in-depth analysis. I had a lot of fun reading it.

    I actually think this will happen sooner than some think. We are on the cusp of Rome’s fall. Everyone with half a brain can see it. Secularization, atheism, globalism, multiculturalism, white guilt, socialism. It is all failing. It all has failed. Western Europe has already plunged off of the cliff, they just don’t want to accept it yet. The USA is heading the same way, with trillions of dollars in insurmountable debt. Meanwhile, what is Russia doing? Russia is trying to reverse the secular tide, viewing its disastrous effects from a distance and of course, at home. Russia recently passed a ban on ‘homosexual propaganda’, and is encouraging higher birthrates and nationalism among the native population.

    The ‘Western World’ is an entangled mess, its own modern Roman Empire. Welfare states unable to sustain themselves. Secular public education raising a generation of monsters desensitized to rape, assault, and even murder. More and more real rights sacrificed in the name of government largess, receiving only ‘token rights’ in return. You can ‘marry’ a member of your own gender in New York, but Heaven help you if you carry around a big gulp, or serve salt at your restaurant.

    The saddest thing for those of us living in this new ‘secular utopia’ is that after the inevitable collapse, the light of a Christian traditionalist renaissance will not come on immediately. We too, will suffer a dark age. An age of confusion, mistrust, and paranoia. Eventually however, Jesus Christ shall re-enter out psyche. Like ancient Israel after Zedekiah, we have strayed and must dwell in darkness before we find our true selves once more.

    • Bono95

      Kudos for the Russians! The Icelanders are working to limit and eventually eld pornography in Iceland, so kudos to them too.

      Another sad and sick New York token right, you can watch people perform onstage in their birthday suits, but you can’t smoke while watching them.

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