Melanchthonism?

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
I've heard it said many times (by Dr. White and Dr. Sproul I believe) that Lutheranism is really Melanchthonism, that Melanchthon disagreed with Luther or softened Luther's Augustinian theology. As I read through The Book of Concord Luther signed the Augsburg Confession, penned others and seemed to rely on him to theologically express Lutheran beliefs. Modern Lutherans admit that after Luther's death Melanchthon waffled and that lead to errors and they claim these errors have been rejected.

A quote:

"Melanchthon had lost his anchor, and subsequent events proved that losing Luther before Melanchthon was certainly more damaging to the Wittenberg reformation than losing Melanchthon before Luther would have been. Melanchthon’s desire for peace led to compromise on all sides, politically and theologically, leaving the churches of the Augsburg Confession a mess, divided into various factions.

But in one of the ironies of history (an irony in which Lutherans cannot but detect the hand of God), Melanchthon would himself lay the foundation for the renewal and restoration of Luther’s doctrine amongst those who confessed his theology. It would be the students of Melanchthon would correct many of Melanchthon’s errors, eventually composing and adopting the Formula of Concord, which was the capstone of the Book of Concord, providing a definitive answer to the controversies that devastated the Lutheran Church after Luther’s death." https://lutheranreformation.org/history/luther-and-melanchthon/


How is Lutheranism really Melanchthonism? Is it just a pejorative?

Yours in the Lord,

jm
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Freshman
I've heard it said many times (by Dr. White and Dr. Sproul I believe) that Lutheranism is really Melanchthonism, that Melanchthon disagreed with Luther or softened Luther's Augustinian theology. As I read through The Book of Concord Luther signed the Augsburg Confession, penned others and seemed to rely on him to theologically express Lutheran beliefs. Modern Lutherans admit that after Luther's death Melanchthon waffled and that lead to errors and they claim these errors have been rejected.

A quote:

"Melanchthon had lost his anchor, and subsequent events proved that losing Luther before Melanchthon was certainly more damaging to the Wittenberg reformation than losing Melanchthon before Luther would have been. Melanchthon’s desire for peace led to compromise on all sides, politically and theologically, leaving the churches of the Augsburg Confession a mess, divided into various factions.

But in one of the ironies of history (an irony in which Lutherans cannot but detect the hand of God), Melanchthon would himself lay the foundation for the renewal and restoration of Luther’s doctrine amongst those who confessed his theology. It would be the students of Melanchthon would correct many of Melanchthon’s errors, eventually composing and adopting the Formula of Concord, which was the capstone of the Book of Concord, providing a definitive answer to the controversies that devastated the Lutheran Church after Luther’s death." https://lutheranreformation.org/history/luther-and-melanchthon/


How is Lutheranism really Melanchthonism? Is it just a pejorative?

Yours in the Lord,

jm
I don't have much to contribute to the actual question, but didn't Melanchthon also, interestingly enough, take a much more sympathetic view of Calvin than Luther did?

In fact, I think I remember hearing that Melanchthon declined to pass an appreciative letter along from Calvin to Luther b/c he was afraid of drawing Luther's ire on the French Reformer. Don't have a source from that, but heard it from some Lutherans.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
I don't have much to contribute to the actual question, but didn't Melanchthon also, interestingly enough, take a much more sympathetic view of Calvin than Luther did?

In fact, I think I remember hearing that Melanchthon declined to pass an appreciative letter along from Calvin to Luther b/c he was afraid of drawing Luther's ire on the French Reformer. Don't have a source from that, but heard it from some Lutherans.
Yes, but I understand Melanchthon's views were rejected in the Epitome of the Formula of Concord. "The predestination or eternal election of God, however, extends only over the godly, beloved children of God, being a cause of their salvation, which He also provides, as well as disposes what belongs thereto. Upon this [predestination of God] our salvation is founded so firmly that the gates of hell cannot overcome it." XI.4 https://bookofconcord.org/fc-ep.php

I'm new to "Lutheranism" so I'm open to correction.

Yours in the Lord,


jm
 
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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Melanchton's view on the Supper is closer to Calvin's. Melanchton's later views overreacted, if they overreacted at all, to his earlier view on predestination, which sounded like fatalism.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
Melanchton's view on the Supper is closer to Calvin's. Melanchton's later views overreacted, if they overreacted at all, to his earlier view on predestination, which sounded like fatalism.
I read Melanchthon was just more willing to give ground to Calvin. Didn't Melanchthon, Luther and Jonas write the Augsburg?
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
I'm reading Dr. Cooper's work The Great Divide, I found this quote helpful, "Lutheran theologian and reformer Martin Chemnitz recognizes this difference and is even willing to adopt the concept of double predestination in its historic meaning. In his Loci Theologici, Chemnitz cites Augustine's affirmation of double predestination and approves of Fulgentius of Ruspe's formulation of the concept. Flugentius argues that predestination is twofold. First God predestines, not individuals unto death, but to punish the sins of those who reject the gospel. As Chemnitz writes, 'God foreknows the evil intentions and actions of the godless, but he does not predestine them. But he has predestined that the punishment for these sins shall take place with righteous judgment.' In other words, what God predestines for the damned is merely that those in unbelief and who reject the gospel should be punished. This is based only on the fact that grace is continually rejected and one remains unrepentant unto death. The punishment rather than the individual is predestined."

Dr. Cooper also points out that Augustine's view of double predestination is linked with baptismal regeneration - Augustine uses this line of reasoning against Pelagius.

Yours in the Lord,

jm
 

Jake

Puritan Board Junior
I'd argue that Calvin and the Reformed tradition most consistently applied Luther's principles, as exemplified in the 5 solas. For example, by applying sola scriptura to worship and church government. We are the true Lutherans.

Tongue only slightly in cheek. :)
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Sophomore
Dr. White taught us in the Church History series at PRBC that theologically, Luther and Calvin only disagreed on the subject of the nature of the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. They agreed on every other major theological point.

Might Dr. White be mistaken or looking at it too simplistically? I don't know.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Dr. White taught us in the Church History series at PRBC that theologically, Luther and Calvin only disagreed on the subject of the nature of the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. They agreed on every other major theological point.

Might Dr. White be mistaken or looking at it too simplistically? I don't know.
Connected with the Lord's Supper is Christology, which is probably what drove it. Also, I'm not aware that Luther had a developed ecclesiology the way Calvin and the Reformed tradition did.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
Dr. White taught us in the Church History series at PRBC that theologically, Luther and Calvin only disagreed on the subject of the nature of the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. They agreed on every other major theological point.

Might Dr. White be mistaken or looking at it too simplistically? I don't know.
From what I've been reading from Lutheran (and I could be wrong) I would say that's overly simplistic. Dr. White is likely speaking to Luther and Calvin's desire for unity and willingness to give and take on what that unity would look like. It's very clear from the Lutheran Confessions they wanted to distance themselves from all other Reformers believing other Reformers were radical while Lutherans were still within the Western Roman Catholic tradition.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
From what I've been reading from Lutheran (and I could be wrong) I would say that's overly simplistic. Dr. White is likely speaking to Luther and Calvin's desire for unity and willingness to give and take on what that unity would look like. It's very clear from the Lutheran Confessions they wanted to distance themselves from all other Reformers believing other Reformers were radical while Lutherans were still within the Western Roman Catholic tradition.
True. As it is often stated, The Reformed love Luther. Lutherans do not love Calvin, which makes me suspect there is more than just one or two points involved.

It also comes down to archetypal/ectypal theology, as they believed Jesus' knowledge was archetypal in his incarnation.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
From what I've been reading from Lutheran (and I could be wrong) I would say that's overly simplistic. Dr. White is likely speaking to Luther and Calvin's desire for unity and willingness to give and take on what that unity would look like. It's very clear from the Lutheran Confessions they wanted to distance themselves from all other Reformers believing other Reformers were radical while Lutherans were still within the Western Roman Catholic tradition.
Fundamentally accurate. Strict Lutherans take a very dim view of efforts to smudge-over differences and distinctions between their faction of the Reformation, and other factions. Furthermore, they have several historic cases where they have felt matters played out very much to their distress when they have not stood upon their individual identity.* In the late Reformation period, under pressures from war and politics, and from internal divisions (ecclesiastical and theological) their Book of Concord (1580) was a definitive statement on what "Lutheran" meant, and any who would not conform would be excluded, regardless of the price. So, allies in war and religion were lost; and some who were deemed compromisers were judged--harshly at times. And this included Melancthon.

Melancthon was a peace-maker, and for all that Luther loved and leaned on his younger contemporary, protege, and right-hand: they were complementary in the fight for Reformation, and Melancthon was not personally able to rise to the mantle of Luther-Concertator after his passing. He saw a need for a common-cause in the looming wars of religion, and so aimed at confessional compromise with the Swiss and Palitanate Reformed on the Supper (hence, the variata Formula of Concord). He also seemed to go soft on predestination for a similar reason (to make allies).

Against Melancthon, Confessional (Gnesio- i.e. genuine) Lutherans drew back to the original expressions of the Formula on Communion; but their hostility to the Reformed (in my view) allowed them to draw back not-as-far from his later position re. predestination. Ecclesiastically, consolidation of the German Lutherans demanded a clear repudiation of the Reformed, not only on sacramentology but also on predestination. If you are trying to decide "in-and-out," it is good to have two or three markers, as opposed to one. They could accuse the Reformed of being "too much" predestinarian, and allow that Melancthon had moved in the right direction, just gone too far; and come back from his full compromise on that topic.

So, that's what makes Lutherans "Melancthonian" in the matter of predestination. Unable and unwilling to cut out Luther's first "successor" from the fold, they criticized him seriously in a few areas, making sure to laud him as Luther's first assistant and praise him for his Formula-authorship. They rehabilitated him, and modified his late-predestinarian views, thus tending to regard them as conformable to the anti-Reformed views of the 1592 Saxon Visitation Articles (http://bookofconcord.org/visitation.php see art.4 and the following repudiation of Calvinist doctrine).


*Other incidents of distress include the Prussian Union Church of 1817, and the Predestinarian Controversy of the 1880s American scene.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Another thing to consider is that Charles V just defeated the Lutherans in battle. Melanchton found himself in a dangerous political position. He had to find a way to give ground to the Catholics without actually giving up too much. It didn't work. I'm not saying he did the right thing (in the long run it didn't matter), but with the possible option as being annihilated, I understand it.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
Let's circle back to the op.

Is modern Lutheranism really Melanchthonism?

I don't believe it is.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Let's circle back to the op.

Is modern Lutheranism really Melanchthonism?

I don't believe it is.
I agree. The question is is it early Melancthon, 1521 loci communes and unaltered Augsburg Confession (and Apology), or later Melancthon (1559 loci communes and altered AC)?
Also what do we mean by "Lutherans"? Confessional Lutherans (LCMS and LCWS) or non-confessional (ELCA)? Confessional Lutherans are early Melancthon, non-confessional are worse than later Melancthon. To see the confessional response to Philip's views (both admiration and correction) look at the "Apology of The Book of Concord" by Chemnitz, Kirchner, and Selnecker.
He most definitely influenced the beginning of Lutheran dogmatics. So the question like all historical questions are more complicated.
BTW I know this stuff because I was recently given a friends grandfather's Lutheran section of his library. I don't pass up free books.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Graduate
I agree. The question is is it early Melancthon, 1521 loci communes and unaltered Augsburg Confession (and Apology), or later Melancthon (1559 loci communes and altered AC)?
Also what do we mean by "Lutherans"? Confessional Lutherans (LCMS and LCWS) or non-confessional (ELCA)? Confessional Lutherans are early Melancthon, non-confessional are worse than later Melancthon. To see the confessional response to Philip's views (both admiration and correction) look at the "Apology of The Book of Concord" by Chemnitz, Kirchner, and Selnecker.
He most definitely influenced the beginning of Lutheran dogmatics. So the question like all historical questions are more complicated.
BTW I know this stuff because I was recently given a friends grandfather's Lutheran section of his library. I don't pass up free books.
What views are from later Melancthon for those of us not in the know?
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
What views are from later Melancthon for those of us not in the know?
I've read for years that Melancthon became a "synergist" (read Arminian in our circles) in his later thought on free will all by contemporary Lutherans. But some of the books I got are the first, middle (1535?), and last editions of the LC. I was going to see for myself if it was true but then I read the AOTBC (which I didn't even know existed) on Philip's view on free will and it was the same argument as today.
The AOTBC also criticizes him for becoming "Zwinglian", a rather unfair criticism by our Lutheran brothers and sisters lumping Calvinists and Zwinglians as if we are the same, on the Lord's Supper. But my recently (in the process of reading, just getting these books) "informed" impression is that anyone wanting to argue for confessional Lutheranism of today being Melancthonian should start there, AOTBC.
But I don't know what White's point or argument is. Since you're in the know on that, what is it?
Also a side note Chemnitz in his Loci Theologici, which I also got, starts out every section quoting Melancthon's LC (1521 edition, maybe?) and then commenting on it. But remember that Chemnitz is one of the authors of the Formula of Concord and the AOTBC, both of which to varying degrees criticized Melancthon. FOC, I believe, only mentions "Philipists" and the AOTBC mentions him by name. Hope that helps.
 

BottleOfTears

Puritan Board Freshman
Here's two episodes from a Lutheran podcast on Melanchthon if that might help:

 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
I agree. The question is is it early Melancthon, 1521 loci communes and unaltered Augsburg Confession (and Apology), or later Melancthon (1559 loci communes and altered AC)?
Also what do we mean by "Lutherans"? Confessional Lutherans (LCMS and LCWS) or non-confessional (ELCA)? Confessional Lutherans are early Melancthon, non-confessional are worse than later Melancthon. To see the confessional response to Philip's views (both admiration and correction) look at the "Apology of The Book of Concord" by Chemnitz, Kirchner, and Selnecker.
He most definitely influenced the beginning of Lutheran dogmatics. So the question like all historical questions are more complicated.
BTW I know this stuff because I was recently given a friends grandfather's Lutheran section of his library. I don't pass up free books.
I see your point but I do not believe the question as to "which Lutherans" (as James White likes to say) is valid. There are confessional and non confessional Lutherans but only confessional Lutherans can really be called Lutheran. It's like saying, "which Presbyterian?" when we know only confessional Presbyterian can really hold clear title to the name.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
It's a mix. Lutherans are closer to Melancthon on predestination and closer to Luther (or rather, Chemnitz) on the Supper.

Similar to how Southern Presbyterians have generally rejected Calvin on the Lord's Supper.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
So they took a more... for want of a better label, "Zwinglian" view?
Dabney states in chapter 42 of his systematic theology that Zwingli did not state the seal of the Lord's Supper enough. In section 5, chapter 42 he denies Calvin's view:

"We reject the view of Calvin concerning the real presence, [recognizing our obligation to meet and account for the Scriptures he quotes, in a believing, and not in a rationalistic spirit]; first, because it is not only incomprehensible, but impossible. Does it not require us to admit, in admitting the literal (though spiritual) reception of Christ's corporeal part, it in a distant heaven, and we on earth; that matter may exist without its essential attributes of locality and dimension? Have not our souls their ubi ? They are limited, substantively, to some spot within the superficies of our bodies, just as really as though they were material. Has not Christ's flesh its Abe, though glorified, and as much more brilliant than ours, as a diamond is than carbon? To my mind, therefore, there is as real a violation of my intuitive reason, in this doctrine; as when transubstantiation requires me to believe that the flesh of Christ is present, indivisible and unextended, in each crumb or drop of the elements. Both are contrary to the laws of extension. And that Christ's glorified body dwells on high, no more to return actually to earth till the final consummation is asserted too plainly and frequently to be disputed. (Matt. 26:11; John. 16:28; 17:11; 16:7; Luke 24:51; Acts 3:21; 1:11.)"

His view is not as low as Zwingli's but denies that Christians spiritually feed upon Christ's flesh and blood.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
I see your point but I do not believe the question as to "which Lutherans" (as James White likes to say) is valid. There are confessional and non confessional Lutherans but only confessional Lutherans can really be called Lutheran. It's like saying, "which Presbyterian?" when we know only confessional Presbyterian can really hold clear title to the name.
Fair enough. Back to my original response, what do we mean by Melancthonian? Without a definition of that, it's hard to say. If the "Book of Concord" is our measuring rod than early Melancthon, yes. Later Melancthon, no. But even that feels simplistic. Having just started reading the AOTBC the authors both bend over backwards to praise and criticize him, his own students mind you. I still don't think that it's an easy question to answer.
 
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JM

Puritan Board Doctor
Fair enough. Back to my original response, what do we mean by Melancthonian? Without a definition of that, it's hard to say. If the "Book of Concord" is our measuring rod than early Melancthon, yes. Later Melancthon, no. But even that feels simplistic. Having just started reading the AOTBC the authors both bend over backwards to praise and criticize him, his own students mind you. I still don't think that it's an easy question to answer.
I placed in bold the answer confessional Lutherans gave me. It's the Book of Concord which reflects early Luther and Melanchthon thought, true others polished the confessional symbols, but they seem to have strengthened what was already written by Luther.

Your sin the Lord,

jm
 
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