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Among the young uncivilised peoples, all ecclesiastical institutions occupied a still more prominent place than had been given them even by the development of the Church in the Roman Empire. The philosophical and theological capital of antiquity, already handed down in part in compendia, was propagated in new abridgements (Isidore of Seville, Bede, Rabanus, etc.). John Scotus the unique excepted,610610Johannes Scotus Erigena’s system (chief work: De divisione nature, see Migne CXXII.; Christlieb 1860, Huber 1861, see Ritter and Baur), does not belong to the history of dogma in the West, for it is an entirely free, independent reproduction of the Neoplatonic (pantheistic) type of thought, as represented by the Areopagite and especially “the divine philosopher Maximus Confessor,” whom Scotus had read. Augustine also undoubtedly influenced him; but he has not brought his speculation any nearer Christianity. The most learned and perhaps also the wisest man of his age, he maintained the complete identity of religio vera and philosophia vera, and thus restored to its central place the fundamental thought of ancient philosophy. But to him, only nominally conceding a place to authority beside reason, the philosophia vera was that monism of view in which the knowledge of nature and that of God coincide, thought and being in that case also coinciding. (Everything is nature, and finally indeed, “nature which does not create and is not created,” and the notion of being existing in the human mind is the substance of being itself: “intellectus rerum veraciter ipsæ res sunt.”) Acosmic idealism is carried by Scotus (as by Stephan bar Sudaili) to the point at which even deity disappears in the intellect of man. All agreements with Church doctrines rest with Scotus on accommodation; they do not spring, however, from perplexity, but from the clear insight that wrappings must exist. In reality, even the living movement of nature itself is only an appearance. Without influence, indeed regarded with suspicion in his own time, he did not afterwards become the instructor of the West, though Western mystics have learnt much from him. He was too much of a Greek. In love and power of systematic construction he was phenomenal, and speculative philosophers rightly revere him as a master. no one was now able to probe that intellectual world to its ultimate ideas and perceptions, 275and make it part of their own spiritual experience.611611It is, on the other hand, wonderful with what strength of memory and intellect men like Alcuin and Paulinus of Aquileia familiarised themselves with the separate lines of Augustine’s thought. Alcuin also lived a life of Augustinian piety. To the historian of civilisation everything in the epoch is interesting; in the Carlovingian age, the foundations were laid for the developments of the Middle Ages; but to the historian of dogma, if we are to consider not the appropriation of familiar material, but the advance of evolution, that period does not offer much.
The Carlovingian epoch was a great, and in many respects an unsuccessful, essay at a renaissance of antiquity. It was not the product of the slow natural evolution of the Germano-Roman peoples, but Charlemagne and his circle sought to gain by storm a higher culture for the Frankish Empire, by a frequently forced return to antiquity, or by the establishment in their midst of Byzantine culture. Antiquity was still a living thing in Constantinople. Springer has shown, in dealing with the history of art, that the Carlovingian school is to be regarded as the after-bloom of ancient, and not as the beginning of mediæval, art; and this applies also to theological and philosophical efforts. The Carlovingian period marks the epoch-making beginnings in the history of institutions;612612See Hatch: An introductory lecture on the study of ecclesiastical history, 1885. in the history of spiritual 1ife it is an appendix to that of the ancient world. Therefore the history of dogma in the Middle Ages begins, strictly speaking, with the age of Clugny.613613On the history of dogma in the Carlovingian age, see Schwane, Dogmengesch. der mittleren Zeit. 1882; Bach, Dogmengesch. des Mittelalters I. Th. 1873, Thomasius-Seeberg, Dogmengesch. II. 1, 1888: Reuter, Gesch. der relig. Aufklärung im Mittelalter, 1875, I. pp. 1-64. The last book discusses the efforts to promote culture. Cf. also Göbl, Gesch. der Katechese im Abendland 1880, and Spiess, Gesch. des Unterrichtswesens in Deutschland von den ältesten Zeiten bis zur Mitte des 13 Jahrhunderts, 1885. Further the histories of the German Church by Rettberg and Hauck. On “popular theology” among Anglo-Saxons, Saxons, and Franks, see Bach, l.c. I., p. 81 ff. It is also useless to discuss, in connection with this branch of study, the so-called popular forms of German Christianity found in poetical and prose fragments. For, firstly, their popular character is very limited; secondly, popular Christianity has hardly exercised any influence 276at all on institutions, not to speak of dogma. He who wished to reach a higher theological culture, read Augustine and Gregory, Gregory and Augustine, and he felt himself to be merely a disciple in relation to these and the other Latin Fathers, having still to learn the lessons delivered to him.614614John Scotus forms an exception, and so also does, in some sense, Fredegis of Tours, so far as the latter took an independent view of the ominous “nihil” presented by Augustinian metaphysics. Ahner has, however, shown in his Dissertation on Fredegis and his letter “De nihilo et tenebris” (1878) that this work has been over-estimated by earlier scholars.
At that time many of the clergy were undoubtedly keenly desirous of culture; to see this we have only to look at the manuscripts preserved from the eighth and ninth centuries.615615Our gratitude is due to Schrörs for having given in his monograph on Hinkmar (1884), pp. 166-174, an account of the ancient works read or quoted by the great Bishop. What an amount of learning and reading is evident from this comparison, and yet Hinkmar was by no means the greatest scholar. It is also interesting to notice that Hinkmar held strictly to the edict of Gelasius. Nor must we overlook the fact that a small number of scholars went further than those belonging to the period A.D. 450-650, that they advanced beyond Isidore and Gregory to Augustine himself, saw through the emasculation of religion and its perversion into a ceremonial service and belief in miracle, and returned to the spiritual teaching of Augustine.616616A greater interest in Dialectics was also shown by many teachers of the Carlovingian period than by earlier theologians. Compare Alcuin’s work, De fide trinitatis, which also displays a valiant effort to reach systematic unity in theological thought. Fredegis, Alcuin’s discipulus dulcissimus, was also reproved by Agobard as a “philosopher” for his preference for dialectics, the syllogism, and vexed questions. (“Invenietis nobilitatem divini eloquii non secundum vestram assertionem more philosophorum in tumore et pompa esse verborum” Agobardi lib. c. object. Fredegisi abb.) Yet his teaching as to auctoritas and ratio was not different from Augustine’s; but distrust was caused by the earnest attempt, on the basis of authority, to use reason in dealing with dogma. In the dispute between Agobard and Fredegis many controversial questions emerged which would have become important if the opponents had really developed them. But the lofty figure of the African Bishop set bounds to any further advance. The best looked up to him, but none saw past him, not even Alcuin and Agobard, though the latter has also studied Tertullian.617617On Alcuin, see Werner’s monograph (1881). Radbert had also read Tertullian. It is very attractive to study, in connection with Church history, the energetic efforts of the Carlovingian Augustinians, 277to observe their attempts, following but surpassing the great Emperor, to purify the traditional form of religion, and to narrow the range of a stupid awe of the mysteries and of a half-heathen superstition. But it would merely lead to confusion in the history of dogma if we were to try to examine these attempts.618618The conditions which heralded the Carlovingian Renaissance consisted in the political position of the Frankish Empire, the flourishing of theological studies among the Anglo-Saxons (Bede), the ecclesiastical activity of Boniface on the Continent, and the partly new, partly revived, relations of the Empire to Rome and Constantinople. The fact that elements of culture from England, Rome, Lombardy, and finally also the East converged at Charlemagne’s Court, and found so energetic a Mæcenas in the king, made possible the renaissance, which then continued to exist under Louis the Pious, and at the Court of Charles the Bald. We cannot over-estimate the contribution made by Constantinople. We need only recall the works of the Pseudo-Dionysius, Maximus, and John of Damascus, which at that time had reached the Frankish Kingdom. Not only John Scotus, but e.g., Hinkmar, read or quoted the Pseudo-Dionysius. Some knowledge of Greek was possessed by a few Anglo-Saxons from the days of Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus in Canterbury; but they were to a much greater extent teachers of Augustinianism; yet not in the Christological question (see under). It was in Augustine along with the Areopagite that the mediæval mysticism of the West—and also Scotus—found its source; for it is very one-sided to make the latter alone responsible for mysticism. The Franks’ love of culture received its greatest strength from the acquisition of the Crown of Imperial Rome, A.D. 800. What had formerly been a voluntary aspiration now assumed the appearance of a duty and obligation; for the king-emperor of the Franks and Romans was the successor of Augustine and Constantine. But how rapidly all this blossom withered! Walafrid writes truly in the prologue to Einhard’s Life of Kaiser Karl: “When King Karl assembled wise men, he filled with light, kindled by God, the mist-shrouded, and so to speak almost entirely dark, expanse of the kingdom entrusted to him by God, by the new radiance of all science such as till then had been in part wholly unknown to these barbarians. But now, since these studies once more relapse into their opposite, the light of wisdom, which finds few who love it, becomes ever rarer.”
The transactions and determining events important to the history of dogma in our epoch divide into the following groups. 1. Controversies as to Byzantine and Roman Christology contrasted with that of Augustine and the West, and between the Gregorian system of doctrine and Augustine’s theory of predestination.619619In these conflicts the controversy as to Augustine is represented. See also the dispute as to the Lord’s Supper. 2. Disputes shared in by Rome against the East regarding the filioque, and against Rome and the East about 278images.620620These controversies are of universal interest in Church history. 3. The development of the practice and theory of the Mass and of penance.621621In this development the dogmatic interest of the Carlovingians was alone really acute, leading to new definitions, if not at once expressed in strictly dogmatic forms. To this subject also belongs the doctrine of the saints (Mary), relics, and indulgences.
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