Thursday, January 4, 2024

Great by bringing human wisdom captive to faith. . .

The saint and doctor of the Church who would be known as Albertus Magnus was born sometime before the year 1200. He was probably born in Bavaria, inferred by his own reference to himself as "Albert of Lauingen," a town which still stands today in southern Germany.  We have few details of his family origins, but it appears he was well educated -- attending the University of Padua whose instruction in Aristotelian philosophy would become the foundation of his work.  His great student, Thomas Aquinas, was recognized as a saint and doctor of the Church. Aquinas died in 1274 and Albert spent his last years defending the work of Aquinas.  He died in 1280.

All of this may be of little interest to you but I noticed something in the collect for his day that should be.  The older version of the collect said, in part:  O God, who didst make blessed Albert, Thy bishop and Doctor, great by his bringing human wisdom into captivity to divine faith. . .  Now there is a phrase.  He was made great by bringing his human wisdom captive to divine faith.  You do not hear that so often anymore.  In fact, the history of Christianity has, at least in more modern times, suffered by the imposition of reason over the Word of God and faith.  Consider the role and outcome of such things as higher criticism when applied to Scripture and the dawn of the modern era with its distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of Scripture.

The older collect acknowledges that God makes Albert great because he brought human wisdom into captivity to divine faith (in humana sapientia divinae fidei subjicienda). This is surely what St. Paul was talking about in his letters to the Corinthians:  “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:4–5).  This is surely the position of Proverbs and the Psalms in speaking of godly wisdom and the fear of God which is its beginning.  But we do not hear much about this anymore.  In fact, reason and faith have become enemies with respect to science and education.  In light of this, Rome altered the collect to soften it.  It now simply says Albert was made great by his joining of human wisdom to divine faith.  He joined reason and human wisdom to faith as if both were equals and neither ruled the other.  It was a complement of one to the other without the primacy being assigned to the faith itself.

Christ is ours not simply for the transformation of desire in the heart or behavior in actions but also for the transformation of the mind.  Christ has come to take captive earthly wisdom and to order it and replace it with the heavenly wisdom that is of the Spirit.  But we do not here much about that.  Instead we are constantly reminded by the so-called scholars and elite that Scripture's claims are neither tenable or credible and must be parsed by reason and normed by human wisdom.  In the end this makes no one great and replaces the divine with the frail and fragile thoughts that would rule over Christ and His Spirit.  In this there is little salvation to be offered to anyone nor is there any great teaching to demand our attention unless Christ is all in all.

1 comment:

gamarquart said...

Thank you for a very interesting and timely posting.
I suspect there are two problems, which contribute to the belief of many, that reason should rule faith, or that they are at least equal.
On is that it has become prevalent among many Christians to believe that we have free will. St. Paul clearly teaches that before we were baptized, we were slaves to sin. One who is enslaved does not have free will. Once we become children of God, we become enslaved to God. Again, no free will.
Romans 6:20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“The Freedom of the Christian” by Martin Luther covers this subject very clearly and is one of the most marvelous writings of Luther.
To claim freedom of the will is failure to humble one’s self, as our Lord urges us to do.
The second is failure to understand that the Holy Spirit dwells in each Christian. His action is transformative. The idea of free will resists this transformation. Free will also resists the axiom that we are saved by the grace of God. We cannot choose God through any imagined free will; He choses us by grace.
Peace and Joy,
George A. Marquart