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Via Moderna, when modernity mean Christian in place of the old paganism
This site is named Via Moderna, not because of any special affinity for the Middle Ages or for scholasticism, but because the Via
Moderna represented an early attempt to create theology and philosophy that was not built on the concepts of pagan cosmology,
which determined what could exist and how it could be known. It also did not resort to mysticism or irrationalism, as do some
attempts today to achieve a Christian worldview. Such fail to notice that they suppose their methods are successful because of
implicit non-Christian ideas of the nature of reality. Lining up against the irrationalists are those who advocate for some return to
the Via Antiqua synthesis, with a strange resurgence of Thomism in recent years. Where modern means clearing away the old
rubbish and rebuilding, it is not wrong to be modern. Modernity can be both helpful and hostile.
An examination of Christianity, of pagan-Christian synthesis, and the rise of modernity
It was long a source of puzzlement why the Christian theologians and philosophers who claimed most stridently to be purely
Christian in their starting point and methods, were also the ones who insisted on including irrationality in their thought as a mark
of piety and purity. Was not that a sign of pagan mysticism, and of a view of man that saw his language limited by whatever
meaning could be acquired through this-world experience? A close examination of those thinkers eventually revealed a
background, and governing commitments philosophical ideas alien to Christianity.
The history of Christian thought has had something of the same trajectory. The intellectual tradition that the Middle Ages took
over from the Church of late antiquity was one of an intellectual synthesis between Christian doctrine and pagan cosmological
ideas, mainly viewed in a neoplatonic perspective. The high Middle Ages rebuilt this pagan/Christian synthesis by a more direct
appropriation of Greek philosophy, this time from Aristotle. This began the framework (via antiqua) for theology associated with
Thomas Aquinas and his heritage. Understood by his contemporaries to be introducing a dangerous alien element to Christian
theology, his thought gained papal backing and eventual became the accepted tradition both for Roman Catholics and for
Protestant Scholastics from the major Reformers onwards. There was, however, a medieval critique of this synthesis from a
Christian perspective (via moderna), and eventually a modern critique from a secularizing perspective.
The Via Moderna page tries to open a space between the medieval rejection of pagan elements that entered Christianity, to
protect the implications of the biblical teaching on creation, and the modern critique of that synthesis which aims more at
removing the Christian elements that remained, than finding harmony with Christian teaching.
The aims an achievement of the medieval via moderna
“It was the very great intellectual and historical contribution of fourteenth-century nominalism to prove by the very same
methods within the self-same establishment of universities and religious orders that not only the methodology but also the
metaphysical content of their predecessor’s thought was irrelevant for the basic goals of the Christian religion, salvation and
life according to the Gospels.” Charles Trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness: Humanity and Divinity in Italian Humanist
Thought (University of Notre Dame Press, 1970, 1995) pp. 556-557.