Archive for the 'History' Category

Written April 28th, 2007 with No Comments »

Early medieval Christianization mimicked the methodology and philosophy of empire expansion more than the evangelistic processes of the early or primitive church.

Christianity had been thoroughly absorbed into Rome and mirrored almost all of its ethnocentric prejudices by 500 C.E. The 600’s saw an almost complete superimposition of a curiously familiar sociopolitical philosophy and procedure over religious ideology, duty, and mission. The result was a systemic sort of Christianization, rather than compassion driven evangelization. Approved belief and creedal perfection replaced the original movement toward diverse unification and care for the needs and souls of neighbors. The Church became a new kingdom cut from a fading empire’s cloth.

Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora are examples of the priority placed upon creedal perfection. John of Ephesus records the incredible lengths each take to ensure the proper Christianization of the Nobatai. Justinian is pro Chalcedon; Theodora is not. The mission becomes less about the Nobatai and more about rival beliefs. John writes, “But when the king heard that the person she intended to send was opposed to the council of Chalcedon, he was not pleased, and determined to write to the bishops of his own side in the Thebais, with orders for them to proceed thither and instruct them, and plant among them the name of the synod” (Ephesus 118). Theodora meanwhile sent her own creedal team to Nubia behind orders for the duke of Thebais to prevent Justinian’s team from arriving before her own. Failure to do so would cost the duke his life. It is difficult to believe that Theodora was driven by heartfelt concern for neighbors as she shows herself willing to kill one to reach another.

It also seems likely that Rome’s invested interest in the Christianization of the Nobatai was the result of observed and strategic political benefits more than any sort of real spiritual concern. Nubia was the recipient of a Roman subsidy on the “condition that they do not enter nor pillage Egypt” (Ephesus 118). A Christianized Nobatai would not require a subsidy to convince them to behave properly. They would act as appropriate as the Church demanded. The political benefit of Christianization should not be overlooked.

The early medieval church continued to mimic empire expansion during the reign of Reccared, the king of Spain. In the beginning of the king’s opening address to the Third Council of Toledo he expressed joy in the removal of heresy and the subsequent unity which made Synod opportunities possible: “For although in times past the heresy that threatened the whole catholic church kept synods from meeting, now that God has been pleased to use us to remove the obstacle of heresy, he has directed that the church’s ordinances be restored” (Coakley and Sterk 253). The church then turned toward the Christianization of the Goths soon after the “obstinacy of infidelity” had been “expelled” and the “fury of discord” had been removed (Coakley and Sterk 254).

Reccared, the king of Spain, says concerning the Goths:

“For present here is the renowned nation of the Goths, whom all other nations consider to possess genuine vigor. Even though the depravity of their teachers has thus far separated them from the faith and unity of the catholic church, now they join their assent to mine and participate together in the communion of the church, which receives the multitude of diverse nations in its material bosom and nourishes them with the breasts of charity… Nor is it only the conversion of the Goths that has added to the sum of our reward, but also that of the great multitude of the people of the Suevi, whom with the help of heaven we have subjected to our kingdom; although they had been led astray in the vice of heresy, our zeal has recalled them to the fount of truth” (Coakley and Sterk 254).

The Acts of the Third Council of Toledo possess as many sociopolitical overtones as it does spiritual and/or religious sentiment.

The fact that early medieval Christianization seems to be cut from the same philosophical and methodological cloth used for empire expansion does not mean the church has lost its shared connection with the early church. The early medieval church still exhibited a few characteristics of the early movement.

Many, apart from powerful Christian kings and rulers, undoubtedly adhered to a loving devotion of their Christ. The wandering Irish monastic Columbanus expresses a great deal of humility, devotion and authentic religious/spiritual insight in his letter to the bishops in Gaul in 603 A.D. Columbanus does, however, let loose a streak of serious ethnocentric prejudice, albeit briefly: “Far be it then that I should maintain the need to quarrel with you, so that a conflict among us Christian should rejoice our enemies, I mean the Jews, or heretics or Gentile heathen - far be it indeed, far be it…” (Columbanus 257). Apart from this unfortunate human detriment, Columbanus reflects the spirituality, piety, and devotion characterized by the early church well.

The free choice of salvation also seems to have its supporters and sustainers in the early medieval period. In a time of coerced mass conversions some still held onto the early church’s belief that salvation must be the personal decision of the one being saved.

Bede, in Ecclesiastical History, records the story of England’s conversion to Christianity by a group of Pope Gregory commissioned monks. A monk called Augustine, according to Bede, established a see in the king’s city. The king and many others were converted as a result of “the truth of which they confirmed by many miracles” (Columbanus 260). The king and many others believed and were baptized into the church. Bede then goes on to write: “Thenceforward great numbers gathered each day to hear the word of God, forsaking heathen rites and entering the unity of Christ’s holy Church as believers. While the king was pleased at their faith and conversion, it is said he would not compel anyone to accept Christianity; for he had learned from his instructors and guides to salvation that the service of Christ must be accepted freely and not under compulsion” (Columbanus 260). The king did not listen to the wise monks. He instead “showed greater favor to believers because they were fellow citizens of the kingdom of heaven. And it was not long before he granted his teachers in his capital of Canterbury a place of residence appropriate to their station, and gave them possessions of various kinds to supply their wants” (Columbanus 260). One cannot say the monk didn’t try.

The early medieval church looked less like the early/primitive Christian church and more like a religious empire. This is not to say a remnant didn’t remain. The church still was occupied by many faithful believers who held onto and perpetuated the ideas, spirituality, and properly directed devotion of the early Christian Church. It just begins to become much, much harder to see.

This material raised questions for me concerning my own ethnocentric prejudices and how they are subconsciously incorporated into my own Christian expressions. I must be careful to not allow these culturally inherent things to become the universals they were never intended to be. Christianity is bigger than ethnocentric prejudice.

Works Cited:

Coakley, John Wayland, and Andrea Sterk. Readings in World Christian History. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004.

Columbanus. Columbanus, Letter 2. Readings in World Christian History. Eds. John Wayland Coakley and Andrea Sterk. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004.

Ephesus, John of. The Evangelization of Nubia (Ecclesiastical History). Readings in World Christian History. Ed. Andrea Sterk. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004.

Written April 28th, 2007 with No Comments »

Some of the most vivid examples of religion perpetuating empire can be found in the historic documentation concerning the Christian emperor Charlemagne and the conquest of the Saxons. Christian conversion - if the following documents are accurate representations of historic events - was not encouraged during the early medieval period, but rather forced upon a subjugated people.

The relationship between the Franks and the Saxons culminated in brutal war. Einhard, in his “Life of Charlemagne,” writes: “No war undertaken by the Frank nation was carried on with such persistence and bitterness, or cost so much labor, because the Saxons, like almost all the tribes of Germany, were a fierce people, given to the worship of devils, and hostile to our religion, and did not consider it dishonorable to transgress and violate all law, human and divine” (Einhard 145). The lack of Christianity among the Saxons seems to be the source of the prolonged conflict and strained relations between the two countries. Einhard again writes: “It [thirty-three years war] could doubtless have been brought to an end sooner, had it not been for the faithlessness of the Saxons” (Einhard 145). The end result of this conflict was the assimilation of Saxony into empire and the empire’s religion, which Charlemagne ruled over as emperor.

Charlemagne, as emperor, issued a number of reforms and ordered all the “unwritten laws of all the tribes that came under his rule to be complied and reduced to writing” (Einhard 150).

A 789 supplemental document referred to as “General Admonition” seems to be a product of this reform effort. Much of the numerical supplements refer directly to the status and execution of the proper empire religion and religious practices.

The Admonition begins with a regal announcement: “In the eternal reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, I, Charles, by the grace of God and the gift of His mercy king and rector of the kingdom of the Franks and devout defender and humble adjuvant of the holy church, to all the ranks of ecclesiastical piety and dignitaries of secular powers; the greeting of perpetual peace and blessedness in Christ the Lord, eternal God” (Charlemagne 151).

The supplements preceding the prologue are pointedly ecclesiastical with the exception perhaps of the first (61), which seems to take a serious stand for the empire’s state religion. The remaining seems to be rules relevant to the care and perpetuation of the religion itself, by its leadership (bishops and priests). The supplemental seems warranted, perhaps even conducive to the religion.

Charlemagne, in his Capitulary for Saxony 775-790, however, exhibits the characteristics of a megalomaniac bent upon the Christianization - and the forced maintenance of the conversion - of his empire’s conquered peoples.

The Capitulary begins with a supplement which depicts Saxony as conquered and in a mid-assimilation of sorts. The empire’s religion is in the process of being superimposed upon the culture. Charlemagne writes, “It was pleasing to all that the churches of Christ, which are now being built in Saxony and consecrated to God, should not have less, but greater and more illustrious honor, than the fanes the idols had had” (Charlemagne 153).

The supplement then moves into areas of drastic enforcement that would today be considered socially criminal and a terrible blight upon basic human rights.

The death penalty is levied against any human being who would be found guilty of certain empire and religious violations, such as: 1.) not participating in the holy Lenten fast; 2.) subscribing to former religion(s) and ritual(s); 3.) not participating in baptism; 4.) opposing Christianity; 5.) and/or showing one’s self unfaithful to the king (whatever that means).

Any member of the empire - willing or otherwise - who didn’t subscribe to the empire’s religion as per the law and written supplements would suffer the legal consequences, which, as is the case in the aforementioned examples, was often death. Needless to say, many peoples and cultures were militarily subjugated to the empire and its law.

The majority of techniques used to “encourage” people to convert to Christianity during this period seem to be totally derived from the empire’s militaristic power, subsequent subjugation, capital punishment, and human rights violations. This is not, however, the complete story, thankfully.

A shimmer of light and good work does exist in the bastardly shadow of Charlemagne’s brutal conquest and forced baptisms. An anonymous author saw a need to deliver the four gospels in the form of a poem; a poem literarily characterized by the Germanic cultural idiom. A work developed for a culture the empire was simultaneously attempting to erase. “A harmonization of the four gospels composed in Old Saxon, it presented Jesus’ life and ministry in terms that would particularly resonate with the chieftain society for which it was written” (Anonymous 271). This poetic harmonization is known as “The Heliand,” or “The Saxon Gospel.” The reading of it surely must have exposed the empire’s religion for the non-Christianity it inherently became when fused with unlimited social, political, and religious power.

In “Song 17,” from “The Instructions on the Mountain,” for example, the Saxons would have read the following Jesus narrative: “Now I say to you truthfully, with greater fullness for the people, that you are to love your enemies in your feelings, just as you love your family relatives, in God’s name. Do a great deal of good for them, extend friendly loyalty to them with a clear mind - love versus their hatred. This is long lasting advice for every man; this is how a person’s feelings against his enemy should be directed” (Anonymous 275). One can not look back at this history objectively and not imagine a conflict of Christian interpretation within Charlemagne’s empire between the powerful and the subjugated classes.

This period challanges an objective onlooker with both positive and negative techniques meant to encourage Christian conversion. The negative, unfortunately, over-shadows the positive, and severely so. Christianity was done zero favors by political savvy emperors who conquered people with raw brutality and forced baptisms. They attached blight to the Christian faith; the scars remain to this very day.

This sort of historical material serves as a very, very powerful reminder that should be taken seriously by Christians in America today. America is an empire, for good or ill. America is the global superpower. Our foreign policy is often packaged with our nationalistic religious expression of Christianity. “God Bless America” banners, posters, stickers, and mass-media advertisements, during a time of global and cultural conflict can be seriously detrimental to Christianity’s universality. A country as powerful as ours is a presidential signature away from cultural crime and religious imperialism. Global opinion places us even closer, it seems. Perhaps they are correct?

Works Cited:

Anonymous. The Heliand. Readings in World Christian History. Eds. John Wayland Coakley and Andrea Sterk. Maryknoll, N.Y. Orbis Books, 2004.

Charlemagne. General Admonition 789. Lts Ch111 History of Christianity Course Pack. Ed. Ann Thayer. Lancaster, PA: Grade A Notes.

Einhard. The Life of Charlemagne. Trans. Samuel Epes Turner. Lts Ch111 History of Christianity Course Pack. Ed. Ann Thayer. Lancaster, PA: Grade A Notes.

Written January 09th, 2007 with No Comments »

The conflict created by Zwingli’s dedication to radical reformation was a direct result of his strong belief in a practical Christianity. Zwingli would do his part in the reformation effort, or die trying. He did both.

The many conflicts Zwingli faced were “practice” oriented. In other words, everyday Christianity - or practical expression - became the most pressing issue for the reformer. Zwingli’s expression is defined over and/or against the norm - a norm in dire need of proper reform.

One example of this conflict orientation can be seen in a sermon titled “Of freedom of Choice in the Selection of Food.” Zwingli summarizes his thoughts regarding Lent succinctly: “… if you want to fast, do so; if you do not want to eat meat, don’t eat it; but allow Christians a free choice” (Zwingli, Of Freedom of Choice in the Selection of Food 153). His sermon proved persuasive as many of his followers took to eating meat during Lent. These particular Christians may have seemed anything but faithful to the Catholic Orthodox, but individually each proved him or herself to be “a Christian at heart,” according to the Zwingli reformative design (Zwingli, Of Freedom of Choice in the Selection of Food 153).

A second example of the importance placed upon proper Christian practice or expression by Zwingli can be read in his “Of the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God.” Zwingli’s dedication to his era’s brand of humanism shaped the hermeneutic with which he made his approach to the Scripture. This approach to the Scripture would prove important to his reformation efforts; it equipped him with a formidable apologetic with which he challenged the established hierarchy’s stranglehold on ecclesiastic power and control. How did Zwingli challenge this established power and control? He prioritized the “Word of God” over tradition and human interpretation. Christians must be “theodidacti,” that is, “taught of God, not of men,” according to Zwingli (Zwingli, Of the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God 155). God’s teaching, therefore, is the only teaching for which individuals should strive. The obvious question then becomes one of clarification: “Where or from who does on go or receive the teaching of God? Is such teaching limited to one side or the other? Is it entirely Protestant; is it wholly Catholic. Zwingli seems sure as he positions himself on the side of God: “I know for certain that God teaches me, for I know this by experience” (Zwingli, Of the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God 155). Experience informed by the “Word of God” trumps ecclesiastical tradition and human interpretation in Zwingli’s reformation.

A third orientation example can be found in Zwingli’s “Sixty-Seven Theses.” The sixty-seven articles are theologically laden, at least initially. The first ten deal directly with the issue of Christology and the potential application of the truths therein. Practice then becomes the issue for the remaining fifty-seven. Zwingli makes his focus upon practice and correct expression extremely clear at the end of the document. He writes in theses number sixty-seven, seemingly as a reminder for those readers who may have missed his point concerning proper practice, “If anyone wishes to discuss with me concerning interest, tithes, unbaptized children, or confirmation, I am ready to answer” (Zwingli, Sixty-Seven Theses 158).

Zwingli’s seemingly singular focus upon proper Christian practice may lead one to believe his was a Christianity focused upon practical living at the expense of theology. This is not the case. Zwingli’s focus upon practice is grounded within a larger theological expression of which practice is but a branch, albeit a major one. Zwingli’s “On True and False Religion” is the clearest example of a balanced practicality and theology, something the Catholic Church lacked, at least in Zwingli’s reformer’s mind. It becomes clear that proper practice is a result of solid theology; a house in which one lives his or her everyday life can not be built upon a poor foundation. Zwingli writes, for example, concerning the Eucharist and the theology of transubstantiation in “On True and False Religion.” He clearly has the actual practice of the sacrament in mind as he theologically expounds on the subject: “But if others have told you that this is my view, I say to them that in this matter I hold as the church of Christ holds. She will not even brook the question whether the body of Christ is in the Sacrament of the Eucharist in actual, physical, or essential form. For when you bring up these elements of the world, she will thrust this buckler in your face: ‘”The flesh profiteth nothing”‘ [John 6.63]; why then, do you dispute about the flesh?” (Zwingli, On True and False Religion 159). Zwingli is not without a theological foundation upon which he can build his Christian practice.

In conclusion, it is remarkably clear that the conflict created by Zwingli’s radical reformation was rooted in practice. Practice is, after all, the tangible expression of theological beliefs. Zwingli’s approach to the Scripture resulted in a very conservative theology which sought out a Church characterized by historical Christianity with which it could live and thrive. This was not the Church of his day, so reformation consequently followed. Zwingli would create the Church in which proper practice existed, if the present Church would not alter its misguided ways.

Written November 14th, 2006 with 2 Comments »

Early modern writers acted upon the basic rational, social, and individualistic impulses during the 16th century religious reformation and thus radicalized intellectual, theological, and philosophical issues concerning authority in a manner that traveled far beyond the intentions of the original reformers - who were merely dedicated to the adjustment of religious practice and not the actual modification of basic belief, doctrine, or theology.

John Locke, for example, presses toward Christianity as superior religion, but only if an individual uses his or her own god-given reason to discover as much. Individual and institutional authoritarianism will not do in the mind of Locke. Individuals are completely free to meander their way through reality’s mire of fallacious opinion and ridiculous superstition. Locke, in “Reasonableness of Christianity,” writes concerning the Christian’s need for authority and where to find it in its purist form:

“If there was not, ’tis plain, there was need of one to give us such a morality; such a law, which might be the sure guide of those who had a desire to go right: and, if they had a mind, need not mistake their duty; but might be certain when they had performed, when failed in it. Such a law of morality, Jesus Christ hath given us in the New Testament; but by the latter of these ways, by revelation. We have from him a full and sufficient rules for our direction, and conformable to that of reason” (Locke 4).

There is, according to Locke, no authority for the religious individual save God and Jesus Christ. The acceptable authority - divinely revealed or otherwise - must also be conformable to human reason. This concept is absolutely conducive to Locke’s dedicated opposition to authoritarianism. In fact, he himself makes the issue clear: “And such an one as this out of the New Testament, I think the world never had, nor can anyone say is any where else to be found” (Locke 4).

So Locke, driven by the same 16th century reformation impulse toward individualism and freedom from overbearing institutions and religious lawmakers surpasses it, by a great deal, by even the most conservative of estimations.

Matthew Tindal is another modern writer who exhibits the same driving, post-reformation characteristics of Locke. Tindal, a Christian Deist, writes against exclusively revealed knowledge (revelation) in “Christianity as Old as the Creation,” and, as his title obviously suggests, posits that the revealed truth of Christianity has been known naturally by individuals since the beginning of the created world. This fact, therefore, would eliminate the powerful authoritarian institutions and individuals who gather power from peddling so-called “exclusive revelation” to the masses. Tindal, in fact, does not hesitate to say so literally and bluntly:

“I grant you this is the Design of Religion; but have not the Ecclesiasticks [sic] in most Places entirely defeated this design, and so far debas’d [sic] Human Nature, as to render it unsociable, fierce, and cruel? Have they not made external revelation the Pretence of filling the Christian World with Animosity, Hatred, Persecution, Ruin and Destruction; in order to get an absolute Dominion over the Consciences, Properties and Persons of the Laity?” (Tindal 32-33).

Mathew Tindal clearly radicalized the same impulse Locke gripped: namely, the reasonable rejection of ecclesiastic and religious authority.

Yet another example of this modern literary tendency can be seen in the work of Voltaire. His own post-reformation impulses can be clearly viewed in his work in “The Ecclesiastical Ministry,” wherein he defines what exactly the role for such a ministry ought to be.

Voltaire begins quickly, framing the institution of religion as an entity which “exists only to keep mankind in order, and to make men merit the goodness of God by their virtue” (Voltaire 1). He goes on, writing:

“Everything in a religion which does not tend towards this goal must be considered foreign or dangerous. Instruction, exhortation, menaces of pains to come, promises of immortal beatitude, prayers, counsels, spiritual help are the only means ecclesiastics may use to try to make men virtuous here below, and happy for eternity. All other mean are repugnant to the liberty of reason, to the nature of the soul, to the inalterable rights of the conscience, to the essence of religion and of the ecclesiastical ministry, to all the rights of the sovereign” (Voltaire 1).

Voltaire continues on in this work carefully condemning all ecclesiastics which attempt to travel beyond their reasonable boundaries and/or roles. He, as do Locke and Tindal, relies heavily upon reason to not only substantiate his position concerning individual and institutional authoritarianism, religious or otherwise, but also to debunk that of the ecclesiastics, who lost much of it during the 16th century.

These early modern writers gathered fuel from the same underground cistern tapped by the various reformations of the 16th century. People were generally growing weary of the Church and its incredible power to affect almost every aspect of life and living. Individuals such as Locke, Tindal, and Voltaire simply used this fuel to drive a bit further than those involved in early reformations were prepared or willing to go. The work of these early modern writers tended to affect Christianity in deeper and more serious ways than did early reformations of mere practice. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is the reason early espousers of reformation only journey so far? Then again, maybe those reformers wanted to preserve institutional and individual authoritarianism?

Primary Works Cited:

Locke, John, ed. The Reasonableness of Christianity. Lancaster, PA: Grade A Notes, 2006.
Tindal, Matthew, ed. Christianity as Old as the Creation. Lancaster, PA: Grade A Notes, 2006.
Voltaire, ed. The Ecclesiastical Ministry. Lancaster, PA: Grade A Notes, 2006.

Written November 13th, 2006 with No Comments »

The Apostolic Father Irenaeus (125 - c. 202), Bishop of Lyons and Catholic theologian, writes “Adversus Haereses,” or “Against the Heresies,” in direct religious opposition to the Gnostics, a group considered heretical.

Irenaeus, in a specific defense against these Gnostics as concerns the correct understanding of Christ and Jesus as existing or not existing as distinct beings, as well as allegations circulating concerning the Son of God’s physical or phenomenal appearance, clearly dedicates himself to the “detection and overthrow of the false knowledge.” He writes:

“As it has been clearly demonstrated that the Word, who existed in the beginning with God, by whom all things were made, who was also present with mankind, was in these last days, according to the time appointed by the father, united to His own workmanship, inasmuch as He became a man liable to suffering, [it follows] that every objection is set aside of those who say, “If out Lord was born at that time, Christ had therefore no previous existence.” For I have shown that the Son of God did not then begin to exist, being with the Father from the beginning; but when He became incarnate, and was made man, He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam - namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God - that we might recover in Christ Jesus” (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, on Christ and Salvation Bk Iii, Chap.Xviii 38).

Irenaeus later defends the source of his divine knowledge as existing in the teachings of the incarnate Christ alone, thus marking his Truth as ultimate while simultaneously dispelling with the Gnostics “Secret Knowledge.” He writes: “For in no other way could we have learned the things of God, unless our master, existing as Word, had become a man. For no other being had the power of revealing to us the things of the Father, except His own proper Word” (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, on Christ and Salvation Bk V, Chap.I 41).

(Irenaeus. Against the Heresies, on Christ and Salvation Bk III, Chap. XVIII. 125-c. 202. Internet Site. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Available. October 07 2005 2005.)

Written November 11th, 2006 with No Comments »

The late medieval period of the Catholic Church can be best described with two words: severely fraudulent. Writers during this unfortunate period in Christian history were seeking a drastic and absolutely necessary reformation from the top down. In other words, they desired an ethical change in ecclesiastical leadership which would benefit the masses by making authentic Christianity available to them once again. These writers were not afraid to speak out against ecclesiastic indulgence, injustice, corruption, and folly. Much can be learned about late medieval Christianity through a perusing of the works of its staunchest critics. The prince of Humanism, as he is sometimes called, and Christian, Desiderius Erasmus, launched a 1509 satirical masterpiece titled “The Praise of Folly” against those whom he believed stood between the masses and authentic Christianity. Erasmus, in his “Praise of Folly” unleashes his biting social commentary and rebellious wit against the contemporary Catholic Church’s piety, superstition, theology, priesthood, and hierarchical leadership. Erasmus’ writing regarding the theologians of his day is particularly poignant, if not entertaining. He begins with a disclaimer of sorts: “As for the theologians, perhaps it would be better to pass them over in silence, not stirring up a hornets’ nest and not laying a finger on the stinkweed, since this race of men is incredible arrogant and touchy. For they might rise up en masse and march in ranks against me with six hundred conclusions and force me to recant. And if I should refuse, they would immediately shout ‘heretic.’ For this is the thunderbolt they always keep ready at a moments notice to terrify anyone to whom they are not very favorably inclined” (Erasmus 57). This almost humorous disclaimer serves as an introduction to very witty commentary regarding the theologians’ ridiculous penchant for “endless and magisterial definitions, conclusions,” and “corollaries” (Erasmus 58). Specific examples of this penchant are most obviously discernable in the theological questions of the day, i.e., “Whether God could have taken on the nature of a woman, of the devil, of an ass, of a cucumber, of a piece of flint? And then how would the cucumber would have preached, performed miracles, and been nailed to the cross?” (Erasmus 58). Erasmus does not spare the “religious” or the “monks” his berating wit either. Erasmus branded those who considered themselves “religious” or “monk” to be anything but that which such monikers signify. He, in fact, couldn’t imagine “how anything could be more wretched than these men,” who were in reality “far removed from religion” and “encountered more frequently everywhere you go” (Erasmus 61). Popes and priests are offered the same treatment. Popes are painted as the antithesis of the Christ example of poverty, labor, teaching, and sacrifice. It is the popes who have an abundance of luxuries, honor, and pomp. Popes have all of the advantages this life can afford. “How many advantages would these men be deprived of if they were ever assailed by wisdom” (Erasmus 66)? The priests, on the other hand, and when not fighting “for their right to tithes, with sword, spears, and stone, with every imaginable sort of armed force,” are busy keeping a “sharp lookout to harvest their profits” (Erasmus 67-68). Clearly, the Church is faulted from the top down in the mind of Erasmus. Yet, he continues on in his Catholic tradition and remains a devotee of the religion for the remainder of his life. His life ends while he is a humanist, a dedicated Christian, and a religious reformer.

(Erasmus, Desiderius. In Praise of Folly. A Reformation Reader: Primary Texts with Introductions. Ed. Denis Janz. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1999.)