History of Christianity
Any organization undergoes numerous changes in its development. These changes can be expressed in terms of beliefs and attitudes, physical changes, psychological and spiritual just to mention a few. The changes are usually made possible through deliberate efforts by people who rise up above the average way of thinking or imagination. These efforts enable them to do extraordinary things in society. In this regard, Christianity encounters a considerable number of such people whose efforts made an invaluable contribution to the development of this religion and society as a whole. Current paper looks at the efforts of Desiderius Erasmus and Teresa Avila and their extraordinary contributions to growth spreading of Christianity. The efforts they made in the development of religion made them leave a legacy that cannot be taken for granted. For instance, Erasmus made concerted efforts to change the way people thought about God and Christianity in general and openly spoke about the vices taking place in churches.
Erasmus was considered to be one of the greatest scholars of the Renaissance. One of the biggest contributions by Erasmus was the translation of ancient works including the Bible into Latin and Greek languages (Erasmus 52). He also wrote various satirical works that served a wakeup call to the church to make different reforms that he saw were necessary and that would contribute to the wellbeing of the church. Undoubtedly, Erasmus can be referred to as one of the masterminds of the Renaissance era due to sparking off people’s minds with his teachings to venture beyond ordinary thinking.
In other words, Erasmus was also referred to as “The Prince of the Humanists”. The level of influence imposed a burden of pressure on the thinker. (Essary 57). Erasmus’ merits spread further than the spread of Christianity. Hence, while being in Paris he greatly challenged the educational system which did not offer the best teachings that aligned with the religious teachings. For example, he opposed the scholarly teachings that reduced the religious faith into the knowledge which could be logically analyzed. Due to the issues he faced in Paris, Erasmus was very dedicated to travel across France and Netherlands teaching and lecturing people about Christianity starting from 1499 (Essary 55). He constantly searched for ancient writings and manuscripts that would help him in his work. He also worked very hard to support education which was directed towards Christian teachings.
It can be argued that the greatest contribution Erasmus made was not just the writing and presentation of particular texts. Although he left behind a lot of literature regarding the issues that he fought to streamline in the world, he particularly endeavored to change the way of thinking of the western world, something that to a greater extent he had achieved before he died. To a certain extent, his work conduced convincing and changing the new way of thinking in the western world. To him, religion was supposed to be viewed from its principles and piety (Erasmus 76). In his endeavors, Erasmus opposed ceremonial observation of the Christian teachings. He had a strong commitment to study scriptures and classical work. He was also very committed to conciliatory and peacemaking processes and dedicated to sharing his wealth of knowledge with as many people as he could reach within his mission. Whatever he learned from doing extensive studies was shared to people in the form of tutors and lectures. This kind of activity can be termed to be one of his main sources of legacy. Furthermore, he brought myriads of ideas that would constitute religious reform in society. As a result of his devout commitment to these ideas, he fell into a conflict with Martin Luther.
His theological works strongly advocated on morality and simplicity while Biblical teachings emphasized individual spirituality. His philosophical works brought a lot of controversies to a point of causing division among Christians. This approach made him become a great associate of a group which was later popularly recognized as Protestant Reformation. One of the key figures in this movement was Martin Luther who used the opportunity to contact Erasmus and ask for his support in their aim of advocating for reforms through the organization. The movement referred to the writings of Erasmus to advocate for reforms in the church.
Erasmus was known to be a peace lover. He, therefore, hoped to stay out of the conflict and advance his course; which he had already planned how to achieve without causing havoc. The biggest challenge that he faced was the fact that his method of staying at the middle ground, avoiding conflicts, bore no fruits. He even refused to choose any side when forced to do so, rather opted to change the prevailing situations on the basic tenet of free will.
The written works of Desiderius makes him stand out as a reputable philosopher and a theologian. One of his reputable works is referred to as the “Praise of Folly” The work was structured in the way to address social issues and ironically attack foolishness (Erasmus 205). .A great deal of social criticism is also presented in this piece of work as well as greed, excessive ambitions, pride are some of the social ills. In a hidden way, Erasmus was able to unearth issues of abuse and corruption within the church (Essary 58). Through the use of uncommon way of expressing ideas, his immediate enemies could not directly confront him. Erasmus also uses humor in his work so that he could avoid getting into conflict with diverse people who would probably be against his teachings and writings. In this case, he preferred to use his potential to encourage people and to teach in a humorous way. Therefore, a lot of people would be converted from an inner conviction as opposed to when one uses force and people suffer from religious relapse.
Another work by Erasmus, “Praise the Folly”, teaches us about the righteous Christian living (Essary 56). In this work, the author tells those who termed themselves as learned to understand that the plan of God to redeem mankind was far beyond the wisdom of the world. This teaching had a confrontation that was worthy to make the ‘learned’ re-think about their stands with regards to the understanding of God. The concepts of wisdom and foolishness were presented as confusing in the work which makes the piece of writing to be relevant even at the present day. Erasmus’ works are not, however, read widely but their influence, especially from the scholars of humanism, has brought an array of different approaches to life situations especially when addressing controversial issues (Erasmus 123).
Although there were a lot of religious waves especially in the Christian world, he refused to compromise his quest for peace. He brought about the concept of religious toleration. Many Christians by that time were obliged to obey religious teachings regardless of whether they were right or wrong. Despite the fact that there were growing beliefs that misled many Christians, Erasmus still held the view that people would soon change through reasoning. This could be addressed as one of the greatest legacies that can be attached to him in the Renaissance era. Erasmus championed individual reasoning when asserted that different religions were to be allowed to flourish peacefully (Erasmus 34).
According to Martin Luther, human beings could not be able to choose their own destinies. Erasmus opposed this view and held the opinion that humans were free to choose what pleases them. He also opposed exploitation, something that was rarely done in the society of those times. For instance, he opposed the Spanish colonialism in America under the guise of spreading Christianity. From another point of view, it was not common for a person to publicly oppose the Monarch. He was one of the few figures of the time who was able to utilize communication for the benefit of the society and refused to keep ideas to himself but rather shared them to help people in taking decisions.
Desiderius by Erasmus is worth to be adequately valued. For instance, even if he had no much power or wealth, he was audaciously able to challenge the existing institutions in society. He supported ideas that went beyond the ordinary man’s thinking of those times, such as tolerance and opposed persecution, preferred reason over superstition and championed peace over war. Erasmus family background might have strongly influenced his work. He was born at a time when his father, who was later ordained to be a priest, had not been exalted yet. His father was not allowed to marry. Erasmus studied theology at the Sorbonne in Paris. He experienced a lot although he was not able to complete his studies to earn his doctorate. This experience was very fruitful and would be an important pillar in his future work. He developed a lot of works which he later published. One was “OnAbundance of words and Ideas” (Erasmus 179).
The church has stories of extraordinary and more often miraculous women saints and martyrs who made positive contributions while championing for piety. Teresa Avila is one of such representatives. remembered as the most engaging saints of the medieval era. She was born in Spain in 1515 to a rich family during the Golden Ages. The Golden Age was a period characterized by flourishing ideas and discoveries. For example, Christopher Columbus had sailed to America, hence, opening the world to Spain. It was the era of Catholic transformation initiated by Martin Luther King that Teresa of Avila rose to fame. The Catholic communities in Avila were ignorant of the winds of change but they could not protect Avila from Teresa (Grant 8). Her contributions helped to shape the thinking of many people while transforming the way the church used to operate.
For instance, Teresa of Avila struggled and fought against male domination in religion. It was a common habit to associate men with religion and religious teachings rather than women. There was no place for women in religion and it was the struggle of Teresa of Avila to ensure that there was a level playing ground to the field of religion. Teresa championed for equality between men and women during her time in Spain. While other women such as Hildegard and Bingen were facing opposition from the male-dominated society, Teresa beat the odds in rising to advocate for equal rights and treatment of both sexes on religious matters. She also advocated for recognition and acceptance of what she referred to as “women called to ministry” (Jone 5).
In addition to championing for the recognition of women in religious matters, Teresa of Avila made positive contributions to reforming the Carmelite order. The Carmelite order called for the strict monastic observance. Monastic observance, as advised by Teresa, advocated for the renouncement of all external and social ranks with a pursuit for simpler life. According to Teresa, Christians had to live a simple life like the one lived by Jesus Christ who renounced his heavenly position or honor and took human flesh. Teresa spoke against worldly or material possessions in order for an individual to be adopted into the community of God. She was tormented by the guilt of living a good life with servants, good food and comfort. She later experienced a religious awakening and advised the Carmelite nuns at the convent to be confined inside without contact with the outside world with a commitment to solitude and prayer. However, the nuns rebelled against her, hence, building her own small Carmelite to observe her rules (Grant, 6).
In line with the above, Teresa seemed unimpressed with the authority and power wielded by the Catholic Church. The church was one of the most powerful bodies in the society by then with the immense obsession of status and power. It controlled such resources as money and material wealth which Teresa championed against. Even though she was born and raised as a Catholic, she was opposed to the way the Church was conducting itself. By championing for such reforms in the Catholic Church, she faced a lot of opposition from her church members to the extent of being labeled a misbeliever or a religious outcast since criticizing the church was a taboo. It was viewed to be the most powerful organ of the state.
Ironically, the Pope conferred her with “Doctor of the Church” title in 1970, hence, painting a picture of an evangelical woman who struggled with the status while living in the traditional society. Apart from criticizing the church, Teresa of Avila advised against ecclesiastical authoritarianism. The clergymen served as the heads of the church and performed a number of duties and ceremonies such as administering spiritual instructions and counsel while setting apart the rest of the people. This was done with the sole purpose of staying in control of the church and its vast wealth at the expense of the other members of the society. Teresa argued against such practices from the Archbishops, vicars, bishops, churchwardens and parish clerks amongst others. However, the same people who sought to convince and advise her that what she was undergoing were revelations from the devil. In her life, she passed through suffering and tribulations at the hands of those unsympathetic and incompetent people she was criticizing (Frohlich, 227).
Teresa of Avila was never satisfied because she felt it was wrong to live in a society with ill manners of social and spiritual challenges. She wrote a couple of books, which were considered politically dangerous. For instance, in her book titled Way of Perfection, she claimed to witness mystical visions to the extent of being denounced by the Spanish Inquisition. Furthermore, through her visions, Teresa received revelations with one of them being to reform monasteries. In 1562, Teresa, with the help of her sister and husband to her sister built a small convent which was to serve as the symbol of prayers and simple pious life. She even went ahead and advised for wearing sandals instead of shoes. It was not long before she started working with St. John of the cross together with other bodies to establish reforms throughout other Carmelites in Spain. Soon, she started receiving immense support from the head of her order to the extent of establishing other convents with strict rules. However, nearly all endeavors by Teresa were criticized and opposed by the clergy and authorities. In fact, other Carmelites who did not ascribe to her views tried their level best to ensure that Teresa was cast into exile (Jone 4).
It was after establishing her final convent at Burgos that Teresa fell ill. She had to return to Avila enduring the difficult journey with her frail condition. Upon arriving at Avila, she took to her deathbed at the convent dying three days later on October 4, 1582.
Teresa of Avila was a religious reformer of the Middle Ages. Her struggle with authorities, the clergy, and the population accorded her hate and love in the equal measure. Her efforts and struggles, however, did not go unnoticed. Teresa of Avila was an opinionated woman who ensured that the teachings of Jesus Christ were observed in the Catholic Church. She spoke and condemned the Catholic Church on its high handedness of running the affairs of the church. Teresa spoke on the need to avoid some form of authoritarianism that existed in the church. She sought to elevate women from the society that was men dominated by championing for equal rights across the divide. It is by reading the works of Teresa that one is advised on living a simple prayerful life and putting God first. She sought to ensure that reforms took place ranging from the monasteries to the Catholic Church.
Desiderius Erasmus and Teresa Avila can be considered as two of the greatest Christian change agents of their time. Erasmus was a theologian while Teresa was more of an activist. Both lived at the time when the Roman Catholic exercised absolute authority over the people. They lived in a society where unquestionable leadership systems exerted their power and authority over their subjects. However, this power did not hinder them from striving to achieve changes in society.