Monday, June 23, 2008

Great Christian Thinkers

I’d read of Hans Küng, modern Catholic theologian who’d disagreed with Pope Benedict XVI years ago and who’s written many books. I thought he’d be too dense to read. Well, on a trip to the library I figured I could see what he really was like. I checked out his Great Christian Thinkers, in which he briefly covers the life and work of Paul, Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Martin Luther, Schlieremacher, and Barth.

His writing is pretty clear, though I did learn some new words like soteriology, which is the doctrine of salvation. (When would I use that? To read more Küng I guess.) There are some complicated parts, but not so many that I had to give up. I did learn more about Augustine’s reasons for his attitudes towards sexuality which he saw as a very dangerous aspect of life likely to trip us up salvation-wise, I mean soteriologically. He had his own issues.

I’d known about Aquinas giving up on his writing saying it “was all straw” but I didn’t know that some theologians think he had a mystical experience that led him to think that reason isn’t everything.

I had never heard of Frederick Scleiermacher (1768 - 1834), a Protestant philosopher and theologian and now think he’s quite cool. He was part of a circle of thinkers and artists in Berlin. He was quite modern in that he urged women to pursue education, art, honor and wisdom just as men do. He wrote that they should not enter into loveless marriages. He was very big on women’s rights saying “I believe in infinite humanity which was there before it took the guise of masculinity and femininity." So everyone should be accorded equal rights. In one of his writings he wrote commandments for parents including one that was to “Honor the idiosyncracies and whims of your children, that all May go well with them and they May live a mighty life on earth.” He became a pioneer of progressive education.

He had a lot of intellectual friends who had no understanding of religion and wrote to reveal why smart, cultured people who were up on current science could benefit from religion, why it’s not just for the peasantry.

This book is a good intellectual history of Christianity.

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