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Dialogues between Faith and ReasonThe Death and Return of God in Modern German Thought$
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John H. Smith

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449277

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449277.001.0001

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Erasmus vs. Luther

Erasmus vs. Luther

Philo-logos vs. Faith

(p.23) Chapter 1 Erasmus vs. Luther
Dialogues between Faith and Reason

John H. Smith

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on the debate between Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536) and Martin Luther (1483–1546) over the status of the free will. Erasmus claimed that the actions of human beings do contribute to the possibility of their eternal salvation or damnation, while Luther countered by insisting that only God's grace determines the fate of our soul. The debate highlighted competing views on biblical exegesis, the role and value of rationality and philosophy in matters relating to theology, and the very meaning of certainty (intersubjective consensus vs. personal and divinely granted faith). Erasmus and Luther also brought to the fore the opposition between “faith” and “knowledge,” or “reason” and “religion,” whether or not it can be in principle dialectically or deconstructively challenged. This chapter compares the positions of Erasmus and Luther on four major points and their implications for modern Western treatments of religion, faith, rationality, and agency: exegesis, intersubjectivity, philosophy-reason-theology, and the will's relation to divine grace.

Keywords:   free will, Desiderius Erasmus, Martin Luther, biblical exegesis, rationality, faith, reason, religion, agency, divine grace

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