From Dawn to Decadence, 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life

Barzun, Jacques

HarperCollins, 2000

pp. 11 - 13

Erasmus was a cultivated humanist who shuddered at the rough hewn Luther and all the other reformers who kept shouting and farting all the time, was actually quite capable of indignation, and was a courageous fighter. He had enormous sway over his contemporaries–everybody, including popes, kings, universities, reformers, wanted to consult him or gain his support. He did a Greek ed. of the NT which assisted the Reformation, and he was never called a “highbrow.” He read Scripture his own way, finding in it a message he believed, but also finding in it fables and allegories. He loved figures of classical antiquity: “Saint Socrates, pray for us.” Barzun says Luther called Erasmus an “atheist” over his affirmation of free will. Erasmus rejected predestination as contrary to reason, and wrote very popular Colloquies in which he depicted “the interplay of wills free enough to choose good or bad, wise or foolish actions.” In his satire The Praise of Folly Erasmus exposed the follies of clerical abuses eight years before Luther’s theses.