Girolamo Savonarola was a very pious Dominican friar, preacher of the word and a reformer who studied and participated in the church life. His focus on religion led him to cause reformation on Christianity and morals in religion towards the end of the fifteenth century. He lived in the city of Florence as a prophet who attracted huge crowds during his sermon. Savonarola prophetic messages were commonly about the civic glory, called for the destruction of the arts and cultures that indicated worshipping of the world and called for the Christians to renew their ways of life. Savonarola moved towards imparting the true religion in the people when he declared Florence as a “Christian and religious Republic” marking critical decision to stop pagan religions. Savonarola attitude towards pagan religions can be illustrated through various religious reforms and his position on Christianity, Islamic, and Judaism.
In book IV of “The Triumph of the Cross” by Savonarola, he strongly talks about religion more detail through which he highlights essential ingredients with which religion should be practised. Savonarola, in the first place, acknowledges the discord that exists among men on what religion should entail. However, with him, Savonarola takes a bold and robust decision on religion according to this book IV. He demonstrates that arguments favouring Christianity are much stronger than any other arguments that tend to support different beliefs besides Christianity. And this is the point at which Savonarola starts to draw his support towards what he describes as indubitably true religion. Thus, Savonarola stands against pagan religions and identify Christianity as the only try religion and goes I ahead to highlight various areas that support his position.
Savonarola supports Christianity as a superior religion and dismisses all other religions as pagan intensely focusing on describing them as superstitions. Part of the pagan religions that Savonarola discusses include; idolatry, astrology, heathen philosophy, heresy, Mahometanism, and Judaism. In each of these false religions that Savonarola refers to, he tends to bring out discussions on the failures and negativities involved which defines paganism. He uses this to dismiss these pagan religions as he continues to support Christianity. Throughout his book, Savonarola brings out pagan religions as senseless whose beliefs are different from what Christianity entails. As Christianity recognizes one God, pagan religions tend to recognize many gods, and their practices do not offer solutions to the befalling of the people.
Heaven philosophy regards salvation is exceedingly weak and insufficient since the only guide that heaven philosophers were using was the human reason light. Savonarola believes that heaven philosophy is a wrong religion since those in this religion that take the roles of lead men do not have an understanding of the real end of human life. The lead men lack the rules that guide the operation of their followers concerning their aspiration to the end of human life. The reason leading to lack of this knowledge is because the end of human life is beyond what human can reason. Savonarola finds this as a nuisance religion to an extent it could not define the means through which human could use to attain his end. Thus, heaven philosophers teaching on religion was out of nothing and fool ignorance, showed imperfection, erroneous, and uncertainty.
Savonarola position on pagan religions brings out the various perceptions about the end of human life and the need for religion to define human life. Heaven philosophers view the end of human life as which completes the Divine things happening, and this tends to create confusion among the followers on what entails human life. Unlike what Christianity believes about the end of human life, pagan religion such as heaven philosophers cannot strongly talk about their end with any certainty. Thus, the attitude that Savonarola holds up heaven philosophers is the confusion that they create among the followers and their uneasiness to pronounce the future with the fear that whatever they put across would be unproven which would lead to its unacceptability by the people. The question of the immortality of the soul has been a long time question that the religion has tried to give out an answer. However, as Savonarola puts it in his book, “Triumph of the Cross,” philosophers have given various opinions on the immortality of the soul. They always engage in opinions that can never achieve a collective agreement. Thus, Savonarola has a feeling that various forms of pagan religions present perspectives that create confusion hence do not portray any true religion the way Christianity does. He accuses philosophers of lack of agreement especially on the question of the immortality of the soul.
Savonarola accuses the astrology, another pagan religion for misleading on the causes of human affairs. From what he presents, the writer indicates that they are heavens and the stars that make through the sky as out gods that control the affairs of human beings. Through this perception about the astrologers, it can be believed that Savonarola has a feeling that this religion worships the stars as their gods. Like what the ancient did about worshipping of the sun and the stars, astrologers seem to follow suit. Savonarola dismisses this belief claiming that man does thing based on the understanding and the will one develops towards doing something. By the astrology religion viewing human affairs as controlled by heaven and stars, Savonarola finds this teaching as having no value and one that is dangerous. The fact that pagan religions subject human affairs as being controlled by other powers, these religions tend to disregard the power of God since the father of lies leads them. The minds of the pagans are corrupted in the way that it is difficult for them to do anything if they have not consulted heavens and the stars.
In what can be seen as Savonarola’s position to pour cold water on the false religions, he states that he does intend to argue against the folly beliefs provided by any pagan religion. Instead, he moves to say that all proofs have indicated that any religion that comes out to worship heavenly bodies such as the stars should be treated as meaningless and superstitious. Various groups have come up to refute and demolish the astrologers’ pretensions to powers of divination. They argue that those following astrologers should be considered unreasonable.
Savonarola also views pagan religions as being idolatry where they worship images of stones and woods which look like beasts and men. In his view, this contradicts Christianity as a true religion that demands only worshipping of God. To him, Savonarola views such religion as foolish to an extent it honours things that are senseless and they it needs no confutation. He further rubbishes the argument by some men who want to excuse their folly claiming that they worship gods dwelling in images rather than the images themselves. He finds idolaters a people who wrongly worshipped idols, burning incense to seek the favour from idols as their true gods. According to what Savonarola view this, the way of worshipping images was a pure way to honour the idols themselves which were a representation of the evil spirits. The author finds these spirits worshipped by idolaters as evil since they never showed true religion to men even as they gave answers to those who questioned them frequently. Additionally, these spirits are evil as they never gave the true meaning of life to the men but instead, acted in controversy, where they deceived men, subverted all order, and usurped honouring God. They were the cause of the sin and the ignorance that the earth continues to experience preventing people from further knowledge of the true God.
It is the argument by Savonarola that good spirits cannot do any evil, expose people to suffering, or encourage hatred unlike what the pagans’ spirit used to do. Pagan religions are the leading cause of the bad things happening around as Savonarola mentions the war, sacrilege, incest, murder, and many crimes. The heathen deities are evil spirits as they have denied humanity an opportunity of getting what they desired; meaning, their work was to watch over the interests of humankind as guardians. This contradicts what God does to the Christians by needing nothing for his people and allows them to benefit from worshipping him. Thus, Savonarola folds the pagan religions on worshipping evil spirits that turn out to cause troubles on the earth. Their worshipping of the idols in the form of images is wrongs as it deceives people and makes them stay away from worshipping the true God and religion.
Savonarola’s view of Judaism as a false religion is based on the beliefs the Jewish still hold about the light of natural reason that existed before the coming of Christ. Christ came on earth to give supernatural light to humankind that had been blinded by sin. Instead, the Jewish and other groups of pagans used the knowledge about this light in the wrong way. From where Savonarola, the Judaism religion glorifies in the Old Testament; but even on this, they strain to interpret and make many errors. Judaism is a false religion in the sense that they have all their hope on Messiah whom they still believe in and wait that would come. The Jewish never want to believe that the Messiah had already come who is Jesus Christ, the Savior. The fact that the Jewish keep on denying that Christianity is not the religion of God, which they still hold anyway, they are living in error, and Savonarola regards them as pagans.
The reason why the Savonarola finds Judaism a false religion is that the Jewish people are the same people that crucified Christ, the Messiah of Nazareth. They saw what happened, experienced how God spoke, and the ascending of Christ to heaven but do not want to agree with this fact. They were all aware that God was to send them a Saviour and a prophet who was great and all men were to listen to Him since God was speaking through Christ. The Jewish all knew about the race of Christ, the place of birth, and the time when He would come. Everything about the Christ, Messiah was in Mosaic law, in the prophets, and Psalms. They were fully aware of what Jesus had to teach about, the work He would perform, and the life He would live. The entire world was well informed about it, and everything else was interpreted in the Old Testament by the Christian doctors. However, even with all these signs and interpretations about the Messiah, the Jewish group still holds on the belief that they still wait for the Messiah.
The provided evidence shows that indeed the Jewish were aware of the Messiah as God sent and true Christ. Thus, Savonarola finds it necessary that the Jewish need to become Christians since God commanded them to obey Christ whom they never followed. It is this failure by the Jewish to recognize Christ as the Messiah that Savonarola finds Judaism religion as a pagan and false religion that goes against the wish of God. In other words, Savonarola challenges the continued disobedient of God by the Jewish as a perception that even God Himself was not aware that the Messiah, Jesus Christ was to come into the world. They Jewish perceive God as a powerless being who could not prevent Christ from entering into the world to allow the Messiah that the Jewish have been waiting for to come. Thus, the decision by the Jewish to disregard the coming of Jesus and continue having the hopes that there is another Messiah who ought to come is an act of paganism and falsehood in religion. They hold onto the belief that God cheated because the Messiah He promised them about has not yet cone.
The New Testament was the fulfilment of the Old Testament and all that had been told about the coming of Jesus of Nazareth though, Judaism does not believe in the New Testament. Savonarola tries to question the Jewish about their use of the knowledge they had about the Old Testament and their denial of the coming of Christ. They still disregard the message by the Apostles of Christ that should have stopped legal sacrifices and ceremonies as there new light, Jesus of Nazareth had come. They were told that the reality had finally come through the Christ and even the doctors of the church had made an announcement. However, this information to Jewish was not correct and never admitted that the Christ had come but continue to wait for Messiah. Thus, the Jewish belong to the false religion that goes against the commandments of God. They fail to listen and believe in what God said and therefore their religion does not stand for the truth but falsehood and misconception. Savonarola in his book indicates that the fact that Jewish have refused to accept Christianity as the only true religion, their practices should be regarded as evil and which go against God’s expectations. The Jewish have been scattered all over the earth because of disrespecting God, denying Jesus Christ and continue to hold onto the malice that Christ has not yet come. Their scattering is an indicator that God is punishing them for their disobedience, and their false Judaism religion will not stand since it opposes the advances of Christianity.
A significant group of pagans that Savonarola does not leave out in his book “The Triumph of the Cross” are the heretics who acknowledge Christ and Gospel but commit many errors. Savonarola believes that true religion is void of deliberate errors and any religion that believes in committing errors should be perceived as a false religion because knowing Christ would be mere pretence. When it comes to heretics, Savonarola believes that the world is ruled by Define Providence which allows the church to be governed by only one head. He further argues that if at all heretics believe in this rule and are aware that the church should go the right way, then, why should they commit many errors. It indicates that the heretics lack consistency in their acknowledgement of the Christ and Gospel as basics of true religion. There is a need for the heretics to admit that the church is a form of government that was ordained by God Himself as the Lord of everything and should treat it in the best way possible. This church as was ordained by God should be high and regard God as the only administrator of the true church. At one point, the paganism that is depicted by heretics is based on their interpretation of the Scriptures both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Though heretics agree that the Church has one head and that is Christ, a belief that is held by Christians, there are some things they do that do not align with the true teachings of the church.
Even after agreeing to follow the Scriptures, heretics have dissented from the right teachings the Church offers and refused to follow the right way as expected of them. Their intention to commit errors that go against the Church teachings has made Savonarola believe that their religion is not a true religion but more for a pagan one. They falsify the Holy Scripture and choose the religion they feel suits them and their deeds, at the same time prefer to stay in their errors. The religion that is practised by the heretics does not reflect the right region expected and very different from what the Christians do. Thus, the heretics have decided to stay and practice their religion far from the truth of the Church and what is expected of man from God. Due to the pagan religion that the heretics practice, they disagree between themselves completely, they have almost nothing in common with each other, are in constant abuse of one another, and their argument about their teaching is never solid. Thus, ultimately, Savonarola believes that this is not a religion that can be regarded as a true one but rather which stays away from the truth and expectations of them as the followers of Christ. Heretics also lead the life of sins which is proof that they do not come from God.
.Mahometan is another religion which Savonarola does not leave out on his list of pagan religion and his view on how he believes that these religions are false and do what is not expected of God. The Mahometans practice the rite of circumcision as the Jewish and believe in the same doctrine as the heretics. Thus, standing in between these two religions, Judaism and heretics, Savonarola believes that Mahometans do not practice the true religion as the Christians do. The Mahometans that Savonarola describes in this book defines the Islamic religion that believes in the Koran rather than the Holy Scriptures which God talks through to His people. Thus, Savonarola believes that the Islamic religion is a pagan one since it stays away from the practice of the Bible as a holy book. Savonarola asserts that the whole system of reading the Koran of Mahomet is a folly one. Unlike Christianity that is supernatural, Islamic is not supernatural neither does it proceed from the light of natural religion the way it is expected. The position of Savonarola about the Mahometans is that the superstition they hold does not draw the inspiration of either Divine or human wisdom making it easy for anyone to refute this religion.
The argument about the paganism portray by the Islamic religion rotates around the book of Koran. This book according to Savonarola demonstrates the collection of precepts and bears the testimony to the ignorance of Mahomet who is the writer of the Koran. There is a lot of confusion indicated in which the contents of the book are brought together which makes it difficult for anyone in the earth to arrange them. The confusion with which the Koran read by the Muslims signifies the ignorance and the falseness that is portrayed by the Islamic religion. Besides, there is the general view that the Islamic religion practices immorality which is as a result of the confusion that is created in the Koran. The Koran contains fables and supports immorality which calls for its ridicule and does not deserve the analysis by any serious religion. Thus, with the way Savonarola presents the Koran, then is evident that law contained in the Koran does not proceed supernatural inspiration or from natural reason since it seems to oppose the natural light hence does not support the natural wisdom. The natural light, in this case, refers to Christ who is the head of the Church and the light of the World. It is from God that we get natural wisdom. Hence, the beliefs provided in the Koran do not come from God or indicate any reference to the demands of God. Therefore, Savonarola bases on these arguments to dismiss Islamic is a true religion but a false one.
In his further view of the religion, the bad attitude by Savonarola towards Mahometarism emanates from his description of Mahomet as the originator of this pagan religion. He judges the entire religion as false and paganic in reference to the history presented about Mahomet. Mahomet was presented historically as an adulterer, unprincipled, unreasonable and as a robber. He was believed to have the problems related to epileptic fits that led him falling prostrate which he instead attributed with an angel. He is described as more of a dictator who did not engage in any argument, was violent, and practised bribery. He used his bully behaviour to gradually gather depraved and uneducated men around him who were in large numbers and used to conquer a massive multitude of people. Thus, as one believed to be a religious people, Savonarola believes that he ought not to have done this since he was aware of the repercussions of such fashions of the ruling.
Despite Mahomet’s approval of the New Testament and the Old Testament in his Koran where commends the Christ as the true prophet whose mother was Mary, he has a different belief about Christians and the Scriptures. Mahomet does accuse Christians of falsifying the New Testament and the Old Testament. However, Savonarola dismisses such accusations arguing that the two testaments imply strong uniformity regardless of the language in which they were written. The uniformity with which the Old Testament and the New Testament versions of the Bible indicate shows that indeed the message contained is from the Highest and any attempt to refute the versions implies a sign of resistance to embrace the book of God and its contents. Thus, Savonarola views Islamic as a religion that tries to bring in new laws from the Koran whose author was Mahomet. To any rational person, the Koran intended to replace the teachings of the Bible from the Old and New Testaments hence a sign of paganism. Another significant concern of Savonarola about the Koran is its failure to teach about a virtuous way of life as is expected of any true religion. Thus, Savonarola finds the Islamic religion as which does not fulfil the promises it makes to its followers about the end of life. Hence, Mahometanism is a religion that is not based on true religion but falsehood.
Islamic like any other pagan religions entails unfulfilled promises to the followers. Unlike what happens in Christianity when Jesus performed miracles, the same is never seen being done by Mahomet. His pledge to convert the world by miracles never happened and turned the message to recognize himself as a sender from Heaven whose intent is to use the sword to transform the world. The proclamation by Mahomet contradicts the nature of God Himself who lacks the pleasure in compulsory service. By the intent to take the world away by the sword, the message by Mahomet to the followers is a dangerous message that does not reflect the will of God. Since the entire religion believes in this message, Savonarola continues to point out that this religion does not indicate a true religion. All the Koran presents as laws and the rule to the Islamic religion prepare the followers of the religion in a particular way of worship that does not express the expectations of human worshippers.
Savonarola and his doctrine of the Scripture
There is no doubt that the attitudes that Savonarola holds about the pagan religions have their basis on what he believes about the Scripture and its doctrine. From the presentation in the book, “Triumph of the Cross “, it is evident that Savonarola draws his support towards the seven sacraments. In what can be seen as the basis for Savonarola to term all other religions as pagan, none of the false religions practices the seven sacraments apart from Christianity. Savonarola expresses his knowledge of the sacraments, and indicate the importance to the lives of the Christians. Savonarola believes that most of these sacraments represent the fulfilment of the Scripture and any failure to recognize them illustrates a religion that does not regard the Bible.
The presentation by Savonarola on the Scripture indicates that the Holy Writings by Christ Himself as it is presented in the Scriptures proves the doctrines of the Catholic. Catholic being part of Christian religion indicates that Christianity is the only religion that upholds the true teaching of the Scripture. It ensures that there is uniformity in the way the teachings of the Scriptures is done. He calls upon the respect to be accorded to the offices of the Christian churches as they are the custodians of what is indicated in the Scriptures. Savonarola as well hits at the Christians to live according to the Bible teachings and follow what Christianity tells them. He draws his support towards the Commandments given by God to his people as the basic rules of Christianity provided in the Scripture.
In conclusion, therefore, it is true that Savonarola speaks strongly about religion where he draws much of his support towards Christianity as the true and superior religion. On the other hand, he calls on and castigates all other remaining religions terming them as false or pagan religions. In what appears like the expression of his attitudes towards the rest of the pagan religions, Savonarola provides details about each of them. It is through these details he presents that one can tell the bad attitude that Savonarola has towards these religions. The mentioned religions include the heaven philosophers, astrologers, Judaism, heretics, and the Mahometans or Islamic. First, Savonarola uses the doctrines of the Scriptures to indicate that these religions do not follow the teachings provided in the Scripture. For instance, the philosophers do not know the end of human life would never want to present to its followers about it. Hence, they live in uncertainty contrary to the expectations of the Scripture and the need to prepare for the end of human life. The Astrologers have no common agreement about the immortality of the soul while Judaism does not believe in New Testaments and the coming of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Instead, they still wait for another Messiah which goes against the teachings of the Old Testament. Finally, are is the Mahometanism that has come up with the Koran thus dismissing the Scriptures as having been falsified by the Christians. Hence, Savonarola feels that all these pagan religions have gone against the true worship of God.
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