Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Eccentric Reading List, Part 4

The 9th and 10th centuries seem to have been difficult days for the church, at least as far as memorable works go. Theological and intellectual investigation had not died, but the published remains of that period seem not to have made it into English form. There are, of course, references to various authors and works from that period in the standard histories, and in secondary literature about the debates. But primary sources translated into English are in short supply. So I will hold off on these two centuries until I have solidified some selections.

For the 11th century, I am tempted to suggest Abelard's Historia Calamitatum (The Story of My Misfortunes), which is available in paperback (you can find it at Amazon). Or you can read it online at But instead, I recommend Anselm's Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man). It is a far more important work, and is probably not much read any more, nor required much in seminary curricula. It is available online, as well as in a variety of print forms. Of these, I recommend the Oxford World Classics edition, since it contains most of Anselm's major works.

For the 12th century, I recommend Bernard of Clairvaux's essay "On Loving God." This can be found online as well as in print. Of the latter, I recommend the edition in the HarperCollins Spiritual Classics series. This is devotional writing of the finest sort. It enables us to see a love for God through the eyes of a man from a world very different from ours. The reader of this column are mostly Reformed Protestants; Bernard was Catholic. We are not monks; he was. We live with all the advantages of modern technology; the technology of Bernard's day was little different from that of Jesus' day. But the love for God that we share with Bernard can break down those barriers, and draw us together as members of one church.

For the 13th century, I cannot but recommend Aquinas. More vilified than read in our day, especially perhaps among Reformed types, he nonetheless deserves to be read. I cannot in good conscience recommend reading the entirety of Summa Theologica, but I do recommend a work titled Aquinas's Shorter Summa, published by Sophia Institue Press, and available at a very reasonable price. I think you will find Aquinas much different than you imagined him to be.

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