AFTER THE DEATH OF LUTHER,
HOW THE FORMULA OF CONCORD WAS FORGED
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Part One: Luther's Death
When Luther died, Lutheranism collapsed. Military defeat of the Lutherans worsened the weaknesses of the Wittenberg faculty. This era is painful to read about and seldom studied, but it is important for two reasons. First: God used the compounded tragedy to bring about the Formula of Concord and the Book of Concord. Second: our era is very close to that following Luther's death - orthodox doctrine almost completely forgotten, conservative Lutheran seminary faculty members promoting Calvinism, conflict and confusion abounding.
Luther died on February 18, 1546. On the Fourth of July, the Pope issued a bull: "From the beginning of our Papacy it has always been our concern how to root out the weeds of godless doctrines which the heretics have sowed throughout Germany...Now it has come to pass that, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, our dearest son in Christ, Charles, the Roman Emperor, has decided to employ the sword against those enemies of God."
Charles V, the Roman Catholic emperor who heard the Augsburg Confession read in 1530, attacked the German Lutheran forces and quickly defeated them. His victory was facilitated by the neutrality of some Lutheran princes and the secret treachery of Maurice of Saxony, who was given John Frederick's position. The Elector of Saxony, John Frederick was taken captive.
Charles V entered Wittenberg on May 23, 1547 and stood at Luther's grave. He was urged to have Luther's body dug up and burned at the stake for heresy. He responded by saying he was warring with the living, not the dead. His forces controlled most of Germany, and he used his military might to force the Lutherans back into submission to the papacy.
Luther feared the loss of sound doctrine. Stephanus Tucher reported Luther saying, "After my death not one of these [Wittenberg] theologians will remain steadfast."
Luther not only saw the inconstancy of Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, Cruciger, Eber, and Major, but also their indifference to false doctrine, especially about the Lord's Supper.
Luther's blast against George Major is a perfect antidote to
the current attitude of "spoiling the Egyptians," promoting and defending the false doctrine of non-Lutherans:
It is by your silence and cloaking that you cast suspicion upon yourself. If you believe as you declare in my presence, then speak so also in the church, in public lectures, in sermons, and in private conversations, and strengthen your brethren, and lead the erring back to the right path, and contradict the con- tumacious spirits; otherwise your confession is sham pure and simple, and worth nothing. Whoever really regards his doctrine, faith, and confession as true, right, and certain cannot remain in the same stall with such as teach, or adhere to, false doctrine; nor can he keep on giving friendly words to Satan and his minions. A teacher who remains silent when errors are taught, and nevertheless pretends to be a true teacher, is worse than an open fanatic and by his hypocrisy does greater damage than a heretic. Nor can he be trusted. He is a wolf and a fox, a hireling and a servant of his belly, and ready to despise and to sacrifice doctrine, Word, faith, Sacrament, churches, and schools. He is either a secret bedfellow of the enemies, or a skeptic and a weathervane, waiting to see whether Christ or the devil will prove victorious; or he has no convictions or his own whatever, and is not worthy to be called a pupil, let alone a teacher; nor does he want to offend anybody, or say a word in favor of Christ, or hurt the devil and the world.
After Luther's death, Major taught that good works were necessary for salvation, a false doctrine refuted by the Formula of Concord.
The Wittenberg faculty abandoned Luther's theology to such an extent that by 1566 the Scriptural truths of the Reformation were taught publicly in only a few places.
Part Two: THE AUGSBURG INTERIM
Luther died in 1546 and Charles V conquered Germany in 1547.
"Interim" refers to the period between the defeat of Germany and the hoped-for Council of Trent, which would settle all doctrinal matters in dispute.
The first Interim was announced in Augsburg by Emperor Charles V on May 15, 1548. No one was allowed to preach, teach, or write against the Augsburg Interim. John Agricola, a former friend of Luther and Melanchthon, bragged about his cooperation in writing the Interim. Agricola also created the Antinomian controversy, which was settled by the Formula of Concord.
The Augsburg Interim permitted clergy to marry, but proclaimed papal supremacy, seven sacraments, and transubstantiation. Lutheran doctrines were either denied or omitted, including justification by faith. This half-way measure was not enough for ardent papists or the Pope himself, who demanded total submission. Charles V used military force to force the Augsburg Interim upon the German Lutherans, making it doubly hateful. The city of Magdeburg resisted valiantly and declared, "We are saved neither by an Interim nor by an Exterim, but by the Word of God alone." Pastors who opposed the Interim were deposed, banished, jailed, and executed. In Swabia and along the Rhine about 400 ministers suffered banishment, prison, and death because of the Interim. Some churches remained empty of worshipers in protest of the Interim.
An old minister said at an assembly of 300 pastors, convened to sign the Interim, "I love Agricola, and more than him I love my Elector; but my Lord Jesus Christ I love most." He threw the document into the fire. Margrave Hans of Kuestrin threw away the pen, declaring, "I shall never adopt this poisonous concoction, nor submit to any council. Rather sword than pen; blood rather than ink."
Others were more practical. Philip of Hesse, who surrendered to the Emperor rather than fight, was willing to sign. Elector John Frederick was living with the promise of having his death sentence removed if he only signed a piece of paper. But John Frederick said, "I will rather lose my head and suffer Wittenberg to be battered down than submit to a demand that violates my conscience."
Philip Melanchthon, Luther's co-worker, the author of the Augsburg Confession, the Apology to the Augsburg Confession, and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, displayed extraordinary weakness during the Interim. Musculus, an author of the Formula of Concord, was deposed for his opposition to the Augsburg Interim, but Melanchthon was not willing to risk the wrath of the Roman Catholic emperor.
Many Lutheran pastors and teachers know what it means to be deposed and banned for their opposition to false doctrine. They remember their dismay at the wavering attitude of leaders who seemed to share their love of orthodox doctrine, yet became enemies of sound doctrine when it mattered most. The crisis of Scriptural authority in the Synodical Conference did not reach the stage of shedding blood (Hebrews 12:4), but many fell away.
Melanchthon and his disciple George Major set the stage for those modern "confessional" Lutherans who invent subtle, sophisticated, and appealing rationales for abandoning the clear teachings of the Word of God.
Aquila wrote to Melanchthon: "Thou holy man, answer and come to our assistance, defend the Word and name of Christ and His honor (which is the highest good on earth) against the virulent sycophant Agricola, who is an imposter."
Melanchthon remained silent and then compounded his error with his authorship of the Leipzig Interim.
Part Three: THE LEIPZIG INTERIM
After Luther's death in 1546, Emperor Charles V conquered Germany with the help of the treacherous Elector Maurice. Charles used executions, imprisonment, and banishment of pastors to impose the papal doctrines of the Augsburg Interim (May, 1548), which was hated by the Lutherans. Maurice, mindful of public opinion, convinced Melanchthon to issue a compromise document, known as the Leipzig Interim, December, 1548.
The theologians of Wittenberg and Leipzig collaborated on the Leipzig Interim, making it even more hateful than the Augsburg Interim, which only bore the stamp of Agricola, who was earlier disfellowshiped by Luther himself. In 1557 and 1560 the two faculties were still defending their betrayal of Lutheran doctrine.
That the Reformation survived these servants of the Church can only be credited to the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Leipzig Interim hoped to effect a compromise between the dangers of persecution and the most odious provisions of the Augsburg Interim. Melanchthon's secret longing for a reunion with Rome is hidden under ambiguous language which omitted justification by faith alone, but allowed for the Roman view of infused righteousness. The Pope remains supreme and Roman customs are allowed. However, persecution continued and disunity grew worse.
Magdeburg, known as "God's chancellery," became the only safe haven for those who opposed the Interims. Matthew Flacius Illyricus took refuge there, while Maurice besieged the city for 13 months, finally capturing it. Flacius became a leader of the Gnesio or pure Lutherans, who never stopped attacking the Interims.
Melanchthon and the faculties of Wittenberg and Leipzig defended their surrender as a compromise on matters of indifference (adiaphora). The argument, still used today, is that one may compromise on unimportant matters (adiaphora) for the sake of preserving or presenting the Gospel. The Formula of Concord had to refute their false claims.
John Calvin wrote eloquently to Melanchthon about his errors: "My grief renders me almost speechless. How the enemies of Christ enjoy your conflicts with the Magdeburgers appears from their mockeries. Permit me to admonish you freely as a true friend. I should like to approve of all your actions. But now I accuse you before your very face. This is the sum of your defense: If the purity of doctrine be retained, externals should not be pertinaciously contended for. But you extend the adiaphora too far. Some of them plainly conflict with the Word of God. Now, since the Lord has drawn us into the fight, it behooves us to struggle all the more manfully. You know that your position differs from that of the multitude. The hesitation of the general or leader is more disgraceful than the flight of an entire regiment of common soldiers."
Today, advocates of the Church Growth Movement, for instance, declare that Lutherans can (or must!) give up, as adiaphora, the historic liturgy, Lutheran hymns, the Creeds, Law/Gospel sermons, and the name "Lutheran" for the sake of gaining more members. Behind their fine words and noble ideals is a secret longing for the false doctrines of the Reformed.
When something good comes from an evil, it is surely a sign of God's hand at work. In the case of the Interims, the repugnance of the pastors and people was so great that Maurice, in a bid for public acceptance, turned against the Emperor, drove him from Innsbruck, and sent the Fathers of the Council of Trent running for safety. Maurice entered Augsburg on April 5, 1552, hailed as a hero for defeating the papists. The Peace of Augsburg, 1555, gave some measure of freedom for Lutherans.
The Formula of Concord answered the excuse of "adiaphora" by stating: "We likewise regard it as a sin that deserves to be rebuked when in time of persecution anything is done either in indifferent matters or in doctrine, and in what otherwise pertains to religion, for the sake of the enemies of the Gospel, in word and act, contrary and opposed to the Christian confession." Article X, Triglotta, p. 1061.
The real hero of the Interims was not a theologian, but a ruler, John Frederick, who spent 5 years in prison with a death sentence hanging over his head. He was brutally treated, exhibited to the mobs for money, and deprived of his Bible and Luther's works in prison. His faithful witness remains an inspiration to Lutherans. From such a man comes spiritual wisdom. He told Musculus, when the future Formula of Concord author was banished, "Though the Emperor has banished you from the realm, he has not banished you from heaven. Surely, God will find some other country where you may preach His Word."
Part Four: MELANCHTHON AND THE MAJORISTIC CONTROVERSY
After the death of Luther, Philip Melanchthon's weakness led to the Smalcald War, the defeat of Lutherans in 1547, and the hated Interims. Goaded by the treachery of Charles V, the treacherous Maurice turned on the Roman Catholic ruler and gave the Lutherans a sudden military victory in 1552.
Unfortunately, the errors promoted by Melanchthon's longing for unity with the Reformed and the Roman Catholics left the Lutherans with many different doctrinal problems advocated by Luther's heirs.
Melanchthon's example can serve as a warning to all Lutherans, since many today still follow his misguided footsteps. First: Melanchthon's desire for unity caused nothing but conflict and disunity with his ambiguous and deceptive doctrinal formulas. Second: Melanchthon's unionism caused indifference about Scriptural doctrines and tolerance for error. Third: Melanchthon's example taught the Crypto-Calvinists who followed him how to undermine true Lutheran doctrine while pretending to be faithful.
Melanchthon generated groups of false teachers at Wittenberg and Leipzig, who are generally called Philippists: the Interimists, the Synergists (who denied the Lutheran doctrine of conversion), and the Crypto-Calvinists. The leaders of these groups were: Joachim Camerarius, Paul Eber, Caspar Cruciger, Jr., Christopher Pezel, George Major, Caspar Peucer (the son-in-law of Melanchthon), Paul Crell, John Pfeffinger, Victorin Strigel, John Stoessel, and George Cracow.
The Gnesio or pure Lutherans fought against the Philippists, but sometimes went too far and fell into error themselves. They were: Amsdorf, Flacius, Wigand, Gallus, Matthias Judex, Moerlin, Tileman Hesshusius, Timann, Westphal, and Simon Musaeus.
Another group emerged from the battle between the Philippists and the Gnesio Lutherans, called the Concordists, because their work led to the Formula of Concord and the Book of Concord: Brenz, Andreae, Chemnitz, Selnecker, Chytraeus, Cornerus, and Moerlin.
The Majoristic controversy about good works provides a good example of how the three Lutheran parties addressed a doctrinal issue. A Philippist, George Major received a well deserved upbraiding from Luther about his vagueness on the Lord's Supper (see first article in the series). After Luther died, Major began teaching that good works were necessary for salvation.
Major's error was originally introduced by Melanchthon and never fully repudiated by Philip. Luther preached often about Christians doing good works as a result of salvation, but he always opposed any thought of good works making one worthy of salvation.
Melanchthon's language built a bridge to Roman Catholics, who teach that we add works to faith to make us deserving of God's grace.
The Gnesio Lutherans saw the danger of Major's propositions, which introduce the monster of uncertainty. If a man repents on his deathbed and can do no works, is he still lost? How many good works are enough?
The Formula of Concord (Article IV, Of Good Works) rejected Major's claim that "good works are necessary for salvation" and any efforts made to rescue Major's mischievous language. The Concordists also had to reject the odd claim of Nicholas Amsdorf that "good works are injurious to salvation." Amsdorf meant that we should not rely on good works for salvation, but his formulation created confusion and needed to be refuted.
The Formula of Concord addressed the doctrinal issues concerning good works, described each position honestly, and refuted erroneous language. We cannot judge doctrine by how nice someone is, or how good his intentions are, or his pedigree in Lutheranism, but by the Scriptures alone. Facing the issues will cause immediate strife, but long-term peace and unity. Avoiding a resolution of the doctrines in dispute will create an appearance of calm and unity, but a future of discord and dissolution.
Part Five: MELANCHTHON AND THE SYNERGISTS
Luther said that the devil attacks Christianity from three columns. One denies the divinity of Christ; another His humanity. The third column denies in some way that He has earned salvation for us. After Luther died in 1546, all three columns attacked in earnest.
George Major, following Melanchthon, declared that "good works are necessary for salvation." The Synergistic controversy is another way of saying that man must do something or contribute something for salvation. Luther taught clearly and vehemently that man's will is passive in salvation, giving all the glory to God, Who works through the Law to make the heart contrite, and through the Gospel to create faith.
Melanchthon, listed three causes of salvation in his 1543 doctrinal book, Loci Communes: 1) the Word of God; 2) the Holy Spirit; 3) the human will, assenting to and not resisting the Word of God.
Melanchthon's love for philosophy led him to allow reason the wrong place in interpreting Scriptures. Instead of letting his reason serve the Word of God, Melanchthon let his reason judge the
Scriptures. In addition, he was always looking for ways to harmonize Luther's doctrine with contrary confessions. Roman Catholicism teaches that the human will cooperates in salvation.
Melanchthon's synergistic statements grew bolder after Luther's death, and he was joined by John Pfeffinger, Victorin Strigel, and others. The Gnesio Lutherans opposed them with Luther's doctrine.
Strigel wanted to speculate about why some were saved and others were not. Those who dwell on this question, whose answer is known only to God, will fall into rationalistic answers, such as double predestination (Calvin) or some form of synergism.
Liberal Lutherans who have drifted dreamily away from Luther's doctrine have been attracted to synergism. Rather than give credit to the power of the Holy Spirit working in the Word and Sacraments, they honor their will, their ability to make the right decision, and their strength in remaining believers. In this way, the third column has repeatedly thrown Lutherans into doubt and confusion.
The Gnesio Lutherans opposed the Synergists, but Flacius took an extreme position. In pointing out the lack of spiritual powers of the unconverted man, Flacius stated that the "substance of man" was sin.
The Formula of Concord settled the issues in Articles I and II. The Concordists distinguished between man's nature and original sin in Article I. In the second article of the Formula, they stated that the unconverted man has no power or ability to understand spiritual matters (1 Corinthians 2:14). "God the Holy Ghost, however, does not effect conversion without means, but uses for this purpose the preaching and hearing of God's Word, as it is written, Romans 1:16." (Concordia Triglotta, p. 787.)
Clearly, Melanchthon's unionism and compromise led to many errors. At the same time, the Biblical doctrines of Lutheranism are all linked together in one great unified expression of the Triune God's holy will: sola scriptura, Law and Gospel, justification by grace through faith, the efficacy of the Word, the Means of Grace, election, and so forth. These great treasures are given by God to be preserved in truth and purity.
Part Six: OSIANDER'S ATTACK ON JUSTIFICATION
The Reformation began with Luther's clear teaching about justification by faith, apart from works. Luther ignited a continuing firestorm of controversy by rejecting false doctrine. His opponents spent most of their energy attacking him personally, but he appreciated their ability to sharpen his teaching and his weapons against false doctrine.
When Luther died in 1546, justification was attacked from every corner within Lutheranism. In the name of Adiaphora (matters of indifference), papal doctrines were re-introduced during the Interims by Luther's co-workers! In addition, George Major made good works necessary for salvation, and Strigel taught synergism, the human will cooperating in justification.
Andrew Osiander's attack upon justification and the two natures of Christ did great damage to Lutheranism for a time, but it also helped prepare Martin Chemnitz in his God-given role of saving the Reformation through the power of the Word.
Martin Chemnitz said, "I frequently shudder, because Luther--I do not know by what kind of presentiment--in his commentaries on the Letter to the Galatians and on the First Book of Moses so often repeats the statement: 'This doctrine of justification will be obscured again after my death.'"
Osiander held his views as early as 1522, but remained quiet until Luther's death. Then he said, "Now that the lion is dead, I shall easily dispose of the foxes and hares." He was a brilliant man, apparently a loyal member of the Lutheran clergy, but proud and overbearing. In 1549, Count Albrecht of Prussia gave him a pastorate and a theology position with a double salary at the U. of Koenigsberg. Trouble erupted. Theology professors carried firearms to class!
Osiander's vanity and special position made it easier for him to return to the Roman view of justification. People take the Gospel for granted today, but the Reformers were raised on
salvation by works and the inherent goodness of man. The Old Adam in us does not like to hear that our righteousness is "alien," entirely from Christ, received from the Word and Sacraments. Lutherans today who are bewitched by false teachers never tire of
boasting of their good works and questioning the effectiveness of Luther. The spirit of Osiander is not far from us.
Osiander received the protection of Duke Albrecht but increased the number of his opponents, adding Melanchthon. Then he died in 1552. Joachim Moerlin devoted his life to defeating Osiandrism and was banished by Albrecht for his trouble. Young Chemnitz, a colleague of Moerlin, librarian to Albrecht, also attacked Osiander's false doctrine of justification. Chemnitz left
Prussia, when Moerlin was exiled, and returned to Wittenberg.
Osiander also tried to divide the two natures of Christ, calling Him Mediator according to His divinity alone, while Stancarus opposed him with the contrary false doctrine, that Christ is Mediator according to His humanity alone.
Problems with the two natures of Christ led Chemnitz to write his brilliant book, translated by LCMS President Jack Preus, The Two Natures of Christ.
The Formula of Concord (Article III, Of the Righteousness of Faith before God) rejected both Osiander and Stancarus, stating:
"Against both the errors just recounted, we unanimously believe, teach, and confess that Christ is our Righteousness neither according to the divine nature alone nor according to the human nature alone, but that it is the entire Christ according to both natures." (Concordia Triglotta, p. 793)
Part Seven: AGRICOLA AND THE ANTI-LAW PARTY
John Agricola, a close friend both to Luther and Melanchthon, created problems about the relationship between Law and Gospel which are still plaguing Lutherans. Unlike the others, Agricola began his attack upon justification before Luther died in 1546. Those who follow him to this day are called Antinomians (the anti-Law party).
Agricola began his attack in 1525 by saying that contrition is caused by the Gospel, not by the Law, so there is no need for the Law. "The Decalog belongs in the courthouse, not in the pulpit. All those who are occupied with Moses are bound to go to the devil. To the gallows with Moses!"
Luther saw that the professed desire to get rid of the Law would also get rid of Christ, who fulfilled the Law. In fact, the Law does not disappear among Antinomians, but reappears in a worse form, man-made Law, legalism. In some cases, in the name of objective justification, Antinomians declare they know are forgiven sinners and energetically break all the commandments.
Agricola felt slighted at not getting a professorship at Wittenberg in 1526. He attacked Melanchthon, but Luther settled the dispute. Ten years later, Agricola and his large family camped out at Luther's home for six weeks. Luther obtained a teaching position for Agricola at Wittenberg, and Agricola began a series secretive attacks and squabbles.
In 1537, Agricola anonymously published arguments against Luther and Melanchthon on justification, focusing on the Law. Luther addressed the questions openly, but Agricola did not come out into the open. When his lecturing privilege was withdrawn, Agricola came out and asked for reconciliation, agreeing to repudiate his errors. Agricola fell into his old errors soon after, and recanted again. However, he still taught his erroneous views secretly. Agricola pretended to be a friend of Luther and used his inside information against Luther in his secret strategies.
Luther lost patience with Agricola finally and refused to meet with him. Agricola continued to teach his false views until his death in 1566. His Antinomian agitations and authorship of the Augsburg Interim in 1548 (Part Two of this series) earned him a place in history for treachery, deceit, arrogance, vanity, and insincerity.
The Antinomian troubles continued with Wittenberg faculty members (Philippists) and others denying the Third Use of the Law (guiding the life of a Christian). Another error, caused by the imprecise language by Melanchthon, argued that the Gospel alone caused contrition.
The Antinomian crisis shaped the Formula of Concord through Articles V (Law and Gospel) and VI (Of the Third Use of God's Law).
The distinction between the Law and the Gospel is the essence of teaching the Christian faith. Law/Gospel problems will always afflict Lutherans. Therefore, we can look at the two articles in the Formula of Concord as a great blessing, a part of our confessions worth studying again and again.
In addition, we need to temper our enthusiasm for non-Lutheran
devotional guides, evangelism material, Bible studies, and child-rearing programs by remembering that the Reformed usually confuse Law and Gospel. They often make "the Christian life" a cause of salvation, not the result of salvation, subtly making works necessary for justification. If we follow their words, says Luther, we turn Christ into Moses and Moses into Christ. The Gospel brings us only comfort and peace (John 3:16) without any demands of the Law.
Part Eight: THE CRYPTO-CALVINISTS TRIUMPH
Before Luther's death, most of the doctrinal battles were against the Medieval errors of Roman Catholicism. After his death in 1546, the errors of John Calvin began to undermine Lutheran doctrine.
Calvin's errors, in this controversy, concerned the two natures of Christ and Lord's Supper. What someone believes about Christ will inevitably be reflected in what he believes about Holy Communion. Calvin could not believe that the resurrected Christ could pass through solid walls (John 20:19). Similarly, he could not accept the Real Presence of Christ with the elements of the Lord's Supper. In addition, he separated the work of the Holy Spirit from the Word, so the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism were symbolic and not effective in Calvin's thought.
Once again, Melanchthon's unionism, timidity, and lack of honesty played a tragic part in launching the evil Crypto-Calvinist party. His desire for union with Calvin's Geneva and with Rome caused Melanchthon to change his views and try to strike a compromising position somewhere between the truth, Rome, and Geneva.
As early as 1535, Melanchthon harbored anti-Lutheran views, but hid them from Luther.
By 1540 Melanchthon had changed the Augsburg Confession to conform with Calvin's views! Many people are still astonished today that Luther's co-worker could alter a confession of the Lutheran Church on his own. That is why Lutheran denominations adhere to the "Unaltered Augsburg Confession" or UAC, as found on
Melanchthon urged his followers to dissimulate, to cleverly deceive, rather than reveal their positions to the pure Lutherans.
Modern Crypto-Calvinists, in the Church Growth Movement, also refuse to state their doctrinal beliefs.
Joachim Westphal was the first to warn Lutherans of the influence of Calvinism. Confusion was caused by Calvin's early agreement with the Lutheran position and Melanchthon's secret conversion. Westphal's polemics brought out Calvin's polemics,
which clarified the differences between the two confessions.
In Wittenberg, a group of Melanchthon's followers conspired to deliver Luther's Reformation to the Calvinists, not only by deceiving the Elector August that they were faithful Lutherans, but also by driving out the genuine Lutherans.
The Crypto-Calvinists gathered Melanchthon writings into a Corpus Philippicum, with the approval of Melanchthon. The group of writings included Melanchthon's false doctrine and excluded Luther's writings. Those who did not subscribe to the document were deposed and driven out of their church positions.
Early success made the Crypto-Calvinists bolder. They surrounded Elector August and convinced him to persecute sincere Lutherans as zealots and trouble-makers. Calvinist books were promoted to such a degree in Wittenberg that Luther's books remained unsold.
The theologians craftily published a book, Exegesis Perspicua, which advocated union with the Calvinists, surrendering all doctrinal points to Calvin. Their triumph opened the eyes of the naive Elector, but one more stroke completely destroyed them in their cleverness. (To be continued)
Part Nine: THE CRYPTO-CALVINISTS SELF-DESTRUCT
After Luther's death in 1546, Melanchthon's followers, with his help, conspired to replace Luther's doctrine with Calvin's, at
Wittenberg, Leipzig, and across Germany. Their stealth book, Exegesis Perspicua, revealed their dishonesty and allegiance to Calvin. Elector August, a faithful Lutheran who had been deceived by the Crypto-Calvinists, was angered and humiliated.
The Crypto-Calvinists added to their fame as liars in 1574, when a Calvinist devotional book was delivered to the wrong person. The sly letter enclosed with the book, from Melanchthon's son-in-law, suggested that Elector August be converted through his wife Anna. August ordered an investigation, which revealed even more intrigue. The Crypto-Calvinists were thrown into prison. August took on a leadership role in restoring genuine Lutheran doctrine. Martin Chemnitz, Jacob Andreae, and Nicholas Selnecker were made trusted advisors to August.
Articles VII (Of the Holy Supper) and VIII (Of the Person of Christ) refute the errors of the Crypto-Calvinists. One statement is:
"On account of this personal union and communion of the natures, Mary, the most blessed Virgin, bore not a mere man, but, as the angel [Gabriel] testifies, such a man as is truly the Son of the most high God, who showed His divine majesty even in His mother's womb, inasmuch as He was born of a virgin, with her virginity inviolate. Therefore she is truly the mother of God, and never-theless remained a virgin." Article VIII, Triglotta, p. 1023.
As horrible as the Crypto-Calvinist reign appeared at the time, their excesses and sudden collapse provided a God-given way to unite Lutherans in a common confession. At the Colloquy of Worms in 1557, the Lutherans were divided, thanks to Melanchthon, and the Romanists refused to negotiate with them. Many unity efforts failed, until Jacob Andreae published his Six Christian Sermons in 1573.
Andreae's sermons, the collapse of the Crypto-Calvinists, and Martin Chemnitz' leadership all combined to generate movement toward the Formula of Concord. The Formula of Concord required the cooperation of Andreae, Chemnitz, Selnecker, David Chytraeus, Musculus, and Cornerus. Most people could not abide Andreae, but he was crucial in getting the work started and completed. Chemnitz was the dominant theologian, but the others all contributed significant insights to the Formula, which was signed in 1577. The Book of Concord, which includes the Ecumenical Creeds, the Augsburg Confession, the Apology to the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism, and the Formula of Concord, was completed in 1580.
Part Ten: LESSONS FROM THE FORMULA OF CONCORD ERA
The years after Luther's death in 1546 are worth studying as a backdrop for the Formula of Concord. We can see many parallels to our present crisis in Lutheranism in America.
The disaster in Germany was long in developing and took many decades to resolve. Some errors began among Lutherans in 1525 and were resolved 50 years later. The liberal trends in the older Lutheran bodies in America (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) began in the 1930's.
Most of the errors in Luther's time arose because of unionism, a desire to unite antagonistic confessions by hiding doctrinal differences. Today we find the LCMS and WELS declaring ELCA to be a non-Christian denomination, yet working with ELCA in the areas of worship ("Joy" radio show, Christian Worship), evangelism (Church Membership Initiative), leadership (Snowbird conference for WELS-LCMS-ELCA executives and theologians), and ministry (cross-cultural ministry), all funded to a large extent by fraternal benefit societies.
Unionism comes from doctrinal indifferrence and also causes doctrinal difference. Melanchthon's fervent desire for peace and unity caused him to overlook and obscure major Biblical doctrines, then abandon the orthodox position in favor of Romanism and Calvinism. At Wittenberg, indifference toward sound Lutheran doctrine turned into a demonic hatred of Biblical truths. Today we find the same gradual erosion among Lutheran seminary faculities (Ft. Wayne, St. Louis, Mequon) where the anti-Lutheran Church Growth Movement is promoted and defended.
Every false doctrine is either an attack upon the nature of Christ or upon justification by faith. False doctrine always glorifies the Old Adam and seems reasonable, while orthodoxy glorifies God and annoys the Old Adam in us. The modern trends in Lutheranism all come from two bastions of reasonable false doctrine: Fuller Theological Seminary and the Church of Rome.
Doctrinal dishonesty causes immediate peace but long-term strife. Doctrinal clarity, in contrast, causes immediate pain and trouble, but a long-term, godly peace. Today we should not shy away from solving doctrinal problems in the open, with honesty and candor.
Luther, the greatest theologian of the Church, could not prevent weak followers from falling into error. Therefore, we should not consider it a personal failing when someone departs from the faith in spite of our best efforts to restore unity.
Two of the Formula of Concord authors (Selnecker, Musculus) had doctrinal problems but were corrected. We should never tire of using the most powerful weapon against Satan, the Word of God.
The Gospel is never taught in the absence of the cross. Selnecker was deposed as a pastor and not allowed to live in Leipzig, after the Formula of Concord was published. (Study The Lutheran Hymnal, #292, Selnecker's hymn, "Lord Jesus Christ, With Us Abide.") Many Lutheran leaders and laity remember the price of taking a stand against unionism and liberalism.
Finally, God can and does work to use the greatest evil to accomplish His will. The debacle of Lutheran doctrine collapsing in the midst of political defeat by Roman Catholics, aided by Lutheran teachery, is a great lesson for anyone who despairs. Out of the political and doctrinal misfortunes, during intense persecutive of the faithful, God developed the right leaders to create the Formula of Concord and the Book of Concord. Lutheran doctrinal clarity improved and strengthened because of hardships, yielding such great confessional statements as this one from the article on election.
For few receive the Word and follow it; the greatest number despise the Word, and will not come to the wedding, Matthew 22:3ff. The cause for this contempt for the Word is not God's foreknowledge [or predestination], but the perverse will of man, which rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Ghost, which God offers him through the call, and resists the Holy Ghost, who wishes to be efficacious, and works through the Word, as Christ says, 'How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!' Matthew 23:37." Formula of Concord, Triglotta, p. 1077.
Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word. Amen.
Adiaphora 5, 6, 11
Agricola 4, 13
Amsdorf 7, 8
Andreae 7, 17
Apology to the Augsburg Confession 3, 17
Augsburg Confession 1, 3, 17
Augsburg Interim 3, 5
August 15, 17
Book of Concord 17
Calvin 5, 9, 15
Charles V 1, 3, 5
Chemnitz 7, 11, 12, 17
Christian Worship 18
Church Growth Movement 5, 15, 18
Church Membership Initiative 18
Church of Rome 18
Chytraeus 7, 17
Colloquy of Worms in 1557 17
Cornerus 7, 17
Corpus Philippicum 15
Council of Trent 3, 6
Cross-cultural ministry 18
Cruciger 1, 7
Crypto-Calvinists 7, 17
Doctrinal indifferrence 18
Eber 1, 7
Ecumenical Creeds 17
Efficacy of the Word 10
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 18
Exegesis Perspicua 16, 17
Flacius 5, 7, 9
Formula of Concord 8, 17, 18
Fraternal benefit societies. 18
Fuller Theological Seminary 18
John Agricola 3
John Frederick 1, 3, 6
Large Catechism 17
Leipzig Interim 4, 5
Loci Communes 9
Luther 1, 7, 9, 11, 13, 18
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod 18
Magdeburg 3, 5
Major 1, 4, 7, 9, 11
Majoristic controversy 7
Maurice of Saxon 1
Means of Grace 10
Melanchthon 1, 3-5, 7, 9, 13, 18
Moerlin 7, 11
Musculus 3, 6, 17, 18
Peace of Augsburg 6
Pfeffinger 7, 9
Philip of Hesse 3
Philippists 7, 13
Roman Catholicism 9, 15
Selnecker 7, 17, 18
Six Christian Sermons 17
Smalcald Articles 17
Small Catechism 17
Snowbird conference for WELS-LCMS-ELCA 18
Strigel 7, 9, 11
Synergistic controversy 9
The Two Natures of Christ. 12
Third Use of God's Law 13
Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope 3
Unaltered Augsburg Confession 15
Unionism 15, 18
Westphal 7, 15
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod 18
After Luther's Death
After Luther's Death