Humanism, Historical Consciousness, and Philosophies of the Reformation



over recent decades scholars of the early modern European religious landscape have worked hard to disentangle the mass of socio-economic and cultural movements which both influenced and constituted the collapse of what Johan losing on one's called the waning or perhaps more euphemistically the autumn of the Middle Ages which began to see a disintegration in the critical mass of belief in Catholic traditional Christianity and opened up Europe to a proliferation of new veils on shaman worldviews once firmly entrenched in Northern Europe the so called humanist movement expanded the options for thinking teaching and exploring the world that had been passed down through the Middle Ages as a body of intellectual property common to all who could engage with it a new type of literary studies shaped by the reading of classical rhetoric and poetry in their original forms that is stripped of their excessive marginalia and commentary provoked numerous reforms in education and ultimately in the taste ethics and aesthetics of public life once coupled with a technology of viral dissemination the printing press this philosophy had initially spurred on the Renaissance beginning with the 14th century works of Dante and Petrarch and this led to a great influx of translations of classical texts and subsequently biblical texts to Renaissance humanism found its way into many disciplines and contexts by the turn of the sixteenth century precisely because it was ill-defined beginning with Lorenzo vollis falsification of the infamous donation of Constantine's historical authenticity circa 1440 the Italian Renaissance humanists gradually opened up the emerging northern european bulwa mind to of historical consciousness or temporal ization first among Ely literary circles in their public delet but eventually trickling down to the ear of the common man in the early decades following the turn of the sixteenth century the overlap between the new religious reform movements as typify by figures like Luther Calvin and Zwingli and the older humanist movement as typified by visit arias Erasmus etc was rooted in a shared passion for the pristineness of antiquity especially with regards to its literary products whether Christian pagan or otherwise as we shall see however by surveying a number of groundbreaking essays and monographs in the relatively recent historical literature about the Reformation this tense Alliance was unable to endure beyond the dispelling of misunderstandings between both parties as many older humanists could not part with their fundamentally stable Catholic worldviews and could especially not overlook Luther's revolutionary writings of 15-20 even less so after the peasants war of 1525 fearing that the reform movement and its corresponding open revolts threatened to tear apart the very fabric of society our survey begins with a close examination of church historian band Marella's sa first published in 1959 as des deutschen human Easton Mundi Anfang a death omen which was translated and first published for an English audience in 1972 as the German humanists and the beginnings of the Reformation now as a Protestant theologian himself murders chief concern was to address those scholars who refuse to see the Reformation as an actual historical event rather than merely a collection of theological phenomena with no real impact beyond the universities of scholastics and literary circles of Berger humanists Merlin urged his readers to envision the Reformation holistically as greater than the sum of its parts situating it at the heart of interactions between individuals and organisations throughout the 16th century in Roland Benton's foundational biography here I stand in 1950 there is very much a stress upon the medieval character of Luther at the expense of what could be called his renaissance humanist dimensions to Baynton Luther's individualism was not the individualism of the Renaissance seeking the fulfillment of the individual's capacities and it was not even the individualism of the late scholastics who on metaphysical grounds declared that reality consists only of individuals and that aggregates like the church and the state are not entities but simply the sum of their components his insistence rather was to see Luther somewhat devoid of his intellectual influences stating that Luther's theology simply hung on the crux quote that every man must answer for himself to God Murli on the other hand argued that revolutions with such deep an impact as the Reformation could not occur successfully without the appropriate pathways having been trod beforehand Sola scriptura could only be understood within the context of the return at fountas the humanist project of returning back to the source as such Merlin wrote in order to explore in what ways these two distinct movements Northern Renaissance humanism and the Reformation came to be conjoined throughout his work Merida demonstrates how rewarding it can be to go beyond the Titans of humanism in particular Erasmus locked within its paradigms of periodization the scholarship leading up to murders time had considered the debates between Erasmus and Luther as the case study par excellence which embodied the clash between the Renaissance and the Reformation conversely murder worked to show how multifaceted and hard to distill that situation had really mean one of his principal insights influenced by the work of Herbert Schaeffler was to consider the German humanist movement not as one monolithic bloc but of consisting of at least two groups divided by age or what Schaeffler had called a generational gap the most eminent humanists of Luther's day most notably Erasmus had all been members of an older generation of more moderate scholars who after resolving a number of misunderstandings pulled back from Luther's radical break with Rome it was however a younger generation of humanists like Philip Melanchthon who had spent much less time entrenched in the traditional Catholic paradigm that first supported Luther and continued to support him despite the personal risks that it entailed as Luther's message grew more and more uncomfortable it lost its appeal to the older generation of humanists most of whom were conciliar ists already comfortably established in scholarly leisure among the courts of European prints Mara did not think humanism to be an actual rarefied self conscious movement existing from the late 14th to the 16th centuries nor did he believe its proponents to have existed in a bubble rather he considered the word to be an anachronistic label created by a long and gradual culmination of 19th and 20th century historical scholarship which had finally settled on a word for an artificially demarcated phenomenon in other words the very prints of humanists Erasmus did not call himself a humanist this title was appended to him at a much later date nonetheless merrily recognised what we today call humanism as having had a dual inheritance being born of both medieval scholasticism and the mounted ET of the 13th and 14th century Italian Renaissance he was conscious of humanism 'he's essence as being quote only superficially described by such rigid concepts as the love of antiquity end quote since he rather conceptualized it as quote a gradual discovery of a new feeling for the world and for life a fresh enthusiasm for the power and freedom of man including a joyous readiness to learn about and to reshape earthly conditions end quote in other words the humanist worldview was not merely characterized by a recognition of the depth of historical time but also the projection of a potentially better future rooted in a simple piety they referred to as the Phaedo Sophia Christie among scholars like Erasmus Park himer or Luciano's Rufus quote the humanist heritage the rebirth of antiquity and especially of languages was a vocation and a lifelong project their guiding principle a concept formulated by Luciano's was the quasi epicurean Beata tranquil ITA's a tranquility which was not only manifest in the outward quiet contemplation of the so called good letters the bone Aleta died that is what we would today called the humanities but also in an inner ethical dimension which saw detachment from the passions best attained they believed precisely in scholarly pursuits this detachment writes melih quote made possible for them a reasonable simple worship free of all priestly servitude and superstition despite this worldview at the height of their popularity these literary luminaries were thronged about by swarms of enthusiastic but uncreated literati quote who exchanged the glory of the bone Aleta died for chattering and banal versifying and all too easily transformed the moral ideal of the philosophia Christi into an excuse for immorality end quote among the younger generation of humanists that is those who had come to Luther's aid this could not be sustained in his very own survey of the European Reformation first published in 1991 but updated and recently republished in 2012 even Cameron explains how Erasmus had envisioned a restoration Christi to Teo of Christianity that would parallel the rebirth over in asked Anthea of literature with the former to be ushered in by a close pan Yin ship with Scripture whose inescapable effect was the general improvement of morals this program however was not without its threats to the existing religious order since humanism was generally critical and negative in disposition and might be said today to have been more deconstructive than constructive and even though the Northern Renaissance is best considered just one among the many challenges to so-called traditional Christianity its practices were very seductive to the clergy itself making both priests and lay people alike more receptive to the vituperative critiques of Protestant reformers for intellectuals like the Hebrew scholar Johannes ocean a 1455 to 1522 or the boisterous poet and Knight Ulrich von Hutten 1488 to 1523 who repeated many of the stock criticisms levied against the clergy it was not considered unusual to do so while simultaneously counting numerous individual churchmen among your closest friends and allies following this early mode of living now humanism that is cultivating the quiet scholarly life either as an end in and of itself or as a means of achieving an ethical or religious goal there evolved a new pattern among the humanists which in Merlin's estimation arose only post 1500 this new paradigm broke with the traditional cyclical nature of time as embodied by the church's liturgical calendar with its annual round of seasons and Saints feasts and its emphasis on the ecclesia sin Junction super sullenly here no we asked there's nothing new Under the Sun now as humanists sought to extend the utility of their Classical Studies they began bringing the insights borrowed from the ancient world down to bear upon the affairs of contemporary everyday life quote by seeking not only to understand those conditions but to change them this new historicizing or temporal izing vision of the world found its expression not only among physicians natural philosophers and natural historians but also among lawyers one of the chief markers of this new vision was expressed in the intensification of humanists involvement in the bustling and bothersome political sphere Mariners stressed that it was only after 1500 that quote the positions of power at princely courts and in large imperial cities were being filled by humanistically trained men or at least that the occupants of these offices were taking remedial steps to obtain humanist training prior to 1500 German humanists locked away in their studies could not be bothered to participate in politics this process as mother explains was inextricably interconnected with the historical rise and development of the bourgeoisie Cameron outlines this very process when explaining how two main features of the old church above all suffered from humanist satire at one extreme there stood academic theology with its comedic lis rigorous and convoluted debates between competing scholastic schools or we I or VI and medieval Latin well at the other end there stood the credulous superstition and fetishism perceived as rampant in contemporary popular piety Karen tells us that both were attacked specifically because they did not make their exponents better that is it didn't make them more virtuous Christians as the humanists saw it theology suffered from being bogged down by technical logic or Aristotelian dialectic as used in medieval philosophy long considered to be the handmaiden of theology as such the school men were satirized for their painstakingly pedantic and morally unedifying debates or thought exercises forced through the lens of an inelegant and arcane latin jargon erasmus is goddess folly studia remarked how quote the Apostles baptised wherever they went yet nowhere did they teach the formal material efficient and final cause of baptism who could understand all of this unless he had frittered away over 36 whole years over the physics and metaphysics of Aristotle and SCOTUS now in spite of this Cameron reminds us that the struggle between scholasticism and humanism was not actually a clear-cut battle with pitched sides since these two spheres often collaborated and sometimes they even coexisted in the same person but ultimately humanism had very little official impact on the intellectual life of the universities in pointing out that systems stagnancy Merlin notes how many of the revolutionary figures of the 15th and 16th century so he gives the examples Nicolas of Cuza Copernicus Columbus and Guttenberg all worked totally independently of the universities and their hierarchical faculties which were still thoroughly entrenched in the Baroque practices of Aristotelian scholastic nevertheless it was in this very meteor that the Augustinian monk and professor of theology at Vinton Berg Martin Luther who was to make the most revolutionary of all discoveries by learning a new way of understanding the gospel the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ with which writes Miller quote he wrenched the whole fabric of the Western world and thereby redirected humanism as well and this great discovery as he calls it and no matters religionist language here could not have been conceived independently of the humanists theological research projects it would be an error therefore to think humanism did not have an indirect I'll be a traumatic effect upon the traditional University on account of the paradigm shift ushered in by Luther's unintended Reformation the perspective of Thomas a Brady jr. as discussed in his 1997 monograph focused on the strasbourg humanist and politician Jacob storm the politics of the Reformation in Germany is in agreement with Cameron in that it is an exceedingly common misconception to place too much stress on the opposition between scholasticism and humanism into two utterly irreconcilable intellectual camps one major factor in complicating attitudes toward humanist practices in german-speaking regions was the knee-jerk reaction against all things Italian and while Italy was the birthplace of humanism it was also the birthplace of papal ISM which the largely conciliar imperial churchmen of the german regions typically rejected or critiqued Brady gives us an example the Viennese theologian Konrad Saum nur who scoffed at quote the poets rightly said to be dilettante and who also claimed that in our days since the overthrow of the general councils Italian authors have shown me little expertise in the higher learning or in morals conducive to the building up of Holy Church nevertheless it would be a mistake to give up the impression that all Germans were scandalized insulted by or suspicious of Italians and their cultural output Luther's eventual tirades or Ulrich von Hutton's chauvinism did not represent average sentiments and in fact some Germans like Albrecht Durer have found Italy most welcoming with his famous line written to per climber on October 13 1506 quote Here I am a gentleman back home a mooch now moving beyond the false dichotomy of admirers versus critics Brady tells us of a pervasive sentiment throughout the 15th and 16th centuries the german-speaking scholars ought to imitate the Italian passion for learning and thereby expunged the german-speaking lands of their reputation for drunkenness indolence and barbarity now it was in 1425 while working in HESA that the Florentine John Francesco poggio broccolini his dates of 1382 1459 had uncovered the very last copy of Tacitus get ammonia renowned as an Italians admiration of Germanic noble savagery in an age of Roman decadence once brought to Rome in 1455 Aeneas Silvio Piccolomini who would later become Pope Pius a second spread its fame far and wide across the Holy Roman Empire above all the recovery of this man serial ancient texts encouraged German scholars to continue providing the people those who could read or who would at least listen with a meaningful past that might awaken a pride of their ancestry and a desire to emulate and thereby surpass the Italians this program of specifically German humanism received its most vigorous impetus by Conrad Bickle 1459 to 1508 also known for his pen name keltus on August 31st 1492 Bickle lectured at English table admonishing Germans to immerse themselves in the rich histories of the ancient world quote shame on you who are ignorant of Greek and Latin history but far more of rivers mountains monuments and people of our land take up again that spirit you German men which once made you the nemesis of the Romans now turn turn you out Germans to more peaceful studies and wind thereby immortality and your country's eternal praise now according to Brady explicit patriotism and the concern for one's individual reputation were developed as high ideals for German humanists throughout the empire in the 16th century and these values unfurled largely without resistance since humanist studies occurred principally among Berger literary circles and only unofficially among the universities the movement crusaded for better Latin and emphasized the humanities but insofar as it did this it did not directly attack scholastic learning this assault would not be organized until about 1510 when Erasmus was at the height of his influence over german-speaking humanists especially so after the 15:11 publications of his hit anti-clerical and comb IAM in praise of folly around 1500 rights Brady and I quote the spirit was different more relaxed and more in tune with traditional culture the writers of this age possessed a confidence in a tested value of the genres and themes of older vernacular literature end quote but all this would soon very rapidly change throughout the 15 tens the standards for Goodlett inity rose sharply as older writers like vin filling and hussein backed off and their juniors waged savage literary wars against what they perceived to be the poor results delivered by the mendicant orders and their traditional modes of teaching an example of this can be found in the infamous letters of obscure men written 1515 to 1517 which ranked against bad latin the edifice of scholasticism and the friars trained in philosophy theology and law who upheld the official institutions of higher learning vim foolin kicked up a storm of criticism when he put forth the argument that st. Agustin had never actually been a monk and he especially criticized monks for seducing patronage by the lady with unfounded claims yet up until the 1510 Brady tells us that the German humanists were ultimately neither very productive nor very militant and despite all their criticisms nothing was more distant from their minds than a radical reform of the church as they quickly filled up the ranks of those who benefited from personal patronage and the status quo initially we are told by Cameron it was a respect for the idea of church which had prevented the human and they're potentially subversive scholarly techniques from bringing them to bear on the texts which made up the Bible it was only through a series of publishing milestones that the idea of applying textual criticism to the Scriptures was gradually broached first with Giovanni Pico della Mirandola x' work on the Psalter then Erasmus is publication of Lorenzo valla sonnet at Sione's in 1505 then hush rains arrangement of a functional Hebrew manual in 1506 and then the commentaries on Saint Paul by Jacques Lefebvre tapped in 1512 a less well-known outgrowth of this chain of publications was a compilation of the polyglot Bible at the Spanish University of alcalá published in 1520 in principle anxieties ran high on account of the new threats that grammarians were posing to the monopoly of authority held by the theologians who ranked astronomically higher in the hierarchy of medieval academia turning now to focus on Luther specifically we can see how this area of concentration despite this cultural climate was largely indifferent to the humanities in fact Luther would generally make a habit of fighting against the humanists fashionable practices of finding all their answers to theological problems in the practice of textual criticism were against their lukewarm philosophy ax Christi but above all and without a doubt there was one scholarly project which had nevertheless been critical in persuading Luther toward his own ultimate theological conclusions the doctor from Wittenberg would never have come to interpret the Scriptures in the way he did were it not for his enthusiastic use of erasmus 'as retranslation and a dish of the Koine Greek New Testament known as the Textus Receptus which had first been published in 1517 while Luther was busy lecturing on Paul's epistle to the Romans years later while hiding out in the saxon castle of the fatberg under the pseudonym young k org it was the second edition of this text printed in 1519 which luther was to translate into accessible german modeled upon the simple speech of the common man its intended audience Erasmus had initially objected to the Vulgate principally because he perceived it to be a corrupt and unreliable version he and voilá before him had demonstrated how the Bible could not safely be studied in the Vulgate were really in any Latin translation without risking serious misinterpretation in their minds the theologians needed to know the language of the original scriptures and to correct its text and incidentally thanks to the intellectual climate created by humanism Luther was one such theologian once the Greek editions had been collated and compared against Jerome's Latin Vulgate in use since late antiquity a number of discrepancies began to arise and this led to a proliferation of new emphases with this whole new perspective on the Word of God in the Latin West a perspective which they believed more closely resembled the Bible's authors initial intentions it was then only a matter of determining where the stress ought to go the proliferation of various reformist traditions would eventually emerge as a direct result of what words or passages in this newly recovered text were believed should be emphasized for example there are 39 passages in the Bible used to stress justification by faith alone and 40 passages typically employed to defend the Catholic tradition of faith coupled with works of course Luther would not deny the existence of passages like James 2:17 where we are told quote faith without works is dead but to him the emphasis of the gospel message of the good news was embodied in verses like Romans 3:28 where Luther's translation stressed that quote we conclude that man is justified by faith alone with that final word alone being an insertion of his own having to defend his translation methods in 1530 Luther justified adding this word alone to his translation in part with reference to native German idioms but chiefly in terms of his principle dogma in Cameron's words the reformer arrived at his beliefs through Scripture and then interpreted and translated Scripture as best conformed to those beliefs Luther's first revelation in working with Erasmus as Greek had been the proof borrowed from the earlier fill illogical work of Lorenzo valla that in Matthew 3 1 2 3 where a traditional interpretation had understood John the Baptist to be admonishing the Jews to do penance he noticed had the nuance of the original Greek was simply that John was telling them change your minds Metanoia t I loo Thursday however the reading of Meta Knight a as an exhortation to penance or conversion had become a self-evident tradition according to Linda Roper Luther's most recent biographer quote it seems to have persuaded Luther that the idea of satisfaction for sin which Erasmus thought uncivilized was actually against the gospel and that all forms of penitential or compensatory behavior were to be identified with the works st. Paul had disparaged as a contribution to righteousness end quote through Luther's emphasis on justification by faith alone Sola Fida that is by a critter ously given grace received in a state of unstring trust in God's mercy he preached that expiation and satisfaction were irrelevant to one's reconciliation with God God could not be appeased by rituals and operations which were deemed no better in his eyes than offerings of mud now Cameron outlines how a concept like grace when defined and expressed specifically in Latin carried along with it whole set of etymological baggage of its own it was only once humanists biblical scholars had demonstrated that the range of meanings in that Latin word were absent from its Greek and Hebrew equivalents that Reformation theologians could begin freely doing away with centuries of exegetical tradition fill illogical Corrections of accepted texts here and there led to the re-evaluation of the authenticity of entire books of the Bible such that even Luther would come to doubt the a past olicity of some of the New Testaments later epistles most reformers believed Erasmus in his proclamations that Paul was probably not the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews though they still regarded its contents as inspired and derived from the Apostles teachings though the word held supreme authority the very authority of that word now depended on the pronouncements of literary men whose work could only be verified by others who possess the same training that is a lifelong interest in humanist pursuits as a critical point to his 1985 essay Christianity and the West 1,400 to 1700 John Bosse emphasizes that since quote in the beginning was the word it should be of no surprise that especially from this period onward the rising importance of the spoken and written word brought along with it the proportional devaluation of images and symbols with the ascent of the word came the devaluation of the whole collective edifice of church tradition represented by the Saints the sacraments and over a thousand years of unwritten tradition that is extra biblical tradition in favor of quote and naked confrontation with the scriptures as Ian Cameron is keen to point out foreshadowing the more radical reformers and impending peasant uprisings quote there was always a risk that unlearned people who read only small parts of the Bible would fly off into realms of fancy and devise exotic new ideas for themselves on the basis of their readings end quote which is why the school men had settled the problem in teaching that implicit faith absolved believers of having to know and understand every detail of church doctrine in line with the teachings of st. Agustin piety and obedience to the institutional church would suffice to guarantee eventual salvation the northern humanists on the other hand assumed that the Bible could safely be handled by the barely literate in so far as they would only be able to extract examples of virtue from it in other words that they would only react to the Bible in the same way that educated humanists had leading up to his paradigm shifting discoveries as Merlin calls them Luther had begun his academic career as a rather average student placing 30th out of his cohort of 57 baccalaureates though she cannot be certain Roper believes it was academic philosophy which initially ignited Luther's curiosity even if he grumbled about being forced to study it Erfurt University had been a stronghold for the via Madonna more commonly known as nominalism a branch of scholastic philosophy which was first developed by William of Occam in the 14th century the Weah Madonna had broken away from the via Antiqua of Thomas Aquinas and danced CODIS among the ranks of Luther's teachers there had been cutting-edge nominal lists who composed textbooks that served as standard teaching tools rooted in a somewhat wayward medieval reception of classical platonic and Aristotelian philosophies the underlying assumption of the via Antiqua was that things were what they were because they were particular occurrences of universal principles so chairs were the expressions of the universal principle of chair the nominal lists however those whose via Madonna would ultimately dissolve the European dream time which ate ubiquitous medieval real some had conjured forth argued from the assumption that universals were not real entities but merely labels no Mina for particular objects Roper gives us Luthor's own words describing some twenty years later a debate which would have seemed rather abstruse to the new generations quote the dispute and squabble among them was whether the word Humanitas humanity and words of this kind meant a general humanity which was to be found in all humans the alchemists and terminus –ts said this common humanity is nothing rather it means all humans in particular in other words to the so called realist the signifier and the signified are one to the nominalist the signifier and the signified existed independently a notion which would have profound implications especially in regards to one of the central mysteries of the Catholic Church the question of transubstantiation for what was the eucharist of the high mass once divorced from the reified presence of Christ from ropers perspective the influence of humanism on Luther's intellectual life is typically over emphasized as seen in the way she put more weight on the influence of nominalist university training which most certainly shaped his style of argumentation but here we see even Luther's schoolteachers were in some way complicit with the program of humanism quote this is taken from Lindahl ropers Martin Luther renegade in profit page 45 Luther made it clear later that he had been on the side of the aquas who encouraged critical thinking and stressed the importance of empirical evidence true to the humanist principle of returning to the sources his teacher Bartolomeo Arnoldi of losing in and joko destroyed fetter used Aristotle's original texts not just medieval commentaries on them and it must have been dizzying to tackle the works themselves rather than viewing through a haze of inherited comments and glosses end quote here we can see how Roper emphasizes the impact of humanism on Luther but only indirectly therefore we can still see how in Luther there was combined both the training of the nominalist schoolmen and the ad fountas approach to humanist learning whereas the popular humanists of his day with whom he would frequently exchange correspondence typically did not have a foot in both worlds as pointed out by Peter Blakely the great diversity of thought in Reformation theology would ultimately be derived from all of the varied ways one could interpret Luther's theology since its structure was dialectical it was framed in such sets of paradoxical antithesis as seamen useless at packet or righteous and sinful simultaneously or for example grace and judgment law and gospel the letter of Scripture and the Spirit of Scripture faced with these sets of paradoxes Luther's students and associates found themselves falling on one side of the fence or another giving each individual reformer their own shade of interpretation this was both the greatest strength and weakness of Luther's theology since it could inoculate individuals without having to force any systems to it clothes but it often led to eventual contention and infighting over one disagreement or at some point down the line in Bullock Lee's words the particular moment a reformer encountered Luthor could determine his direction even though Luthor's thinking might go on developing in completely original pads the theological standpoints of each reformer were determined by their respective inheritance of medieval traditions and they're given socio-political environment so in brief blick lee has Reformation theology broken down into three main camps the Wittenberg theologians surrounding Luther the Christian humanists around singly colum partyís and Martin Butte sir and the theologians of the spirit around Munster whereas the circle around singly imbue sir would fall on the side of the law in Luther's dialectic between law and gospel the moon sir group tinged by visionary mysticism would fall on the side of spirit in Luther's dialectic between the letter and the spirit of the gospel in spite of the fact that from 1517 onward Luther enthusiastically exchanged letters with humanists such that he even began to sign off his letters to hush lay and Erasmus with the humanistically inspired pen name eleutherios that is Greek for the liberated one and/or the Liberator instead of Martin Luda which is his real name as far as he was concerned the pursuits of the humanists were but a means to an end from Merlin's perspective and I quote here this is from page 23 of Mena's Imperial cities Luther had absolutely no understanding of the real heart of humanism its feeling for life and its correspondingly high evaluation of man thus regardless of exactly how one understands Luther's reforming discovery and opinions on this point are certainly most diverse it cannot in any case be deduced from the intellectual world of humanism Luther's discovery was more a rejection of that world one could better call it a monastic discovery end quote notwithstanding this stress on the university bound monastic character of Luther's paradigm shattering discovery merrily highlights the enthusiasm which animated the humanists both young and old to take up his cause and message into town council chambers and into the halls of princes and only as such had Luther finally become a factor in the calculations of politicians although not on any large scale before 1520 among the older generations from hosni Erasmus vim fillings osseous and / Kaymer to the younger one there is hardly a single humanist who in those early years did not have high praise for Martin Luther Martin Butte sir in his glowing May 1st 1518 report on Luther's Heidelberg disputation wrote to Baptists Rinna knows describing Luther as quote one man who seemed to stand out for what Erasmus merely implies this Luther teaches openly and freely and quote Peter moesel honest Wolfgang Caputo protis Roubaix honest and Beata Sara Nana's Vitas Hipparchus and Ulrich von Hutten all praised the fruits of Luther's intellectual labors even the men who were about to turn against him bitterly like cochlea sand Fabri initially received him warmly there is therefore no doubt whatsoever that it was these humanists who played the pivotal role in dragging Luther's Bree embassy's out from the margins of modest Wittenberg and into the hands of Western Europe's most powerful men and women all this to say in medizone point words no humanism no Reformation Mara is keen to note that in general there was only one characteristic which impressed Luther's peers unanimously namely the depth of his learning even in 1518 historian Franz irenic as' proclaimed that among all the Germans we wanted to honor dr. Martin Luther with the name of standard-bearer on account of the exceptional erudition attained by so great amen Maren Oates had the humanist Bernhard Adelman a canon of Augsburg even went as far as to equivocate the words learned with Lutheran perhaps would award the humanists most of all however was Luther's vituperative attacks against the too-big-to-fail edifice of scholasticism though these were more directed at the via Antiqua than the via Madonna at least in his early life it was this opinion which initially set him in Lee with the humanists sharing in a sense of their solidarity now the most commonly cited example of Luther's rejection of scholasticism is in the sentence from his disputation against scholastic theology 1517 claiming that quote all of Aristotle is to theology as darkness is to light or as in a 1517 letter to his friend John Lang that quote our theology and that of st. Augustine are advancing very well Aristotle is gradually declining n quo in one particularly colorful passage published in his later and more radical appeal to the ruling class written 1520 you writes I cannot avoid believing that the evil one introduced the study of Aristotle on the same principle his book on ethics is worse than any other book being the direct opposite of God's grace and the Christian virtues yet it is accounted among one of his best works Oh away with such books from any Christian hands let no one accuse me of overstating the case or object that I do not understand my dear sir I know well enough what I am saying Aristotle is as familiar to me as to you and your life I have read him and studied him with more understanding than st. Thomas Aquinas or Duns Scotus without pride I can make that claim and if it needs be prove it it makes no difference that for centuries so many of the best minds have devoted their labors to him such objections do not affect me as they once did for it is plain as the day that the longer the lapse of time the greater the errors which abound in the world and the universities Luther would gladly have retained Aristotle's books on logic rhetoric and poetics or at least in abridged forms but only insofar as they were useful in training young men to speak and preach it ultimately was the marginalia which had to be dispensed with such that classical texts could be read in their purest form without the extraneous commentary this would be the essence of Erasmus project to set the simplicity purity and reasonableness of Christianity against the life denying Scholastic system with its obscurity and lack of concern for the sources and against the narrow mindedness of its contemporary representatives above all merliss stressed that Luther was only able to make his scriptural principle understandable that is his rejection of tradition unfounded in Scripture in an age that had been primed by and for humanist ideals such proposals for reform would have been and were unintelligible fifty or a hundred years before Luther whereas the earlier humanists had stress an inclusive sense not without Scripture Luther stressed exclusivity that is by scripture alone naturally this uneasy alliance between the doctor of Wittenberg and the humanists was not bound to endure as Luther's arguments ripened and matured his attacks grew beyond mere theological disputation and began spilling over into criticisms of church practice with little respect to Authority except for that which was perceived by others to be his own bit by bit the older generation of humanists began to develop a clearer picture of Luther's more radical character finally abandoning him all together after 1520 Luther found himself sustained by the graces of common folk and by politicians allowing him to begin to cut his final ties with humanism as the evangelical movement looked disproportionately to a hopeful future the love of antiquity lost much of its appeal to the extent that much to Philipp Melanchthon x' dismay university students began setting aside their humanist studies on mass and among the older generation murder maintains the church promised more leisure for studies perhaps even with the assistance of a nice benefits and the peaceful opportunity to purify Christendom through quietly effective persistent influence the general atmosphere of eagerness to act in the reform movement ran counter to the humanists unwillingness to overthrow the old world order by force by 1519 Erasmus had already been recommending civil modesty to Luther Matias declared quote I for one do not love the fanatical stone-throwers in even Cameron's words the humanists were not as a rule popularizers quote they based their piety on education learning and moral self-control all of which were essentially elitist principles neither appealing nor practical for all the clergy let alone the people as a whole end quote humanist jurists and politicians remained especially cold towards Luther in typically urban and heavily stratified environments the moderates found themselves at a loss in cow towing to radicals throughout his survey Cameron challenges the assumptions that the Reformation inevitably must have happened precisely when it did on account of some kind of crisis within the Catholic Church he contests the assumption that people wanted quote the Reformation since the evidence rather points toward the fact that many people did not want it indeed the idea of reform was nothing new by the 1500s the call for reform of the priesthood had become not a newly recognized problem but a well-worn literary cliche stretching even back to the 12th century in the end disillusionment with Catholic piety and worship were not responsible for the mass dissatisfaction with the church rather it was on account of problems with the church's involvement in a great mass of secondary bloated administrative roles which garnered a reaction Cameron lists off a number of popular myths about the Reformation so corruption from within the laity versus the church a lay spirit and religion etc and he notes that it is only when all heaped together that these numerous challenges appear as though they were bringing the church to its knees hence the ubiquity of chapter or lecture titles the read something along the lines of the weakness of the church on the eve of the Reformation in reality the challenges the church faced at the time were diverse and fragment just like the church was itself at the time it was not some monstrous monolithic authoritarian entity wary of putting forth anymore essentializing grand narratives Cameron leaves us with an apt picture of the Reformation as one seemingly plagued by paradoxes it was both anti-clerical and theocratic liberating and disciplinarian vulgar rising end elitist and in short popular and unpopular end quote the Catholic Reformation he frames as evolutionary and the Protestant Reformation he frames as revolutionary in each of their respective Luther biographies Baynton Oberman and Roper all stressed the unexpectedness of the Reformation and the fact that Luther was in no way deliberately trying to spark a revolution especially given that he wrote forcefully against those who did for example against the murderous and thieving hordes of peasants quote the great revolt against the medieval church faintin rights arose from a desperate attempt by Luther to follow the way by her prescribed end quote Luther's Christology was the same as that of the church Christ was fully man and fully divine a problem only to the philosopher not to the faithful and he even maintained the real presence of Christ in the sacrament in fact it was over this very difference in sacramental belief that much of Zwingli's hostility toward the Catholic clergy was retro projected onto Luther quote it was in the urban Reformation Baynton tells us that long harbored social resentment against privileged clerics made real inroads here is the anti-clerical tendency one searches for vainly in luther end quote it was a thoroughly Protestant eyes Luther from the 19th century imagination not the real Luther that completely lost sight of the church though catholic scholarship has likewise in its own way maintained this separatist view based on his belief in Sola scriptura Luther was anti papal not anti Church since it was the institution which had long been considered the very body which shouldered the head that was Christ throughout his life Luther still engaged with the writings of the church fathers insofar as what they had to say about matters of scriptural exegesis it is therefore that Overman did not paint a Protestant or even political Luther despite what others did and believed in the wake of his dissertation Roper likewise presents us with a luther steeped in social conservative ism whose final days were dedicated to reaching some kind of agreement with the so called sacrament Aryans notwithstanding his use of violent language all modern biographical accounts of Luther portray him as explicitly anti violence even all this nonetheless would not have been enough to satisfy the criticisms of older generations of humanists it is again important to consider chef fellows note that virtually all of the humanists who continue to flock to Luther's banner after his break with the church were younger than him while the venerable members of the older generation Erasmus Hashanah Zaccheus vim fling / Kaymer and put in yer each gradually turned their backs on Luther moreover while all the reformers tended to be young not all young humanists joined the Reformation anxieties about the future that the Reformation might bring did not disturb the younger humanists on the contrary it was the very struggle against the old order which the younger generations found so attractive in the first place Marla tells us that Luther taught this younger generation quote that criticism of Romanism could have a much more profound basis than humanist ideas and that one could turn from mere criticism to constructive renewal end quote the young humanists embraced not merely Luther's project for reform but also the notion that man was free to act through faith in the forgiveness of God an idea which would come to have dangerous ramifications by the time it reached the ears of the peasants leading up to their great revolt of 1525 turning now to the work of Peter Blakely the revolution of 1525 first published in German in 1977 then soon after translated by Thomas a Brady jr. and Eric middle fort in 1981 we must focus our attention on the development of a new mindset which would not be used by university theologians and fork winters of princely courts but by the common german peasant in forming a mass movement against the ever intensifying strictures of the feudal order Blakely concentrated his attention on the reform inspired 12 articles written by humanists to map out the socio-economic and political background of the revolution in 1525 for Blakely the best way to understand the revolution was to lay out its goals we are told that by basing their demands on the Bible the twelve articles constructed an alternative framework and thus pointed a way out of the late medieval crisis which had become a social and political crisis as well as an agrarian one though it was an entirely unintended consequence the combined efforts of Luther's nominalism and the humanists revival of the ancient world including the biblical world through philology and print helped to foster the idealization of a new utopian order believed by these murderous thieving hordes of peasants to be able to overturn an economic crisis which had slowly been forming since the aftermath of the Black Death circa 1350 and here I quote blick Lee from page 155 of the revolution of 1525 godly law as the peasants understood the Bible paralyzed the old law and custom and thus gave the rebels their first real opportunity to break out of the continuity of medieval legal and intellectual traditions insofar as godly law was derived from evangelical preaching and from the Reformation pamphlet the theology of the Reformation assumes a position of great importance for the revolutionary movement of 1525 to be sure the peasants were original in giving an imperative urgency to godly law when applied to the conditions of this world but we do know that the Reformation also provided legitimacy for the peasants demands end quote from this the question immediately arises to what extent Reformation theology and/or humanist ethics affected the goals of a rebels in 1525 among the labels and names used by the radicals alongside their organized additional structures and ideals of legitimacy Blakely notes how there are two different ways in which these could be explained on one hand they represented a break with what they perceived as the twisted and spoiled traditions of a distant past while on the other they marked a new starting-point quote toward the radical realization of a political and social order corresponding to the will of God and they projected this into an idealized future typically however it was not humanism or the reform movement itself which directly caused such an uprising instead it was the restrictions associated with serfdom that he considered the most important of their grievances both quantitatively and qualitatively a fact arrived by looking at the grievance list from uh persuade BIA he notes how hunting fishing and lumbering restrictions featured in eighty-one percent of these lists meaning again that this turmoil was primarily the result of a crisis in agriculture in these peasants ability to sustain their existences in the face of ever multiplying prohibitions not necessarily based on a problem with the institution of landlord ship itself nevertheless it was through the principles of community elections godly law and the common good and Christian brotherly love that the peasants burgers and miners justified themselves in overriding the specific interests of other groups or estates the purported goal of their program was quote to shape the world exactly according to the will of God to actualize the message of Christ laid down in the New Testament and thus to secure eternal salvation end quote it is certain that the Wittenberg school of Reformation theology wanted nothing to do with such utopian ideations or the violence needed to implement them but the notion of exploiting the gospel and bringing it to bear upon the political order was intimately linked with the goals of Christian humanists in southern Germany as far as ving glee was concerned though Christ was certainly considered holy human and holy divine it was Christ's divinity which loomed in the foreground while his humanity stood in the background this emphasis of Bingleys would have various ramifications particularly for his idea of how a state ought to be run and how its ruling authorities should act the message from acts 5 9 we must obey God rather than man was hotly contested whereas for Luther this verse had given him a clean conscience in his passive resistance to the state over theological debates as finge Lee extracted from it a complete political program preaching that Christian Prince's need laws that are not opposed to God's otherwise they will not be obeyed and there will be unrest all laws governing the affairs of men Zwingli thought must be rooted in what he considered to be natural law do unto others as you would have them do unto you Matthew 7:12 or love your neighbor as yourself Matthew 22 39 to 40 and if a law prescribed did not fit with this Word of God it was illegitimate for swingley natural law and the gospel were two sides of the same coin since he believed them to be derived from the same root the law of nature is nothing but the leadership and guidance of God's Spirit he said though of course only true Christians could rightly understand natural law since it was an emanation of God's will from this perspective it logically followed that even if secular laws and authorities were desirable as Luther believed they were only so in as far as they were quote protecting the good who don't really need government among themselves and punishing the wicked thereby leading them to a knowledge of natural law end quote heads fing Lee believed that all the current Lords of the land were actually Christians he would have not considered himself among the ranks of the Reformers at all the old laws he claimed needed to be vetted by reform minded humanists preachers of course to ensure that they conformed to God's law of neighbor and of nature this was a radical philosophy and in most cases it implied the need for a complete recodification of territorial law particularly in the form of drafting new ordinances in this way the office of preacher and of magistrate became inextricably intertwined the church was obligated to the state and the state to the church in the formulation of this Christian state through the prescription of natural law and through making community his organizing principle it's finger forged a constitutional foundation that was largely indistinguishable from the revolutionary peasants aims around 1525 Luther on the other hand had no desire to promulgate this idea that the state relied on its Christian virtue for its legitimacy since over and above the message of acts 5:29 he emphasized the message of Matthew 22:21 render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are gods it was in light of all this that Luther wanted nothing to do with the composition of new secular ordinances and at the other end of the spectrum thomas müntzer widely proclaimed that given the imminence of the eschaton and christ's return to judge the living and the dead the binding power of worldly laws was rapidly loosening by the time of the mass riots and revolts of 1525 we can see how the largely anti-humanist character of the radical reform movement had fully overwritten the early movements more ambivalent perspective across Western Europe the first discernible sign that a dramatic reconceptualization of Christianity was underway was the outright rejection of the Saints mobs whether sanctioned by public authorities are not wandered about systematically vandalizing the Saints images painted on canvas or carved in marble wood or stone according to John Bosse where this was not simple Philistine ism it represented a protest against the humanization of the social universe affected in traditional belief by the reconciliation of man and god in as much as saints were believed to share in god's divinity by that much they were despised they were the very embodiment of the belief in meritorious sacrifice and the concomitant belief that this merit could be imparted from one human to another john Bosse describes how thomas moore sensed a personal hatred lying under the surface of reformist talk about idolatry and quote would not have been surprised by the mutilation i couching faced battering decapitation and jibba ting to which the statues in netherlands churches including those of christ were subjected in 1566 and quote for him there could be no clearer evidence of the reformers erroneous beliefs that people had been taking statues to be the very Saints themselves it did not take long for iconoclast to find justification either since God's unwillingness to avenge his alleged friends and their incapacity to avenge themselves was as great a testimony of their in efficacy as any Rome certainly got the message and took some time to reformulate its official stance bossy tells us that it gradually adopted the specifically humanist notion that a saint was a model of virtue rather than a friend or benefactor and presented heroic figures for public wonder or imitation not for private affection the large gestures of the baroque saint were made toward an audience of thousands not to the kneeling donor or the old woman lighting her candle ver ninis st. Teresa in the throes of ecstasy was too far gone to instill intimacy or encourage reciprocity while Caravaggio's dead virgin was too close for comfort and so it was that Protestant distaste for images over emphasizing human piety in favor of the unfettered sovereignty of God redirected the emphasis of Catholic devotion toward new objects such as the Holy Family or the Sacred Heart in hindsight it was the printing press which could be said to have had the most deleterious effect upon sacred images as it did upon rituals and symbols even if the press itself was a manufacturer of images quote deprived of other sustenance for the visual sense writes bossy Protestants feasted their eyes on these John Calvin whose first scholarly work was a commentary on the stoic philosopher Senecas de clemente ax and who subsequently wrote theology with humanist elegance had consciously experimented with the new medium of the printed word improving upon and reorganizing his Institutes with each successive addition in both Latin and French as he tells us himself calvin learned as he wrote and one of the things he learned was that the order of matters proper to the lecture-room was not necessarily right order in a work of art providing us a sense for how even in spite of the reformation and general devaluation of the human centric worldview humanist values endured even if reluctantly or unconsciously among the works of later 16th century reformers it is for this reason that Philip Benedict in his most recent survey of Calvinism emphatically claims that the Reformation cannot be framed simply as mere reaction against central features of late medieval religiosity since it also constituted quote the continuation and intensification of trends in religious life that had gained strength during the waning Middle Ages it is then quote no accident that later reformed histories began with the story of the Reformation not with Luther's protest against indulgences but with the humanist recovery of the Gospels and included Savonarola and Young hosts among the profits of the true faith it is for this reason that also in rejection of the old paradigms of periodization which exert a great amount of control over how we conceptualize history but Bosse wrote note of decline and Reformation but of traditional Christianity and Christianity translated in his Magisterial treatment of the 16th century Protestant inner life Alec riri offers us one final penetrating insight namely what spective humanism was most reviled in the spirit of the Reformation RiRi described how the main affront to early Protestant emotion was not a product of the Middle Ages but antiquities now reviled suspicion and contempt for emotion the perception which Greek philosophy had had of the emotions was as animalistic and sub intellectual such a perception crystallized just before the advent of the Christian era into both stoicism and Epicureanism which in their own ways aspired to overcome emotions altogether incidentally a critical ingredient in setting the foundation for a takeover by Christian ethics humanist scholars from the 15th century onward had zealously revived stoic and epicurean philosophies but not uniformly and often not instead of Christianity but as an addendum for the improvement of the philosophic Christie and its gentlemanly lifestyle as the world of secular philosophy buzzed with these newly revived ancient teachings RiRi explains how Christian humanists whether Protestant or Catholic were more likely to revel in their passions than to stifle them and here I'm quoting from rear e's being Protestant page 19 quote Erasmus derided stoic views on the passions as monstrous and later Protestants Calvin included were outspoken in their agreement the stoic ideal cultivated indifference in the face of pain or loss but for Calvin and many others Jesus Christ's anguish and his passion proved not only that such feelings were legitimate but also that suffering in Christ's service was of positive value for Christians it taught reliance on God and compassion for others emotion was not a hindrance it was a two end quote this attitude differed not only in degree but in kind from that which came before it that is the medieval Catholic scholastic view of the emotions as appetites to be tamed or the Aristotelian view of them as passions to be tempered and subordinate to the higher faculties as encapsulated by one pithy aphorism Protestantism was ultimately enamored by human isms historical consciousness and its practice of philology but by and large it could do without the Renaissance more strictly secular philosophical fruits the idiom goes I would not be a stoic to have no passions but a Christian to order those I have to the point of becoming cliche it is often said of Luther that and so far as his spirit was concerned he lived out the remainder of his days with one foot still caught in the Middle Ages by the time Luther came into the world in 1483 only fifteen years had elapsed since Gutenberg's death and printed pamphlets and books had only just begun to circulate modern science as we know it today was hardly yet born since by the end of Luther's life Galileo's birth was still 18 years to come in his latter days word arrived to him that a Polish clerk named Copernicus had issued a book allegedly dismantling the Ptolemaic system inherited from ancient Greece by proving that the earth revolved around the Sun Copernicus is only disciple the mathematician rheticus 1514 215 74 was a prominent member of the Vinton burg faculty who had helped with the publication of his master's on the revolutions of the heavenly spheres Luther was impressed least of all denouncing Copernicus as quote that fool who wishes to revolutionize the whole science of astronomy despite the fact that quote as the holy scriptures show Joshua commanded the Sun to sand still not the earth though later Lutheran's would fast adopt Copernicus's model Luther's own worldview was pre Copernican in every conceivable sense his intellectual center was not the felt presence of first-hand experience as it is generally for the modern world an idea incidentally first assured him by the humanists of the Italian Renaissance but for him it was the weight and authority of Scripture around which all things human and divine seemed to revolve as a monk scholar and reformer what was significant for Luther was neither the makeup of nature nor the developments of worldly history all such things were vanity rather what remained significant to Luther until his dying day was the warnings of the prophets the wisdom of the proverbs or psalms the divine revelation of godly law in the Gospels and the path to salvation that was laid out in the Pauline epistles one of the chief components emphasized by John Bossi's Christianity translated underlines the idea that if anyone did it was the Protestants even more so than the preceding humanists who converted present community into historical solidarity with past and future theirs was a newly linear temporal eyes worldview where in the small community of true Christians battled back against the principalities against the powers and against the rulers of the darkness of this world against spiritual wickedness in high places this was especially so as many found themselves irresistible attracted to the millenarian message lifted from the Book of Revelations with the arrow of time linearly pointing all of mankind to one impending final judgment while the apocalypse of Saint John had in no way being a favorite of the Protestant founding fathers who rightly feared the consequences of an obsession with it this was an experience made only possible by its mass dissemination through print and the flurry of its unbridled interpretations which followed in conclusion we have seen how before bent men as time the common opinion was that humanism had no significance for the Reformation a claim which has been proven here or so I hope to be patently false humanists were among the first who approved Luther's message emboldened in him with the confidence of an enduring following it was they who turned his cause into a widespread movement and without support from the humanists Luther would have failed in standing up to the church where so many others had failed before we have seen how historical narratives often pitted medieval scholasticism humanism and Reformation theology against one another but in reality how these spheres of knowledge were not mutually exclusive and often found themselves coexisting in one body such as in that of Martin Luther or of John Calvin we've seen how humanists studies set the scene for the Reformation and its concomitant peasant revolts by emphasizing the purity and pristineness of a long gone past and consequently by popularizing a vision of an idealized utopian future rooted in godly especially as seen in the works of Peter Blakely and Thomas Brady despite this we have also seen how as argued by Linda Roper we ought not to emphasize the humanism of Martin Luther and accordingly the direct ties between the northern humanists and the latter stages of the reform movement we saw how most the humanists particularly the older generation were generally moderates Catholics and typically well entrenched in the courtly life and cities of the Holy Roman Empire and as such it did not take them long to break away from Luther as they increasingly perceived his ideas and their supporters to be unhinged unchecked by any sense of authority and a visible danger to the fragile makeup of society

13 comments

  1. Hi
    Weird request.
    Could you perhaps do a "Plotinus for dummies"-video. Maybe just a short 20-30 minutes general overview on how he fits into the whole hermetic history.

  2. 10:07 I've seen Breughel and Bosch, but this is right out there in terms of Medieval porn.

  3. Two seconds in, the contrast in style, esp. sound design, to the ad I skipped was a mini transcendence in itself. Floating.

  4. I'd like to see every religious believer over the age of 21 detained under section 2 of the mental health act. Belief is for Mugs & Muggers. Religious organisation is a criminal enterprise. Hidden in plain sight. Humanists should get louder. Religion does not have a leg to stand on in the face of evolution.

  5. I've been working on my sense of connection to historical perspective lately. I found this pretty valuable.

  6. You are an intellectual beast my friend. In my work I end up finding a narrative culminating in a support for a view of the modern church for which I have new ideas I'll eventually share. I admire though how your work is so complete and pulls from writers of all centuries. I am a simplifier. Perhaps I relate to the young humanists you discuss at about 105:00. You are a genius and I find your work totally sublime. This one is so worthy. Great job. 122ish, fascinating realization about emotion. 128ish, superb poetic ending

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