OE Theology Report

After analyzing Ælfric’s kerygma, I’ll make a few statements. It basically comes down to two main concepts, one from God’s side, one from ours. The divine initiative is alysednysse, redemption. This is how God acts; this is who Jesus is. Now, this ain’t justification by faith through grace. Instead, redemption for Ælfric is God’s act that makes it possible for us to attain our salvation. How? Well, that’s the other concept: gehyrsumnysse–obedience. This is our response. God created humanity to dwell with him and the angels because of the disobedience of the tenth angelic host, now the demonic order. Despite a really low bar, humanity failed through the devil’s deceptions. In being obedient to the devil rather than God, we swore allegiance to the wrong overlord and are now getting hell for it. Literally. God’s redemptive acts zero everything out. We can start again. Thus, we must determine our true overlord–God or the Devil–and act accordingly.

For Ælfric, worship, faith, and obedience are all tied up in a big package together. In a moving passage on the foundation of idolatry he portrays humanity falling on its knees before the demon-possessed idols and crying out: “You are our gods and we set our faith and hope/trust in you!” Simultaneously, he is giving us a picture of idolatrous worship and of the oath-taking service between an Anglo-Saxon retainer and his lord. Worship is allegiance. Allegiance is obedience.


About Derek Olsen

I'm a layman within the Episcopal Church with a PhD in New Testament and an interest in most things medieval, monastic, and liturgical. My chief job is keeping up with my priestly wife and our two awesome kids. In addition to that, I earn a living, run the St Bede's Breviary, listen to loud goth/industrial music, and do some stuff for the church. I currently serve as Secretary to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music where I'm also co-chair of the Calendar committee and chair of the Digital Publications committee.
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3 Responses to OE Theology Report

  1. texanglican says:

    Absolutely fascinating, sir. Please keep the insights coming!

  2. Annie says:

    Grace certainly has holes as a whole. This is more beautiful, by far. It reminds me of the difference between choosing light and dark.

  3. Derek the Ænglican says:

    Ælfr1c isn’t so much anti-grace as he is anti-cheap grace. I like this because it robustly engages human action and responsibility. I still have enough Lutheran in me to love grace, but…Luther insisted that good works were necessary as proof of faith. It’s the anti-nomian readings of Luther and other reformers that really ticks me off.

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