3) The third attitude was biblicism. Biblicism is strong in the later Middle Ages and helps prepare the Reformation. But biblicism is not something exclusively Protestant. There were always biblicistic reactions in the whole Middle Ages. These reactions sometimes were very critical of the Scholastic systems, sometimes they ,were critical of mysticism – usually they were united with mysticism, and often also with Scholasticism. They were attempts to use the Bible as the basis for a practical Christianity, especially a lay Christianity. They prepared also in this respect the Reformation: in the later Middle Ages biblicism was predominant and made it possible for many laymen even in that period to read the Bible, before the Reformation.
So we have these three attitudes: Scholasticism, mysticism, biblicism. They could be united in the same person, and were in most cases. They could come into some tension. And we shall see how, for instance, Scholasticism and mysticism came into tension in the fight between Bernard of Clairvaux and Abelard. That is possible. But neither of them prevailed. Both gave what they had to give to the medieval Church.
And the biblicistic criticisms were simply (appropriated) as the biblical foundation of the Scholastic system and the mystical experiences. This is the first group of considerations. The main point is: Take these things for what they really are: Scholasticism is the theology of that time; mysticism is the personal experiential piety of that time – -sometimes going to extremes; biblicism is the continuous critical reaction coming from the biblical tradition and entering the two other attitudes, finally overcoming both of them in the Reformation.
Now we come to something much more difficult, namely the scholastic method. All Scholasticism has one basic problem, namely that of authority and reason. This you must understand again. The first thing is to understand the word “authority.” What is the medieval authority? The medieval authority is the substantial tradition on which medieval life is based. Authority is first of all the Church tradition, and then those places where this Church tradition is expressed: in the acknowledged Church Fathers, in the creeds, in the Bible, in the Councils. This is authority. Now if we hear of “authority” today, we always think of a tyrant – be it the father, the king, the dictator, or sometimes even a teacher – I think some teachers exist who are tyrannical, but very few, I suppose, who would dare. In any case this is what authority means for us. Now don’t be betrayed when you go to medieval sources and read the word auctoritas , or “authority”, and identify it even with the Pope at that time – this is much later, toward the end of the Middle Ages. But in the earlier and High Middle Ages, authority is the living tradition. This is perhaps the way in which you can translate the word authority. So the question is: What is the relationship of reason to the living tradition of the Church in which everyone lives and there is no other tradition? This is the tradition which is as natural for us as he air we breathe. There are no places of the earth that have different kinds of air to breathe, and we can choose one or the other. We breathe the air, and if it is not polluted by human activities, it has everywhere the possibility of keeping us alive.