Christian Humanism

Here’s a little quote about the 8th to 9th century educational refors of the Carolingians. I like this a lot.

In all this there was a deliberate purpose to create or restore a Latin Christian culture which should be the common spiritual possession of the new Western Christian empire. No doubt the new learning was elementary and lacking in originality. Its main achievements were educational rather than literary or philosophical, and consisted of text-books like the De Institutione Clericorum of Rabanus Maurus (776-856); dictionaries and commentaries like the Liber Glossorum and the Glossa ordinaris; the reform of the script, and the reform of the liturgy for which Alcuin himself was largely responsible, and most of all the collection and copying of manuscripts. But in comparison with the debased culture of seventh-century Gaul, traditionalism itself was a progressive force, for it secured the survival of the classical inheritance of Western culture. The words of Alcuin’s teacher, Aelbert of York–that it would be disgraceful to allow the knowledge which had been discovered by the wise men of old to perish in our generation–show a sense of responsibility to the past which is the mark of genuine humanism rather than of a blind adherence to traditionalism. The spirit of Christian humanism finds expression in Alcuin’s own letters to Charles the Great: ‘If your intentions are carried out,’ he writes, ‘it may be that a new Athens will arise in France, and an Athens fairer than of old, for our Athens, ennobled by the teaching of Christ, will surpass the wisdom of the Academy. The old Athens had only the teachings of Plato to instruct it, yet even so it flourished by the seven liberal arts. But our Athens will be enriched by the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit and will, therefore, surpass all the dignity of earthly wisdom. – Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Rise of Western Culture

HT: Fred Tucker

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