The intellectual activity of the first six centuries cannot be surpassed, nor prior to the Reformation are there controversies comparable to those of the ancient church. Instead of producing new content, the major task becomes that of adapting to subjective consciousness dogma as it already exists objectively. The tool for doing so is “reflective understanding,” which means that the content is inwardly reflected but cannot yet be produced by self-consciousness itself. The first part of the second major period is one of inaction and consolidation, holding up specific propositions called “sentences” from the writings of the fathers. Pope Gregory I founds a mission to Christianize the North European peoples, and it is among them that a new epoch in the history of dogma begins. The most important thinkers are John of Damascus and John Scotus Erigena.
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