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Desiderius Erasmus and Christian Humanism.

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Introduction

Desiderius Erasmus was an influential figure in the late fifteenth century movement that was Christian Humanism. Christian Humanists were proponents of religious reform of the church primarily through educational and social change (McKay, 455). They were interested in returning to the importance of the Scriptures as well as the revival of antiquity. After being pressured by his parents to become a monk, Erasmus joined an Augustinian monastery, but considered himself a scholar first and foremost. He lived as a devout Christian, but was concerned with the corruption that had spread through the religious positions of office. However, Erasmus believed that religious revolt led directly to anarchy; therefore he took the side of neither the Pope, nor the reform radical, Martin Luther (Erasmus, in Workbook, 64). Erasmus hoped to provoke people into questioning their confidence in religious authority through his writings as opposed to speaking out directly against the Romanists. As a result both parties, Luther and the Romanists, disliked him. Erasmus wrote The Praise of Folly as a satire in hopes that people would start to question the Romanists' religious authority. It is written from the point of view of Folly, a Greek goddess, who is disgusted with the ignorance and vanity of her worshipers. The goddess singles out different classes amongst her followers and exposes their faults. Erasmus insinuates that the faults of the followers which Folly points out are those of the Romanists. ...read more.

Middle

These "religious" beings have made a mockery of Christ's sacrifice for us. "To make miracles is primitive and old-fashioned, hardly suited to our times; to instruct the people is irksome; to interpret the Holy Scriptures is pedantry; to pray is otiose; to shed tears is distressing and womanish; to live in poverty is sordid; to be beaten in war is dishonorable and less than worthy of one who will hardly admit kings, however great, to kiss his sacred foot; and finally, to die is unpleasant, to die on the cross is a disgrace (Erasmus, The Praise of Folly, in Workbook, 71)." Martin Luther entered the monastery against his father's will. He was obsessed with bettering his relationship with God, and he dedicated his life to it. Still, he felt as though no works of charity were good enough for God. This discerning impression led Luther to believe that the only road to salvation is faith alone (Luther, Luther as Monk, in Workbook 84). Luther, like Erasmus, was concerned with the corruption of religious officials in the Catholic Church. He felt that indulgences were not valid in the eyes of God; one could not simply buy forgiveness of sins. The only way to achieve salvation was through faith, and to repent for wrong doings (Luther, The Ninety-Five Theses, in Workbook 86). ...read more.

Conclusion

Yes, both parties believed that reform must take place in the Catholic Church. Both parties we troubled by the corruption among religious officers. The main issue that separates the two individuals is the way each reformist communicated their arguments to the public. Erasmus was afraid that to speak out directly against the Pope would lead to religious and social anarchy. Luther used this very notion to his advantage. He utilized religious disorder as a way of showing the Romanists as well as the Christian public that change must be made. While Erasmus always pushed the envelope, he never stepped over his boundaries. He wrote with a satirical pen, and made his points through insinuations. Luther, on the other hand, knew no boundaries. He put his life on the line in order to stand up for the word of God and the Scriptures. The statement, "Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched" implies that both parties had the same religious beliefs through and through. The suggestion is that for whatever reason, Erasmus was not able to complete his reformation mission, and Luther picked up where Erasmus left off. This is not the case. Each individual had similar thoughts, but they did not express them in the same manner. If it were possible to interview both parties, what would their reactions to the statement be? During their lifetimes they did not get along. In death they would not change their beliefs. ...read more.

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