Luther And Erasmus Essay, Research Paper
The nature of individual?s role in salvation
from the point of view of Luther and Erasmus
Erasmus was one of the most intelligent people of his century. In his time, he was the leader of all scholars in Europe from Germany to Italy and Spain and from England to Hungary as well. He stands above the other humanists and forerunners of the reformation. His great mission was to bring back the spirit of classical and Christian. The first part of his life, specifically until 1524, as being “progressive and reformatory;” the second, until his death in 1536 was, “conservative and reactionary”.
While visiting fellow humanist Thomas More in 1509, Erasmus composed In Praise of Folly, his most famous and controversial work. Included are attacks on superstitious religious practices, uncritical theories held by traditional scientists, and the vanity of Church leaders. Erasmus attacks superstitious folk beliefs in ghosts and goblins as well as Christian rituals involving prayers to the saints. One such superstition involved the sale of indulgence certificates by the Catholic Church. An indulgence is a remission punishment for a sin, which reduces the time, which a person spends in purgatory. Erasmus continues satirizing an array of people and occupations, including peasants, poets, rhetoricians, layers and narrow-minded natural scientists. He turns to members of his own vocation: those who have taken monastic vows. They are neither religious nor monastic, and are too preoccupied with ritual. Although they take vows of poverty, they nevertheless make a of money through begging. Pulling no punches, Erasmus attacks the behavior of church leaders at the highest levels. The bishops live like princes. He argues that their true function would be evident if they noted the symbolism of their attire. In all his criticism of clerical follies and abuses he had always carefully hedged himself about with protests that he was not attacking church institutions themselves and had no enmity toward the persons of churchmen. The evils he had combated were either those of form, such as had long been a subject of derision by all sensible men, or they were evils of a kind that could be cured only by a long and slow regeneration in the moral and spiritual life of Europe.
In September of 1524, Erasmus came onto the scene with, “The Freedom of Will”. The book by Faulkner titled, Erasmus the Scholar, takes an in-depth look at what Erasmus had written. His work regarding free will took the catholic view in which man is free to accept or reject the grace of god; that grace is absolutely necessary; that it is given to man, but that its gift does not supercede, but rather stimulates and sanctifies, man’s freedom He expresses that to fall back upon someone’s religious and moral consciousness and say nothing further is an act of piety. To assert the bondage of well is even worse because that would place the souls of men in danger. The right to sin would be easily derived. Most of these conclusions could only be drawn by educated classes. Erasmus broke down the proof that could be found within scripture. Erasmus acknowledged that for freedom there are two main arguments. The first being the conception of God as a moral Person; and the second was the conception of the moral personality of man. Erasmus stated some of the following things: That whoever denies the freedom of the will makes God responsible for sin which would be inconsistent with God’s righteousness and goodness. The demands of God upon man assume his freedom, otherwise God would be a tyrant. There is human responsibility only when this is assumed. Erasmus brought out the point that freedom in the religious aspect is simply the power to receive or reject eternal salvation. This is where he brought race into play. He did not call it a natural endowment of man from God, but a transforming working power which goes out from God into the will of man. He stated that God could use force on man, but he does not. His interpretation concluded that God gives man his grace to be accepted or rejected.
“Two ?crimes? Luther has committed: he has attacked the tiara of the Pope and the bellies of the monks” said Erasmus. For a time Erasmus and Luther were friends. But when Erasmus would not accept some of Luther?s positions, Luther hurled venom at the peaceable scholar. Erasmus was in danger from both camps. Protestants said he did not come far enough; Catholics threatened him for going too far. For Erasmus, the Christian life was above all things Christ himself. Luther and Erasmus advocated a return to antiquity and an excitement for the golden age of Christianity and pagan Rome. They both had an interest in revolts against the mediaeval scholasticism. Another similarity lies in their child-hoods. They were both born into an era of individualism.
After Erasmus? “The freedom of Will”, Luther came out with “Slavery of the Will.” Luther thanked Erasmus for concentrating on the subject of free will alone and not going into controversies like the pope or indulgences. In his work, Luther points out his perspective on the issue. He felt that with God’s almighty power that all things happen by necessity, and that there can be no freedom of man. He made the comparison of a horse going only where its rider takes it. Luther did not believe that all scripture should be taken seriously.
Especially those involving repentance and holy living. He believes they should be taken as God trying to tell man to try to repent and do good, soon you will find out that it cannot be done. Another interesting point that Luther brings up is that we can never know when we have done enough, unless all judgement comes from God; but the ever all-working God is the, “sure rock of our salvation.” Another difference in which Luther separates himself is perception of the Holy Spirit. Luther excuses the power of the Holy Spirit as being unnecessary Erasmus makes the factor of God not only necessary but the major part. This work by Luther makes it easy to see that he was very glued to his view that God was so powerful that He was constantly surrounding all and causing their activities.
Luther is quoted as saying, “I gorge like a Bohemian and gulp down my liquor like a German” (Zweig 132). Luther also spoke in a powerful German voice that was full of vigor. Erasmus on the other hand was seen as a man of intellect. He was delicate with fair skin and a pleasant voice, unlike that of Luther’s. His behavior was seen as somewhat charming and graceful. Erasmus kept his mind open to a wide variety of topics. Luther had a more narrow concentration of thoughts. However, every thought that came his way would combine with his personality to form something like him. This made his expressions strong and powerful, gaining attention from the rest of the world. Erasmus? goal was tranquility of the soul and peace and Luther had his mind set on the activation of emotional tension.
While studying Luther and Erasmus, I found some interesting influences between them. At the same time, each other influenced them, they were also offended by each other in some ways. Erasmus emphasized that to be a true Christian, one has to mean what he says instead of just saying it and one has to live by Bible instead of just reading the Bible. He believed that the individual role in salvation was to think, to speak, to read and to live with Christianity before the Antiquity or Ancient Roman classical humanity.
Luther makes a connection between faith and sin. The very source of all sin is the unbelief in the depth of one?s heart. Just as faith alone gives one the spirit and the desire for doing works that are plainly good, so unbelief is the sole cause of sin. He believed that no one can give faith to himself, nor free himself from unbelief and God is the one with the power that one must do “works” to become upright and attain salvation.