The earlier decline of classical civilization had affected virtually every sphere of life, by no means just the Church. The old Roman roads now lay neglected and unusable, the Gesta municipalia—the document registers of the principal legal transactions that took place in towns—were closed and forgotten, and the education of laypeople tailed off. Only very few people in the early Middle Ages could read and write. The highly literate society of classical antiquity, to which the Church Fathers had contributed in no small way, had been supplanted by a culture that largely (to a greater extent in the north and east of the Frankish Empire than in the south) made do with orality and was defined by it. The spoken language determined the way life was lived, communications, and social practices; and last but not least, it shaped the prevailing mode of thought.
In such circumstances, then, long-winded description rather than analysis was the order of the day, while facts were amassed and strung together instead of being systematically arranged, and cause and effect were not always distinguished from each other; indeed, sometimes they were even reversed. It was not common practice to reach logical decisions or to differentiate between facts. Mental constructs such as “the whole and its parts” still lay far in the future. . . . The Christian faith and the organization of the Church now found themselves confronted by almost insurmountable linguistic barriers.
–Johannes Fried, Charlemagne, 221-2
“Henry lived as if in fear of ambush. And well he might, for the times had been out of joint for thirty years. The nation was full of discontent, of unemployed soldiers and turbulent men without livelihood, men ousted from their holdings by the munching encroachment of sheep, ever more menacing.”
-Ferguson on Wolsey
Since the blessed soul, owing to its union with the first principle of all things, will be raised to the pinnacle of nobility and power, it will communicate substantial existence in the most perfect degree to the body that has been joined to it by divine action. And thus, holding the body completely under its sway, the soul will render the body subtle and spiritual. The soul will also bestow on the body a most, noble quality, namely, the radiant beauty of clarity. Further, because of the influence emanating from the soul, the body’s stability will not be subject to alteration by any cause; which means that the body will be impassible. Lastly, since the body will be wholly submissive to the soul, as a tool is to him who plies it, it will be endowed with agility. Hence the properties of the bodies belonging to the blessed will be these four: subtlety, clarity, impassibility, and agility.
This is the sense of the Apostle’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:42 ff.: In death the body “is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption;” this refers to impassibility. “It is sown in dishonor, it shall rise in glory;” this refers to clarity. “It is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power,” and hence will have agility. “It is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body;” in other words, it will be endowed with subtlety.
Aquinas, Compendium Theologiae, 168.
“At this point we are reminded by how far today we are afflicted by a certain kind of provinciality of mind, a reductivist mentality that can conceive of a question’s being worth asking only if we know in advance some routine procedure guaranteed to provide intelligible answers to it. It is indeed an exceedingly curious reversal of commonsense intellectual priorities that a pre-formed procedure for answering questions should be allowed to dictate the legitimacy of the questions that may be asked.”
Turner, Thomas Aquinas, 135
“By ‘speculative intellect’ he means the mind as understanding at a purely theoretical level, and, under this heading, he distinguishes between ‘understanding’ (intellectus), ‘science’ (scientia), and ‘wisdom’ (sapientia). By ‘practical intellect’ he means the mind as understanding with a view to action. Under this heading he distinguishes between ‘art’ (ars) and ‘prudence’ (prudentia). ‘Understanding’ is a matter of grasping basic principles of reasoning. ‘Science’ is a matter of good reasoning using these principles to arrive at truth regarding different kinds of things in the world. ‘Wisdom’ is a matter of good reasoning concerning God. ‘Art’ is correct reason about things to be made. ‘Prudence’ is correct reason about things to be done and aims at the good of the agent.”
He was the most acute of Christian Platonists and did much to lay the foundations for the synthesis between Christianity and classical theism stemming from Plato and Aristotle. Plotinus in the third century AD deeply influenced him by his systematization of the Platonic tradition, but Augustine also became one of the most penetrating of all critics of this philosophical tradition to which he himself owed so much.
-Henry Chadwick, Augustine: A Very Short Introduction, 4
2nd London Baptist Confession,
OF GOOD WORKS
Paragraph 1. Good works are only such as God has commanded in his Holy Word, and not such as without the warrant thereof are devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intentions.