Albrecht Dürer 1516, "Portrait of Zwingli(?)"**
National Gallery, Washington DC

Huldrych Zwingli 1484-1531: Soldier of Christ

The Double-Edged Sword of Obedience

Synopsis of The Double-Edged Sword of Obedience

This essay is a reminder of the alliance between classical philosophy's belief in reason and the Socratic method of inquiry with Judeo-Christian faith in the historic form it took in the Zurich Reformation, led by the biblical humanist Huldrych Zwingli. Socratic rationalism is the distinguishing mark of the Zurich Reformation and gives it its progressive, internationalist, pro-scientific, self-critical, egalitarian and democratizing edge. To be mindful of this intellectual-spiritual inheritance, with its strong skeptical bent, immunizes against the lure of dogmatism of all kinds, and quickens intelligence and empathy. Today this alliance between a largely secularized faith and classical reason promotes timely, and culturally sensitive, responses by individuals and institutions to the varying mandates of the developmental imperative. Within the current mix of forces contending for ascendancy, it motivates those which work to increase human parity and dignity on our planet by furnishing intelligible moral grounds for social action.


Power, and empowerment, are more popular today than obedience, i.e., hearing and heeding a command by shaping one's deliberate response in assenting compliance or dissenting resistance. Both, compliance or resistance, require rational choice based on trust. Three years ago, Donald Hanks, a member of REALIA, in his captivating study Christ as Criminal,(1) focused attention again on the catch-22 nature of obedience(2), investigating it as a personality trait and mode of behavior, and as catalyst of cultural (r)evolution. Clearly, 'obedience' has here been rediscovered as a potentially inexhaustible topic of integral philosophic inquiry. One of the great virtues of Don Hank's study , I submit, lies with its insistence that an analysis of obedience must not be confined to positive, i.e., man-made laws, but has to consider the potentially creative dynamic between anthroponomic and theonomic conceptions within the setting of a culture at large.

I will follow this lead, stressing the interplay, or dialectic, of the anthroponomic with commandments attributed to supernatural agency, and will touch in passing on the function of the hypernomic dimension above the law in balancing the roles of the two overlapping jurisdictions. It is not news that divine and human justice are collision-prone and can only seldom be observed cooperating in a pre-stabilized harmony. Since any investigation of the notion of obedience as the adequate response pattern to an authoritative, intelligent, that is goodness promoting,(3) code of rules requires that its measure must be derived from the object itself, and not from what the inquirer may find personally appealing, I will draw in the sequel on familiar sources from the Western canon which have been, as best as I can tell, authenticated by the course of history.

In modern times, a lackadaisical attenuation of obedience and a lackluster quality of life, rather than heroic, Promethean rebellion in flagrant transgression of prohibitions, has often been noted. Social scientists coined a new terminology, ranging from Max Weber's observations on disenchantment and Durkheim's anomie, to philosophic investigations, i.e., by Soeren Kierkegaard in The Concept of Dread, Fear and Trembling, and, most famously, in The Sickness unto Death. The huge discrepancy between the covenantal life-sustaining spirit of the law and the crumbling inner powers of alienated, anomic, fragmented or otherwise severely diminished individuals, constitutes for Somerset Maugham the defining characteristic of the human condition in the twentieth century.(4) In his analysis of the decline of the conditions for obedience and society's decadence, Maugham does not waste his energies on empty protest against modern civilization's morbid discontent. Nor does he flinch, or launch cheap complaints. Most of all, he does not make the kind of moralizing judgments many others, seduced by pleasant illusions of their own righteousness, utter routinely. He rather accepts the modern condition the way a physician accepts an epidemic outbreak of an endemic disease, scrutinizing individual case after case for the etiology of the symptoms to find the proper diagnosis preparatory to treatment.

In Maugham's therapy of the word,(5) characters fettered by the morbid thought and behavior patterns symptomatic of limp obedience, inhabit his stylistically brilliant novels and short stories. Human bondage takes many forms but, whichever form it takes for a particular individual, it can be classed roughly, in the language of pathology, as a mixture of ideational obsession and behavioral compulsion. The self-perpetuating relentless repetitions of these patterns re-enforce their grip at every turn, and the ailment worsens as time wears on. More and more people forsake their individuality and potential personal uniqueness and, merging with the mass, become raw material for charlatans and tyrants.

There is a somber realism to Maugham's descriptions of doomed human relationships. Highlighted by satirical flashes, these descriptions betray the agonized moralist in his attempt, albeit against the odds, to turn his case histories of crippled souls into diagnostic tools to find a cure. When the story's protagonist is a clergy man, the satirical edge gets even sharper and the wounds deeper, until the author alleviates some of the pain with ironic tenderness. In The Moon and Sixpence, Maugham's biography of the painter Gauguin, the title already contains the diagnosis of the protagonist's ailment: insatiability where drives, needs and desire are caught, and negatively reinforced, in the perpetual frustration of the impossibility to gain satisfaction. Classical philosophy was already quite familiar with the human psyche's libidinal propensity toward excess, and Plato's therapy of the word mobilized all available philosophic and hippocratic resources to countervail akrasia, pleonexia, and amathia, i.e., morbid ignorance.(6) Maugham brings the arsenal of realistic literature to bear in the attempt to do the same. Yet neither his gift of empathy, nor his indignation over the forces productive of such human waste and suffering, nor his employ of naturalistic depiction could conjure an antidote. The facts, as great writers know, speak for themselves. Yet by putting up a curmudgeonly resistance against the blandishments of the ruling Zeitgeist, Maugham showed the inner strength and freedom necessary to obey the call of his humanistic vision. With his work, he succeeded in making the point that personal courage, perseverance and integrity remain difficult yet available options.

In my sketch of Maugham's take on the modern moral wasteland, the question has been skirted to what, or whom, and for what purpose a more forthcoming obedience on our part may be due. After all, to obey is a transitive verb whose meaning in human communication patterns depends on three things. To wit: the source whence the command originates, the subject to whom the command is addressed, and the intent animating the command itself. To deny the teleological nature of moral discourse, as post-Kantian deontology does, is from an integral rationalist point of view a failure of intelligence and a lack of moral imagination. Deontology denies the human mind on principle the methodical exercise of intelligent, i.e. prudent, forethought: the Aristotelean faculty of pronoia. Yet there is ample evidence from empirical, logical, psychological, historical, and philosophical investigations, that the mind is endowed with this faculty and responsible for its cultivation. Forethought is quite indispensable to intelligently deliberate on decisions big and small. The concept of obedience is unintelligible in the absence of active forethought, while dignity and freedom fall by the wayside and dehumanized automata execute orders. All determinisms are reductive and violate the person's integrity in theory and in practice. To strengthen the human prospect in the years to come it may be urgent to recognize again and openly acknowledge that intelligent forethought is obedience's pivot. Without it, obedience turns into sham or crime.

At the waning of the Middle Ages, or the birth of modern times, there emerges a new agreement with the life and intelligence affirming values consolidated in the writings of Greek philosophers.(7) True love of reason and inquiry, courage, moderation, justice, wisdom and integrity are among them. In the life-and-death story of Socrates, as told by Plato, these values found lasting embodiment.(8) In the Gorgias, Plato says of his friend and teacher that his words were just an echo of his love for truth; a love which let him rule his appetites with moderation, and place the interest of those he loved and taught above his own gratification. The Socratic method's use of erotic energy does not lead to false sublimations, repression and neurosis; rather it guides to a chaste life where mind and body, thought and action, or word and deed, are fully integrated, harmonious, sound, and whole. The patient habit of Socratic intellection is the secret of attaining and maintaining integrity, or wholeness, and, for Socrates himself, it was the gift he got in exchange for his abiding love of truth.(9)

In the alchemy of cultural transmission classical values merged over the stretch of twelve centuries with Christ's teaching in the New Testament. Soon after the printing press had been invented in 1436, and renaissance humanists had furnished translations of Plato's and Aristotle's works, classical values in their pristine form entered the intellectual mainstream. The new knowledge led to a shift in emphasis among many theologians, and the long sustained focus on ecclesiology moved to Paul's and Augustin's liberating doctrine of grace. These teachings, no less than the classical notions of human participation in the logos in the form of cosmic reason, embodied in Plato's Socratic account, animated the humanist movement.(10) The voices of humanists reached the general public and gave men and women a new sense of their status and dignity, releasing them from clerical tutelage into the neighborhood of the promised liberty the apostle Paul proclaims in his letter to the Galatians.(11) During the first two decades of the sixteenth century the diffusion of classical thought, in tandem with the new theological and humanist trends, had reached critical mass. Theologians, traveling monks, luminaries like Erasmus of Rotterdam, princes and commoners, all effectively added their growing expectations to the newly unfolding plays of the world.(12) Human relations change, even improve, democratic tendencies assert themselves in home and marketplace against the feudal order. A quickening sensibility of human equality and a new and more fluid language begin to modify hierarchical patterns of social convention

In addition, the impact of classical values among clergy and the swelling ranks of learned laymen was greatly strengthened by the ongoing moral crisis in the higher echelons of the western church. Concubinage and bastardy, practiced in many high places, were put with gusto on public display in the Vatican by Pope Alexander VI, to be soon read by many, even staunch loyalists, as sure outward signs of a loss of grace announcing the threat of damnation. Public opinion, though slow to assert itself, became a critical political factor in the democratizing process of the time. You did not need the stern conscience of a Savonarola to be upset. The behavior of some ecclesiastical dignitaries, against the backdrop of a feudal order seen as bent on self-destruction by predatory adventurism, proved a bit much. Though these offenses against morality and decorum were only a symptom of a more widespread deeper malaise, they provided the tinder to kindle reformist, rebellious, and also radical revolutionary passions.

North of the Alps, a steady stream of propaganda pamphlets, calling for society's transformation, flooded towns and country-side. The new media generated energies that gave local reformation movements their seemingly irresistible momentum.(13)

Classical thought and eloquence lost some of their rational measure, when reformation rhetoric merged ancient wisdom with the cries of outraged human conscience demanding decency and justice. The law of God had been violated, ridiculed and cheapened. Its intent perverted. And the powers of evil were seen just about everywhere as getting ready to devour human life on earth.(14)

The question of the day was how to invest the law with new authority. Only on a new basis could its redemptive intent, and thus the intrinsic dignity of human life, be efficaciously re-affirmed. Countless believers came to the conviction that their personal obedience, communally expressed by their own lives in the holiness of the everyday world provided this foundation. Nobody in their right mind can believe it possible to gain salvation by proxy. To do so, in the view of the reformed conscience, is nothing but blasphemy and sacrilege that violate the integrity of the word. The church's promises had been exposed as sham and public outrage against abusive practices, e.g., the selling of indulgences, ran high. Individuals became the guardians of their moral well-being, responsible for its upkeep and accountable only to the inner court of conscience. Incidentally, I believe it is the reformation's quickened conscience Justice Blackmun relied on for his historic and controversial ruling in Roe v. Wade.(15)

In the light of the emerging protestant understanding of the role of the rule of law, its authority is no longer seen as vested in the priesthood, reassuring rituals, and tradition. It is now vested in the inner court of conscience of people eager for change and ready to accomplish the hard work of faith. This faith itself is the compass for the passage into the short and long future with Scripture as the map in everybody's hands. Reformers relinquished claims to possess the key to the right interpretation of Scripture. Instead they started searching for the faith's foundations in the original words. Hebrew, the language of the Pentateuch, became the language of universal wisdom, equivalent to the Logos of the Greeks. Individuals, e.g., Tyndale and Luther, or entire teams of scholars, like Zwingli and his associates in Zurich, started to translate the books of both testaments into native tongues. Translating the Bible into the vernacular was not without its dangers. William Tyndale could not finish his work, being made a martyr for the cause of freedom of speech in 1535, in Antwerp. His life furnishes an especially poignant instance of the double-edged sword of obedience. In retrospect one may be tempted to say he obeyed the right authority by giving the Book to the people.(16)

Though danger was real, translating proceeded apace. Illustrators, among them both Cranachs and Holbeins, sharpened their pens, printers worked overtime, and the bible became the sixteenth century's first best-seller. The revealed Word of the eternal triune God, his charter of human liberty, was enthusiastically received by the rapidly expanding literate public. Scripture, as mediated by each believing individual's love for Christ, preachers and laity agreed, was the sole, fully adequate and completely trustworthy guide for the new life.(17) This grand agreement begat more fission and more friction than had been anticipated, with the unity of the creed splitting ceaselessly into more and more idiosyncratic separatist confessions.(18) Almost needless to say, the danger of nostalgia for lost unity and certainty loomed large. The story of Lot's wife turned up in many sermons as dire warning, and the pillar of salt is a favorite common place of reformation rhetoric.

In the republican municipality of Zurich, on October 6, 1522, four years into the local political experiment with society's reformation, yet prior to the final break with Rome, when sensible people on both sides hoped for reconciliation, the printing house Froschauer published a sermon that still claims our attention.(19) This particular sample of the ars praedicandi, the art of preaching, has been penned by the Swiss reformator Huldrych Zwingli who delivered the sermon to a select audience, namely, the chapter of Dominican sisters cloistered at their convent at Oetenbach.(20) Ever since New Year's Day, January 1519, when he began, on his 36th birthday, to serve as the town's religious head, Zwingli had preached sermons sequentially by following the narrative, time-conscious nature of scripture. This new approach made individual members in the congregation develop a feeling for history's onward momentum and see their own lives within an encompassing pattern. Yet this and other civic and liturgical reforms precipitated plenty of opposition. Irked by the strongholds of opposition in monastic establishments, the town council started deliberating how to deal with it. At a dramatic, dissension-ridden debate an approach was hammered out and a plan, a flank attack on the weakest spot, put to the vote. It won by a majority of one.

Soon thereafter, an official letter to the Dominican sisters informed them of the council's solicitude for their spiritual well-being. It also let them know that in order to "slake their spiritual thirst" and thus ensure this well-being, the council had decided to send them a preacher who would bring the new proclamation of God's word into their sanctum. Needless to say, the letter continues, it was hoped that this proposed action would be received with sincere gratitude. Politics being then what it is now, it had to rely on the ingenious use of language. The use of the holy book in the hands of the new power brokers contributed, I feel, substantially to the rapid disaffection of the educated public with religious parlance, accelerating reformed society's secularization.'Thirst slaking' today is still part of fundamentalist discourse and has lost its cachet. In 1522, the situation was different: religious language was not so much a reactionary, but rather a progressive medium, and biblical tropes were part of everybody's everyday language. 'Thirst slaking' is a common biblical trope based on Moses in the desert drawing water from the rock in Horeb/Sinai, saving his people from untimely death.(21) It also recalls the words of Christ to the people at the Jerusalem feast of tabernacles(22) and, on another occasion, to the Samaritan woman reported in John 4:14. "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." KJV

The town council entrusted Zwingli with the mission. Katharina von Zimmern, the convent's distinguished prioress, gave permission for the event to take place. Whether she did so with the consent, in disregard, or in defiance of the opinion of the abbot of the Dominican friars, who served as the sisters' spiritual guide, is not known. What is known is that on the appointed day the full chapter was in attendance to hear the famous and controversial preacher in person, viva voce. Soon thereafter, the Sisters, one by one, renounced their vows and left the convent. They rejoined their families, some got married, others found employment in Zurich's expanding social services administration. The convent's buildings and grounds, unsurprisingly, came under Zurich's municipal oversight, while the prospects for reconciliation with Rome dimmed.

Giovanni Bellini: "Christ with Cross" (ca 1500)
Gardner Museum, Boston MA


Now to the sermon itself. The title "On the Clarity and Certainty, that is the Power of the Word of God" conveys its scope and larger humanistic, pedagogic, democratizing program. The main tool for accomplishing this purpose for Zwingli was nothing other then the Socratic Method known as elenchus. Neither preachers or teachers, administrators or judges, scholars, scientists, record keepers, chroniclers, journalists, or any other member of the public dealing with the intersection of fact and opinion, were to be immune. All were seen as being in need of continuous self-examination and reform by constant reliance on the elenchic dialogue with the biblical narrative. Society as a whole was to benefit by every member's application of the Socratic method of inquiry to their own experience, and stop being 'wise in their own conceits'. This, I take it, was for Zwingli the primary meaning of the ongoing reformation, summed up in the maxim "semper reformanda," a maxim which applies to individuals as well as institutions.

The word of God as teacher, and the members of the community, the visible part of the invisible church, as students, both become partners in the give and take of a sustained conversation. The word teaches, corrects and encourages, examines, often refutes, yet continuously invigorates and beneficially transforms the attentive, self-reflective, inquiring and thoughtful reader. The condition for this dialogue to take place is that the reader engages with the whole book in trust, with an open mind, ready to learn, and uses intellect and imagination with schooled discipline. The school for such a discipline was well known to Zwingli through study of his predecessors and is summed up in a passage by Bonaventure: "And so the whole course of the universe is shown by the scriptures to run in most orderly fashion from beginning to end, like a beautifully composed poem in which every mind may discern, through the succession of events, the diversity, multiplicity, and justice, the order, the rectitude, and beauty, of the countless divine decrees that proceed from God's wisdom ruling the universe. But as no one can appreciate the beauty of a poem unless his vision embraces it as a whole, so no one can see the beauty of the orderly governance of creation unless he has an integral view of it."(23)

The knowledge the dialogical scripture-reading method yields, Zwingli feels, is practical and accomplishes the reconciliation of desire, will, and intellect, a reconciliation characteristic of a just man and a just woman, the basic building blocks of a just society. This conciliatory self-knowledge descends in equal proportion from the book of Micah(24) and from Apollo's oracle at Delphi which had commissioned Socrates to promote the elenchus in Athens.(25) The command of intellect or reason in harmony with the divine will, the command to which the individual can readily respond with mind and heart and soul in fully assenting obedience, has never before been envisioned so closely intertwined than here in Zwingli's 12 step therapy of the word:

1) To begin with, each and everyone should call with innermost voice to God to kill in him the Old Adam who likes to rely on his own know-how and presumed wisdom;

2) Once the old creature is dead and emptied out, ask to be by grace filled with God's spirit, placing all trust and faith in him;

3) As soon as this happens, it is certain that you will be cheerful and comforted;

4) You should recognize that God's word is available to everyone without exception and without regard to social status or position;

5) Remember that it is as Luke says in Chapter 3,(26) God punishes arrogance and pride and is ready to regenerate those who repent;

6) His word is eager to lift up the poor and console the desperate. It annihilates the self-willed and is exalted in the witness of Christ;

7) God's word never seeks, or supports, selfish advantage;

8) It wants to be published far and wide, so that the stubborn may learn fear and the humble be uplifted;

9) When you feel renewed by the word and your charity abounds, you can be certain the change comes from God's word;

10) when the word makes you certain in mind, heart and soul of grace and salvation, you know the true word;

11) when the word chides and rebukes you and gives you the power to change for the better, it proves to be trustworthy;

12) When the fear of God turns into your source of joy and love, while pain and sorrow wane, you know for certain that God's word and spirit are at work in you.- May we all receive his spirit.(27)

The Zwinglian reading method's practical result entails the obedience of rational assent: moral knowledge based on acceptance of what has been critically examined and found to be the case, or true. The often disappointing knowledge of the reality of good and evil, especially one's own failings, is no longer a 'sin,' but the key to reform and healing. It is the kind of knowledge medieval theology calls - without providing a method to gain it - the root and the foundation of all virtue.(28) Today we are more likely to say, Zwingli's method, based as it is on the conscientious practice of the Socratic elenchus, yields experiential knowledge that is indispensable for the development of an integrated personality. For such a human being obedience, autonomy, and liberty are synonyms: the law is scrutinized, accepted and internalized as conscience.(29) Conscience, in concert with prudence, prompts compliance with just commands and resistance to illegitimate ones, whether they issue from external or internal sources.(30) Thus the person's integrity is protected as priceless possession. Neither threats of death, nor the persuasive skills of Job's three friends combined can invalidate the strength of an integrated person's moral knowledge; and the pathologies of bondage, mentioned in this paper's section on the diagnostic work of Maugham, are kept at bay. People who know themselves in their social context as autonomous rational agents accept the risks that attend obedience and heed the law in the full legal, the religious and the philosophical sense. Obedience, though necessary to fulfil the law, is not of the law, but born, according to Zwingli's Socratic conception, of intellect and spirit.(31)

The Zwinglian humanistic reconciliation of Athens with Jerusalem was prophetic, premature, and is, though little noticed, quietly effective in the world today. His program of social reform, enacted in 1525, serves time and again as model for new legislation in great societies in transit to democracy. Turkey, Bangladesh and other Islamic countries are reforming their civil and criminal laws along the lines of the Zurich reformation, liberalizing traditional forms of punishment and increasing equality among the classes, castes and sexes. Civilizations not only clash, they also interact in beneficial and enhancing ways. Our focus here, in Bretton Woods, today, on Zwingli's Greek Connection, and his understanding of obedience as rational cooperation within the person and within the body politic, introduces an aspect of history which has a democratizing potential whose effectiveness is not measurable by quantitative measurements. How much it will in fact influence cultural development in various parts of the globe is an open question. Yet what seems certain to me is that an understanding of the Swiss Reformation's Greek Connection contributes, however subtly, to human solidarity and strengthens our capabilities to honor the moral commitment to uphold undiminished expectations for the world and all its peoples' imminent future. Thank you for your kind attention.


QUID TUM: What Now?

(To return to your place in the paper, click the asterisk at the end of each endnote)

** Since 1993 the sitter of this painting is now believed by scholarly consensus to be clergyman Johann Dorsch. *

1. Donald Hanks, Christ as Criminal: Antinomian Trends for a New Millennium, Toronto Studies in Theology, Vol 73, The Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, NY *

2. Psalm 42:9-10 "I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? As with a double-edged sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?" *

3. This definition of obedience is derived from Plato's excursions into the nature of the metaphysical relationships between intelligence (employed as synonym of intellect, logos, and reason), necessity and chance in many of his dialogues, most notably in the Timaeus (Stephanus 48) and the Philebus. It is supported by T.K. Seung's new interpretation of Plato's teaching in his study Plato Rediscovered: Human Value and Social Order, Rowman and Littlefield, 1996. The same definition has been employed by me in the argument for universal comity in "Footprints of Reason," Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. XX,#1&2, pp 44-51 *

4. Of the most immediate relevance here are Of Human Bondage; The Moon and Sixpence; The Razor's Edge. *

5. The phrase "therapy of the word" is taken, with appreciation, from the title of Pedro Lain Entralgo's study The Therapy of the Word in Classical Antiquity, Yale, 1974. *

6. The locus classicus for Plato's understanding of these three afflictions of the soul is Timaeus, 86 b - 87 b. *

7. See Aristotle's Nikomachian Ethics, 1144b - 1145a *

8. See: Meno; Euthyphro; Menexenus; Gorgias; Apology; Crito; Phaedo *

9. See Symposium, 214e-223d, where Alcibiades is a witness, malgre lui, of Socrates' commitment to truth. Incidentally, in much of rationalism's discourse, the term truth stands for one of the many names of God. *

10. In 1490, Marsilio Ficino, head of the Florentine Academy, published his translation and commentary of Plato's dialogues. A beautifully preserved copy of the editio princeps is in the Folger Shakespeare Library, in Washington, DC. The assimilation of classical texts into Christian culture can be seen in the motto of the frontispiece from Romans 11:22 "VIDE BENIGNITATE ET SEVERITATE DEI" (behold the liberality and the severity of God). *

11. Galatians 5:1 "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." *

12. This remark was made possible by the extraordinary translation of Nicolas de Cusa's De Ludo Globi into The Game of Spheres by my colleague Pauline Moffitt Watts. *

13. Peter Matheson says in his monograph The Rhetoric of the Reformation (T&T Clark, Edinburgh, 1998) "The Connection between theological faculties and religious leaders, and this new animal, public opinion, is the event we call the reformation." This remark harks back to the Socratic phrase "great beast" for the demos when assembled as a crowd: emotional, uncritical, hungry to be pandered to, volatile, and, most of all, incapable in the heat of the situation of any detached use of intelligence. Each member of the crowd has the potential for critical intelligent reflection, but as a member of the crowd, this potential is suspended, or submerged, and inoperative. Socrates is often accused of anti-democratic tendencies. Yet on closer inspection, this accusation is not warranted. Socrates was a psychologist of crowd behavior before such studies were undertaken, and he understood that crowds are at the mercy of orators. Demagogues can orchestrate the crowd's emotional swings, prevent all thought, and turn a democratic society into a tyranny. Ancient and modern examples abound. The Socratic lesson is that the work of the intellect must countervail the power of the demagogue. Preachers can turn also into demagogues and the lack of rationality characteristic of the crowd as crowd, leads invariably to moral disaster. *

14. In Bad Frankenhausen, at the Panorama Museum, Werner Tuebke's "Early Civil Revolution in Germany"(1987) offers a stunning rendition of the reformation movement's two main currents and their historic figures. The painting, in its monumental totalizing grandeur, exceeds the concept 'painting' the way Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk "Der Ring" exceeds the notion of opera. It is 14 feet high and mounted around the 123 meter long inner circumference of a cylindrical structure: a sort of panopticon in reverse, compressing epochal achievements and defeats into pan-allegory. *

15. Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, by the US Supreme Court. Justice Blackmun, for the Court, ruled that states may not ban abortions in the first six months of pregnancy; that a fetus is not a "person" protected by the 14th amendment to the US Constitution; and that the amendement protects a woman from state intrusion into her decision as to whether or not to bear a child. *

16. William Tyndale's translation is given by the Columbia Encyclopedia as the basis of the Authorized Bible (KJV). His genius, though rarely mentioned, lies in the combination of the common touch with lyrical power and beauty. David Daniell's "William Tyndale: A Biography" (1994) serves as the standard reference source on his life and work. *

17. This agreement between clergy and laity rests on the rock of Christ, a stumbling-block to the Jews, and a cause for ridicule to the Greeks. The terms of the agreement, or covenant, promulgated as binding for both partners, are given in John 3:35-36 "The father loves the son, and all things were given into his hands. Everyone believing in the son has eternal life, but whoever does not obey the son will not see life, but the wrath of god remains on him." (Paraphrased from the Greek/English interlinear translation, Zondervan, 1975) *

18. Confessional polemic was productive of civil strife which invigorated the philosophic mission of Thomas Hobbes to vest all authority for the administration of the law in the hands of the monarch, or sovereign, at the head of the absolutist state. His Leviathan made the turn toward absolutism intelligible, showing that absolutism was needed to contain social disintegration. *

19. The original document is now in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, as part of the Stickelberger collection. The sermon's title is "Von Klarheit und Gewissheit oder Kraft des Wortes Gottes." Clarity and Certainty became a reformation motto in French protestant circles around the humanist Lefevre d'Etaples. Descartes, in his break with scholastic philosophy, adopted and adapted it in his Discourse on Method as the main principle for his subjectivist epistemology. *

20. My brief account of the events pertaining to the Zurich Reformation is drawn from Heinrich Bullinger's Reformationsgeschichte (Frauenfeld, 1838-40); Emil Egli's Aktensammlung (Zurich, 1879) and his Schweizerische Reformationsgeschichte, Vol I (Zurich, 1910); as well as from the magisterial study by Gottfried W. Locher, The Zwinglian Reformation in the Context of European Church History (Goettingen and Zurich, 1979). *

21. Exodus 17:5-6 "And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel." *

22. John 7:37-39 "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this he spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" *

23. Breviloquium, prologue, The Works of Bonaventure, ed. De Vinck *

24. Micah 6:6-8 *

25. It is a well known fact that the city of Athens, especially its officials, refused to let Socrates fulfil his mandate by putting him on trial and sentencing him to death. Socrates' martyrdom, however, permitted his method - as forwarded in Plato's Socratic dialogues - to be charged, i.e., energized, with continuous efficacy. The development of theoretical, or pure, science in the west is the most telling testimony to the Socratic method of inquiry's perduring moral, intellectual, obedience enjoining force. The Swiss Reformation, led by Huldrych Zwingli and, after his death, by Heinrich Bullinger, is another. See Plato's Menexenus; Euthyphro; Meno; Crito; Apology. *

26. Luke 3:3-17 *

27. The claims, explicit and implicit, Zwingli makes here for the therapeutic efficacy of the Socratic reading of scripture, echo Christ's words in John 4:23-24 "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the father in spirit and in truth: for the father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." The Socratic method's spirit of truth-seeking inquiry is such a 'worship'. *

28. "Cognitio est radix et fundamentum totium virtutum." Gabriel Biel *

29. For details see Socrates' account of his relation to the Laws of Athens in the Crito, 49 -54e. *

30. The moral grounds for the duty of resistance have been formulated by Zwingli in seven articles (from #35 to # 42) of his epochal 67 articles submitted to the authorities and the public on the occasion of the first Zurich disputation, January 29, 1523. Article 42 says: if civil authorities transgress the laws of Christ they must be deposed in the name of God. For an application of this rule see my essay "The Remains of the Night", Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. XVI, #5, pp 5-10 *

31. The role of intelligence (reason) in the creation and the maintenance of the cosmos, especially its human sphere, is investigated by Plato in the Timaeus. My essay "Footprints of Reason" traces the application of this Platonic concept in Marcel Mauss' The Gift. *


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