Saturday, April 13, 2019

Erasmus Vs Luther— Personality Difference

Study—what is it? Koreans have great respect for learning, an article in the Bible & Life by a  neuropsychologist, teaching professor, gives the readers a look at a well-known master in learning: Prince of the Humanists.

Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) was born in the Netherlands, the illegitimate son of a priest. His parents died of the plague but made sure, until their deaths,  that he received a superb education.  His moral education was fitting for both a religious and scholar. He entered the Augustinian religious order at 21, mastered  French,  German, English, Greek, Latin, etc. and with this easy command of languages translated the Scriptures into language that the Europeans found easy to understand.

His capabilities were acknowledged by many and influenced much of society. He was born in Rotterdam of the Netherlands but was an influence at the Louvain in Belgium, Paris in France, Oxford in England and Basil in Switzerland. His book The Praise of Folly was well read during his time and extremely popular. He was busy publishing and editing books. He did leave the Augustinians but his faith in Catholicism never wavered. Often compared with Martin Luther (1483-1546) who was born a few years later.

Luther did not believe in free will while Erasmus did. One of the reasons for the clash between them. We still have the conflict within Christianity. Erasmus was brought up by loving parents. He did become a priest but left and felt that freedom of the will was a rather obvious reality. On the other hand, Luther was brought up with fear under a strict patriarchal father who wanted him to be a lawyer. He entered the Augustinians and came in contact with the corruption within the church. Indulgences, one of the reasons for his fight against the church got him excommunicated 3 times. Life was hectic.

Erasmus' life was less dramatic. When he criticized the corruption of the times, unlike Luther, he used humor and satire.  He was for the traditional teaching of the Church but also for the reformation of the Church in ridding itself of the immorality and corruption. Different from the extreme, humorless opposition of Luther who was not only against the church but the Jews, the Muslims and the uprising of the serfs.

The writer gives the readers his understanding of the way Luther's upbringing influenced his thinking.  Both Luther and Erasmus wanted to see a change in the church but  Luther found it difficult to understand the extremes he found in society. Erasmus didn't have the drama in his life that Luther had but was grounded in the humanities and with his own deep examination of life was more balanced in his approach.

He goes on to show that because of the place of the humanities in society Erasmus was able to give a human face to the reformation that was beginning. The writer gives credit to the humanities of the West for the progress over Asia at that time. In the West, with the help of Erasmus and Luther, there was a return to the  Scriptures which he says was followed later also in the East with their return to ancient scholars. Confucian scholars. Yi Ik (1681-1763) and Jeong Yakyong (1762 1836) were  Renaissance men like Erasmus who wanted to return to learning but their concern for the rights of the individual and equality was limited by the subjectivity of the Confucian structures.

In conclusion, the professor points out that we have not come far from the middle ages in our appreciation of the individual and his dignity. He introduces us to the Collective Unconsciousness of Carl Jung. It's a mental complex that affects us: racism, discrimination, aversion, war, etc.  giving rise to violence. Luther was never able to rid himself of his opposition to the freedom of the will. Was it not the Collective Unconsciousness?

Erasmus, on the other hand, was involved with reading, reflection, and developing his personality, and wonders whether this was not a reason he was able to overcome, in a relative way, the influence of the Collective Unconscious. We have come a long way today in our technological advancements, but have not matched the maturity of those in the Middle Ages according to our writer. Is it not that we lack some of the wisdom that comes from the study of the humanities?  Especially in the way modern society has in recent years gone after the extremes.

We need a return to humanism to interpret it again and give it shape for our society. Sneers, denunciations, lethargy, hatred are the red lights of mental illness that should awake us to our reality. Erasmus is a good role model in accepting the virtues of humanism and to learn from the wisdom of our ancestors.

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