English 233:  Introduction to Western Humanities - Baroque & Enlightenment

The common ground within Christendom before and after the Protestant Reformation:

the traditional Christian picture of history


How to use this memo.

First a word about making use of this memo, which is probably unlike what you are used to working through.  It has been formatted to help you tune into the significance of the systematic nature of the outlook upon the world to it sketches the elements of.  I have made it available in two versions.  What you are reading now is the version designed to be worked though on-line.  In it the notes have been provided in the form of highlighted Web links, for clicking on when you want to read them.  There is also an integral version, in which the additional material has been adduced as endnotes.  This is the one to print out and/or save (on diskette or at home) for viewing on another computer while you're not connected to the Web.  

You will want to devote careful attention to the structure of indentations, both in the main text and the footnotes.  This is meant to prompt you to ask questions about the precise nature of the particular relationship of subordination in each case (genus/species? cause/effect? condition/possibility? something else?) If you neglect to do this, the whole thing will degenerate for you into a soup of unrelated "factoids."

The footnotes/links will at first be irritating, but the text has been divided this way for a purpose.  In your first couple of run-throughs of the material, ignore these footnotes/links.  Concentrate on getting a feel for the overall structure of the ideas that make of the "main body" of the text   this Web page itself.  After a couple or three trips through, change your tactic.  This time, when you see a number in the main text indicating a footnote/link, STOP.  Before clicking on it, ask yourself a question about the idea to which the link is attached.  Can you produce on your own a SERIES of EXAMPLES ILLUSTRATING the idea at hand? Really make an effort to do this.  Then  and only then  should you take on the footnote.  The point is to rehearse formulating a specific kind of relevant question at a place that calls for it, and to test to see whether, in your initial foray through our readings in WH you were tuning into the relevance for our themes of the material you were working through as you were ploughing through it.

As you will discover, the footnotes/links continue the structure of the outline of the "main body" of the text down into further levels of specificity.

This procedure also gives you the opportunity to rethink that material in the light of the framework of relevance you began by surveying in your initial readings of the memo.  Take time to do this.

Pay close attention to the internal structure of the footnotes/links themselves.

Resist the temptation to treat the matters dealt with there as "merely embellishments" of ideas in the "main" text.  They are equally important.  They have complementary logical roles.  They make different kinds of sense of each other.  The general ideas show the relevance of the more specific ones.  The specific ones show how the general ones actually fit to the world they purport to be about.  Neither sort can do without the other.  This means you have to realize that the purpose of the relegation of these matters to footnotes/links was not to indicate a marginality of relevance to our concerns in comparison with the materials allocated to the "main body" of the text.  This is an illusion.

Notice, too, that the footnotes/links are often couched in shorthand terms.  They actually amount to hints about the sorts of things that might serve as the called for illustrations.  In many cases, you will have to do some further thinking to figure out how they can be seen to do this.

Finally, reserve a study session or two in which you reverse the procedure with which you began.  This time, start instead by reading the footnotes/links, and see if you can infer from acquaintance strictly with them the more general point of relevance they are invoked to serve, and if you can pass from the particular one they illustrate to others in the more general scheme, by way of the particular relations by which it inheres in the whole.

This approach will enable you to build up a coherent understanding of the beliefs that the several Christian confessions of the 16th Century shared.

Specifically, you should end up with a clear understanding of the Christian vision of history.



The main outline.

If you have a clear grasp of this central topic, then you will be able to clarify the relationships among the following topics.

(1) the concept of "teleology" (hence that of "telos" or "final cause"). 

(2) the role of the idea of "Divine Providence" in the Christian picture of history, including

(a) the expression, in the domain of Time, of the three central divine Perfections (omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence);

(b) the idea of history as not just "what happens to happen in the course of time" but as something with a coherent narrative structure -- something inherently of the nature of a story, with a beginning, middle, and an end, with turning points and foreshadowings, and an ultimate overall theme or meaning -- of which God is the "author."

(A) the specifically Christian conceptions of "the end of Creation" and of "the end of history," and

(B) the interventionist policy of the Creator with respect to his creation; and

(C) the resulting need, for puzzled humans, to develop a theodicy -- i.e., an interlocking set of explanations serving to vindicate the justice of God, especially in ordaining or permitting natural (e.g., earthquakes, congenital illness) and moral evil (sins).

(c) the relationships among the main "nodal episodes" in the course of history, past and future:

Creation of the World;

Creation of the First Parents;

the Fall (its nature and effects);

the Incarnation;

the Second Coming, the Last Judgment, and the Establishment of the Kingdom.

(3) the effect of shared understandings concerning the nature of Hell upon people's views about the proper conduct towards heretics.



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  Suggestions, comments and questions are welcome.  Please send them to lyman@ksu.edu .

      Contents copyright 1999 by Lyman A. Baker

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      This page last updated 24 August 1999.