ISEE Upper Level Reading : Comparing and Contrasting in History Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ISEE Upper Level Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Textual Relationships In History Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

Martin Luther was born the 10th of November, 1483, at Eisleben, in Saxony. His father was a miner, of Mansfield, and his ancestors were peasants, who lived near the summit of the Thuringian Forest. His early years were spent at Mansfield, in extreme poverty, and he earned his bread by singing hymns before the houses of the village. At the age of fifteen, he went to Eisenach, to a high school, and at eighteen entered the university of Erfurt, where he made considerable progress in the sciences then usually taught, which, however, were confined chiefly to the scholastic philosophy. In 1505, he took his degree of bachelor of arts, and, shortly after, his religious struggles commenced. He had witnessed a fearful tempest, which alarmed him, and he was also much depressed by the death of an intimate friend. In that age, the serious and the melancholy generally sought monastic retreats, and Luther resolved to forsake the world and become a monk. He entered an Augustinian monastery at Erfurt soon after obtaining his first degree. But the duties and studies of monastic life did not give his troubled soul the repose he sought. He submitted to all the irksome labors which the monks imposed, but still he was troubled with religious fears. His brethren encouraged his good works, but his perplexities and doubts remained.

In this state of mind, he was found by Staupitz, vicar-general of the order, who was visiting Erfurt in his tour of inspection with a view to correct the bad morals of the monasteries. He sympathized with Luther in his religious feelings, treated him with great kindness, and recommended the reading of the scriptures, and also the works of St. Augustine, whose theological views he himself had embraced. Although St. Augustine was a great oracle in the Roman church, his doctrines pertaining to personal salvation differed in spirit from those which were encouraged by the Roman Catholic divines generally. In that age of abuses, great importance was attached, by the church, to austerities, penance, and absolutions for money. But Luther at length found light, repose, and joy in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. This became more and more the idea of his life, especially at this time. The firmness of his devotion to this point became extraordinary, and his spiritual gladness now equalled his former depression and anxiety. He was soon to find a sphere for the development of his views.

How did St. Augustine’s teachings differ from those of the Catholic church, according to the author?

Possible Answers:

The Catholic church believed that people had to make pilgrimages to Rome in order to achieve salvation; St. Augustine believed that salvation could be achieved anywhere, by anyone.

The Catholic church placed great emphasis on reading the scriptures; St. Augustine believed that people could achieve salvation through dedication to the church and religious obedience.

The Catholic church taught that man could be absolved through abstinence, penitence, and financial gifts; St. Augustine taught that it was faith alone that absolved a person.

The Catholic church believed that salvation could be achieved only through the church; St. Augustine taught that people could achieve salvation simply by desiring it and worshipping.

The Catholic church taught that all men were sinners and no one could be saved; St. Augustine taught that all men were saved and no one was inherently a sinner.

Correct answer:

The Catholic church taught that man could be absolved through abstinence, penitence, and financial gifts; St. Augustine taught that it was faith alone that absolved a person.

Explanation:

The author talks at length about St. Augustine’s belief in “justification by faith alone.” This is contrasted against the church, which taught that man could be absolved through abstinence, penitence, and financial gifts to the church. This can be clearly seen in the excerpt where the author says, “Catholic divines generally . . . attached less importance to justification by faith alone. In that age of abuses, great importance was attached, by the church, to austerities, penance, and absolutions for money.”

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