Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Bernard of Clairvaux

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Bernard of Clairvaux

Article excerpt

Bernard of Clairvaux. By Gillian R. Evans. Great Medieval Thinkers Series. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. viii + 220 pp. $19.95 (paper).

The expanse of time between the Patristic era and the Reformation remains for many in the Anglican communion terra incognita, in part because Anglican theology has tended to define itself through the recovery of the identity of the early church. The Victorian romanticization of medieval Christianity has been viewed by twentieth-century eyes as more revelatory of nineteenth-century sentiment than of the church's need to begin to mine the riches of its premodern European tradition. The academic study of the European Middle Ages blossomed in the twentieth century, though, and has borne fruit in the increase of popular interest in an age when faith and reason were perceived to be complementary, and spiritual well-being was understood to be the highest goal imaginable for human life. Oxford University Press seeks to address this interest with its Great Medieval Thinkers Series, which is designed to introduce the general reader to some of the minds that defined premodern Christian theology. One underlying goal of the series is to apply the immediacy of thinkers like Eriugena, Scotus, and Grosseteste to the church's present need for the integration of academic theology and applied pastoral concerns. Of particular interest here is Gillian Evans's portrait of Bernard of Clairvaux, whose coherent view of formal theology and its application in the life of the church remains a landmark in Christian history.

Bernard still suffers from his reputation as the determined opponent of Peter Abelard's freewheeling rational approach to theological speculation, and is too easily pigeonholed as conservative theologian of the twelfth-- century status quo. Evans, an accomplished authority on medieval theology and theologians like Anselm of Canterbury as well as a recognized expert on authority in contemporary Anglicanism, has published extensively on Bernard's life and thought. The abbot of the Cistercian house at Clairvaux showed his genius for a theologically grounded advocacy of ecclesiastical authority at an early age, and quickly became a confidant of popes when the church was near the zenith of its political power. …

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