The Confessionalization of Humanism in Reformation Germany

The Confessionalization of Humanism in Reformation Germany

The Confessionalization of Humanism in Reformation Germany

The Confessionalization of Humanism in Reformation Germany

Synopsis

This book deals with the impact of the Reformation debate in Germany on the most prominent intellectual movement of the time: humanism. Although it is true that humanism influenced the course of the Reformation, says Erika Rummel, the dynamics of the relationship are better described by saying that humanism was co-opted, perhaps even exploited, in the religious debate.

Excerpt

The new edition of the Theologische Realenzyklopedie, the first to include an entry on confessionalism, defines it as the exclusive focusing on one's own confession and its differentiation from other doctrinal formulations. The process of confessionalization is now recognized as a significant aspect of the Reformation and an incisive development in the history of early modern Europe. It has received considerable scholarly attention over the past twenty years. Heinz Schilling and Wolfgang Reinhard, who were in the vanguard of research into the phenomenon, have noted its political, social, and intellectual dimensions. Most studies, however, have concentrated on the first two: the proliferation of church ordinances, the interaction between church and state authorities, and the control of social behavior through church discipline. Those concerned with the intellectual dimension of confessionalization tend to focus on its effects in the field of education. This book examines the Kulturbedeutung of confessionalization in a broader sense, studying its role in the transformation of habits of thought.

Humanism penetrated Northern Europe a generation before Luther began his career as a reformer. A great deal has therefore been written about the influence of humanism on the Reformation, much of it in response to Moeller's epigrammatic assertion Ohne Humanismus keine Reformation. My study reverses the question, asking: How did the Reformation affect humanism? It is clear that the intellectual movement shaped the Reformation Debate and was being shaped by it in turn. Weighed in the balance, however, the religious movement was preponderant. It was, after all, driven by the twin forces of popular demand and professional interest, whereas humanism was advanced by an educated minority only. It is correct therefore to say that humanism influenced the course of the Reformation, but the dynamics of the relationship are better described by saying that humanism was coopted, perhaps even exploited, in the religious debate. Reformers traded on the popularity of humanism to promote their cause among young intellectuals; Catholic reactionaries traded on its notoriety to enlist the support of the establishment against it. In both camps, those who had been trained in the studia humaniora plucked from its cornucopia what was useful for the advancement of their cause and transformed or suppressed what was unsuited to their purpose. Accordingly, they employed humanistic philology and humanistic concepts of history to make their . . .

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