Christian Humanism by Alasdair A. MacDonald, Zweder R. W. M. von Martels, Jan R. Veenstra, and Zweder R. W. M. von Martels (Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions: Brill Academic)
Excerpt: CHRISTIAN HUMANISM by Alasdair A. MacDonald, Zweder von Martels and Jan R. Veenstra
The reception of classical literature and philosophy in Christian circles was never unaccompanied by frictions and it always required a serious re-evaluation of people's intellectual positions. This was true in the time of Augustine, when Christianity took root in Roman culture and thus became an important vehicle for the survival and transmission of classical learning when the Empire declined. It was also true in the Middle Ages, when scholastic philosophers and theologians rediscovered classical learning and science and not only adapted it to Christian doctrine, but also made theology undergo the further influence of classical thought. Finally, the age of humanism, though generally appreciated for deriving its literary, moral and educational predilections from classical models, likewise strove to maintain its Christian identity rather than give in to the secularising tendencies for which it is commonly praised. The central theme of the present book concerns these frictions between Christian and pagan learning, in a somewhat loosely defined humanist context. Christian humanism, therefore, might seem to be a contradiction in terms, in the sense that the doctrinal, philosophical and scientific interests of scholars from the humanist era accommodated a type of learning that was alien to the Christian religion. On the other hand, the phrase is also quite apt inasmuch as it articulates the project of intellectual reconciliation that made it possible for literate and learned Christians to appreciate the classical literary and intellectual heritage.
Humanism can be defined in various ways. It is commonly recognised that though the educational programme of the studia human itatis and the renewed interest in classical philology form more or less the bases of such definitions, they can easily be taken as points of departure for excursions into politics, morality, history, literature, philosophy, theology and even science. Such excursions do not take us outside the circle of humanism, since it is now generally understood that humanists themselves rarely marginalised these broader fields of inquiry. In the context of this collection of essays, the concept of humanism is applied in a broad sense, encompassing not only 'Renaissance humanism' but also what is sometimes called 'twelfth-century humanism', and — going a step further — also including those intellectual currents that in one way or an-other contributed to or derived from these humanist movements. Renaissance humanism — with its rejuvenation of classical studies, its love of rhetoric and philology and its educational and moral ideals directed towards shaping the
human soul and mind on the models of classical civilisation — is commonly recognised as having emerged in the wake of a previous classically oriented interest in human nature. The philosophical and scientific developments of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which preceded the rise of humanist studies, were themselves preceded by an earlier strain of speculative thought based on the remnants of classical culture, whereby humankind was deemed part of the natural order and whereby natural man and his capacities, and especially his rational powers, could be studied independently of divine grace. The aversion of later humanists from scholasticism relies just as much on a profound interest in human nature as does scholastic anthropology itself. What some historians refer to as 'twelfth-century humanism' is thus a clear and important antecedent of Renaissance humanism.
The ideals of humanist upbringing and the study of natural man have, ever since the nineteenth century, commonly been considered to dissociate human-ism from theological doctrine and religious practice, but 'secular' humanism never lost sight of the studia divina and the requirements of the Christian life. Independent of the strictures of ecclesiastical order, humanism found room to create and define its own religious experience, its lay piety, the parameters of the redemption of human nature, and the proper balance between classical and Christian virtues, both in the public and private spheres of life. Additionally, its broader intellectual interests, geared to assimilating the learning of the ancients and thereby incurring the frictions that had characterised the interaction of Christian and pagan thought since Antiquity, were brought in line — sometimes tentatively, sometimes confidently — with the Christian world view. 'Secular' humanism, therefore, can thus be seen to transform into Christian humanism.
The contributions in this volume have been organised into five thematically coherent groups, dealing with the major fields of humanist interest, namely the Christian faith, Stoic morality, philosophy, the arts and sciences, and education. The oscillation between the secularising and Christianising tendencies in humanism is explored in the first section of this book. In a contribution on Coluccio Salutati, Ron Witt demonstrates how civic humanist culture became suscep-tible to Christian ideals. Through his acquaintance with the earlier representatives of civic humanist culture and through his study of Ovid, Salutati matured as a humanist man of letters. Working as a notary and occupying a position in local politics, his humanist preoccupations were mainly non-religious, based on civic concerns and Stoic morality. Nevertheless, the Christian humanism of Petrarch, with its goal of reconciling Athens and Jerusalem, greatly impressed him and erelong he underwent the influence of the Petrarchan circle, assuming after 1369 a clear Christian context for his thought. The educational and philological interests of the humanists were likewise affected by Christian preoccupations, as is testified by humanist concern over liturgical texts, a topic explored by Volker Honemann. Acting upon the premise that better Latin would lead to more effective texts and hence to better Christians, some of the German humanists (such as Jakob Wimpfeling) took care to purge texts of apocryphal materials. In his contribution on Christian humanism and liturgy, Honemann focuses on the Offices of St. Jerome and St. Anne, an edition of which was prepared by Heinrich Bebel, Johannes Casselius and Leonhard Clemens and published in 1512.
On the other hand, traditional Christian conceptions could be significantly influenced by classical secular notions, as Berndt Hamm illustrates in a contribution on fame and the afterlife in humanist culture. In the religious turmoil of late fifteenth-century Germany, humanist interest in earthly fame and glory, as exemplified in the Memoria-culture of epitaphs and memorials, signalled a strong secularising tendency. Grounded on the works of authors such as Sallust and Cicero, the idea that man's immortal soul and man's immortal fame were closely linked had a great appeal for Christian nobles and urban elites. Christian notions of the afterlife were an implicit (and sometimes an explicit) motive in an otherwise secularising demonstration of fama in the fields of the arts, sciences, and virtue as extolled in memorials. Hamm adduces various examples, such as the epitaph for the poet Konrad Celtis, or the Life of the poet Helius Eobanus Hessus by Joachim Camerarius, to demonstrate how the emulation of the deceased's qualities was seen in the light of the Christian duty to propagate God-given talent.
Secular humanist tendencies should not be regarded as a threat to Christian theology, since, on the contrary, the former might lend support to the latter. This is argued by Willemien Otten, who makes a case for theology as a humanist discipline in Dutch university life. Theology as an academic discipline in the Netherlands was for a very long time intimately affiliated with the Dutch Re-formed Church. Currently, however, theology and the study of religion are in danger of going their quite separate ways. Willemien Otten argues for a human-ist approach that will endeavour to keep the two together, and she draws atten-tion to the interrelatedness of faith and reason in the western intellectual tradi-tion. A clear tradition can be discerned from Augustine's exercitatio mentis and the mystical and negative theology of Dionysius and his medieval commentator Eriugena, through the mental exercise or meditation in which Anselm embed-ded his rational quest for God, up to what a theologian like Voetius or a phi-losopher like Schleiermacher denoted as piety and which served as a basis for the 'science of theology'.
Not only faith and reason but also moral instruction and literary exercise can be two sides of the same coin, as is demonstrated by Albrecht Diem in his contribution on John of Wales. John, a thirteenth-century 'classicising' Francis-can scholar, specialised in works of moral instruction and pastoral care. Gathering his materials from classical sources, his work bridges the gap between twelfth- and fifteenth-century humanism. Diem provides an analysis of one of John of Wales' unpublished pastoral texts, the Breviloquium de virtutibus, which remained popular for nearly three centuries and takes a middle ground between a mirror for princes and a florilegium of classical literary texts. Manuscript evidence suggests that this collection of exempla was actually used and read as an introduction to classical literature rather than as a book of moral instruction. In a way this makes John of Wales a medieval 'humanist' in Southern 's sense of the word, but Diem emphasises that John himself probably viewed his work in the context of the pastoral revolution.
John of Wales' book on virtues introduces the second section of the present volume, which deals with the sometimes problematic relation between human-ism and stoicism. The essay by Istvan Bejczy on stoicism in a medieval Christian context shows that medieval Christians found it difficult to come to terms with the Stoic notion that virtue is an end in itself. The notion that God is the ultimate goal permeated all medieval ethical thought, but it did so with the exclusion of worldly goods — a notion that was favourable to Stoic thinking and made Stoicism attractive for Christian thinkers. Bejczy gives an interesting overview of the diversity of medieval opinions on this subject. Abelard believed that hope of heavenly rewards is a requirement for moral behaviour. Alan of Lille asserted that only self-interested love of God results in virtue. Peter Lombard came closest to vindicating the Stoic ideal, but many other and later authors, including Renaissance scholars such as Lorenzo Valla and Marsilio Ficino, departed from a pure Stoic ethics in favour of the notion of an ultimate divine end. Even the Aristotle commentators, who through the Nicomachean Ethics were introduced to the idea of naturally acquired virtues for the sake of happiness, linked beatitude to the supernatural contemplation of God (thus giving a religious dimension to the idea of natural virtue, to which other-wise theologians would have objected).
In spite of such frictions, Stoic notions readily found their way to the hearts and minds of Christian thinkers and authors. In his contribution on the Scottish humanist Florentius Volusenus, Alasdair MacDonald deals with one of these notions, namely the theme of tranquillity of mind, in particular is relation to Volusenus' De animi tranquillitate (1543). The topic is traced back to the Ancients (especially Seneca and Plutarch), and it is shown to resonate in medieval times. In the period of the Renaissance and Reformation the theme became especially urgent, given all the theological, political, social and moral perplexities of the age. Later applications of the topic are also investigated — concerning the genres of the pastoral and the georgic, and in the light of the contemporary tumults (English Civil War, Thirty Years War, Seven Years War). At all stages of the discussion, the general theme is examined in the light of Volusenus' book (a combination of Ciceronian dialogue and dream vision), which testifies to the larger value of the tranquillity topos and the emerging need for a secular ethics.
This theme is further pursued by Jan Papy in his contribution on Justus Lipsius and his concern for Ciceronian ethics. Cicero's qualities as a philosopher were the subject of an ongoing debate since Erasmus, and in general the latter's Stoicism was refuted in favour of Christian Platonism. Cicero the rhetorician was the focus of sixteenth-century philological and historical interest. It seems that with Justus Lipsius' Manuductio ad Stoicam philosophiam, the Stoic author was for the first time fully appreciated for formulating a new secular eth-ics. Lipsius dealt extensively with Cicero's Stoic paradoxes, which he analysed and interpreted through Clement of Alexandria, who had made similar efforts to conflate Christian doctrine and Stoicism. Another humanist from the Low Countries striving to reconcile Christian morality and Stoic ethics was Dirck Volkertszoon Coornhert (1522-1590), the Dutch writer, etcher, and printer who published tracts on theology and ethics, and who was one of the great advocates of religious tolerance in his age. A passionate debater, he was also a highly controversial thinker in the eyes of many. His opposition to the persecution and killing of heretics caused him to be banished by Alva, while his rejection of original sin and predestination, and his advocacy of man's perfectibility made him equally suspect in Calvinist circles. In their contribution on Coornhert, Hans and Simone Mooij point out that he was not a Stoic, even though he had clear affinities with Stoic ethics; and that likewise he was not a biblical human-ist even though he had much in common with Erasmus. A skilled translator and innovator in handling the Dutch language, Coornhert made classical ethical texts (e.g. Philo's little treatise on nobility) available for the moral and intellec-tual improvement of his readers and of society.
Humanism contributed significantly to the late and post-medieval innova-tions in the field of rationalism and philosophy, and this is the central topic of the third part of this collection. In her contribution on Vives, Marcia Colish shows how humanist persuasion can aid rational and religious instruction. Juan Luis Vives, coming from a converso family, wrote his De veritate fidei Christianae for imperfectly Christianised conversos and Moriscos and in it he dis-played the humanist literary trends of his age; he rejected scholastic specula-tion, limited himself to practical ethics and presented Christianity as civic duty. His intended audience was sensitive to this type of argument (in humanist vein) since the eleventh- and twelfth-century rise of fundamentalism had left the Muslim community deprived of intellectual leadership and speculative thought; additionally, the Reconquest and the rise of false Messiahs had demoralised the Jewish community. Conversos and Moriscos were not merely crypto-Jews or crypto-Muslims; they were in-between groups uncertain about their own traditions and identities. Hence Vives does not argue dogmatically but begins with human nature and a discussion of natural religion. The benevolent God is congruent with human nature and human needs, and this is communicated to man through Christ. Reason aids faith; religious truth is not solely based on reason, or on the senses (one should not trust miracles), or on biblical exegesis. Like-wise, Vives' soteriology (Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection) is exemplary rather than dogmatic.
The rejection of dogmatism could be taken one step further into intellectual doubt. This was one of the new directions of philosophical inquiry that Michel de Montaigne was the first to embark upon, and it is the subject of the contribution by Peter Mack. Within the context of humanist culture, the legacy of the ancients for a thinker like Montaigne mainly consisted in the tradition of scepticism. Mack points out that Montaigne's world view was informed by the ma-teriality of Lucretius and by the understanding of human limitations of Horace. Though he read and admired Latin poetry, Montaigne disliked rhetoric and despised the practice of parroting opinions about the ancients. Far from idealising the classical tradition, Montaigne resorted to scepticism to point to the limitations of reason, even though he never said that rational thought is impossible. Some of this scepticism can be found in Montaigne's religious opinions; he was very sceptical regarding witchcraft beliefs and although he believed in God's intervening power, he did not believe this power was ever imparted to him. Yet,
on the whole, he regarded Christian faith and humanism as two different things. Montaigne was sceptical of the classical tradition, but not of the Christian tradition. Divine revelation and divine grace (e.g. in liturgy and ritual) bring man the joys of the afterlife to which unsupported reason cannot attain. Montaigne favoured a traditional faith, somehow apart from cultural and intellectual concerns; as a consequence he opposed the essential hallmarks of Christian human-ism, namely the blend of Stoic morality and Christianity (as with Coornhert), and the practice of philological criticism and Bible study (as with Erasmus and
Another philosopher who was greatly influenced by humanist culture but who did not fall under the sway of scepticism, was Baruch Spinoza. Fokke Akkerman discusses the relation between humanism and religion in the latter's writings. Commonly hailed as a great rationalist philosopher and precursor of Enlightenment thought, Spinoza was well read in the classics, and was in his own right a defender of true (i.e. rationalist) religion. Notably, his discussions of religion and superstition are replete with echoes from Lucretius. For Spinoza superstition derives from religious fear and ignorance, whereas true religion is pure rational comprehension of universal principles. His Tractatus theologico-politicus is a plea for freedom of debate in religion and philosophy and displays a clear de-secularising tendency. Spinoza objected to being labelled an atheist.
Rational doubt or confidence did not automatically result in the positions (both extreme and original) of Montaigne and Spinoza. On the whole, rational-ism went well with the humanist programme and caused it to be both traditional and innovative at the same time. Both directions are exemplified by the thought of Erasmus, who is the subject of two contributions, the first by Christoph Burger, the second by Han van Ruler. Burger deals with the measure in which Erasmus relied on traditional medieval authors. Erasmus' treatise on free will and divine Grace (De libero arbitrio) has much in common with similar works by late-medieval theologians. In general, discussions on free will moved between the extremes of Augustine's notion of a corrupted free will and the de-terminism of Grace on the one hand, and the Aristotelian notion of man's moral autonomy on the other. Erasmus finds a safe passage between this Scylla and Charibdis by avoiding determinism but at the same time emphasising the importance of Grace. In doing so, Burger points out, Erasmus shows a degree of kinship with medieval authors such as Gregory of Rimini and Hugolinus of Orvieto.
Van Ruler, on the other hand, deals with the innovative dimensions of Eras-mus' ethical thought, by outlining Christian humanist interest in Stoicism. Erasmus' Philosophia Christi can be seen as a point of departure for a philoso-phy of moral and mental transformation, where reason and faith are naturally amalgamated and where the moral teaching of Scripture is (re-)interpreted in classical terms, thereby emphasising a dualism of body and soul. Suppression of the carnal should foster the cultivation of the mental, and hence improve moral behaviour (which for Erasmus would automatically mean the Christian life). There were other humanists who strove for such a philosophical felicity, such as Coornhert, whose doctrine of perfectibility merged Stoic and Christian ideals, or Petrus Geesteranus, who likewise saw the peace and tranquillity of the afterlife in Stoic terms. This conviction, that moral (or philosophical) and theological bliss could be identified, remained en vogue well into the seventeenth century. Serious criticism and scepticism were demonstrated by Blaise Pascal and Thomas Hobbes. Pascal questioned the attainability of bliss through reason by emphasising man's fallen state and the fundamental friction between man's will and its abilities. Hobbes went further and rejected moral happiness altogether, along with the time-honoured identification of moral behaviour and mental state. In some ways Christian humanism fostered these new developments, but the project and ideal of Christian humanism itself ended with the rise of modern moral philosophy.
Taking the theme of mental transformation somewhat further into the modern era, Detlev Pätzold studies the autobiographical elements in the writings of two key philosophers, namely René Descartes and Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Relating crucial moments in their philosophical development, they produced partly fictional and partly true stories of becoming themselves by finding the principle of selfhood. It is uncertain whether Descartes' story of being alone in a room heated by a stove, where he reflected on his own thoughts and dreams (which led him to the cogito argument) is a fable or not, but evidently Fichte's discovery of the first principle of philosophy (the 'I') under very much the same circumstances (in a room warmed by a stove) was modelled on the story told by the earlier man. In the Christian humanist tradition, this quest for a first principle of certain knowledge was inextricably tied up with the notion of God — Descartes would produce several 'proofs' for His existence — but as a consequence of the advent of Enlightenment thought (and Kant's critique) this position was no longer an option for Fichte. Christian humanism as a dominant strain of thought suffered a defeat through the rise of modern moral philosophy, but also, and perhaps even more so, with the loss of God as first principle.
Among humanists, doctrinal, philosophical and scientific considerations were less marginal than pioneers in the field of Renaissance studies, such as Paul Oskar Kristeller, have suggested, in their demarcation and vindication of this important cultural strain in the Renaissance. Several essays in the present volume bear this out, but John North's contribution on the astrology of Ficino and other humanist authors demonstrates especially that too narrow a demarcation of humanism blinds one to the breadth of the humanist intellectual endeavour. North's essay introduces the fourth section of this book, dedicated to the relation between humanism and the arts and sciences, and deals with the inconsistencies in the astrological works of Ficino and Pico. To be sure, later genera-tions imputed inconsistency to the former, and with good cause. In his De vita Ficino laboured to present an astrological world view as a natural philosophy whereby a cosmic spirit constituted an organic sympathetic structure in the universe. In earlier writings, however, he had fiercely denounced astrology on the grounds of inconsistency and arbitrariness. A similar vacillation of mind can be found in Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, who with brilliant rhetorical strength had defended in his 900 Theses whatever magic or astrology he knew, but who condemned the same in his Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem.
In spite of later scholarly efforts to explain away these inconsistencies, one should rather accept as a serious fact the intellectual inconstancy that plagued the minds of some of the eminent exponents of Renaissance humanism. In similar vein, modern scholarly appreciation of what 'humanism' is perceived to imply, is frequently found to be inconsistent with Renaissance humanist writings.
That the philological and educational concerns of the humanists should lead them to the study of the liberal arts should come as no surprise, even though this fact has not always been the focus of historians. Many of the intellectual pursuits of the classical and medieval periods remained important for the humanists, as their writings on cosmology, astrology, music and many others disciplines demonstrate. Stephen Gersh deals with one of these time-honoured artes-subjects, namely music, not in the humanist, but in the late classical context. His analysis of Augustine's De musica explores the philosophical dimensions of the text and outlines the influence of this treatise which, next to Boethius' De institutione musica, was one of the basic works on the 'science of mensurating well' (Augustine's own definition). Augustine's moral objections to music as a source of deceptive pleasures are conquered by his conviction that music essentially belongs to the domain of the intellect and has great cognitive value. The study of music is for him the study of the theoretical principles relative to number and ratios in the realm of the intellect. In studying the order of music, one studies the order of the soul and the order of the universe.
The cosmological implications of the study of the artes continued to exercise the minds of philosophers and scientists throughout the humanist era. The amalgamation of science and philosophy with humanist methods and ideas can be discerned in the works of many intellectuals from the late-medieval and early modern era. A case in point is Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464), one of the most original thinkers of his age. Critical of the Platonic and Aristotelian strains in western thought, his Christian or rather Christ-centred philosophy reconfigured many of the standard ideas about God, man, and cosmos. In his essay on Cusanus' ideas on time and eternity, Matthieu van der Meer not only emphasises the Christian humanist aspect of Cusanus' philosophy, whereby man is the true image of God (thereby offering a philosophical frame for humanist idealism), but also addresses some of the cosmological and metaphysical problems incumbent upon the relation between Creator and creation — such as how Cusa reconciled the omnipotence of God with his concept of the eternity of the world through Christ.
Not only in the field of philosophy but also in the field of science do humanist traits inform the discourse of innovative thinkers, as Marc van der Poel shows in a chapter on Nicolaus Copernicus. The new heliocentric theory of the solar system, which Copernicus expounded in his De revolutionibus, met with considerable opposition from scholars and most notably from theologians. Among the latter Melanchthon takes pride of place and he did not shrink from appealing to the authorities to silence the Polish astronomer. In the preface to his book Copernicus defended himself by claiming freedom of scientific inquiry. Van der Poel presents the text of this praefatio, which is dedicated to Pope Paul III, and his analysis of its humanist traits shows Copernicus to be on a par with other revolutionary writers, such as Erasmus and Agrippa of Nettesheim, both of whom had likewise to defend themselves in an age of in-creasing religious intolerance. Religious pressures may also have motivated Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples to turn his back on one of the more ambitious and daring projects of his earlier scholarship. In his De magia naturali he painted the picture of a magus as a combination of philosopher, physician, astronomer and theologian, whose knowledge of numbers, words and sympathetic magic would equip him sufficiently to provide the remedies and harmonies that the age of schism, reformation and critical philosophical and scientific inquiry craved. In his contribution on Lefevre's De magia, Jan Veenstra deals with a number of Hermetic and Kabbalistic passages from Book Two of the treatise. Known chiefly as a humanist and Bible translator, Lefevre also wrote a number of textbooks on Aristotle, commented on Sacrobosco's De Sphaera, and edited several works of the medieval Christian mystics. With other scholars of his day (such as Giovanni Pico della Mirandola) he shared a vacillation of mind that made his earlier magical and philosophical interests initial stages in what would turn out to be a study of orthodox mysticism and Scripture-based Christian humanism.
For many historians the proper domain of humanism is philology and education. Hence the fifth and concluding section of this volume is dedicated to humanist interest in history, theological instruction, higher education, and dis-course analysis. The first essay in this group is by Peter Raedts and deals with the way Dutch humanists regarded the medieval past. Humanist historiography occasionally took liberties regarding the representation of the past. Hugo Grotius' Liber de Antiquitate, which coined the myth of `Batavian liberty' or 'Gothic freedom' in opposition to Roman oppression, is a case in point. Having unsuccessfully sought for a regent, the States General of the newly created Dutch Republic acted, in an unprecedented way, as their own sovereign authority. In defence of this new state, Dutch humanists and historiographers re-evaluated the medieval past and created the Batavian myth. This myth, as it was claimed, was founded on a (in reality non-existent) States of Holland that from the earlier Middle Ages onwards allegedly functioned as a sovereign govern-mental body, constituting a force in opposition first to Rome and later, in the early modern era, to Philip II of Spain. The Dutch retained a romantic view of their medieval past, and this is still encountered in such a nineteenth-century figure as Willem Bilderdijk, even though Bilderdijk — a staunch royalist in the post-Napoleonic era — ransacked medieval history with completely different motives, namely to ground governmental legitimacy on monarchical authority.
A similar use of a fictional past is detected by Rudolf Suntrup in his historical survey of the Schola Carolina in Osnabrtick. Founded in the time of Charlemagne, the Gymnasium Carolinum can boast a 1200-year history. In the sixteenth century its contribution to the studia humanitatis helped to pave the way for the Reformation, even though this caused the school to suffer the rivalry of a similar protestant establishment. Ere long the Jesuits made the Carolinum an important educational stronghold in the cause of the Counter-Reformation and in the middle of the seventeenth century, during the Thirty Years War, the Carolinum was raised to the status of Jesuit University. Its foundation was based on the historical fiction that Charlemagne had been the first to establish an academia in Osnabrück, but historical facts bowed to the pressure of politi-cal expediency. A year after its official opening, the university was closed down again, as the city, having the misfortune to be in the frontline between warring Protestants and Catholics, suffered the fate of repeated power changes. Nevertheless, the Jesuits retained a dominant influence in Osnabrtick until 1773.
That humanism was a powerful presence in the European academies of the early modern era, is emphasised in the contributions by Zweder von Martels and Alexander Broadie. Von Martels discusses the Foundation Edict of the University of Groningen (an Edictum perpetuum) which, as he demonstrates, was drawn up by one of the co-founders (in 1614) of the university, Ubbo Emmins, a renowned humanist scholar and historian. Emmius emphasised the value of good education to prepare students for their tasks as administrators in the offices of state and church. Humanism also affected academic discourse and ideas concerning the proper methods of instruction. Broadie deals with six-teenth-century innovations in theology in his discussion of the Dialogus de materia theologo tractanda, which the Scottish logician John Mair (c. 1467-1550) published as an introduction to his Commentary on Book One of the Sentences of Peter Lombard. The text is a fine illustration of the clashing values of scholastic and humanist theology. The dialogue introduces two interlocutors, David Cranston (who favours scholasticism and disapproves of humanism) and Gavin Douglas (who is in favour of humanism), busy discussing John Mair's Commentary, a work which was written in the scholastic vein. As is to be expected, Douglas criticises and Cranston defends Mair's approach. The very presence of the dialogue as an introduction to Mair's book, testifies to the growing influence of humanism in the universities and also shows that a scholastic philosopher like Mair was well aware of the innovative movement.
A collection of essays on humanist culture cannot fail to attend to humanist texts and humanist writing. Four contributions in this volume present text editions (the essays by Marc van der Poel, Zweder von Martels, Alexander Broadie and Adrie van der Laan) and the concluding essays focus specifically on the world of the text and the text as world. The first of these, an essay by Adrie van der Laan, highlights one of the most important fifteenth-century northern humanist writers, Rudolph Agricola Phrisius. Cultivating the studia humanitatis and the art of Latin epistolography, Agricola appeared as ghost-writer for, and was among the retinue of, Johann von Dalberg, who as bishop of Worms addressed the newly elected Pope Innocent VIII in 1485 in a speech written by Agricola (Van der Laan presents an edition of that text). Just Niemeijer introduces the theme of reality as text and the mind of man as a means to come to that reality; this was an awareness very much present in the work of the monastic author Isaac of Stella. Writing on the virtue of monastic solitude and the need for instruction, Isaac articulated a sense of human dignity that qualified him — somewhat anachronistically — for the epithet 'medieval humanist'. In his sermons he expressed the need for withdrawal from the world in order to search for the divine light through introspection. Ultimately this light was inaccessible on account of man's limitations, but Isaac's pedagogical adhortations drew his readers to the six books of reality: the Book of Wisdom within the Godhead, the book of the rational mind, the book of creation, the book of the law, of Christ and of the Scriptures.
Later humanist authors would be susceptible to this type of 'literary' thinking as the higher demands of textual perfection shaped not only their discourse but also their worldview. The concluding contributions by Burcht Pranger and Rob Pauls deal with the impact that this had on the theology of the reformers. In a general discussion of Christian humanism, Anselm of Canterbury and John Calvin would deserve a place for their rationalising and classicising tendencies, but Pranger discusses and analyses the essential doctrines of their theologies on a more fundamental level. Anselm's sola ratione involves a self-referential discourse, in which God and reality are conflated and Scripture and Christ are absent. Calvin's sola scriptura is likewise a self-referential discourse, whereby Scripture is intrinsically compacted into a testimonium Spiritus internum. In his contribution on Melanchthon, Pauls signals a similar self-referentiality. Melanchthon' s Loci communes of 1521 are an example of practical didactic theological literature, of which the main aim is the transformation of the Christian mind. Melanchthon relates the essential Reformation doctrine of sin and grace to the human affects which are then, in turn, made identical with the theology of the Loci. Thus the Loci present a self-contained and self-referential system of theology which in its pragmatic but reductive and narrowing delineations comprises — or aims at comprising — all of reality: the world as sin and grace. These post-modern readings serve to problematise Christian theological discourse on God and Scripture but (rather than exercising historical and philosophical criticism) they also show themselves as a means of redeeming the humanism of theology, and so in their own way enhancing and representing the Christian humanist tradition.
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