Friday, June 28, 2019


Gifts of Christianity

Owen Barfield (1898-1997), History in English Words (1953; rpt. Great Barrington: Lindisfarne Books, 2007), p. 159:
Another little group of words which appeared in the language at about this time is interesting in its suggestion that human emotions, like the forces of Nature, are usually accompanied by their equal and opposite reactions. The well-known phrases, odium theologicum and odium philosophicum, survive to remind us of a new kind of bitterness and hatred which had slowly been arising in men's hearts, and which were also, it would seem, the gifts of Christianity and the Dark Ages. Very soon after the Reformation we find alongside the syllables of tenderness and devotion a very pretty little vocabulary of abuse. Bigoted, faction, factious, malignant, monkish, papistical, pernicious, popery are among the products of the struggle between Catholic and Protestant; and the terms Roman, Romanist, and Romish soon acquired such a vituperative sense that it became necessary to evolve Roman Catholic in order to describe the adherents of that faith without giving offence to them. The later internecine struggles among the Protestants themselves gave us Puritan, precise, libertine—reminiscent of a time when 'liberty' of thought was assumed as a matter of course to include licence of behaviour—credulous, superstitious, selfish, selfishness, and the awful Calvinistic word reprobate. It was towards the end of the Puritan ascendancy that atone and atonement (at-one-ment) acquired their present strong suggestion of legal expiation, and it may not be without significance that the odious epithet vindictive was then for the first time applied approvingly to the activities of the Almighty Himself.

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