The Faith of a Liberal: Selected Essays

By Morris R. Cohen | Go to book overview

his inspiration. But the body of the Old Testament contains so many other things--such as the vengeful conception that God visits the sins of the fathers on their children to the third and fourth generation--that the teaching of Jesus appeared as new and revolutionary. Particularly new was his teaching of the utter unimportance of all material things, compared with purity of heart and the love of God. If anyone takes your coat, give him your cloak also. What has he gained and what have you lost in the Kingdom of Heaven? Indeed, the conception of the Kingdom of Heaven, destroying the importance of all particular material objects, frees us from the petty cares and vexations that absorb life's energies, and thus endows us with freedom to enjoy the universal fruits of the spirit. That, I think, is the most basic and all-liberating of the teachings of Jesus, and indeed the essence of all true religious or spiritual insight.


38
ERASMUS AND LUTHER

ERASMUS is not generally viewed as one of the world's great heroes. In fact, he is often regarded as distinctly unheroic. In the great struggle between the Reformation and the Catholic Church, he refused to take sides and was condemned by both parties as a Laodicean--a trimmer who in the interests of his personal safety evaded the responsibility of joining the one or the other side of a struggle which both sides were inclined to view as identical with that between God and his enemies.

But to rise above the dust cloud of battle and to see things as they are is the primary duty of the scholar, and to that duty Erasmus was faithful in an eminent way. We are apt to admire Luther's directness and absolute firmness which despises all

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