ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

195. Theological Condemnations. The Church and Philosophy. -- We have seen already how Abelard fell into errors about many dogmas, and notably about the Blessed Trinity. He taught that each of the three Divine Persons does not constitute the whole Divine essence, but each only a distinct modality of that one Divine essence, -- power, wisdom and goodness respectively. St. Bernard worked might and main against this heresy of Abelard, as he did afterwards against that of Gilbert de la Porrée. The De Unitate et Trinitate Divina was condemned at the Council of Soissons in 1121; the Theologia at the Council of Sens in 1141.{1}

Gilbert, carrying his distinction between the singular and the universal into the doctrine of the Trinity, "made different things of God (Deus) and the Divinity (Divinitas), of the Father and Paternity, etc., even of the Nature and the Persons".{2} This was tantamount to a denial of the Divine Unity. The Bishop of Poitiers fell under suspicion for his teaching; but he succeeded in clearing himself and escaping condemnation.

The Church is often reproached with having condemned philosophy in the persons of Roscelin, Abelard and Gilbert de la Porrée. Nothing could be farther from the truth. What the Church condemned was not the so-called nominalism,{3} nor realism, nor philosophy in general, but simply applications that were considered dangerous{4} of the dialectic method to matters of dogma, that is to say, to matters not philosophical.{5}

In the thirteenth century, a whole legion of scholastics propounded and developed the theories of Roscelin and Abelard, and we hear of no councils summoned to condemn them.

{1} As to the good faith of Abelard, Fr. Portalié writes: "Abelard was never a free thinker or unbeliever . . . he was, and wished to be, a sincere believer" (op. cit., col. 41).

{2} CLERVAL, op. cit., p. 263.

{3} "Nominalism is the old enemy, as it is in fact the doctrine which, because it accords best with reason, is opposed most to the axioms of Faith. Dragged successively before numerous councils, nominalism was condemned in the person of Abelard, as it had been previously in the person of Roscelin" (HAURÉAU, Hist. philos. scol., i., p. 292).

{4} In regard to Abelard, Fr. Portalié rightly remarks that the Church had every reason to take vigorous action, for she found herself in the presence of a strong and progressive theological movement which was offering a shelter to dangerous errors.

{5} Cf. WILLMANN, Gesch. d. Ideal., ii., p. 360.

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