Renaissance And Reformation
Renaissance humanists, especially those in northern Europe who had spent time in England, took the peace imperative and fashioned it into an ethic based on a dedication to the public good, or commonwealth. Desiderius Erasmus (1466?–1536), Thomas More (1478–1535), Juan Luis Vives (1492–1540), and John Colet (1466 or 1467–1519) all published works hostile to war, promoting all four meanings of peace elucidated above. Within the context of emerging nation-states in western Europe, Erasmus, in his Complaint of Peace (1517) and many other works, argued that spiritual peace, embodied in the virtuous Christian prince, would be the foundation of a true and lasting temporal peace. His somewhat Stoic view of the kinship of humanity emphasized the concordia aspect of pax, which would lead to a personal closeness to God, Christlike behavior, an absence of strife, and the practical rewards of greater happiness such as the promotion of learning and economic prosperity. While events tended to make humanist pacifists appear idealistic in their own day, their endeavors enshrined peace as an uncontested value and its advancement a virtuous pursuit.
The Protestant reformers, many of whom were also humanists, came to stress the obligations to pursue peace as well through their literal interpretation of the Bible, although they were less optimistic concerning the depraved nature of humankind. One group, however, the Anabaptists, took Christ's words literally when he said "blessed are the peacemakers," and their devotion to all forms of peace became one of their most distinctive characteristics. Not since the time of the early church had a Christian position been so unilaterally in favor of peace; and later groups, such as the Quakers, also came to adopt this position. For these "separatists" peace continued to be understood as both a spiritual condition and a way of life, in all of its practical applications leading to a harmonious and godly society.