Tag Archives: the Enlightenment

Medieval stupidity? Works-righteousness? Monastic uselessness? Getting beyond the caricatures


We all know medieval people were ignorant, gullible bumpkins who didn’t even understand the gospel message of grace, right? After all, they believed in a flat earth, salvation by works, and a monastic life completely shut off from culture and society. Uh . . . no.

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. . . in which C S Lewis’s Screwtape explains how “historicism” has rendered the past useless to modern scholars


C S Lewis's demon Screwtape, writing about how much he just LOVES "historicism"

C S Lewis’s demon Screwtape, writing about how much he just LOVES “historicism”

Today I begin posting from the “Tradition chapter” of Getting Medieval with C S Lewis – or as I’m now less flippantly inclined to call it: Medieval Wisdom: An exploration with C S Lewis.

Though this is not the opening of the chapter, I’d like to start with Lewis’s take on the “presenting problem” when the church begins talking about tradition in the 20th (and now 21st) century:

Lewis states the modern problem

The situation we find ourselves in, where we would even have to defend tradition as a good thing in the Christian church, dates back to Lewis’s day and beyond. In his famous lecture to the Cambridge University audience assembled to witness his installation as the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Studies at that university, Lewis described his own mid-20th-century European setting as one of cultural darkness and amnesia, and himself as a kind of dinosaur—one of the few left in that dark age of wars and rumors of wars. He described himself as a specimen who still spoke the native language of the old Christian Western tradition as a native, and who could thus be a precious resource for a society and a culture that had drifted far from its moorings in the Great Tradition of Christianized Greek thought.

Lewis found this change diabolical, and he made this clear by putting it in the mouth of the senior demon in his Screwtape Letters: “Only the learned read old books and we have now so dealt with the learned that they are of all men the least likely to acquire wisdom by doing so.” The infernal realm had accomplished this, Screwtape continued, by making “the Historical Point of View” into a scholarly dogma. Continue reading

Anatomy of an African explosion: How and why Christianity grew exponentially in 20th-century Africa


How and why did Christianity explode on the African continent in the 20th century? The following is an interview I did with the late Dr. Ogbu Kalu of McCormick Seminary for Christian History & Biography’s “African Apostles” issue:

Anatomy of an Explosion
It’s an indelible image: the white missionary venturing into deepset Africa. But the real story is what happened when African converts relayed the gospel message in their own words.
an interview with Dr. Ogbu Kalu

Taking a close look at the explosion of Christianity in twentieth-century Africa, we meet a remarkable group of colonial-era (roughly 1890 to World War II) apostles who were born, grew up, and ministered in sub-Saharan Africa. We have been inspired and challenged by their stories. We hope you will be, too.

While the story of Christianity’s spread in Africa is nothing less than awesome, it is also nothing more than the work of God, who always uses the foolish things of a sin-scarred world as the building material for his body.

Western missions in colonial Africa proceeded by slow, painful steps. The missionaries’ best efforts were often hindered by cultural misunderstandings, economic abuses, political agendas, and racist presuppositions. While missionaries were picking their tortuous way through the colonial period, indigenous African evangelists and teachers exploded onto the scene like dynamite. Yes, they worked on the same confused, conflicted landscape as the missionaries. Nonetheless, something happened when the gospel was proclaimed under African sponsorship. It revolutionized the continent. Continue reading