Novak (novak) wrote,

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Theological Notebook: De Trinitate Seminar; Misc. Luther

Notes at the end of the day. Ahhh... the sound of thugish guys in a gang barking at a drunken freshman girl screaming obscenities back at them. I'll just watch out the window to make sure she gets into her dorm safely....

That done, I'm wiped out, but too wired to go right to bed. Mickey's undergrad Martin Luther class meets at 11, and I've been up finishing the reading of the first seven chapters of Bainton's Here I Stand for that, after Mickey asked me today to help him out by writing tomorrow's quiz. I hadn't time for that, so that kinda threw the evening. I finally finished that at around 1am. Then it was finally time to make dinner, which I'd been too focused to do before then.

I just found a curious passage, in continuing to read the Luther biography over my pasta (which, of course, I could have done hours ago had I had the wit). A number of contemporary Catholics who are particularly concerned with the guarding of orthodox belief have articulated a vision of the Church where it is better to have smaller numbers of only the truly dedicated believers. This is stated as against those in the Church who are perceived as being only "cultural Catholics," or who speak of themselves as Catholics but make no attempt to hold to Catholic doctrine, practice or ethics, or at least hold only to what are decried as "selective" versions of such. I've even heard this view of the Church ascribed to Benedict XVI, although I cannot think of any specific instance of him saying this off the top of my head. What amuses me tonight is to see that this is the exact vision of the church Luther was promoting, I think from his book The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, if I'm reading Bainton's biography correctly, wherein he attacks the Catholic sacramental system as it stood at the time, in order to replace it with what he saw as a more authentically biblical vision of the sacraments. So I found it rather funny that in the name of Catholic orthodoxy, contemporary Catholics may be invoking Luther's view of the Church so opposed by loyal papalist figures like Cajetan.

Excerpting a note to friede: the seminar I began sitting in on today on Augustine's De Trinitate is being led by my advisor, Prof. Michel René Barnes, who with his collaberator Prof. Lewis Ayers of Emory University have begun to gain a significant reputation for overturning a great deal of accepted Augustinian scholarship. Their radical formula for overthrowing established scholarly conclusions: read Augustine instead of Augustinian scholars. Go figure. It is, however, brutally focused labour in trying to absorb ancient psychologies and literary conventions in approaching the Augustinian texts themselves. We opened with a real attack on our own literary conventions today, a look at what constituted "memory" and learning in a culture where books were memory-aides and not documentary memory-substitutes, and the Stoic/Ciceronian approach to learning.

Some other points from opening discussion:
De Trinitate Seminar Notes
Michel René Barnes

A note on “textualization” from the handout from Mary J. Carruthers’ The Book of Memory today (noting what is underlined on p. 10—“A work is not truly read until one has made it part of oneself—that process continues a necessary stage of its ‘textualization.’”): what is not remembered is not understood. Memory is assumed in this culture. Augustine assumes in reading the later books of the De Trinitate that you will have the earlier books solidly in mind. This is very hard for moderns. An ancient or a medieval would much more easily commit these to memory because of their training.

Her distinction between “fundamentalism” and “textualism” as two poles of what literature is and how it functions in a society is analogous to the “Antioch vs. Alexandria” patristic tendencies toward the biblical texts. Barnes wants us to be aware of our own textual tendencies in these regards and not to project them onto the historical texts we are reading.

“Fundamentalism” in this sense (to be distinguished from the pejorative sense in which the term is usually used, and which here can be a more handy usage for us) “regards a work of literature as essentially not requiring interpretation.” It is the concern of being bound to a text where the words mean only what the words say, and have no meaning beyond themselves. Words are independent of institutions. See the similarity to legal “originalism,” speaking of the “original intention” of the writers, say of the Constitution. “Textualism” is then where the locus of meaning is to be found in the interpretation of words and not bound in the words themselves.
Tags: augustine's de trinitate, benedict xvi, books, cultural, ecclesiology, education, historical, martin luther, theological notebook

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