But surely Luther's thinking did not arise ex nihilo. Indeed, it did not.
And today is a good day to remember that, for it was on this date in 1536 that Desiderius Erasmus (depicted here), perhaps the most important of the so-called pre-reformers, died.
Erasmus, the Dutch humanist born in 1466, published several critical works plus a Greek translation of the Bible that helped to pave the way for the Reformation.
But because Erasmus himself seemed unwilling to take the kind of courageous action that Luther and other reformers did in challenging the Catholic Church, he wound up being disliked by both the Catholics and the Protestants.
Still, any serious student of the Reformation has to grasp the importance of Erasmus and a few others like him.
At the time, the so-called Scholastics discovered truth by taking differing interpretations of church fathers and others and coming to new understandings through that juxtaposition. They used the dialectic method. Humanism, however, with which Erasmus was connected, suggested not engaging in all of that. Humanism, rather, wasn’t just going back to the sources, it was approaching them with a certain freer spirit.
All of this was happening at a time of major geographical discovery. But it also was a period of scientific and medical discovery. So when the late 15th and early 16th century readers read Virgil, they discovered fascinating things. Greeks were read in a new light – the light of someone who has something for this new age.
Eventually scholars like Erasmus wanted to do the same thing biblically that others were doing in other fields. He and others wanted to go back to the New Testament. Reading the text in the original languages would make it possible for contemporary readers to experience what listeners in Jesus time heard, thet thought.
So, new methods were developed to accomplish this. Textual criticisms and study came out of all of this. This opened up new theological possibilities – giving contemporary Christians the same experience as New Testament church members. The primitive church thus became the ideal. Erasmus and others found the New Testament church was much simpler without all the add-ons of their day. And that helped to create the spirit that leds to the Reformation.
So a tip of the hat today to Erasmus.
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A STUDY OF NOTE(S)
Choir music, such as that offered each Sunday in many churches, has a calming effect on the hearts of the singers, a new study finds. Yes, and it can serve as a wake-up call after the sermon, too.
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THE BOOK CORNER
What's on God's Sin List for Today?, by Tom Hobson. The author is a Presbyterian pastor and chair of biblical studies at Morthland College in West Frankfort, Ill. He makes here a rather detailed argument for how to tease out of the whole of the Bible those various lists of sins that might still be on God's list today versus those that were of concern simply for a particular people at a particular time in biblical history. It's interesting and thoughtful stuff and provokes the reader to think about sinfulness, repentance and forgiveness. You can, of course, agree or disagree with his analysis, but it's worth the time to learn how sincere people with whom you may disagree come to their conclusions about all of this. Hobson lost me, however, when he used some oddly offensive language that compared homosexuals to black widow spiders and praying mantises: "To argue that same-sex desire is part of God's good creation is a tragic mistake. Same-sex relations are a part of nature. But so are black widows and praying mantises who kill and eat their mates, and mackerel who kill purely for sport." That kind of comparison offends me deeply and I'm not even gay. Hobson first came to my attention when he wrote this response to one of my recent columns in The Presbyterian Outlook.
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P.S.: The Rev. R. Glen Miles, senior minister of Country Club Christian Church of KC, will preach Saturday evening at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Orlando, Fla. Nice to have one of our excellent local preachers get some more national exposure.