Christian humanism is a philosophy, or an intellectual movement that was led by Desiderius Erasmus. The philosophy focused on existing political, religious, and social concerns. In turn, these religious and political events, as well as the influences they generated formed the Catholicism that Thomas More attempted to save. This was initially through reform and subsequently through justification of the Church’s orthodox practices and beliefs. The objective of Catholic Christian humanism entailed the improvement of Europe, through focusing on the significance of what Erasmus referred to as the philosophy of Christ. The philosophy of Christ was originated from the drive for reforms in the lay society and the Catholic Church as well as the rediscovery of the literature of conformist ancient times. Humanists supposed that the study of the ancient texts as well as the original languages, would restore to the long-forgotten talents, and. They also supposed that it would as well apply to the content of the Bible and the ancient Christian scholars. The humanists also supposed that it would facilitate Christendom to develop into a purer as well as more authentic application of Christian truths. Desiderius and the humanists supposed that these fundamental truths were embodied in the philosophy of Christ.
In his time, Erasmus was regarded as the most illustrious humanist, a zealous promoter of the humane studies (studia humanitatis), and an authority on grammar and rhetoric. As an authority in grammar, he translated numerous ancient manuscripts from Greek to Latin. In Erasmus’s practice as a humanist, rhetoric was applied as an anti-philosophy, a challenger to the dialectical values that had ruled ancient scholastic thought. Humanists regarded rhetoric as a practical approach to scrutinize questions on which linguistic argumentation founded on logic had demonstrated as being incapable to generate certitude. Thus, in regard to Erasmus, rhetoric was an art of credible argumentation, concluding, not in the certitude alleged by logicians, but an ending that, one of the results was more credible than others and could uncertainly be regarded as accurate.
Erasmus formed the spiritual and intellectual background in which the Protestant Reformation came into being, through his letters and publications. Although he fashioned the early development of the grand religious upheaval, he never became part of it. During the early religious upheaval up to approximately 1522, Erasmus contributed immensely through private correspondence and conferences, to make certain that Luther was not suddenly silenced and executed. However, he never entirely agreed to Luther’s actions and ideas finally in 1524 broke all publicly with Luther, and published a vital challenge to his most essential doctrine. Though from his early days he actively agitated for reforms within the church, he continuously insisted that the reformed church ought to be one. Erasmus also insisted that, the church should be reformed gradually and peacefully from within. He was of the opinion that the church should not be reformed from outside the conventional institutional structures. He was subjected to harsh, scurrilous assaults by conservative Catholics who could not take his disapproval of Luther seriously, and accused him of instigating Luther’s heresies.
Erasmus was also accused publicly as the real writer of Luther’s books. He experienced vehement harassment from zealous Protestants who charged him of cowardice, as well as refusal to frankly endorse beliefs, that he truly held and had instilled in them. Nevertheless, Erasmus retained followers on both sides of the mounting religious divide, particularly those who labored like him in establishing a concession that would reinstate Christian unity. He had followers who also believed that the church, directed by a fresh generation of learned clergy that was devoted to serving the needs of the populace rather than to the amassing of wealth, power, and private prestige, and mindful of its pastoral and educational obligations to its faithful. Erasmus, just like Thomas More understood that Christianity should be a way of truthfully living in the replication of Christ and the purpose of every fine man. For approximately twenty years, Erasmus and More worked together to promote this philosophy of religion, life, as well as social and political activism.
Thomas More. Thomas More is well understood through his classic publication known as Utopia, through which he expresses his firm conviction in the prospective reforms. These were reforms that would improve Europe in its entirety. Through Utopia, Moore believed that this would be feasible if humanity embraced humanist edification, service to each other, as well as the philosophy of Christ (philosophia Christ). More wrote down Utopia at a time that it was not yet dangerous to disapprove of the flaws of the clergy as well as the Church hierarchy. It was also a time when disparagement did not signify absolute schism. More attacked the numerous faults of his contemporary Europeans and also particularly involved England in the discourse. He attempted to achieve this by commenting through Raphael Hythloday, the main character in Utopia, on all issues from capital penalty to the parasitic and corrupt qualities of political advisors and courtiers. The focus of Utopia is the humanist memorandum, personalized by More in which he supposed that through the examples and wisdom of the Holy Scriptures, particularly by serving each other in the dynamic Christian love as stipulated in the Gospels, and the leadership of the universal Church as well as its doctrines, society would improve itself until the return of Christ to earth. However, Utopia did not set it in Europe or fulfill the duty that More had intended for it. Initially published in 1516, Utopia was available for a brief period prior to the Reformation of 1517. This was the time that Martin Luther plunged himself and his Ninety-Five Theses into the heart of religious awareness in Wittenberg through a church door.
More’s life and works eventually demonstrate a considerable transformation in his stress on the responsibility of the Catholic Church, the clergy, orthodox doctrines and texts, as well as his acceptance of some reforming methods. Utopia is the most clear feasible expression of his pre-Reformation efforts and rhetoric. It is an enthusiastic exhortation for development and an exertion of personal faith and devotion. Additionally, religiously speaking, the Europe into which More grew up was a distinct whole, comprising of Catholic States, which recognized, the central power of the Pope, who was the Bishop of Rome. Nevertheless, the preeminence of the Papacy and the unison of Christendom had experienced a succession of injury that proved fatal in More’s generation. The Catholic Church had faded in spiritual influence and prestige long ahead of the Reformation of 1517. This was as a result of the corruption, worldliness, and veniality rampant among its executive representatives, including the papacy itself. The necessity for reforms, expressed long before More’s era, was well acknowledged by men of conscience and faith. It is essential to mention that Moore’s initial substantive efforts to redeem and reform his society came by means of humanism. These considerations set the landscape for More and exemplify humanism’s influence on More’s style, ideas, and beliefs in relation to society. More’s works were an extension of the humanist institution forwarded by Desiderius Erasmus, with the definitive goal was reforming the Church, as well as the Christian society as a whole, particularly England.
Martin Luther. Luther’s emphasis on the significance of biblical languages is one of the four characteristics of Luther’s humanism. Luther was not optimistic of reforming the church separately from a solid biblical exegesis, and to an extent devoid of putting a faithful translation of the scriptures into the hands of the populace. The assumption for both was the mastery of the scriptural languages. In the contemporary church, solid exegeses as well as faithful translations are issues of continuing significance. Another influential characteristic of Luther’s humanism was his prominence on Christian education. The contemporary church would be performing an injustice to the remembrance of the church Reformer. This would be the case if it merely cited some of its strengths, and praised itself for implementing a proper humanistic tradition. Although the contemporary church spends hefty sums of money on training its workers, and parish education, Luther was more anxious in relation to the quality rather than the quantity of education. Luther emphasized on discerning the truth rather than the ambiguous humanism’s emphasis on performing the truth. This means that, in the event that the churches are filled with passive church members, a fundamental component of Christian edification as Luther viewed it would not be getting the prominence it deserves.
Erasmus advocated for a comeback to Christian piety in order to reform the church. On the contrary, Luther advocated for a comeback to Christian teaching, in order to reform the church. The two perceived the Scriptures as the dynamic requisite for reform. Erasmus emphasized on Scriptural ethics, while Luther emphasized on Scriptural exegesis.
The third characteristic of Luther’s humanism was his positive outlook towards culture. Luther’s acquaintance with Scriptural anthropology would not permit him to promote the man’s dignity to the elevated pedestal, to which the Italian humanists had promoted it. Nevertheless neither would it let him degrade man as God’s crown of creation in strict Anabaptist fashion. The final characteristic of Luther’s humanism relates to the social ethics derived from his s two kingdoms dogma. The contemporary church may be strong on its hypothetical adoption of the two kingdoms dogma, but weak in its understanding of its inference. The church has a propensity to put emphasis on God’s right handed doings almost to the omission of his left handed doings.
In determining the best humanist between Thomas More, Desiderius Erasmus, Martin Luther, Luther evidently has emerged as the best. The fundamental disparity between them centers in their perspective toward the supremacy of the Word. However, in the Lutheran-Roman Catholic discourse, Luther’s belief concerning the supremacy of the Word has been forfeited in support of an Erasmian view. Concurrence on this Christological declaration does not of necessity entail full concurrence between Lutherans and Catholics on justification through faith. However, it raises the issue, whether the remaining disparities on this doctrine should be church-dividing. The discourse statement brings humanism into the limelight once more. In the 16th century, Erasmus maintained that minor disparities were not of great significance. Luther’s positive dogmatic declarations rankled Erasmus. Luther maintained that if assertions are taken away, the truth is lost.
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