Ozment, Steven E. The Age of Reform: 1250-1550 : An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe. New Haven, Conn. ; London: Yale University Press, 1980. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 8, “Humanism and the Reformation” pp. 290-317. Part 1, “Erasmus and Luther” pp. 290-302.
“The years 1524-25 saw the Reformation lose many of its early supporters, not only among the peasantry but within the ranks of humanists as well” (Ozment 1980, 290). Luther and Erasmus debated free will in salvation. Erasmus’ attack on Luther, A Disquisition on Free Will (De libero arbitrio diatribe) appeared in 1524 (Ozment 1980, 290). Luther, for his part, had been analyzing Erasmus’ teachings for a number of years. By 1522 Erasmus was persuaded to oppose Luther, urged on by no less than the Pope and Henry VIII. The question at hand, “taken from the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, contained the statement, ‘After the Fall, free will is something in name only and when it does what is in it [facit quod in se est], it sins mortally’” (Ozment 1980, 294). Luther’s statements were opposed to “the Ockhamist teaching that man had the ability to win grace by doing the best that is in him” (Ozment 1980, 294). Ozment describes Erasmus’ understanding of the Lutheran position (Ozment 1980, 296). Man is rewarded by God for God’s good work and punished for God’s evil. Erasmus discusses Jeremiah 18:6 denying that man can be compared to clay in the hands of a potter. Erasmus preferred to credit man with free exercise of the will and God’s grace to bring man to eternal life (Ozment 1980, 297). Ozment observes that Luther objected to Erasmus’ willingness to compromise. Luther was not the only person to have that opinion. By 1559 his writings were banned by Pope Paul IV (Ozment 1980, 299). Erasmus is still seen as an indecisive character. Luther’s final view was that “a person’s salvation so depended upon God’s presence and initiative that if God were not actively present and working within him, then nothing a person did could be good or contribute to his salvation” (Ozment 1980, 299). While Luther assumed an evil nature which governed our deeds, Erasmus asserted a nature which could define itself by good or evil deeds.