[Partly edited 4/29/2008 and 5/02/2014]

THE REFORMATION

The Renaissance was a time of tremendous achievement in the arts, in music, and, to a certain extent, in spiritual life as well.  Nevertheless, despite all these achievements, Europeans during the Renaissance period were not able to solve the many problems created by disasters that had hit Europe in the 14th century.  Social tension if anything became worse.  Economic tension if anything became worse.  Wars like the Hundred Years' War gave way to new rounds of wars.  And the leadership problem was by no means solved. 

During the 16th century, reformers of various types tried to correct the many problems of their society, trying especially hard to fix problems withing the church.  Unfortuantely, many of these attempts at reform often only increased the turmoil of the century, and the the next period of history we talk about, the Reformation (1517-1648) is that there is a right way and a wrong way to work for societal change.

It's easy to see why there was such a strong desire for reform in the 16th century.  In addition to the problems mentioned above, the church seemed particularly in need of reform.  There were all sorts of problems: simony (the buying and selling of church office), pluralism (the same individual holding more than one church office and not necessarily doing either of them particularly well), clerical concubinage (priests, bishops, and monks with live-in girl friends and fathering lots of illegitimate kids), and a generally immoral lifestyle among the clergy (drunkenness a particular problem).

Now none of these problems were particularly new.  The difference was that the corruption had gotten all the way to the top.  Whereas earlier centuries had from time to time seen great reforming popes, men who would work to weed out the immoral and ineffective priests, now the popes themselves were as corrupt as they could be.  Alexander the VI a particularly good example--or, rather, a particularly bad example.  Such popes had turned the church into a money-making machine, introducing simony on a more massive scale than ever before.

An additional money-making scheme was the sale of indulgences.  An indulgence was permission from the pope to be readmitted to the sacraments before the normally proscribed period of penance had been completed.  It was reasonable enough, I suppose, for the pope to grant exceptions to the usual rules.  But what began to happen is that the popes gave "blank check" indulgences to indulgence sellers who then, for a commission, began selling these indulgences to raise money for the pope's building projects.  The indulgence sellers, in order to boost their profits, began claiming that the indulgences would not only allow one access to the sacraments, but would get you (or a deceased loved one) out of purgatory and straight into heaven.  This, of course, undercut ethical guidance in the same way that selling the Book of the Dead had tended to destroy ethical guidance on New Kingdom Egypt.

One of those who was particularly concerned about the problems the sale of indulgences was creating was Martin Luther.

Luther (1483-1546) was from a working class family, but he was obviously so bright and talented that his ambitious father made the sacrifices necessary to get him a good education.  He hoped probably that Martin would become a lawyer or choose some equally lucrative profession.  Instead, however, Luther, because of a vow made to St. Anne during a thunderstorm, decided to become a monk. 

Luther was the best monk he could be, fasting all the time, praying all the time, and making a pilgrimage to Rome.  He became an expert Bible student and teacher.
And Luther's study convinced him that there was something fundamentally wrong with thes sale of indulgences.  In 1517, he nailed his famous 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church.  This was  simply a challenge to debate.  The 95 theses were simply a list of Luther's objections to one contemporary practice, the sale of indulgences.  Nevertheless, this even is usually held to mark the start of the Protestant Reformation--and, with good reason.  Luther got his debate, and, during the course of the controversy about indulgences found, much to his surprise, that he was agreeing more with Wyclif and Huss.  He began to question, not just indulgences, but the whole of Catholic sacramental theology and the church hierarchy associated with the administration of the sacraments.  But if salvation didn't come through the sacraments, where did it come from?

The problem for Luther was that, despite all his efforts to be the best Christian he could be, he felt he was headed to hell.  But then the great turning point. One day, as Luther was studying the book of Romans, he came across Paul's words (quoted from the prophet Habakkuk), "The just shall live by faith."  For Luther, this mean he had been going about things the wrong way.  He had been trying to earn his salvation through works: from now on, he would rely on faith.

[This is called his tower experience. It's worth looking through Luther's own account of what happened here.]

Luther now began to make more fundamental challenges to current Catholic teaching, and because this was now the age of the printing press, his ideas spread widely and rapidly.

[particularly important three 1520 works: Luther's Address to the German Nobility, his "Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy," and his "Concerning Christian Liberty]


Charles V, the newly elected Holy Roman Emperor, was troubled by the divisions Luther's teaching were creating in the empire.  Charles and his Habsburg family  had lots on his plate: they had to see to the governing of Spain, the Netherlands,  and much of Italy.  They had to oversea Spanish colonies in the New World. They had to deal with potential war with France, and with a new wave of Moslem attacks in southeaster Europe--and, in order to goven effectively, they needed to make the title of Holy Roman Emperor something more than just a title. 

In 1521, Charles called together the Diet of Worms, a congress which would help him deal with finances, war preparations, and other issues confronting his vast dominion.  Among the problems he dealt with, the problem of Luther.  Luther came to the Diet expecting to be able to defend his ideas.  Instead, he was basically told his ideas were heretical, and that, if he wanted to avoid trouble, he better renounce his books and promise not to teach such things again.  He asked for a day to think over the matter.  He got that day, and was asked again what his decision would be.  Luther said it was neither safe nor right to go against one's conscience, and that he was bound by the scriptures he had quoted.  No, he wouldn't recant.

Forunately for Luther, he had close friends among the German nobles who made sure the promise of safe conduct made to him would be kept.  Luther goes into hiding for a time, but his supporters go on to implement the reforms he recommended regardless of the emperors wishes--and the pope's condemnation.  Among the Lutheran reforms:

1.  Luther's translation of the Bible into German.  Luther's translation becomes the standard German Bible and, in a way, creates the modern German language, giving the German people a standard, near-universal dialect.  A great thing for Germans to have the Bible in their own language!

2.  Luther makes major modifications the worship service.  The idea of the mass as a sacrifice is gone.  He adds extra emphasis on the scripture.  He also changes the music, writing and arranging songs himself, and making the changes that lead to the hymn-singing churches we have today.

3.  Clerical celibacy is eliminated, with Luther himself taking a former nun as his wife.  It's a very happy marriage, and, to an extent, the model for that pastor/pastor's wife partnership that's typical in Protestant churches today.

4.  The sale of indulgences is ended.

The problem is that, once one begins reform, it's hard to know where to stop.  Luther's more radical followers, inspired by Bible teachings against exploitation of the poor by the rich, want major social change as well.  They want to end noble privileges, and go so far as to lead a new round of peasant revolts (the Bundeschuh 1525, 1526).  Luther himself denounced the "murderous, thieving horde of peasants," but he was the one who had opened the door--and some of the peasants had it as their goal to make Luther the head of the German nation!

Another problem was that Luther's teachings soon led to religious civil war in the Holy Roman Empire.  Some nobles converted to Lutheranism because they sincerely thought Luther was right.  Others converted because Lutheranism offered a convenient justification for resisting the growing power of the Habsburg emperors.  In 1530, Charles V, having failed to find an acceptable compromise, determined to crush the Lutheran movement.  There followed 25 years of religous civil war, ended at last by the Peace of Augsburg (1555).  This treaty acknowledged to right of German nobles to choose the religion of their people.  If they wanted their people to by Lutheran, then Lutheran they would be.  If they wanted them to be Catholic, then Catholic they would be.  There followed 60 years of religious peace--but the compromise wasn't going to last, and one of the most horrible wars in history would soon break out in the HRE.

Luther's reforms led to peasant revolt and civil war in the German speaking areas of Europe and in Sweden as well when Lutheran ideas took over there.

Also leading to conflict were the changes made by other reformers including Ulrich Zwingli.

Zwingli was a Swiss priest, first in the small town where he was born, and then in the larger Swiss city of Zurich.  He ws a powerful preacher, placing great emphasis on  the scripture. Like Luther, he began to question some of doctrinces and practices of the Chruch.  He was also stirring up trouble, preaching against the way the wealthy and powerful exploited to poor.  Well, wealthy and poweful people don't like hearing themselves denounced, and so they tried to get Zwingli silenced as a heretic.  They took their case to the Zurich town council, and Zwingli was called on to defend himself.  He admitted teaching exactly what his accusors said that he did--and then he explained why he taught those things.  The council was impressed!  Zwingli was right, they thought--and so, instead of condemning Zwingli, they got behind the reforms he suggested.  This meant:
Zwingli's ideas began to spread to neighboring Swiss cantons, and opponents of these ideas wanted to cut them off at the source.  This led to war in Switzerland, the Kappel wars.  Zwingli himself accompanied Zurich troops into battle, and he himself was killed during the course of the fighting.

The death of Zwingli did not mean the end of the Swiss Reformation.  The refomers there soon get a new leader: John Calvin.

Calvin was a French priest and a very accomplished Bible scholar and theologian.  His most important work is the "Institues of the Christian Religion," a great work of systematic theology like Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica, but with a *very* different theology underneath.  Many of Calvin's followers today follow what's called "Five Point" Calvinism, stressing in particular the doctrinal points hinted at by the word TULIP.
Now Calvin did teach all of these things, but to emphasize these five points is misleading.  The above points suggest a do-nothing attitude toward life.  Those who are going to be saved or going to be saved no matter what.  Those who are going to be condemned will be condemned no matter what.  So just mind your own business, right?  Well, that's not the philosophy Calvinists adopt.  Calvinism is the ultimate in busy-body religion, and Calvinists work fervently to change every aspect of society.  Why?

Well, the number one idea of Calvin is his insistence on the sovereignty of God, the idea that God is the boss.  And everything ought to be done the way the boss wants--in economic life, in social life, and in our personal lives as well.

Calvin was invited to Geneva to help the reformers make changes there, and from his base in Geneva, Calivin spread his ideas around Europe--including back to his native France.  Many French nobles converted to Calvinism, some because the sincerely thought Calvin right, others because it was a convenient excuse to resist the growing authority of the French kings. 

Eventually, this lead to a round of religious civil wars in France (French wars of Religion:1562-1589--see your text for details).

In England too, religious change led to instability.

The English reformation began with an extraordinarily unlikely reformer, Henry VIII.  Henry was at first an ardent defender of the Catholic church, but a personal issue led him to separate the Church of England (the Anglican church) from Rome.  The issue was Henry's marriage.  Henry wanted an annulment of his marriage to his wife Catherine.  The fact that Catherine had given him only a daughter rather than the much-desired son made Henry think God was punishing him for a marriage he shouldn't have made in the first place.  But Catherine's family had too much influence in the papal court for Henry to get the annulment he wanted.  He wanted his annulmnent, and he wanted it immediately.  Why?  Well, Henry had a pregnant mistress, Anne Boleyn.  He had to get his marriage annuled so he could marry Anne sot that the baby would be legitimate and (if a boy) the long awaited heir.  So Henry simply went to his parliament and got there ok to separate the Church of England from Rome.

Henry wasn't trying to make theological changes: he just was changing the authority structure of the church.  So who now was the head of the church?  Henry, of course--and, following him, whoever happened to hold the English throne.  What this meant was a horribly unstable religious situation.  Every time the ruler changed, religion would change as well.  Henry's son Edward succeeded him and pushed England in a protestand direction.  Edward died young and was succeeded by his older sister Mary, daughter of the divorced Catherine.  Mary led England back towards Catholicism. Mary died and left the throne to her half-sister Elizabeth (daughter of the unfortunate Anne Boleyn who Henry had had beheaded for adultery, hypocrite that he was).  Elizabeth found a temporary religous compromise, but eventually England too went through a religious civil war--a war which cost King Charles I his head.

Even the most peaceful of religious reformers ended up involved in violent episodes.  An example: the Anabaptists.

The anabaptist movement was an attempt to get back to New Testament Christianity.  They advocated the following changes:

1.  Adult baptism only.  Baptism in infancy didn't count, and, if one had been baptized as an infant, it was necessary to be baptized properly as an adult.
2.  Pacificim.  Christ had said to turn the other cheek, not to take up the sword.
3.  Millennialism.  Christ would come back soon to establish his thousand-year reign on the earth.  Time to be ready!
4.  Communalism.  The early Christians had held "all things in common,"  and we too should return to communal ownership (no private property).
5.  The separation of church and state.  ("My kingdom is not of this world" meant that the spiritual and earthly authorities should be separate).

Anabaptists were hated and persecuted by both Protestants and Catholics.  Many of their leaders were put to death.  Unfortunately, this opened the door to less qualified leaders and to somewhat strange attempts to imitate Bible practice, e.g., adding multiple wives, taking hot coals into their mouths or "streaking" in supposed imitation of the prophets.

The Anabaptists found refuge in the city of Munster, and, eventually, they took over the city, expelling the bishop and other leaders.  The Anabaptists declared Munster to be the "New Jerusalem."  Their leader declared himself a "new David"--and took some 16 wives.  Eventually, the expelled former leaders attacked the city, slaughtering the Anabaptists, torturing the leaders, mutilating theri bodies, and hanging the mutilated corpse in cages from the church steeple.

Why so much violence?  It's important to understand that these conflicts were about far more than religion: or, rather, about more than what we consider religion today.  Religion was bound into the whole fabric of society, and religous change meant social change, economic change, and political change as well.

Now for centuries, the Roman Catholic church had helped to smooth over social, economic, and political tensions: but now, the religious unity of Europe had been destroyed, and religious differences tended to agravate the other problems.

Question: wouldn't it have been possible to carry out religious reforms within the Catholic church itself, to fix the church's problems without destroying the religious unity of Europe?  Well, certainly it was possible: and during the 16th century there was a powerful reform movement within the Catholic Church itself.  This reform movement is often called Counter Reformation, though Cathoics of course see it a the true reformation.  Basically, what happens here that, in response to Protestant challenges, the Catholic church gets its act together.

One important figure in the Counter Reformation: St. Ignatius Loyola.  Loyola was a Spanish soldier.  He was wounded in one skirmish, and took a long while to recover.  During the recovery, he read accounts of the saints lives and the Bible. This inspired in him what seemed to be a wonderful idea.  He had been a dedicated soldier: disciplined, well-trained, fervent in his service.  Wouldn't it be wonderful, thought Loyola, if people could be just as dedicated to Jesus Christ, if they could be soldiers for Jesus?  And Loyola decided that he would become such a soldier--and, in fact, create a band of such soldiers.  This led to Society of Jesus--the Jesuits--a new order within the Catholic Church.

Loyola's order provided discipline true soldier for Christ needs.  Discipline in prayer (give thanks/request knowledge/examine yourself for sin/ask pardon/ask for God's help in change).  Discipline also in scripture study.

The Jesuits ended up knowing the scripture every bit as well as Protestant preachers: but they came to different conclusions.

Loyola, like Calvin, emphasized the depravity of man and our great need for Grace.  But unlike Calvin, Loyola and the Jesuits believed that God's grace was transmitted through the sacraments of the church: confession and the mass were particularly important, but fasting, reverence for the relics of the saints, decorating churches and respect for the church heirarchy were seen as very important as well.

The Jesuit's discipline made them effective soldiers for Christ: Loyola placed the services of these soldiers at the disposal of the Pope: they basically became a Papal army: wherever Protestants were making headway, Pope sent in the Jesuits.  Into territory lost by Catholic church, Pope sent Jesuits to reclaim it.

And the Jesuits were in many ways successful. The old, corrupt Catholic clergy had been no match for the protestant leaders either in terms of intellectual ability or in terms of the examples of their own lives.  But with the Jesuits it was a different story.

And the Catholic Church as a whole was reforming during this period.  From 1545-1563 a great church council was held at Trent.  This was a turning point in Church history.  At Trent, the Catholic Church got its act together.  No more drunken priests, no more live-in girl friends, no more simony.

But Trent also tried to reform by clarifying Catholic doctrine, deciding where Christians should stand on issues like purgatory, indulgences, transubstantion, and baptism.  Prior to the Council of Trent, there had been: much room for disagreement within Catholic church: but now a good Catholic had to affirm belief in purgatory, transubstantiation, infant baptism, etc.

The Catholic church emerged from Trent purified and reformed: but far narrower than it had been in earlier centuries.  This made reconciliation with the Protestants all but impossible.  The Calvinist position in particular was at sharp odds with this narrowly defined Catholicism.  Trent denied the Calvinist idea that we cannot do good if we choose to.  It denied the Calvinist idea that once one was saved one could never fall.  It denied the Calvinist idea that we could not by saved by our works.

And so what happened was that, after Trent, you had the Catholic Church convinced that it was the only true church, and that it was man's only hope of salvation.  On the other hand, the protestant sects were convinced that they were the true churches and they were the only hope of salvation.  A sure recipe for conflict! Catholics believed that the growth of Protestantism was sending people to hell.  And Protestants believed that the continued presence of Catholicism was sending people to hell.  And it's no wonder the wars the resulted were so bloody.

The worst of these, the Thirty Years' War that I've already mentioned briefly.  This war (1618-1648) involved much of Europe and caused the death of millions of people.

[I sometimes read in class the following passage from H.J.C von Grimmelshausen's The Adventurous Simplicissimu. While this is a work of fiction, Grimmilshausen had first-hand experience of the war and the behavior described here was all too typical.]

The first thing these troopers did was, that they stabled their horses: thereafter each fell to his appointed task: which task was neither more nor less than ruin and destruction.  For though some began to slaughter and to boil and to roast so that it looked as if there should be a merry banquet forward, yet others there were who did but storm through the house above and below stairs.  Others stowed together great parcels of cloth and apparel and all manner of household stuff, as if they would set up a frippery market.  All that they had no mind to take with them they cut in pieces.  Some thrust their swords through the hay and straw as if they had not enough sheep and swine to slaughter: and some shook the feathers out of the beds and in their stead stuffed in bacon and other dried meat and provisions as if such were better and softer to sleep upon.  Others broke the stove and the windows as if they had a never-ending summer to promise.  Houseware of copper and tin they beat flat, and packed such vessels, all best and spoiled, in with the rest.  Bedsteads, tables, chairs and benches they burned, though there lay many cords of dry wood in the yard.  Pots and pipkins must all go to pieces, either because they would eat none but roast flesh, or because their purpose was to make there but a single meal.

            Our maid was so handled in the stable that she could not come out; which is a shame to tell of. Our man they laid bound upon the ground, thrust a gag into his mouth, and poured a pailful of filthy water into this body: and by this, which they called a Swedish draught, they forced him to lead a party of them to another place where they captured men and beasts, and brought them back to the farm, in which company were my dad, my mother, and our Ursula.
  And now they began: first to take the flints out of their pistols and in place of them to jam the peasants thumbs in and so to torture the poor rogues as if they had been about the burning of witches5: for one of them they had taken they thrust into the baking oven and there lit a fire under him, although he had as yet confessed no crime: as for another, they put a cord round his head and so twisted it tight with a piece of wood that the blood gushed from his mouth and nose and ears.  In a word, each had his own device to torture the peasants, and each peasant his several torture.  But as it seemed to me then, my dad was the luckiest, for he with a laughing face confessed what others out of the midst of pains and miserable lamentations: and such honour without doubt fell to him because he was the householder.  For they set him before a fire and bound him fast so that he could neither stir hand nor foot, and smeared the soles of his feet with wet salt, and this made our old goat lick off, and so tickle him that he well nigh burst his sides with laughing.  And this seemed to me so merry a thing that I must needs laugh with him for the sake of fellowship, or because I knew no better.  In the midst of such laughter he must needs confess all that they would have of him, and indeed revealed to them a secret treasure, which proved far richer in pearls, gold, and trinkets than ant would have looked for among peasants.  Of the women, girls, and maidservants whom they took, I have not much to say in particular, for the soldiers would not have me see how they dealt with them.  Yet this I did know, that one heard some of them scream most piteously in divers corners of the house; and well I can judge it fared no better with my mother and our Ursel than with the rest.  Yet in the midst of all this miserable ruin, I helped to turn the spit, and in the afternoon to give the horses drink, in which employ I encountered our maid in the stable, who seemed to me wondrously tumbled, so that I knew her not, but with a weak voice she called to me, “O lad, run away, or the troopers will have thee away with them. Look to it well that you get hence: thou seest in what plight…” And more she could not say.

All this is incredibly painful--and a great tragedy.  Europe was about to dominate the world: Columbus' 1492 discovery was leading to a great age of exploration and expansion. Had Europe been truly Christian and united, the world would have been a happier place.  Question: what went wrong?  Was it wrong to try to reform?  No--reform was badly needed.  Unfortunately, however, reform was carried out in the wrong way.  Was there a better way?  I believe so, and I believe two 16th century figures show clearly exactly what that way was,  Sir Thomas More and Desiderius Erasmus.

Both of these men were deeply influenced by Brethren of the Common Life. The Brethren started in late Middle Ages.  It was an informal society of people who simply wanted to live as Christ-like as possible.  The most famous book to come out of this movement is Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, a book that was for years and years a perennial best-seller, read by everyone.  It's a great pity that it is not read and followed more today.

The spirit of the Brethren is clear in Sir Thomas More.  More was a great scholar and writer and (also) chancelor to Henry VIII of England.  More wrote a famous book that he called Utopia ("no place").   In the book, More describes imaginary society that we might well strive to imitate.  In Utopia, everybody works.  There are no nobles, priests or monks.  Because all work, no one has to work too much--six hours a day is sufficient.  The rest of time, one spends learning.  Not interested in learning?  That's ok too.  You spend your time on other tasks and no one thinks the worse of you for that.

As far as religion goes, the Utopians are tolerant. They believe in religious truth, but if one doesn't agree, one uses peaceful means to try to convince them of that truth.

What More suggests in Utopia are radical changes: changes in some ways even more radical than those advocated by the Protestant reformers.  But More is more Christ-like in the way he advocates these changes.  Typical is his reaction to Henry VIII.

More didn't approve of Henry's divorce and break with Catholic Church.  But More didn't say anything: he simply resigned his Chancellorship.  Henry didn't like this: More's resignation implied that what Henry had done was wrong.  Henry wanted More to say that it was right, but More refused..  Henry imprisoned More, and put more pressure on him.  More still wouldn't  say anything against Henry, but he wouldn't say he approved either.  What he did say was this:

 "I do nobody no harm, I say none harm, I think none harm, but wish everybody good.  And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I desire not to live."

And More died a martyr's death--a death that made his lasting impact probably greater than it would be otherwise.  Even (or especially) the agnostic 20th century playwright Robert Bolt found More a figure to be admired.  He borrows a line from one of More's cotemporaries and calls More, "A Man for all Seasons," portraying More as the model of letting conscience by one's guide.

Similar to More: Desiderius Erasmus.  Erasmus was one of the greatest scholars of the 16th century.  He taught Greek and produced beautifully edited editions of Greek works including the New Testament. Erasmus gave Europe the  first printed edition of Greek New Testament--and a very fine edition too.

Erasmus saw need for reform every bit as much as Luther and Calvin. If anything, he understood more clearly what was wrong with society.  But Erasmus didn't launch a direct attack on societal instututions the way Luther and Calvin did, seeing (rightly) that this might lead to even worse problems.  But this didn't mean silence on Erasmus' part.   He wrote plenty of things exposing the weakneses of his society and suggesting improvements, using as his chief weapons satire and humor.

One example: Erasmus' Praise of Folly.  The title itself reflects Erasmus' sense of humor.  The Latin title is a pun.  Folly (moria) is foolishness, and the book is a praise of foolishness.  But it's also a book in praise of another "moria"--Thomas More to whom he dedicated book.

In this book, the goddess Folly claims she's most worshipped of gods: and then goes on to prove it.  Worshippers of folly include lawyers who pay more attention to clever words than truth, theologians who spend their time investigating questions like how many days Christ was in Mary's womb, and monks who care more about rituals and ceremonies than about love of Christ.

Also foolish are people who rely on indulgences for pardon of their sins, thinking that gold can get them into heaven--and even more foolish the priests who encourage such thinking, not stressing the importance of prayer, repentance, and leading a godly life.

All this really stings: but it also makes us laugh.  This is the key, I think, to getting people to change.  Confront someone directly and they simply get billigernent and more set in their ways.  But make them laugh at themselves, and maybe they'll begin to change.  And Erasmus succeeds in part because he is willing to laugh at himself, too.

One of his dialogues is called "Cyclops: or the Gospel Bearer."  There's a great passage where one character asks another about signs of the end times.  The list of signs hunger, war, thirst, war, plague, poverty, Eramus writing dialogues.  (I'd add to to the list Marmorstein lecturing about history).  Yes! Disasters everywhere!  Surely a sign of the end times!

But there's even better another passage in that same dialogue.  There's a man here who considers himself a great Christian.  Why?  Is he generous to poor?  No.  Moderate?  No.  Chaste?  No.  A keeper of God's commands?  No.  Then why does he think himself a follower of Christ?

 "A certain Franciscan in our neighborhood kept babbling from the pulpit against Erasmus' New Testament.  I met the man privately, grabbed him by the hair with my left hand, and punched him with my right.  I gave him a hell of a beating; made his whole face swell.  What do you say to that?  Isn't that promoting the Gospel?"

Erasmus is really on to something here.  He sees that, over and over again, men consider themselves to be righteous, not because they themselves do what's right, but because they try to force *others* to do what's right.  And, as I've mentioned to some of you, this is a particular problem with my generation.  We are the most immoral and selfish generation in history of this country.  Our personal lives are a mess, and we've thrown away a good deal of what made this country great.  And yet my generation is incredibly smug in its self-righteousness.  We think of ourselves as marvelously good people.  Why?  Because we protested the war in Vietnam, because we fight against the evil tobacco companies, or because we stand up for one social cause or another.

But there is a fundamental error here: and Erasmus sees it clearly.  The human tendency when confronted with sin to shove it on to someone else.  Adam blamed Eve.  Eve blame the serpent.

And as long as we keep doing that sort of thing, we are really unpleasant to be around.  My former pastor in California used to talk of a lady in his church that, in every sermon, listened very carefully and then pointed to people in the congregation who she thought especiall needed particular bits of information.  "Now that's for you," she would say, picking out one person after another and making sure they knew what part of the message they should be listening too, "Now that's for you."

But one day, just as she was starting to shovel off the latest message with her usual admonition, she stopped in mid-course.  "Now that's for--that's for me."

That discovery changed her whole life and, of course, her relationships with other people.

In our study of history: looked at lots of societies, examining their strengths and weaknesses.  I hope you have realized that in looking at these societies we're not just studying people long dead. As we look at these societies, we are looking into a mirror.  "History makes us wise," said Francis Bacon--and it makes us wise by showing us what we really are.  It shows us the forces we can control, and the forces we can't.   And it does suggest ways we might go about societal change, and warns of mistakes we ought to avoid.  But as we look at the changes that need to made, we ought always remember where it is that we need to start the process.

And I hope that, with at least some of what we have talked about in class, you can say, "That's for me."

Good luck on your final exam.