There are surely some things to be thankful for when one considers that we no longer live in the Middle Ages. Yet there is much that the Church might be able to glean by looking at the nature of medieval belief and the way the Church understood its place in the community and state (or perhaps the way the Church understood the place of the state and community within the broadest outlines of the Church).
One helpful way to look at the history of the Church is through the lens of ongoing growth and re-appropriation. We look back to look forward and we look forward to understand what is behind us.
Undoubtedly there are advances in the life of the Church that we must be grateful for – that goes without saying. Yet, even as I type this, I am anticipating the critique of those who will immediately apply the language and lens of modern criticism (“Yeah, let’s go back to monarchical, violent, patriarchy!”). Let’s not. But let’s also not think that the modern believer has a monopoly on the terms, signs, and substance of our faith.
There are a couple of areas in particular in which the medieval Church was on to something.