Bernard of Clairvaux was one of the most important theologians of the church and his massive output cannot be summarized here. So, I will give a brief summary of his life and then some of the major theological points he made.
First, Bernard of Clairvaux was born in 1090 and lived until 1153. He was one of major forces in the Cistercian order and was the abbot for a long time.
Here are some of this theological contributions:
- He participated in the Council of Troyes and he helped to draft a document that the Knight Templar used for their order. Christians nobility also used this as a handbook. This also shows that Bernard was also crucial in the crusades.
- He also defended the church from the encroachment of the kings and other officials. In this sense, he created a sphere for the church. We might even say that there was a theology of separation of church and state in a embryonic form.
- He also had a very important role with Peter Abelard, who was one of the premiere theologians of the day. Abelard was very rationalistic in his theology and in particular his understanding of the trinity. Bernard was the one chiefly opposed to him. Faith was emphasized.
- Bernard also sent many monks all over Europe to create monasteries. From this perspective, he helped to shape European Christianity. At the end of his life there were 343 monasteries!
- From a progressive historical perspective, we can say that Bernard also foreshadowed what would take place in the Protestant Reformation. For example, he rejected the immaculate conception of Mary and he had a strong doctrine of Justification by faith alone.
In short, Bernard must be considered one of the great theologians of the church.