Louth Andrew - The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

Andrew Louth - The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

Andrew Louth - The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

Fourth Edition. – Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022. - 1952 p.
ISBN: 9780199642465
eISBN: 9780191744396
Laetentur Coeli! [‘Let the heavens rejoice!’] If you look in this dictionary you will find two entries under this headword: St Cyril of Alexandria’s letter about agreement on Christology and Pope Eugenius’ bull decreeing union between Orthodoxy and the West at the Council of Florence (somewhat premature). There are two entries, rather than, as in the earlier editions, one, giving both meanings, because in the new fourth edition of the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, cross-references are not just invitations to leaf through the dictionary, but in the online version hyperlinks, taking you directly to the entry needed, in this case either St Cyril’s letter or Pope Eugenius’. That indicates one way in which this fourth edition advances beyond the earlier editions by embracing new technology. There are others, including a more serious attempt to use inclusive language, and some attempt to avoid a complete hegemony of English names and terminology. Further details you can find below. But more immediately: Laetentur coeli—that all is now nearly complete, and I am writing my editorial preface!
This fourth edition of the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church enters into a distinguished tradition. First published in 1957, to great and justified acclaim, successive editions and revisions—second edition in 1974, third edition in 1997, with a revised version in 2005—have further established its reputation. The 60 or so years of the dictionary have seen a series of radical changes in the Christian Church, certainly commensurable with any period in the long history of the Church. In her preface to the third edition, Dr Elizabeth A. Livingstone pondered on some of these changes, many of them associated, at least ‘popularly’, with the Second Vatican Council (1962–5): liturgical changes, more liberal attitudes to biblical scholarship, and indeed scholarship more generally, and in attitudes to the diversity of Christian communions. These changes echoed, and were reflected in, changes taking place in the wider Christian world, and indeed a questioning of the values enshrined in society as a whole, still conscious, though diminishingly, of its Christian roots. Dr Livingstone mentioned, too, the impact of liberation and feminist theology, which had, at many points, demanded quite fundamental changes in traditional Christian teaching. She also drew attention to the fact that the largest Christian presence, at least in demographic terms, is no longer to be found in Europe and North America, but in Africa, Asia, and South America. Successive editions of the dictionary have sought, in some degree, to respond to this changing world.
What, however, was not much called in question was what might be called the stance and perspective of the dictionary. It was firmly rooted in an Oxford which still remained surprisingly Anglican. Canon F. L. Cross was not only its first editor; the very conception and design of the dictionary was his. He belonged to a tradition of scholarly Anglicanism that looked back to the early centuries—the patristic period—for its roots, and felt deep affinities with Continental Catholicism, perhaps especially with Gallicanism (the lexical analogy between ‘Anglican’ and ‘Gallican’ is probably not at all innocent). When the first edition of the dictionary was published, he was Lady Margaret professor of divinity in the University of Oxford and canon of Christ Church; before that he had been on the staff of Pusey House, Oxford, set up to be an Anglo-Catholic centre of studies. Cross was a noble representative of a distinguished tradition, and the late 1950s was perhaps the last period at which the assumptions of that tradition could almost be taken for granted. There was no sense that this was a limiting tradition, and yet it was; its real strengths were shadowed by corresponding weaknesses. Anglo-Catholic bias was present in the ways theology and Church history were presented. For the doctrinal entries, the ‘gold standard’ was the distinguished French Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (15 vols, 1903–50), then only recently completed, and frequently cited in the bibliographies for which the Oxford dictionary was praised. The Fathers and early church history were well covered, as were the Middle Ages: all of which was felt to be the heritage of the Church of England. But at the centre was the Church of England: other nations had an entry on ‘Christianity in’; not England, for which there was simply an entry on the ‘Church of England’, beginning with the presence of British bishops at the council of Arles (ad 314), and continuing seamlessly thereafter. The Reformation was conceived as a Continental affair, which had unfortunate repercussions for England, where the Reformation ‘remained an insular process responsive to peculiar and social forces’, and there was little need to mention ‘Protestantism’. Even the Anglican focus of the dictionary was narrower than it seemed: the article ‘Anglicanism’ was confined to a history of theology in England since the Reformation, despite the fact that Anglicanism was by the 1950s a worldwide phenomenon. There was no entry on the ‘Anglican Communion’, not even by the third edition. Nevertheless, with all these limitations, the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church established itself as a unique resource for most aspects of the Christian Church; its Anglican focus was often regarded as a forgivable, even amiable, idiosyncrasy.
* * *
Holy Club
The nickname given to the group of ‘Methodists’ which J. Wesley formed at Oxford in 1729 for the deepening of personal religion. It developed into a number of groups in various colleges. Beginning with classical devotional reading, frequent communion, and fasting, the groups added pastoral, charitable, and educational work, e.g. in Oxford gaol. After Wesley’s departure from Oxford, the ‘Holy Club’ was revived but holding Calvinist doctrines.
‡ Stephen Plant
  • R. P. Heitzenrater, ‘The Oxford Diaries and the First Rise of Methodism’, Methodist History 12 (1974), News Bulletin, 111–35.
  • R. P. Heitzenrater, Mirror and Memory: Reflections on Early methodism (Nashville, 1989), 63–77.
original sin
In W. Christian theology, the state of sin in which mankind has been held captive since the fall. Catholic theologians hold that its essential element is the loss of sanctifying grace. (It is also held by Catholics that the BVM was by a special dispensation preserved from the stain of original sin: see immaculate conception of the BVM.)
The scriptural foundation of the doctrine is the Pauline teaching that ‘through one man [i.e. Adam] sin entered into the world’, so that ‘by the trespass of the one the many died’ (cf. Rom. 5: 12–21 and 1 Cor. 15: 22). The doctrine, the significance of which was obscured by other preoccupations in the age of the Apostolic Fathers and the apologists, began to be developed in the struggle against the gnostic errors by Irenaeus. As against the dualist systems of the heretics, he defended the teaching that evil came into the world through the sin of Adam. Origen has the conception of man’s fallen state, but in him it is bound up with speculations on the prenatal sins of souls. Athanasius in his treatise De Incarnatione anticipated later developments by teaching that the chief result of the sin of Adam, which consisted in the abuse of his liberty, was the loss of the grace of conformity to the image of God, by which he and his descendants were reduced to their natural condition (εἰς τὸ κατὰ ϕύσιν) and became subject to corruption (ϕθορά) and death (θάνατος). The Gk Fathers emphasized the cosmic or metaphysical dimension of the fall—men since Adam are born into a fallen world—but at the same time they held fast to the belief that man, though fallen, is free, seeing in any encroachment on man’s freedom the threat of Manichaeism. The Pseudo-Makarian Homilies, however, paint a vivid picture of fallen man’s bondage to sin.
The precise formulation of the doctrine was reserved to the W. Here Tertullian, Cyprian, and Ambrose taught the solidarity of the whole human race with Adam not only in the consequences of his sin but in the sin itself, which is transmitted through natural generation, and the so-called ‘Ambrosiaster’ found its scriptural proof in Rom. 5: 12, where Lat. versions translate ἐϕ᾽ ᾡ̑ by in quo, which he took as referring to Adam, ‘in whom all have sinned’. In this he was followed by Augustine, who in his Quaestiones ad Simplicianum (396–7) and other pre-Pelagian writings taught that Adam’s guilt is transmitted to his descendants by concupiscence, thus making of humanity a massa damnata and much enfeebling, though not destroying, the freedom of the will. In the struggle against Pelagianism the principles of the Augustinian doctrine were confirmed by many councils, esp. the Second of Orange (529).
With the existence of original sin firmly established the medieval theologians were particularly occupied with its nature and transmission. Anselm of Canterbury was the first to open up new ways of thought, in which he was followed by the great 13th-cent. Schoolmen. He defines original sin as the ‘privation of the righteousness which every man ought to possess’, thus separating it from concupiscence, with which the disciples of Augustine had often identified it. It is transmitted by generation, because the whole human race was present in Adam seminaliter. His ideas were not immediately taken up. Whilst Abelard was condemned by the Council of Sens (1140) for refusing to recognize original sin as guilt, other 12th-cent. theologians, e.g. Peter Lombard, identified it with concupiscence. This latter conception was rejected in the next century by Alexander of Hales and Albert the Great, who distinguish a formal element, namely privation of original righteousness, from the material element of concupiscence. All of them hold that it is transmitted by the concupiscence accompanying the conjugal act. Thomas Aquinas, who treated the subject five times (esp. in De Malo and in ST 1a2ae, qq. 81–4), brought in a new element by distinguishing, in the state of Adam before the fall, ‘pure nature’ (pura natura) from the supernatural gifts which perfected it. Hence original sin consists in the loss of these supernatural privileges which had directed man to his supernatural end and enabled him to keep his inferior powers in submission to reason, a rectitude not natural to a being compounded of soul and body such as man. This conception entails a more optimistic view of man than that of Augustine and his successors in that it leaves to the reason, will, and passions of fallen man their natural powers. Acc. to Thomas, original sin is transmitted not as the personal fault of Adam but as a state of human nature, yet constituting a fault inasmuch as all men are regarded as members of one great organism of which Adam was the first mover. Thus through his sin his descendants incur a culpability similar to that of the hand which executes a murder, moved by the human will. The instrument of transmission is generation, regardless of the accompanying concupiscence.
The Thomist synthesis was not at once accepted everywhere. The old rigorous Augustinianism persisted among the Franciscans, and esp. in the religious family of Augustine, whereas, on the other hand, the rationalist tendencies of Abelard were voiced by others who denied the guilt (reatus culpae), recognizing only its punitive consequences (reatus poenae). The more prominent Scholastics, however, such as Duns Scotus, Ockham, and their disciples, accepted the Thomist principles, but while defining original sin exclusively as lack of original righteousness (carentia justitiae originalis debitae), tended to eliminate the element of concupiscence.
In the subsequent controversy with the Reformers the teaching was made increasingly precise; to the exaggerated pessimism of Luther and Calvin, who equated original sin with concupiscence and affirmed that it completely destroyed liberty and persisted even after baptism, the Council of Trent opposed the teaching of the Schoolmen, without, however, pronouncing on points still disputed by Catholic theologians. In restating the doctrine of Thomas, Soto eliminated the element of concupiscence altogether from the definition and identified original sin with the loss of sanctifying grace. His views had a far-reaching influence, being accepted by authorities like Suárez, Bellarmine, and the Salmanticenses. But the official decisions of the Catholic Church followed the teaching of the older theologians. In his condemnation of Baius (1567), Pope Pius V, going beyond Trent, sanctioned the Thomist distinction between nature and supernature in the state of Paradise, condemned the identification of original sin with concupiscence, and admitted the possibility of the right use of the freedom of the will in the unbaptized. In the 17th and 18th cents the Society of Jesus developed the doctrine along the lines of moderated optimism traced by the Schoolmen, whereas the French theologians of Jansenist leanings, such as the circle of Port-Royal and Bossuet, inclined towards the old Augustinian pessimism.
From about the 18th cent. there has been a tendency for the dogma of original sin to become increasingly attenuated. It conflicted with the Enlightenment’s confidence in human progress, and the accompanying individualism made the idea of being punished for the sins of another seem morally intolerable. The theory of evolution both cast doubt on the historicity of Gen. 2, and at the same time suggested that man’s evil propensities might derive from his evolutionary origins. Nonetheless, the doctrine of original sin in some form persisted. Kant reaffirmed it in his conception of ‘radical evil’; Schleiermacher explained the state of sin and separation from God into which men are born as due to social heredity; Hegel regarded original sin as evidence of the emergence of moral consciousness; and Kierkegaard found it in man’s Angst (dread or anxiety) in the face of moral possibility. The traditional doctrine has been strongly reaffirmed by Barth and his followers. Modern treatments of original sin, however, tend to regard it as belonging to the nature of man rather than to the individual person; they derive it less from heredity than from the inescapably social character of man. This tendency is reflected in the emphasis of the Second Vatican Council on the corporate aspects of sin and redemption.
‡ Becket Soule OP
  • F. R. Tennant, The Origin and Propagation of Sin (Hulsean Lectures for 1901–2; 1902).
  • F. R. Tennant, The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin (1903).
  • N. P. Williams, The Ideas of the Fall and of Original Sin (Bampton Lectures for 1924; 1927), with formularies repr., 537–50.
  • E. Brunner, Der Mensch im Widerspruch (Zürich, 1937; Eng. tr., Man in Revolt, 1939).
  • F. H. Maycock, Original Sin (Glasgow, 1948).
  • L. Ligier, Péché d’Adam et péché du monde (Théologie, 43 and 48; Paris, 1960–1).
  • H. Blocher, Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle (New Studies in Biblical Theology, 5; Leicester, 1997).
  • G.-H. Baudry, Le Péché dit originel (Théologie historique, 113; Paris, 2000).
  • K. Barth, Christus und Adam nach Röm. 5 (Theologische Studien, 35; Zürich, 1952; Eng. tr., Scottish Journal of Theology, Occasional Papers, 5; 1956);
  • K. Barth, Die kirchliche Dogmatik, 4, pt 1 (Zürich, 1953), 531–73; Eng. tr. (1956), 478–513.
  • A.-M. Dubarle, OP, Le Péché originel dans l’Écriture (Lectio Divina, 20; Paris, 1958; Eng. tr., 1964).
  • J. Gross, Geschichte des Erbsündendogmas (4 vols, Munich, 1960–72).
  • H. Rondet, SJ, Le Péché originel dans la tradition patristique et théologique (Paris, 1967; Eng. tr., 1972).
  • P. Schoonenberg in Mysterium Salutis, ed. J. Feiner and M. Löhrer, 2 (Einsiedeln, 1967), 899–941.
  • E. W. Kemp (ed.), Man: Fallen and Free (London, 1969).
  • U. Baumann, Erbsünde? Ihr traditionelles Verständnis in der Krise heutiger Theologie (Ökumenische Forschungen, II. Soteriologische Abteilung, 2; Freiburg, 1970).
  • P. Grelot, Péché originel et rédemption examinés à partir de l’épître aux Romains (Paris, 1973).
  • R. M. Martin (ed.), La Controverse sur le péché originel au début du XIVe siècle: Textes inédits (SSL 10; 1930).
  • S. A. Kierkegaard, Begrebet Angest (1844; Eng. trs, The Concept of Dread, 1944; The Concept of Anxiety, 1980).
  • A. Gaudel and M. Jugie, AA, in DTC 12 (pt 1; 1933), cols 275–623, s.v. ‘Péché originel’, with bibl. cols 605f. and 623.
  • S. Lyonnet, SJ, in Dict. Bibl., Suppl. 7 (1966), cols 509–67, s.v. ‘Péché (4)’;
  • K. Rahner in Sacramentum Mundi, 4 (1969), 328–34, s.v. See also bibls to Augustine, St, of Hippo; sin; and comm. on the Epistle to the Romans.


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