Christian humanism

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Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man (c. 1490) shows the correlations of ideal human body proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius in his De Architectura. Vitruvius described the human figure as being like the principal source of proportion among the Classical orders of architecture. Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour.jpg
Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man (c. 1490) shows the correlations of ideal human body proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius in his De Architectura . Vitruvius described the human figure as being like the principal source of proportion among the Classical orders of architecture.

Christian humanism regards humanist principles like universal human dignity, individual freedom and the importance of happiness as essential and principal components of the teachings of Jesus. It emerged during the Renaissance with strong roots in the patristic period.

Individualism moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that emphasizes the moral worth of the individual

Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that emphasizes the moral worth of the individual. Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance and advocate that interests of the individual should achieve precedence over the state or a social group, while opposing external interference upon one's own interests by society or institutions such as the government. Individualism is often defined in contrast to totalitarianism, collectivism, and more corporate social forms.

Happiness is used in the context of mental or emotional states, including positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. It is also used in the context of life satisfaction, subjective well-being, eudaimonia, flourishing and well-being.

Jesus The central figure of Christianity

Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.

Contents

Historically, major forces shaping the development of Christian humanism was the Christian doctrine that God, in the person of Jesus, became human in order to redeem humanity, and the further injunction for the participating human collective (the church) to act out the life of Christ. [1] Many of these ideas had emerged among the patristics, and would develop into Christian humanism in the late 15th century, through which the ideals of "common humanity, universal reason, freedom, personhood, human rights, human emancipation and progress, and indeed the very notion of secularity (describing the present saeculum preserved by God until Christ’s return) are literally unthinkable without their Christian humanistic roots." [2] [3] [4] Though there is a common association of humanism with agnosticism and atheism in popular culture, this association developed in the 20th century and non-humanistic forms of agnosticism and atheism have long existed. [5]

God in Catholicism

God in Catholicism is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Catholic Church believes that there is one true and living God, the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth.

Definitions

The initial distinguishing factor between Christian humanism and other varieties of humanism is that Christian humanists not only discussed religious or theological issues in some or all their works (as did all Renaissance humanists) but according to Charles Nauert;

made a connection between their humanistic teaching and scholarship on classical languages and literature, on the one hand, and on the other hand, their study of ancient Christianity, including the Bible and the Church Fathers... Even more important, they associated their scholarly work (classical as well as biblical and patristic) with a determination to bring about a spiritual renewal and institutional reform of Christian society. That connection between their scholarly efforts and their longing for spiritual and institutional renewal is the specific characteristic that distinguishes “Christian humanists” as a group from other humanists who just happened to be religious." [6]

History

Renaissance

Origins

Christian humanism originated towards the end of the 15th century with the early work of figures such as Jakob Wimpfeling, John Colet, and Thomas More and would go on to dominate much of the thought in the first half of the 16th century with the emergence of widely influential Renaissance and humanistic intellectual figures like Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples and especially Erasmus, who would become the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance. [6] These scholars used much of their intellectual work towards reforming the church and reviving spiritual life through humanist education, and were highly critical of the corruption they saw in the Church and ecclesiastical life. They would combine the greatest morals in the pre-Christian moral philosophers, such as Cicero and Seneca with Christian interpretations deriving from study of the Bible and Church Fathers.

Jakob Wimpfeling was a Renaissance humanist and theologian.

John Colet English priest

John Colet was an English churchman and educational pioneer.

Thomas More 15th/16th-century English statesman

Sir Thomas More, venerated in the Catholic Church as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He was also a Chancellor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to 16 May 1532. He wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an imaginary, ideal island nation.

Jakob Wimpfeling

Although the first humanists did little to orient their intellectual work towards reforming the church and reviving spiritual life through humanist education, the first pioneering signs and practices of this idea emerged with Jakob Wimpfeling (1450-1528), a Renaissance humanist and theologian. Wimpfeling was very critical of ecclessiastical patronage and criticized the moral corruption of many clergymen, however, his timidity stopped him from converting his work from speech to action for fear of controversy. Though he loved reading many of the classics of the writings of classical antiquity, he feared introducing them to mainstream Christianity and sought to use the works of the Latin Church Fathers and a few Christian poets from the Late Roman Empire towards creating a new form of education that would provide church leaders educated in Christian religion, prominent Church authors and a few important classical writings and hence improve Christendom's condition. [7]

Church Fathers Group of ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers

The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers. There is no definitive list. The era of these scholars who set the theological and scholarly foundations of Christianity largely ended by AD 700.

John Colet

Portrait of John Colet John Colet.jpg
Portrait of John Colet

John Colet (1467-1519) was another major figure in early Christian humanism, exerting much more cultural influence than his older contemporary, Jakob Wimpfeling. Being attracted to Neoplatonic philosophers like Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola and gaining an appreciation for humanistic methods of analyzing texts and developing detailed ideas and principles regarding them, he used this humanistic method and begun giving it a biblical applications to the epistles of Paul the Apostle. In 1505, he completed his doctorate in theology, and then became a dean at St. Paul's Cathedral. From there, he used his fortune to found near the cathedral St Paul's School for boys. The school was humanistic, both in its teaching of Latin and moral preparation of its students, as well as its recruitment of prominent humanists to recommend and compose new textbooks for it. The best Christian authors were taught, as well as a handful of pagan texts (predominantly Cicero and Virgil), however, his restrictions on the teaching of other classical texts was seen as anti-humanistic and quickly reverted by the schools headmasters. After his death, his school at St. Paul's would become an influential humanistic school. He was very critical of many church leaders. [8] Colet failed to recognize the importance of mastering Greek when it came to application of humanistic methods to biblical texts, which would be the greatest strength of the work of Erasmus. [9]

Marsilio Ficino Italian philosopher

Marsilio Ficino was an Italian scholar and Catholic priest who was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance. He was an astrologer, a reviver of Neoplatonism in touch with the major academics of his day and the first translator of Plato's complete extant works into Latin. His Florentine Academy, an attempt to revive Plato's Academy, influenced the direction and tenor of the Italian Renaissance and the development of European philosophy.

Pauline epistles New Testament books

The Pauline epistles, also called Epistles of Paul or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen books of the New Testament attributed to Paul the Apostle, although authorship of some is in dispute. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents. They provide an insight into the beliefs and controversies of early Christianity. As part of the canon of the New Testament, they are foundational texts for both Christian theology and ethics. The Epistle to the Hebrews, although it does not bear his name, was traditionally considered Pauline for a thousand years, but from the 16th century onwards opinion steadily moved against Pauline authorship and few scholars now ascribe it to Paul, mostly because it does not read like any of his other epistles in style and content. Most scholars agree that Paul really wrote seven of the Pauline epistles, but that four of the epistles in Paul's name are pseudepigraphic ; scholars are divided on the authenticity of two of the epistles.

Paul the Apostle Early Christian apostle and missionary

Paul the Apostle, commonly known as Saint Paul and also known by his Jewish name Saul of Tarsus, was an apostle who taught the gospel of Christ to the first-century world. Paul is generally considered one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age and in the mid-30s to the mid-50s AD he founded several churches in Asia Minor and Europe. He took advantage of his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to minister to both Jewish and Roman audiences.

Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples

Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples (1453–1536) was, alongside Erasmus, the first of the great Christian humanists to see the importance of integrating Christian learning, in both the patristics and biblical writings, with many of the best intellectual achievements of ancient civilizations and classical thought. He was educated in the University of Paris and began studying Greek under George Hermonymus due to his interest in contemporary cultural changes in Italy. He taught humanities as Paris and, among his earliest scholarly works, was writing an introduction to Aristotle's Metaphysics. He would write many other works on Aristotle and promote the use of direct translations of Aristotle's work from the original Greek rather than the medieval Latin translations that currently existed. His focus then began to shift to the Greek Church Fathers whom he personally considered abler sources for the pedagogy of spiritual life than medieval scholasticism, and his goal became to help revive spiritual life in Europe, retiring in 1508 to focus on precisely this. He began publishing various Latin texts of biblical books such as the Psalms and Pauline epistles and was keen to study textual variations between surviving manuscripts. According to Nauert, these "biblical publications constitute the first major manifestation of the Christian humanism that dominated not only French but also German, Netherlandish, and English humanistic thought through the first half of the sixteenth century." [10] [11]

Erasmus

Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam with Renaissance Pilaster Holbein-erasmus.jpg
Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam with Renaissance Pilaster

Erasmus (1466-1536) was the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance and the most widely influential Christian humanist scholar in history, becoming the most famous scholar in Europe in his day. One of the defining components of his intellectual success was his mastery of Greek. As early as December of 1500 while in England, he had written in a letter that his primary motivation for returning to the continent was to pursue studying Greek, [12] and quickly mastered it without a tutor and access to only a small number of Greek texts. In 1505, he translated Euripides' Hecuba and, and in 1506, he translated Euripides' Iphigenia in Aulis, both being published in 1506. Erasmus wrote that his motivation in creating these translations was to restore the "science of theology", which had lost its great status because of the medieval scholastics. Two years earlier, he had written that he was going to invest his entire life into the study of scripture through his Greek work;

Hereafter I intend to address myself to the Scriptures and to spend all the rest of my life upon them. Three years ago, indeed, I ventured to do something on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans ... and would have gone on, but for certain distractions of which the most important was that I needed the Greek at every point. Therefore for nearly the past three years I have been wholly absorbed by Greek; and I do not think my efforts have been altogether wasted. [13]

He had published his Handbook of a Christian Knight (Enchiridion militis christiani) in 1503, writing about his new intellectual direction towards Christ's philosophy, though this text did not gain much popularity. However, when it was published on its own in 1515, it became incredibly popular with 29 Latin editions between 1519-1523 and receiving translations into English, Dutch, German, French, and Spanish. "The secret of its spectacular popular success was its combination of three elements: emphasis on personal spiritual experience rather than external ceremonies, frank criticism of many clergymen for moral corruption ... and insistence that true religion must be expressed in a morally upright life rather than in punctilious observance of the external trappings of religion." [14] The title, Enchiridion, could mean both "dagger" and "handbook", hence, had a double-meaning implying its use as a weapon in spiritual warfare. [15] The popularity of Erasmus and his work was further amplified by the success of his literary works like The Praise of Folly, published in 1511, and Colloquies, published in 1518. He also gained incredible success as a textual scholar, interpreting, translating and editing numerous texts of Greek and Roman classics, Church Fathers and the Bible. This textual success began when he discovered and published Lorenzo Valla's Annotations on the New Testament in 1504-1505, and in a single year, in 1516, Erasmus published the first Greek edition of the New Testament, an edition of the works of the Roman philosopher Seneca, and a four-volume edition of St. Jerome's letters. His criticisms of many clergymen and injustices were widely popular and widely renowned for decades to come, and he succeeded in having truly and fully founded Christian humanism. [14]

Criticism

Some prominent humanists reject the validity of terms like "Christian humanism". Andrew Copson refers to Christian humanism as a "hybrid term... which some from a Christian background have been attempting to put into currency." Copson argues that attempts to append religious adjectives like Christian to the life stance of humanism are incoherent, saying these have "led to a raft of claims from those identifying with other religious traditions – whether culturally or in convictions – that they too can claim a ‘humanism’. The suggestion that has followed – that ‘humanism’ is something of which there are two types, ‘religious humanism’ and ‘secular humanism’, has begun to seriously muddy the conceptual water." [16]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Ambrogio Traversari, O.S.B. Cam., also referred to as Ambrose of Camaldoli, was an Italian monk and theologian who was a prime supporter of the papal cause in the 15th century. He is honored as a saint by the Camaldolese Order.

Erasmus Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, philosopher and theologian

Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, known as Erasmus or Erasmus of Rotterdam, was a Dutch philosopher and Christian humanist who is widely considered to have been the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance. Originally trained as a Catholic priest, Erasmus was an important figure in classical scholarship who wrote in a pure Latin style. Among humanists he enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists", and has been called "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists". Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament, which raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. He also wrote On Free Will,In Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, Julius Exclusus, and many other works.

Secular humanism is a philosophy or life stance that embraces human reason, secular ethics, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, and superstition as the basis of morality and decision making.

Religious humanism is an integration of humanist ethical philosophy with congregational but non-theistic rituals and community activity which center on human needs, interests, and abilities. Self-described religious humanists differ from secular humanists mainly in that they regard the humanist life stance as their religion and organise using a congregational model. Religious humanism is a classic example of a nontheistic religion.

Renaissance humanism

Renaissance humanism was a revival in the study of classical antiquity, at first in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The term humanism is contemporary to that period, while Renaissance humanism is a retronym used to distinguish it from later humanist developments.

Latin school School type in Europe from the 14th to 19th centuries

The Latin school was the grammar school of 14th- to 19th-century Europe, though the latter term was much more common in England. Emphasis was placed, as the name indicates, on learning to use Latin. The education given at Latin schools gave great emphasis to the complicated grammar of the Latin language, initially in its Medieval Latin form. Grammar was the most basic part of the trivium and the Liberal arts — in artistic personifications Grammar's attribute was the birch rod. Latin school prepared students for university, as well as enabling those of middle class status to rise above their station. It was therefore not unusual for children of commoners to attend Latin schools, especially if they were expected to pursue a career within the church. Although Latin schools existed in many parts of Europe in the 14th century and were more open to the laity, prior to that the Church allowed for Latin schools for the sole purpose of training those who would one day become clergymen. Latin schools began to develop to reflect Renaissance humanism around the 1450s. In some countries, but not England, they later lost their popularity as universities and some Catholic orders began to prefer the vernacular.

Jacques Lefèvre dÉtaples French theologian and humanist

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Humanism in France

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Renaissance humanism in Northern Europe

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Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence over acceptance of dogma or superstition. The meaning of the term humanism has fluctuated according to the successive intellectual movements which have identified with it. The term was coined by theologian Friedrich Niethammer at the beginning of the 19th century to refer to a system of education based on the study of classical literature. Generally, however, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of human freedom and progress. It views humans as solely responsible for the promotion and development of individuals and emphasizes a concern for man in relation to the world.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to humanism:

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References

  1. Zimmerman, Jens. "Introduction," in Zimmermann, Jens, ed. Re-Envisioning Christian Humanism. Oxford University Press, 2017, 5.
  2. Zimmermann, 6-7.
  3. Croce, Benedetto Croce. My Philosophy and Other Essays on the Moral and Political Problems of Our Time (London: Allen & Unwin, 1949)
  4. Zimmermann, Jens. Humanism and Religion: A Call for the Renewal of Western Culture. Oxford University Press, 2012.
  5. Geroulanos, Stefan. An Atheism That Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010)
  6. 1 2 Nauert, Charles, "Rethinking “Christian Humanism” in Mazzocco, Angelo, ed. Interpretations of Renaissance humanism. Brill, 2006, 155-180.
  7. Nauert, 170-171.
  8. Nauert, 171-172.
  9. Gleason, John B. John Colet. Univ of California Press, 1989, 58-59.
  10. Rice Jr, Eugene F. "The Humanist Idea of Christian Antiquity: Lefèvre d'Etaples and his Circle." Studies in the Renaissance 9 (1962): 126-160.
  11. Nauert, 173-174.
  12. Erasmus to Batt, Orléans, 11 December 1500, Ep. 138 (CWE 1:294–300; Allen 1:320–24)
  13. Erasmus to Colet, [December?] 1504, Ep. 181 (CWE 2:86–87; Allen 1:404–5)
  14. 1 2 Nauert, 176-180.
  15. Anne M. O’Donnell, ‘Rhetoric and Style in Erasmus’ Enchiridion militis Christiani’, Studies in Philology 77/1 (1980), 26.
  16. Copson, Andrew, and Anthony Clifford Grayling, eds. The Wiley Blackwell handbook of humanism. John Wiley & Sons, 2015, 2-3. Chapter: What is Humanism?

Further reading