Full Text for Melanchthon The Confessor (Text)

CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY VOL. XXXI Melallchthon as Educator and Humanist CARL S. MEYER Melanchthon the Confessor ARTHUR CARL PIEPKORN The International Student­Test of a Living Church WILLIAM J. DANKER Brief Studies Homiletics Theological Observer Book Review September 1960 ARCHIVES No.9 Melanch .. l." ...... tt.~ Confessor By definition, a confessor is "one who confesses." Specifically and strictly, a confessor is an ordained clergymen who hears confessions and is authorized to grant absolution. Or he is one who professes or gives heroic evidence of his faith in Christ, a saint who suffers persecution for his faith without undergoing martyrdom in the process. A confessor in the first sense Blessed Philip Melanchthon was not. He was never ordained to the priesthood, and he stub­bornly resisted the efforts put forth by Luther to make nch­thon.2 1 Presented at a convocation held at Con-cordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo., on April 20, 1960, in commemoration of the 400th anniver­sary of Melanchthon's death. 2 W. A., Briefwechsel, 2, nos. 429-430, pp. 387-391. --A point has been made of the alleged fact that on at least one occasion, in the period of religious anarchy precipitated during Luther's absence from Wittenberg by the Enthusiasm of Andrew Bodenstein von Carl­stadt, Melanchthon usurped the privilege of celebrating the Holy Communion for his stu­dents in St. Mary's Church, Wittenberg. The By ARTHUR CARL PIEPKORN 1 Neither was Me1anchthon a confessor in the sense that he risked martyrdom or even persecution for the Faith. Spiritual anguish he suffered at times, and a limited measure of physical inconvenience, but hardly in a heroic measure. While we could regard Melanchthon as a confesso! in the strictly liturgical sense, like St. Aphraates or St. Gilbert of Sem­pringham or St. Robert of Newminster, we commemorate him this morning as a con­fessor in a technical sense that the dic-indirection. We tionary recognizes only remelnber him ;"c'_QU'C He responsible for a nmn' Ul1~quely J.ially significant fornlulations of the Faith­notably the Augsburg Confession (1530), the Apology (1531), and the Tractatus on the Authority and the Primacy of the Pope (1537) . It should not be without significance for us that this confessor was a layman who be­came a lay theologian neither through pro­fessional preparation nor personal inclina­tion but through the force of circumstances. source of this erroneous idea is the statement sepe nobis continget. P hiliPfms lvlelanchton of Clyde Leonard Manschreck, Melanchthon: cum omnibus suis discipulis in parrochia in die The Quiet Reformer (l'.Jew York: Abingdon Michaelis sub Vtraque specie communicauit, et Press [c. 1958}), p. 72: "On September 29 iam fiet in omnibus." (Nikolaus Miiller, Die Melanchthon gave communion in both kinds to V7ittenberger Bewegtmg 1521 und 1522, 2d ed. some students at the Town Church." A footnote [Leipzig: M. Heinsius Nachfolger, 1911}, on p. 325 offers as documentation: "Supple-p. 17.) From this is clear that Melanchthon menta Melanchthonia [!}, VI, 1, 161. Cf. received Holy Communion under both kinds N. Miiller, Die Witten berger Bewegung, 16 with his students at the festival service on Saint to 17." Manschreck has misunderstood his Michael's Day; he did not celebrate the Holy sources. The basic reference is a letter of Se-Communion. Manschreck's error is the more bastian Helman (probably Councilor Sebastian difficult to understand because his other source Heinemann or Hennemann of Breslau, d. 1549) translated Helman's letter correctly: "]"'fit seinen to John Hess at Bratislava, written from Witten-Schiilern in der Stadtkirche sub mraque kom­berg Oct. 8, 152l: "Proinde nos Wittem-muniziert" (Otto Clemen [ed.], Melanchthons bergenses non audimus missas. Verbum dei Briefwechsel (Supplementa liIfelanchthoniana, fideliter audimus, demum sub 'Ina specie non VI], I, 1 [Leipzig: Ivi. Heinsius Nachfolger communicamus, sed vtranque capimus, et id Eger und Sievers, 1926J, nO. 133, n. 1, p. 161). 541 542 MELANCHTHON THE CONFESSOR Yet almost precisely two fifths of the Book of Concord, to which we stand committed, comes from his lay pen. This segment of the Book of Concord includes the particular Creed of the Lutheran community, the Augsburg Confession. Again it should nor be without significance that this whole Melanchthonian segment of the Symbols owes its origin to lay impulses. It was on behalf of lay princes and lay city adminis­trations that Melanchthon wrote the Augus­rana. It was on their behalf that he pre­pared the September 1530 draft of the Apology 3 which the Emperor refused to receive and of which the printed version of the sptiug of 15 ~ 1 i~ only a leisurely expansion. Again it was at the behest of the lay est ares of the Snmlcald League that Melanchthon in 1337 prepared the Tracr­atus as a supplement to the Augsburg Con­fession and the Apology. The contribution to the Book of Con­cord which Melanchthon the Confessor made is something to be received and cherished as a great gift from Him who is the Source of every good gift. Twen­tieth-century Lutherans, remembering Lu­ther's own words,4 sometimes regret that the partisan name "Lutheran," with which hostile malice stigmatized the supporters of the Great Reformer, stuck, and that it has become the name by which our church is conventionally and even legally known. For, after all, the "Lutheran" community is symbolically bound in only a limited degree to the literary productions of Martin Lu­ther. Even if we add the quotations from Luther's works in the Formula of Concord to his Smalcald Articles and his two Cate­chisms, Luther's contribution to the Book 3 C. R., 27, 275-316, 321-378. ../-W. A.J 8, 685. of Concord is significantly smaller bulkwise than that of Melanchthon. To say this in­volves no depreciation of the Catechisms and the Sma1cald Articles; our symbolical canon would be much the poorer without them. Again, it does not imply that the theology which we could construct from these documents would be seriously defec­tive. It does imply, however, that the the­ology that we can construct from all of the symbols in the Book of Concord, in which Melanchthon's three works are added to Luther's three, is much more complete, much more fully rounded, and more con­sistently precise. It does underline that ours is nor a person-oriemed but a symbol­based community And it may well remind us that among the creeds to which alone­beside the Sacred Scriptures -our ordina­tion subscription commits us, the basic par­ticular creed to which we subscribe, is the Augsburg Confession, and that even the three Luther symbols are only commen­taries on and corroborations of the Augs­burg Confession. When we are speaking of Melanch­thon the Confessor, it is further worth not­ing that his activity in this area was not limited to the production of the three creedal statements to which we have al­ready referred. The earliest document to achieve quasi-symbolical status in the Lu-theran movement, the Articuli visitationis (1527)5 or the Unterricht der Visitatore1Z (1528),6 on the basis of which the church in Electoral Saxony received its Evangelical form, was from his pen. He assisted in drawing up the Schwabach Articles in 1529,7 he wrote the so-called [Witten-5 C. R., 26, 7-28. 6 C. R., 26, 42-96. 7 If?, A'J 30/3, 86-91. MELANCHTHON THE CONFESSOR 543 berg-} Torgau Articles of 1530,8 and drafted the Wittenberg Formula of Con­cord 9 between the Strasbourgers and the Saxons in 1536. When the Council of Trent was to be reconvened in 1551, after its brief and inglorious first I3-month phase had ended in 1547, it was Melanch­thon who composed the Repetitio Augus­tanae Confessionis,lO the Saxon Confession of 1551, as it was called, and who stood prepared to go to Trent himself and to pre­sent it to the assembled fathers in the name of Elector Maurice. It is to Melanchthon's lifelong concern for purity of doctrine likewise that we ulti­mately owe the concept of a corpus doc­trilMB,ll of which our own Book of Con­cord is the '2lost successful example. It was IvIelanchthon's convicLion that a state-ment on a single contra-vetted theological issue was inadequate to demonstrate a church body's orthodoxy and that doctrinal purity needed massive and comprehensive manifestation. Such a corpus doctrinae must be patently Biblical and catholic. In S "Der nach Torgau berufenen Wittenberger Gelehrten Bedenken iiber die streitigen Artikel," parts A-E, in Karl Eduard Forstemann, Urkun­denbuch zu der Geschichte des Reichstages zu Augsburg im Jahre 1530, I (Halle: Waisen­haus, 1833), no. 27, pp.68-97. 9 C. R., 3, 75-77. 10 C. R" 28, 369-568. 11 Otto Ritschl, Dogmengeschichte des Pro­testantismus, I (leipzig: ]. C. Hinrichs, 1908), p. 331, believes that Melanchthon used the term integrum corpus doctrinae ecclesiasticae for the first time in the University of Wittenberg Stat­utes of 1533 (Libe .. decanorum facultatis the­ologicae academiae Vitebe1'gensis, ed. K. E. Forstemann, 1833, p.155). See also (Heinrich Heppe and) Georg Kawerau, "Corpus doc­trinae," in Albert Hauck, ed. Realencyklopadie fur protestantische Theologie und Kirehe, 3d ed., IV (leipzig: J. C Hinrichs, 1898), pp. 293 to 298. his Loci communes of 1543 he insisted that the judge in a theological controversy must be the Word of God, to which is added the confession of the true church.12 For Me-12 Philip Melanchthon, Loci theologiei '1"6-cogniti (Leipzig: Officina Voegeliana [1543J), "De ecclesia," p. 353: "Quis igitur erit iudex quando de Scripturae sententia dissensio oritur, cum tunc opus sit voce dirimentis controver­siam? Respondeo: Ipsum verbum Dei est Iudex, et accedit con/essio verae ecclesiae. . . . Et cum maior pars hunc verum iudicem et hanc veram confessionem non audit . . . Deus Ecclesiae iudex tandem dirimit controversiam delens blasphemos." P. 355: "Audienda est ecclesia ut doctrix, sed fides et invocatio nituntur verbo Dei non humana autoritate. . . . Nee contemnamus docentem ecclesiam, et tamen iudicem esse sciamus ipsum verbum Dei. . . . Docemem ecclesiam amare, vereri at venerari discamus et purioris ecclesiae test1ffionla inquiramus.'· (C. R." .21) 836-837.) Tn hie roncern to dem­onstrate the distinction nchthon made between the Sacred Scriptures and the Symbols, K. D. Schmidt in his articie, "Corpora doc­trinae," in Heinz Brunotte and Otto Weber, edd., Evangelisehes Kirchenlexikon, I (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1956), p. 816, makes the (undocumented) statement that Melanchthon insisted that we must obey (obedire) the Sacred Scriptures and only receive (amplecti) the Symbols. It should be noted, however, that Melanchthon also uses amplecti with reference to the Sacred Scriptures, for in­stance in the introduction to the 1543 Loci on p.4: "Commonefacti voce recte docentium, amplectantur [pii} utraque manu et toto pectore libros propbeticos et apostolicos a Deo tfaditos et adjungent enarrationes et testimonia purioris ecclesiae ut Symbola" (c. R., 21, 606-607). On the relation of Scripture and the Symbols in Melanchthon see Ritsch1, 1, :06-349; Rein­hold Seeberg, Lehrbucb der Dogmengeschichte, IV, 2 (Erlangen: A. Deichertsche Verlagsbuch­handlung [Werner Scholl}, 1920), pp.430 to 435; Friedrich Wilhelm Kantzenbach, Das Rin­gen 11m die Einheit der Kirche im Jahrhundert der Reformation (Stuttgart: Evange1isches Vcr­lagswerk [l957}) , pp.103-109; and Adolf Sperl, M.elanchthon zwiscben H1,manismuJ u17d Relot'mation (Munich: ChI. Kaiser Verlag, 1959), pp.183-198. All offer extensive cita­tions from and references to Melanchthon's works. On the broader issue see the perceptive 544 MELANCHTHON THE CONFESSOR lanchthon this "confession of the true church" found pre-eminent expression in the catholic creeds" Here is the reason why every important Lutheran corpus doctrinae, including our own Book of Concord, em­bodies the so-called Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds, which the Latin ver­sion of the Concordia describes as sum­mae auctoritatis. (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Summary Formulation, 4 [Latin]). Melanchthon's influence as a Lutheran confessor was not exhausted by his own contributions. We do not fully understand the significance of the Formula of Concord if vIe forget that half of its six authors­on bnTance the more inB'.lential half­were devoted disciples and past prot<§ges of Melanchthol1~ l-t1:artin Chemnitz, ~Jicho­las Selnecker, and David Chytraeus, through whom Melanchthon exerted a further vi­carious and posthumous influence on all subsequent generations of Lutheran theo­logians. In central-eastern Europe the Augustana exerted a profound influence on the Hun­garian Lutheran Con/essio pe1Ztapolitana of 1549; 13 the Transylvanian Formula pii consenstfs inter pastores ecclesiarum Sax­onictllrttlf! of 1572; 14 and the Cott/essio and heavily documented essay of Peter Fraenkel, "Revelation and Tradition: Notes on Some As­pects of Doctrinal Continuity in the Theology of Philip Me1anchthon," in Studia theologica, XIII (1959), pp. 97-133. Formula of Concord, Solida Declaratio, Von dem summarischen Begriff, 4 (Latin). 13 Reproduced in John Michael Reu, The Augsburg Confession: A Collection of Sources with an Historical Introduction (Chicago: Wart­burg Publishil1g House, 1930), pp.433--437. The C onfe.rsio pelltapolitalla became the basis of the Confe.rsio heptapolitana (1559) and the Confessio Scepusiana (1569) (ibid., p. 169). 14 Reproduced ibid., pp. 440--454. Bohemica of 1575,15 which was designed to unite all the Evangelicals in the King­dom of Bohemia and which was finally adopted by the Bohemian Unitas Fratrum of 1609. Outside the Lutheran community Me­lanchthon's influence as confessor was both direct and indirect. Richard Taverner pub­lished the Augsburg Confession and the Apology in English in 1536.16 From that S8me year the articles agreed upon by the commissioners of Henry VIII and the Wit­tenberg theologians,17 as well as the king's own Ten Articles,18 reveal that they have been strongly informed by Melanchthon's formulations. Through Archbishop Thomas Cran '_. 'late compilation, the so-called Thirteen Article; of 153; 19 the Augsburg Confession exerted consmerable influence on the Church of England's Forry-Five Articles of 1552,20 which became succes­sively the Forty-Two Articles of 1553 and, 15 Reproduced in an English translation by w. Sandrock, ibid., pp.424-454. 16 Richard Taverner, trans.-ed. The confes­syon of the /ayth of the Germaynes exhibited ... in the Counsell or assemble holden at Augusta the yere of our lorde 1530, to which is added the Apolo!!,ie of Melanchthon (London: Robert Redman, 1536). 17 An abridged reprint of the Latin text, supplemented with an English translation of the missing portions from the German version, is reproduced in Reu, pp.454--466, from the 1905 edition of G. Mentz, Die Wfitteribergei' Artickel von 1536, pp. 18 ff. 18 Reproduced in Charles Hardwick, A His­tory of the Articles of Religion, 3d ed. (London: George Bell and Sons, 1881), pp.237-258. See Henry Eyster Jacobs, The Lutheran Move­ment in England during the Reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, 2d ed. (Philadelphia: General Council Publi .tiOli House, 1916), pp.88-% 19 Hardwick, pp. 59-63; reproduced on pp.259-276, thence in Reu, pp.466--478. 20 Reproduced in Hardwick, pp.277-288. MELANCHTHON THE CONFESSOR 545 ultimately, the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571.21 Via this Anglican confession, Me­lanchthon's residual influence reached American Methodism in the form of John Wesley's reduction of the Thirty-Nine Articles to the 1 wenty-hve Articles adopted by the Baltimore Conference in 1784.22 Finally, it may not be amiss to point out that after the Formula of Concord had forced the more extreme disciples of Me­lanchthon out of the Lutheran churches into the Reformed community, their in­fluence played a prominent role in keeping German Calvinism from ever conforming wholly to the classic type of .~eformed orthodoxy. Frc-.L n~,"~":";_ A._l-altina of 157923 on, the 1\1elanchrhonian message of universal g ____ • __ . _.: ________ :n the pull toward the grim and rigid predesti­narianism of Geneva and Dort. If we analyze the symbols that Melanch­thon has bequeathed to the church, we find a number of characteristics: First, acceptance of the authority of the Sacred Scriptures because they are in their totality the Word of God. Iv1elanchthon is 21 ReproduceJ ill Hardwick, pp.289-253. See Jacobs, pp. 136---139, 339-342, and E. J. Bicknell, A Theologictil Introductio'fi to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of E1tgland, 3d ed. by H. J. Carpenter (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1955), pp.1O-15. 22 Reproduced in Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, III (New York: Harper and Brothers, c.1905), 807-813. 23 I. e., Repetitio {Augustanae Confession is} Anhaltina, translated into German as Kurze und ~mJamg~ Wiederholung der rechtgliiubigen Kirche1.lehre und Bekenntniss, Z1t dem sich die Kirchen im Fiirstentmn _/lnhalt in etlichen Artikeln bekennen, welehe 1!on Anderen in Stt'eit gezogen worden sind (1581) and repro­duced in Heinrich Heppe) eeLj Die Bekenntis­schriften der refo1"mie1"te1~ KirciJe Dez£tschlands (Elberfeld: R. L. Fridcrichs, 1860), pp. 19-67. not averse to establishing a point with a pertinent proof text when he can quote one decisively, but he displays considerable skill-notably in the Apology -in draw­ing upon the evidence provided by less obvious passages. Second, an unwavering concern for pre­serving and demonstrating the catholicity and apo~tolic continuity of the Church of the Reformation, particularly in the con­troverted articles of original sin, forgive­ness of sins by grace for Christ's sake through faith, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Sacred Ministry, and the late medieval abuses that the Lutheran estates had cor-reeted in the churcheS in their domains. Third, insistenre on the IJ';""" J' of the doctrine of for. . grace alone, without meritorious works. Fourth, stress upon the forensic meta­phor 1n describing justification. Fifth, an abiding passion for the mani­festation of the unity of the church in con­fession and in worship, in order to contain, as far as loyalty to the truth would permit, the further spread of schism and to achieve the restoration of broken associations. It is this passion which finds misguided expres­sion in the equivocation and ambiguity of the Variata of 154024 and of the con­fessional portions of the Leipzig Interim of December 1548.25 Sixth, a sturdy sense of the essentiality of the empirical church for the acquisition and preservation of saving faith and of 24 Hans lietzmann, ed., Die Bekenntnis­schriften der evan/!.elisch-ltttherischen Kirche, herausgegeben im Gedenkiahr der AJtgsburgi­schen Konfession, 4th ed. (Giittingen: Vanden­hoeck und Rupprecht, 1959), pp. 57-59, 62, 65, 83 b; excerpts in an English translation in Reu, pp. 398-411. 25 C.R., 7, 51-62,215-221,259-264. 546 MELANCHTHON THE CONFESSOR the necessity of sacred ministry for the normal functioning of the church as a mat­ter of divine right. Seventh, a practical sacramentalism that is interested not only in the doctrine about the sacraments but also in their actual use in the church. Eighth, a profoundly pastoral attitude which realizes that theology is never an end in itself, but always only a means for undergirding the faith of the Christian community. Ninth, an almost agonizing concern for precision. It is largely to this that we must ascribe the incessant rewriting of section after section of the documents that he produced, during and after publication. We are less than fair if we regard this as a fault uniquely his. Blessed Martin Luther likewise revised the Smalcald Articles to a significant extent between their signing and their publication.26 Tenth, a professional schoolmaster's out­look that sometimes gives an exaggerated 26 H. Volz, "Die Schmalkaldischen Artikel und der Tractatus de potestate et primatu papae," in Bekenntnisschriften (see n. 24 above) , p. xxvi. priority to the intellectual and pedagogical aspects of issues, to the neglect of equally important and even more important aspects. The fathers of the church in every gen­eration have been human beings like us, simultaneously sinners in themselves and righteous in Christ, but always creatures in finitude. All of them have been children of their age and of their environment, with the marks of the matrix of their own time and their own place upon themselves and their work. The influence of even the greatest -not excluding a St. Athanasius, a St. Augustine, a St. Thomas, or a Martin Luther -has never been wholly construc­tive. So it is also with Philip Me1anchthon the Confessor. But they have all been in­struments of God's Holy Spirit, endowed with His grace and with His graces for the profit of His whole church. So also it is with Philip Melanchthon the Confessor. And for what the Holy Spirit has through him done for the church and for us, let us give thanks unto the Lord, our God, for it is truly meet and right so to do. St. Louis, Mo.