*

De Lamar Jensen, “Renaissance: The beginning of religious Reform,” inWindow that Faith: Latter-day Saint Perspectives on human being History, ed. Roy A. Prete (Provo, UT: spiritual Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2005), 251–75.

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Renaissance is a term used in countless ways, each through its very own justification and purpose. In the broadest feeling it is a duration of background covering about the two centuries from about 1350 come 1550, a time displaying a exceptional spirit of self-discovery and fulfillment, a acknowledgment of person worth, and a dynamic outpouring of intellectual, artistic, and also literary activity. In some means it featured a cultural break with the principles of the center Ages, however in rather it to be a continuation or culmination that them. This should not be surprising due to the fact that all history contains both continuity and also change, congruity and also contrast. Over all, we should recognize it together a dynamic age, a time when new ideas, institutions, and also beliefs were ending up being popular while numerous old trends of thought and activity continued in force. The word renaissance means “rebirth,” applied specifically to the rebirth of classic thought, literature, art, and style, but as frequently used it indicates much much more than that. It likewise refers to the rapid social and economic changes, new ideas and also applications of political and international organization, and the overseas discoveries and also expansion that Europe the were occurring in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

For this essay i intend to focus an ext on the devotional, ideological, and also moral facets of the period, in what deserve to be referred to as the religious Renaissance, with features that most most likely primed and also led to the reformation of the sixteenth century and also revealed brand-new insights right into human-divine relations. It strikes me that few of these insights were not only new but perhaps also revelatory, precursory to a later on day when divine interaction would again it is in known. We can see at time similarities in between the intuitive penetration and also perceptivity of few of these Renaissance personalities and the divine disclosures of modern prophets.


Italian Humanism

The shift from middle ages to Renaissance life and thought was never an accurate nor strictly in accord with a pattern. It to be a time that devastation and also recovery, of upheaval and reconciliation. The underlying function of beforehand humanism was an explicit acceptance of the worth of human existence, that life has intrinsic value and meaning, and also that the promotion of most worldly quests was both justifiable and meritorious. For this reason the early Renaissance humanists challenged and also opposed the middle ages depreciation that mortal life.

But it was an ext than simply an attitude about human existence and purpose that separated Renaissance humanists from middle ages scholastics. The humanists thought in and promoted a certain program that study and thought. They dubbed it the studia humanitatis, what we would certainly today speak to the for free arts. Come the early on humanists this intended a appointment to together scholarly disciplines as history, poetry, grammar and rhetoric—including both literary criticism and also philology—and of course moral philosophy, for the humanists were basically committed to religion and to the Christian church. It additionally meant looking ago to timeless Greece and also Rome because that models and guides to understanding the finest expression of ideas and values. Thus they do vigorous efforts to recovery the cultural ideals of antiquity and reconcile these through their very own preferences. Uneven their middle ages predecessors, that were attracted more to metaphysics, logic, and theology, the Renaissance humanists desired an educational program that emphasized literary works and background in bespeak to improve both writing, speaking, and also thinking. Pier Paolo Vergerio (1370–1444) expressed this appropriate of for free arts education and learning when he wrote:

We contact those research studies liberal which room worthy the a totally free man; those studies through which we attain and practice virtue and wisdom; that education and learning which phone call forth, trains, and develops those highest presents of body and mind i m sorry ennoble men and which are rightly judged come rank following in dignity come virtue only. For to a vulgar temper gain and pleasure space the one aim of existence, come a lofty nature, ethical worth and also fame. <1>

Fifteenth-century authors emphasized precise scholarship and also the breakthrough of character together the ultimate purposes of education. Humanist education likewise prepared students because that a life of public activity. Numerous humanists to be themselves teachers, including the gifted Vittorino da Feltre (1378–1446), who taught where he met teachable students. Vittorino introduced classical humanist ideals right into his to teach in Mantua, i beg your pardon soon ended up being the foremost grammar college of Italy. Combining the finest of middle ages mental self-control with old studies, and also the characteristic harmonizing of humanistic learning with the education of body, spirit, and character, he had the ability to assemble a favorable learning mix with timeless Christian values. The affect of humanist education was felt wherever the intention to be to produce great citizens as well as learned minds.

But ns am obtaining ahead of mine story. The first representative that the humanist heritage was Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch, 1304–1374), who began the rebirth of classic learning. As for himself, Petrarch disclaimed the worship heaped on him by his contemporaries, claiming that he was however a guy “who is roaming about through the lofty beech trees all alone, humming to himself part silly small tune, and—the really peak the presumption and also assurance—dipping his shaky pen right into his inkstand while sit under a bitterness laurel tree.” <2>

Petrarch was the an initial of the good Italian writers to abandon the methods and also goals of middle ages scholasticism in favor of Latin classics, for these not just made him much more aware of the values of life, that said, however were additionally sources that morality and virtue. Petrarch observed the difficulty implicit among the dialecticians and metaphysicians, whose enthusiasm for herbal philosophy drew them away from sympathy or cultivate in classic literature. Among other things, Petrarch thought this overlook of communication and style led to a absence of concern around immediate human being life. “What is the usage . . . Of discovering the nature the quadrupeds, fowls, fishes, and also serpents,” the asked, “and not understanding or also neglecting the nature of man, the function for which we were born . . . ?” <3> because that Petrarch genuine ethical philosophy to be the most essential goal of human being thought because it led not just to truth but an ext importantly come goodness.

Yet there were contradictions in Petrarch’s mind. He had a tough time agree the dreary days that surrounding him; days that made this among the most depressing eras in history, a time of widespread war, disruption, and institutional crisis. The Black fatality of 1348–50 wiped out an ext than one 3rd of the populace of Europe, and was only among the tragedies that plagued the turbulent fourteenth century.” pester was add by war, taxes, brigandage, negative government, insurrection, and also schism in the church. Few of the conflict between Petrarch’s ideals and his life are revealed in his “Ascent of Mont Ventoux,” a lengthy letter to his girlfriend Dionigi da Borgo san Sepolcro, professor the theology at Paris. After ~ a vigorous climb with his brothers to the top of mount Ventoux, in southeastern France, Petrarch reflect on his effective ascent, but at the exact same time the confessed, “I wept over my imperfection and was grieved by the fickleness of all that males do.” Then, shaking self from his languor, he began looking around to view what he had concerned see.

Like a guy aroused from sleep, ns turned back and looked toward the west. The boundary wall surface between France and also Spain, the ridge the the Pyrenees, is no visible native there, though over there is no obstacle of which ns knew, and also nothing but the weakness of the mortal eye is the cause. However, one could see many distinctly the hills of the province of Lyons to the right and, come the left the sea close to Marseilles and also the waves the break versus Aigues Mortes. . . .

I admired every detail, currently relishing earthly enjoyment, now lifting up my mind to hither spheres after ~ the example of my body, and also I thought it fit come look right into the volume of Augustine’s Confessions. I opened up it with the intentionally of reading whatever might occur to me first. . . . Wherein I resolved my eyes first, it was written: “And guys go to excellent the high mountains, the huge floods the the sea, the substantial streams of the rivers, the one of the oceans, and the revolutions of the stars—and desert themselves.” <4>

Another translation continues:

I to be ashamed, and asking my brother, who was anxious to hear more, not to bother me, i closed the book, angry with myself for proceeding to excellent the things of this world when ns should have actually learned a lengthy time ago . . . That nothing is admirable however the soul. Then, having actually seen enough of the mountain I turn an inward eye upon myself, and from that minute on no a valuation passed my lips till we got to the bottom. <5>

Petrarch’s proceeding struggle in between his commitment to Christianity and also his search for an individual achievement, the conflict between his spirituality vision and the pleasures of grew literary fame, room revealed in his imaginary dialogue v St. Augustine.

S. Augustine: . . . But let united state take because that granted (what is rather impossible) that the term of life will certainly be long and assured: still, do you not find it is the elevation of madness come squander the last years and also the last parts of your visibility on pleasing only the eye of others and also tickling various other men’s ear . . . ?

Petrarch: . . . I perform not think my method of looking in ~ it is for this reason unreasonable together you imagine. My principle is that, as concerning the glory i beg your pardon we might hope for below below, the is appropriate for us to look for while we are right here below. . . .

S. Augustine: O man, small in yourself, and also of small wisdom! carry out you, then, dream that you shall gain every satisfied in heaven and also earth, and everything will turn out fortunate and prosperous because that you constantly and everywhere? . . .

Though divine Mercy may deliver a guy from his folly, yet it will certainly not pardon it. . . .

Petrarch: however I have yet a last request to make, i m sorry is the you will offer me her definite referee on this point. Is it her wish that I should put every my research studies on one side and renounce every ambition, or would certainly you recommend some center course?

S. Augustine: ns will never ever advise you come live without ambition; however I would always urge friend to put virtue prior to glory. . . . Monitor after virtue, and also let glory take care of itself. . . .

Petrarch: What have to I do, then? abandon my loose works? Or would certainly it be far better to hasten lock on, and, if God provides me grace, put the finishing touches on them? . . .

S. Augustine: i beg your pardon foot you average to hobble on, I carry out not know. Friend seem skinny to leave yourself derelict, rather than your books. . . . “A wise man’s life is all one preparation for death.”

This saying will teach you come think small of what concerns earthly things, and set before your eyes a much better path that life top top which come enter. . . .

Petrarch: Ah! would certainly that you had actually told me all this before I had actually surrendered myself end to these studies! . . .

S. Augustine: You may count her prayer currently granted, if friend will only to yourself be true: for how shall anyone be consistent to him who is inconstant come himself?

Petrarch: I will certainly be true to myself, so much as in me lies. I will certainly pull myself together and also collect my scattered wits, and also make a an excellent endeavor to own my soul in patience. But even while we speak, a crowd of important affairs, though just of the world, is wait my attention. <6>

Petrarch’s self-evaluation is suggested in the last paragraph in “On His own Ignorance, and That of plenty of Others,” whereby he pleads that he it is in appreciated not as a male of letters, but as a an excellent man, deserving the name of a friend and also a benevolent and loving soul. Would that we all can deserve together an accolade.

Most significant in the spread out of humanism throughout Italy to be Coluccio Salutati (1330–1406), a commemorated Florentine scholar, lawyer, and also public main who served as chancellor of the Florentine Signoria because that the critical thirty year of his life. His chancery letter were composed in fluid yet dignified Latin, and also he added much come the Renaissance cultivation of eloquence. He was also a an excellent collector of Latin manuscripts and brought the top Greek scholar the the east Empire, Manuel Chrysoloras, come teach at Florence. Beginning with Salutati, the Italian humanists paid enhancing attention to features such as human being dignity, flexibility of the will, and also the immortality of the soul. Theologians to be still debating the inquiry of predestination matches man’s capacity to control or at least affect his salvation. The layman Salutati likewise grappled through this issue. That reasoned in donate of both oh my gosh providential power and man’s freedom. God comprehends man’s fate, that argued, however does not force him come comply with it. Salutati rejected mainly determination, which was renowned at that time, since it left no ar for human choice nor divine will. God, he argued, always leaves male some degree of choice.

In comparable manner, Lorenzo Valla (1407–1457) suggested in his De libero arbitrio (On free Will) in donate of the necessity and also importance of man’s will, heralding that due to the fact that God developed human nature then that nature had to be good. Yet Valla was very different native Petrarch in both his approach to life and his check out of the hereafter. He to be self-confident and also bold vice versa, Petrarch to be restrained and also cautious. Possibly this might be early out in part to the times in which castle lived—Petrarch in the destructive fourteenth century and also Valla in the renewed fifteenth. Everything the cause, Valla was pushed to recover the historical truths of the old world and distinguish castle from middle ages errors. This have the right to be depicted in countless of his works yet in none more clearly than in his “Oration on the False Donation of Constantine.” The so-called Donation was a medieval paper purported to be the deed native Emperor Constantine giving the pope secular power as head that the roman inn Church. Valla was not the very first to concern the Donation’s authenticity, however he to be the first to view it as a major forgery, a foolish attempt to combine the papal host on the church.

Valla also took concern with the ancient Stoics. The did no disagree v their see that just virtue was qualified of pass happiness, but he thought more completely with the Epicureans that what carried true and continuing delight was pleasure—not the fleeting pleasures that hedonism, but the pleasure of a life that justice and also morality. This appealed most to Valla due to the fact that it did not assume the man can find happiness by himself, but rather with the treatment of Christ. Christianity not just taught the virtue was its very own reward, but that it must be followed because it leads to the higher pleasure the a important heavenly life. Valla described in the preface to his On the True Good the he intended come discredit not just the middle ages logicians and also natural thinkers but ancient philosophy as well because that esteemed to discover suitable standards of behavior in human speculation. For Valla there were two legitimate sources of moral determination: Christianity and common sense. His Christianity was a layman’s religion, not the sacerdotal notions that the clergy, i m sorry he generally criticized. His other standard that thought and also behavior to be practicality. Thus his honest standards were based on common sense, the discipline that he believed came closestly to actual Christian belief. Accepting the restrictions of person life, Valla thought that those limitations can be transcended by the intervention of God, no by the speculations of philosophy. <7>

At around the exact same time, Giannozzo Manetti (1396–1459), a learned scholar in Latin, Greek, and also Hebrew, supported the idea that guy possessed complimentary will and also dignity despite his fallen state. In his On the Dignity and Excellence that Man, Manetti do the efforts to show that the gifts of God, such as dignity and also superior senses, were innovations of divine origin and culminated in the immortality of the soul. The an excellent Leon Battista Alberti echoed his conviction that guy is grasp of his own fate and also that v the exercise of will, effort, and also self-discipline, he could largely form his own destiny.

Another necessary contributor to the idea of person worth was the precocious Marcilio Ficino (1433–99), a remarkably cognizant person in a time of exceptional thinkers. Indigenous his earliest works, Ficino demonstrated the selection and depth that his active mind through interests in music and music theory, poetry, and also Greek. While still in his youth, he came to be intimately acquainted v Plato and began a lifetime of editing, translating, commentating on, and teaching Plato. The biggest stimulant to his study came with the establishment of the Platonic Academy in Florence with a one of interested world led by Ficino. The main objective the the team was to accomplish a synthesis of religion and also philosophy. That not just served to assist reconcile religion with individual truth, goodness, and beauty, however also supported and offered direction to the basic outburst of artistic task in the Renaissance. Ficino wrote, “Our century, choose a golden age restored to irradiate the free arts that were almost extinct. . . . It unified wisdom through eloquence. . . . And in Florence it revitalized the Platonic doctrine from darkness come light.” <8> He additionally wrote vital synthesis top top Platonic theology, licensed has been granted Theologia platonica, which emphasized Platonic love, the dignity of man, and freedom that the will, all of which are method of attaining “universal truth and also goodness” and binding world together in bonds of usual humanity.

Man is yes, really the vicar the God, due to the fact that he inhabits and also cultivates every elements and is current on planet without being missing from the ether. He offers not only the elements, but also all the animals which belong come the elements. . . . Lastly he is the god of every materials, because that he handles, changes, and also shapes every one of them. He that governs the human body in therefore many and so important ways, . . . That is no doubt immortal. the spirit desires, endeavours, and begins to come to be God, and makes progression every day. Every movement directed in the direction of a definite end very first begins, climate proceeds, then slowly increases and makes progress, and is finally perfected . . . With the very same power with which the made progress. Therefore our spirit will sometime be able to become in a sense all things and even to become God. <9>

The many emphatic explain on man’s dignity and also destiny come from the pen the young Giovanni Pico, counting of Mirandola (1463–1494). In ~ the age of twenty-four, Pico checked out Rome, wherein he compiled a an introduction of ripe hundred theses on theological matters the he had attracted from every ages and also places and also offered to conflict them through anyone. The papacy was no so impressed through Pico’s scholarship, finding numerous of his theses to it is in heretical. That fled come France because that safety but was arrested there and imprisoned in Vincennes castle, external of Paris. Through significant friends that escaped and returned come Florence, where he ended up being interested in the article of the zealous Dominican monk Savonarola. In the meantime, Pico had written an introduction to his nine hundred theses, which he called Oration ~ above the Dignity of Man. The true difference of man, he wrote, was that he had no addressed properties like various other creatures, yet due come his complimentary will, has actually the strength to share in and also even exceed the properties of others. Man is the only being whose life is established by his own choice to come to be whatever the desires. All various other beings are minimal within the limit prescribed through God, however man has actually no limits, other than those prescribed through himself.

O can be fried generosity the God the Father, O highest and also most marvelous felicity that man! to him the is granted come have whatever he chooses, to be every little thing he wills. Beasts as quickly as they space born carry (so says Lucius) v them from your mother’s womb every they will ever possess. Spirituality beings, one of two people from the start or soon thereafter, come to be what they space to be for ever and ever. On guy when the came right into life the dad conferred the seed of every kinds and the germs of every means of life. Every little thing seeds each guy cultivates will flourish to maturity and bear in him their own fruit. If they it is in vegetative, he will be like a plant. If sensitive, the will end up being brutish. If rational, he will grow into a heavenly being. If intellectual, he will certainly be one angel and the child of God. <10>

The continuing contribution that the humanists to spiritual thought was the emancipation of human being personality and also the acknowledgment of human being worth, also though the established church ongoing to pursue a course contradictory to the moral philosophy of the Italian humanists. The humanists were Catholics too, but they believed differently and did not talk around the same things many of the time. With some exceptions the church was an ext involved through ecclesiastical and also jurisdictional problem than with morality. Yet as we shall see, also within the church there were civilization longing for institutional, doctrinal, and moral changes.

Mysticism and the modern-day Devotion

Elsewhere in Europe there were miscellaneous movements in ~ the church struggling for an ext fulfilling experiences and much more realistic beliefs about human-divine relations. Among the much more effective the these to be the Christian mystics, a legacy extending earlier to the early on years of the church. The essence of mysticism to be the longing of individual souls because that some type of identity or direct union through God. The emotional strength of Christian mysticism was derived from a passionate love that God and a desire to be united through Him. It took plenty of forms in various manifestations throughout Europe, most notably in the fourteenth-century Rhineland, where inspirational guys like Meister Eckhart that Cologne, Johann Tauler that Strassburg, the ascetic Heinrich Suso the the Lake Constance region, and an especially Jan Ruysbroeck the Brussels, taught and also practiced unity in their religious communication.

Another innovative number who turn the focus of the activity away indigenous the asceticism and austerity of earlier mystics to a wider interest in moral virtue, service, and also education, was the dutch patrician Gerard Groote (1340–1384). Groote to be born in ~ Deventer, where his father was a significant official in the local government, but died, along with his wife, the the dreaded torment in 1350. Gerard uncovered stability in the residence of one uncle, who noted for his youthful needs: primary school at St. Lebwin and later more advanced research studies at Aachen, Cologne, and also finally in ~ the college of Paris, whereby he obtained the grasp of arts degree in 1358 when he was only eighteen. After the he studied law in Paris and also traveled for numerous years before finally returning to Deventer. Groote’s carefree life to be seriously transformed when he had several life-changing experiences that persuaded him that the should replace his vices and sins through repentance and virtue. For 5 years the struggled to cleanse his soul, security the last two at the Carthusian monastery that Monnikhuizen.

In 1379 Groote left the cherished brothers and began a job of preaching, not just throughout the IJssel sink of his boyhood but beyond to the cities of Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden, Utrecht, Gouda, and also Delft. As result of his zeal and also friendly personality, he had great success where he preached. He was concerned about the human being he taught, particularly those without leaders. He advised them come follow your consciences, come love and obey oh my god commandments, and to emulate Christ’s life. He pleaded through them also to abandon their vices and replace them through virtue and also kindness because, he told them, “we human being beings, having actually been endowed v a spark the divinity, room not entirely depraved.” <11> Many civilization were moved by Groote’s words together they cast off your encumbering burdens and also followed his appeal. It was the start of the important religious movement well-known as the Devotio Moderna (Modern, or New, Devotion).

Groote feeling the have to stay in touch with God. Such contact could it is in sought through an easy obedience and conformity to God’s commandments and laws. Conformity is strengthened by serving one’s neighbor and also by continuous renewing contact by reading an excellent books, by personal meditation, and through prayer. The key factor in uniting man with God is love. “Try to love,” that taught, “for in loving you shall find the kingdom that heaven. If as soon as you have uncovered this kingdom, friend will enjoy righteousness, peace, and also joy in the divine Ghost. Without this three presents all outward present of piety, such together fasting, and also mortification the the flesh, will certainly be that no avail.” how then deserve to this love be expressed? no by remaining sequestered in one’s cell, separate from the exterior world, yet by to express love for every God’s creations, “for he that really loves God, loves all of God’s creatures.” <12> Groote urged his pendant to return sympathy for jealousy, charity for spite, and also love for rancor. “Close her eyes to your neighbor’s defects,” he would counsel, “and try to find his an excellent qualities, i beg your pardon are always worth considering; nay much more than that, they room the just side the his character it is well because that you come dwell upon. Because that our soul’s health have the right to only be continual by think of love.” <13>

Groote was vital of the form and effects of medieval scholasticism. “Why need to we indulge in those endless conflicts such together are held at the universities, and that about subjects that no moral value whatsoever?” as soon as referring sometimes to some philosopher, the would single out those i that had actually practical value, or speak of those people who had tried to fix some coherent moral problems. In comparable manner he opposed indolence in every form, urging anyone that is maybe to work-related to gain their livelihood by honest labor and not resign come begging. “This ns say,” he explained, “because labor is necessary for the wellness of mankind.” <14>

The significance of Groote’s teachings was Christianity, pure and simple. Monitor the footsteps of Christ, he urged, fulfill His teachings, and also bear His cross. Groote make the efforts to follow his very own advice, come return good for evil and also to treat experiencing with sympathy. The labored for virtually five year teaching versus deceitfulness, dishonesty, and also dishonor. The did not strike the monastic system, just those monks that treated it favor a an individual prebend; that did not oppose the church, just those priests and bishops who violated that is precepts and also dishonored that name. That treasured being a Christian, and also the movement he began was a virtual Christian Renaissance.

As a reformer, Gerard Groote was deeply concerned around the church the his day. He to be embarrassed by the decrease in standards at every level and also was offended by the lack of moral leadership in the upper levels that church government. Yet he was a reformer, not a revolutionary. The supplemented his criticisms with constructive ideas. He did not attack the doctrines that the church, only its morals. “Everything I have preached is in complete accordance with the teachings the the Church,” that maintained, “wherever I have been wrong ns shall gladly retract. I submit myself come the authority of the Church.” <15> What that wanted most was to preserve the spirit and authority the the church by reproving the evil words and also deeds that were manifested by plenty of of the member and leaders.

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Despite his simple life, devoid of plenty of accouterments, he was a happy person, satisfied with what the Lord provided and content v his lot. He took pleasure in reading the scriptures; in fact, that loved publications of every kind. Despite he lived prior to the innovation of printing, he had actually an impressive number of books in his an individual library, and he employed up to 5 copyists in ~ a time copying manuscripts because that him. He additionally borrowed books from his friends, that tried eagerly to appease his good thirst. Yet he read not simply for his very own satisfaction. He urged others come read and also to discover from one another. Cursed to education, he did his greatest company in providing schooling and also experience because that the scores that young world who followed him. He began helping boys and girls in and around Deventer who had small money and couple of friends. He arranged because that them to continue to be with friendly matrons—many lodged in ~ his very own home—and he provided food and clothing for those who necessary it. To accomplish maximum results from his neighborhood effort that searched for capable teachers to train his young dues in all of the most suitable studies. The an outcome was his starting of the Brotherhood that the common Life in 1374.