Friday, January 26, 2007

Luther's Insults

Martin Luther to Erasmus, about Erasmus's Diatribe. They don't make them like this any more... checked my zeal for battle and drained my strength before the fight began. That was due to two things: first, your skill in debate... by which you have prevented my wrath waxing hot against you; and, second, ... you say nothing at all on this whole vast topic that has not been said before and to say so much less about, and assign so much more to, "free-will" than the Sophists did before you... that it seemed a complete waste of time to reply to your arguments. I have already myself refuted them over and over again, and Philip Melanchthon, in his unsurpassed volume on the doctrines of theology, has trampled them into the dust. That book of his, to my mind, deserves not merely to live as long as books are read, but to take its place in the Church's canon; whereas your book, by comparison, struck me as so worthless and poor that my heart went out to you for having defiled your lovely, brilliant, flow of language with such vile stuff. I thought it outrageous to convey material of such low a quality in the trappings of such rare eloquence; it is like using gold or silver dishes to carry garden rubbish or dung.
Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will

Yes, I mostly agree with Luther in his arguments against Erasmus. But I also think there's more than an element of truth in Erasmus's criticism that Luther tended to put people off by his rudeness. Personally, I'd like to see Luther review Dan Brown's books.

It's worth me adding that Luther was also very complimentary (well, for Luther) about Erasmus in his book, saying Erasmus was superior to him in everything except theology...

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