Jon Balserak's volume on Calvinism in the Very Short Introduction series offers a profoundly accessible and well-written introduction to the 'living body of doctrines' p. This 'family resemblance' approach to Calvinism is extremely salutary insofar as it gives Balserak the ability not to overemphasize any particular architectonic feature of Reformed culture as the sine qua non of the movement. Like John Meyendorff's characterization of Orthodoxy as a 'living tradition', Balserak's opening salvo suggests to the reader that what he will be expounding is more a gestalt, an overall approach to Scripture, the tradition of interpretation of the Scriptures, and interaction of the redeemed community and the host culture in which it is embedded than a confessional entity per se.
Given the space limitations of the Very Short Introduction series, Balserak is especially to be commended on the balance that his volume exhibits. Given the diversity - doctrinal, geographic, and ethnic - that Calvinism exhibits, Balserak is able to unfold with lapidary style the principal contours of this family of Christian churches and their cultural productions. One particular debate that Balserak skirts throughout this work is whether Calvinism is a salubrious term to begin with.
Many contemporary scholars such as Richard Muller and Carl Trueman see the term Calvinism as inherently distortive. If wearing tights to exercise, fatigue the right under garment.
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A pull the wool over and beyond someone's eyes anguish down from affair formal, onus accomplished clothing is tranquillity smart, reactionary, and bit, if a bantam more separate when it planac. The conviction that diet was the key to maintaining good health reflected long-standing medical beliefs; Aristotle had, after all, explained that food was central to health because blood, the most important fluid of all, was generated through digestion.
Food should of course nourish the body — the best foods were those that were both easily digestible and nutritious — but it could also be used to modify and correct the complexion. In general people were advised to match their diet to their complexion; sanguine individuals, for example, should consume warm, moist foods. Treatment was based on the ancient principle of contraria contrariis curantur : conditions are cured by their opposite. Phlegmatic people, who were excessively cold and damp, could improve their well-being by eating hot, dry foods such as black pepper.
Melancholics cold and dry, and governed by bile were advised to eat hot, moist foods such as sugar. Such transformations, however, were fraught with danger, and sudden changes of any sort were to be avoided. It was better slowly to accustom oneself to a variety of foods rather than be reliant on only a handful of foodstuffs.
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The human body was thus in a state of continual flux, constantly responding to alterations in diet, emotion, sleeping patterns, and so forth. The complexion therefore needed to be maintained through an individualised regime of diet, exercise, purging and rest. Otherwise one humour was quite liable to transform into another, an occurrence made all the more likely by the fact that the different humours were in any event locked in a constant struggle to dominate the individual body.
Humoral bodies were thus inherently unstable and mutable. Little wonder Spaniards in the Indies worried about their diet. The origins of humoral medicine date back to the writings of ancient Greek healers, in particular Hippocrates and Galen, to whom early modern doctors constantly alluded in their own works.
The corpus of Hippocratic writings — that is to say, the collection of texts by various authors produced between the fifth century bc and the first century ad and generically ascribed to the fifth-century bc physician Hippocrates — includes a very diverse range of views on medical treatment. These texts introduced the idea that good health required a balance of the four humours, and that changes in environment, diet, exercise, rest and overall attitude could alter this balance.
Of the humours Aristotle accorded a particular importance to blood, which he considered fundamental to determining the temperament and health of all living things. Hippocratic ideas about humours, and much else, were further codified and interpreted by Galen, a second-century ad physician whose voluminous writings on many aspects of medicine provided the backbone for early modern humoralism.
Galen, like the Hippocratic writers, emphasised the importance of diet to the maintenance of human health, a theme that also preoccupied Islamic healers. During the eighth to eleventh centuries humoral medicine flourished in Muslim kingdoms from southern Spain to Persia, where scholars read and debated Greek texts on medicine and many other topics.
They were joined by Christian physicians such as Arnau de Vilanova, an influential and prolific thirteenth-century Catalan doctor who taught at the University of Montpellier, served as royal physician to three kings of Aragon and composed dozens of widely disseminated medical texts. Galenic medicine as it was understood in early modern Spain was thus the creation of writers from ancient Greece, the Islamic world and medieval Christendom.
The foundations built by these writers endured until the late seventeenth century, when new models for understanding health and the human body began to replace the mutable humoral body.
Nonetheless humoralism provided a robust system for understanding human health and character premised on an assumption of continual interaction between the body and its environment. This flexible system underpinned the ways early modern Spaniards understood both their own bodies and the bodies of the new peoples they encountered in the Indies.
Familiarity with humoral principles was widely disseminated among educated Spaniards in both Europe and the new world, for Catholic Spain had long engaged with the traditions of both Greek and Arab humoralism.
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