Tag Archives: Rod Dreher

The Worldview of the High Middle Ages


Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Octobre, the Musée Condé, Chantilly, circa 1440

The following three videos are of an amazing lecture series by Dr. Andrew Jones on the worldview of the High Middle Ages. It is fairly technical, but this is important. We inhabit our modern worldview(s) like fish inhabit the sea. It takes a lot to grasp one’s own worldview, let alone understand another so foreign to our sensibilities as the Medieval one. The depth of Dr. Jones’ talks provide much of the necessary perspective to understand a traditional Christian perspective that is, I believe, essentially foreign to modern Christians.

I find the Middle Ages worldview particularly fascinating in light of Rod Dreher’s timely and provocative book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. Dreher poses the idea that, since we live in a post-Christian world, Christians should recognize that fact and focus on what can be done to shore up the faith, including communities and practices that support the faith as a kind of bulwark against the prevailing winds of our time. This does not mean forsaking the culture and leaving it entirely to its own devices, rather he argues we should find other means of engagement than what we might be familiar with, while also focusing less on secular battles and more on building healthy Christian communities. Still, his vision is a kind of retreat into faith and Christian culture, and out of the culture wars and the insinuous power of secular society. Drehere uses St. Benedict as an examples and talisman for his thought experiment — leaving us with more of a Medieval monastic approach than a modern socio-political stance. I find his argument generally convincing — at least I want it to be.

And yet, Dr. Jones’ approach is not about critiquing our modern world as Dreher does. He merely lays out the High Middles Ages worldview in such detail that one cannot help but compare it to our own. My reaction is basically this: Christians should jettison the modern worldview and embrace the medieval one. But this is no mere “Benedict option.” Rather, it is something even more profound. It would require a nearly total worldview, total cosmological reorientation of Christianity itself. In other words, what we call Christianity today is a far cry from what Christianity was in the Middle Ages, and we might want to grieve that loss.

Our modern worldview is the child of the Enlightenment. Modern Christianity, primarily Protestantism but also too much of modern Catholicism, is also a child of the Enlightenment, which was a child of Protestantism — a kind of serpent eating its own tail. In other words, once Western Civilisation gave up on the Medieval worldview it’s been a slow slog downhill in many respects. Does this mean we ought to go back to the Middle Ages? No. But we ought to look deeply into their worldview and critique our own.

For Protestants this will mean recognizing the more Biblical worldview is a traditional Catholic one. For Catholics this means the traditional Catholic worldview is one that far too many Catholics today (perhaps most) do not know or live. Perhaps what the Church needs is a new Renaissance — a rediscovery of what was lost, and then letting that discovery reanimate the Church and our lives. This could, then, become what brings Christians back to the same table, once again spiritually, liturgically, and visibly united in Christ.

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Filed under Books, Catholic Church, Christian Life, Church History, Curious, Dogma, Kingdom of God, Protestantism, Theology, Tradition, Trinity, World View

Into Silence with Cardinal Sarah

Robert Cardinal Sarah has been getting some attention lately because of statements he has made regarding the proper celebration of the Mass (I think the controversy is silly and Cardinal Sarah is clearly more wise than his detractors). The cardinal has also just written a book called The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, which I am reading as part of a book group. His first book, God or Nothing, our group read earlier, and both book s are excellent, though very different.

There are so many great quotes from The Power of Silence, but for now I just want to highlight this one:

How can we come to master our own interior silence? The only answer lies in asceticism, self-renunciation, and humility. If man does not mortify himself, if he stays as he is, he remains outside of God. (51)

I am also reading Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, which I am enjoying (I don’t really get most of the criticisms of this book). But I find the strategies and tactics suggested by Dreher to, basically, sit on top on Cardinal Sarah’s deeper insights, as indicated in the short quote above (but evidenced throughout his book). The cardinal’s quote points to a fundamental and, I believe, profound problem with our world today, and especially with Christianity — both Catholic and Protestant — we are addicted to noise, which is damaging us, and we no longer understand the importance of asceticism, self-renunciation, and humility in fighting that noise. The cardinal’s insights also point to the fact that we think we know what noise is, but we don’t — not at the spiritual level.

In fact, I believe if Christians followed the cardinal’s words seriously, then the kind of place, role, and actions of the Church in the world could take any number of forms, not only Dreher’s form(s), because it’s not really about carving out an alternative society so much as it’s changing one’s heart, will, passions, etc. — the rest will follow, and do so in countless ways.

Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2017. Print.

Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2015. Print.

Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York: Sentinel, 2017. Print.

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be holy

We know the Israelites were called by God to be holy and set apart.

Leviticus 11:44: “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.”

The word holy in Hebrew is: קָד֖וֹשׁ or
According to Strong’s:
qadosh: sacred, holy
Part of Speech: Adjective
Transliteration: qadosh
Phonetic Spelling: (kaw-doshe’)
Short Definition: holy
In reference to a person: holy one, saint
from qadash; sacred (ceremonially or morally); (as noun) God (by eminence), an angel, a saint, a sanctuary — holy (One), saint.

We tend to see this being holy and set apart as part and parcel with the old covenant, with the laws and practices prescribed and proscribed for the Jews.

However, we find the same call to holiness in the New Testament.

“Because it is written, ‘Be ye holy; for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:16)

The word holy in Greek is: Ἅγιοι
According to Strong’s:
hagios: sacred, holy
Part of Speech: Adjective
Transliteration: hagios
Phonetic Spelling: (hag’-ee-os)
Short Definition: set apart, holy, sacred
Definition: set apart by (or for) God, holy, sacred.

In both instances we find that some group of people (the Israelites in the Old Testament, and the Christians in the New Testament) are called to be holy because God is holy.

Because of this we can see the life of the Christian as fundamentally a continuation of what began in the Old Testament. The Church has taken the place of Israel as the People of God, meaning that like the Israelites, Christians are called to be set apart, to be the holy ones.

Re-learning what it means to be holy, I would argue, just might be the key work of the Church today. And perhaps the popularity of such books at Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, Archbishop Chaput’s Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World, and Anthony Esolen’s Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture all stem from a deep resonance and growing sense that the Church has lost, and must recover, its commitment to holiness.

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