March 15, 2012
Philipp Melanchthon (February 16, 1497 – April 19, 1560), born Philipp Schwartzerdt, was a German reformer, collaborator with Martin Luther, the first systematic theologian of the Protestant Reformation, intellectual leader of the Lutheran Reformation, and an influential designer of educational systems. He stands next to Luther and Calvin as a reformer, theologian, and molder of Protestantism. As much as Luther, he is the primary founder of Lutheranism. They both denounced what they claimed was the exaggerated cult of the saints, justification by works, and the coercion of the conscience in the sacrament of penance that nevertheless could not offer certainty of salvation. Melanchthon made the distinction between law and gospel the central formula for Lutheran evangelical insight. By the “law” he meant God’s requirements both in Old and New Testament; the “gospel” meant the free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
February 11, 2012
"Silhouette," of Martin Luther for black web pages by Kathy Grimm
Martin Luther (10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German monk, priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God’s punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. His refusal to retract all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Emperor.
Luther taught that salvation is not earned by good deeds but received only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority of the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood. Those who identify with Luther’s teachings are called Lutherans.
His translation of the Bible into the language of the people (instead of Latin) made it more accessible, causing a tremendous impact on the church and on German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the translation into English of the King James Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant priests to marry.
February 11, 2012
Graphic of William Tyndale by Kathy Grimm
William Tyndale (sometimes spelled Tynsdale Tindall, Tindill, Tyndall; c. 1492 – 1536) was an English scholar who became a leading figure in Protestant reform in the years leading up to his execution. He is remembered for his translation of the Bible into English. He was influenced by the work of Desiderius Erasmus, who made the Greek New Testament available in Europe, and by Martin Luther.
While a number of partial and complete translations had been made from the seventh century onward, the popularity of Wycliffe’s Bible in the 14th century resulted in a ban on the publication of the Bible in English; almost all vernacular Bibles were confiscated and burned. Tyndale’s illegal translation was the first of the new English Bibles of the Reformation, and the first to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, and the first to take advantage of the new medium of the print, which allowed for wide distribution. This was taken to be a direct challenge to the hegemony of both the Roman Catholic Church and the English church and state. Tyndale also wrote, in 1530, The Practyse of Prelates, opposing Henry VIII’s divorce on the grounds that it contravened scriptural law.
In 1535, Tyndale was arrested and jailed in the castle of Vilvoorde outside Brussels for over a year. He was tried for heresy, choked, impaled and burnt on a stake in 1536. The Tyndale Bible, as it was known, continued to play a key role in spreading Reformation ideas across the English-speaking world. The fifty-four independent scholars who created the King James Version of the bible in 1611 drew significantly on Tyndale’s translations. One estimation suggests the New Testament in the King James Version is 83% Tyndale’s, and the Old Testament 76%.
February 11, 2012
Graphic of Calvin by Kathy Grimm
John Calvin (French: Jean Calvin, born Jehan Cauvin: 10 July 1509 – 27 May 1564) was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530. After religious tensions provoked a violent uprising against Protestants in France, Calvin fled to Basel, Switzerland, where he published the first edition of his seminal work The Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536.
In that year, Calvin was recruited by William Farel to help reform the church in Geneva. The city council resisted the implementation of Calvin and Farel’s ideas, and both men were expelled. At the invitation of Martin Bucer, Calvin proceeded to Strasbourg, where he became the minister of a church of French refugees. He continued to support the reform movement in Geneva, and was eventually invited back to lead its church.
Following his return, Calvin introduced new forms of church government and liturgy, despite the opposition of several powerful families in the city who tried to curb his authority. During this time, the trial of Michael Servetus was extended by libertines in an attempt to harass Calvin. However, since Servetus was also condemned and wanted by the Inquisition, outside pressure from all over Europe forced the trial to continue. Following an influx of supportive refugees and new elections to the city council, Calvin’s opponents were forced out. Calvin spent his final years promoting the Reformation both in Geneva and throughout Europe.
Calvin was a tireless polemic and apologetic writer who generated much controversy. He also exchanged cordial and supportive letters with many reformers, including Philipp Melanchthon and Heinrich Bullinger. In addition to the Institutes, he wrote commentaries on most books of the Bible, as well as theological treatises and confessional documents. He regularly preached sermons throughout the week in Geneva. Calvin was influenced by the Augustinian tradition, which led him to expound the doctrine of predestination and the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation of the human soul from death and eternal damnation.
Calvin’s writing and preachings provided the seeds for the branch of theology that bears his name. The Reformed and Presbyterian churches, which look to Calvin as a chief expositor of their beliefs, have spread throughout the world.
February 11, 2012
Jan Hus graphic by Kathy Grimm
Jan Hus (Czech pronunciation: [ˈjan ˈɦus] ( listen); c. 1369 – 6 July 1415), often referred to in English as John Hus or John Huss, was a Czech priest, philosopher, reformer, and master at Charles University in Prague. After John Wycliffe, the theorist of ecclesiastical Reformation, Hus is considered the first Church reformer (living prior to Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli).
He is famed for having been burned at the stake for heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic Church, including those on ecclesiology, the Eucharist, and other theological topics. Hus was a key predecessor to the Protestant movement of the sixteenth century, and his teachings had a strong influence on the states of Europe, most immediately in the approval for the existence of a reformist Bohemian religious denomination, and, more than a century later, on Martin Luther himself.
Between 1420 and 1431, the Hussite forces defeated five consecutive papal crusades against followers of Hus. Their defense and rebellion against Roman Catholics became known as the Hussite Wars. A century later, as many as 90% of inhabitants of the Czech lands were non-Catholic and followed the teachings of Hus and his successors.
February 11, 2012
William of Ockham graphic by Kathy Grimm
William of Ockham (play /ˈɒkəm/; also Occam, Hockham, or several other spellings; c. 1288 – c. 1348) was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher, who is believed to have been born in Ockham, a small village in Surrey. He is considered to be one of the major figures of medieval thought and was at the centre of the major intellectual and political controversies of the fourteenth century. Although he is commonly known for Occam’s razor, the methodological principle that bears his name, William of Ockham also produced significant works on logic, physics, and theology. In the Church of England, his day of commemoration is 10 April.
February 11, 2012
Erasmus graphic by Kathy Grimm
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (October 28, 1466? – July 12, 1536), known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian.
Erasmus was a classical scholar who wrote in a pure Latin style. He was an early proponent of religious toleration, and enjoyed the sobriquet “Prince of the Humanists”; he has been called “the crowning glory of the Christian humanists.” Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament. These raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. He also wrote The Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, Julius Exclusus, and many other works.
Erasmus lived through the Reformation period, but while he was critical of the Church, he did not join the cause of the Reformers. In relation to clerical abuses in the Church, Erasmus remained committed to reforming the Church from within. He also held to Catholic doctrines such as that of free will, which some Reformers rejected in favour of the doctrine of predestination. His middle road approach disappointed and even angered scholars in both camps.
Erasmus died in Basel in 1536 and was buried in the formerly Catholic cathedral there, which had been converted to a Reformed church in 1529.
Erasmus was his baptismal name, given after St. Erasmus of Formiae. Desiderius was a self-adopted additional name, which he used from 1496. The Roterodamus in his scholarly name is the Latinized adjectival form for the city of Rotterdam.
February 11, 2012
Frederick The Wise graphic by Kathy Grimm
Frederick III of Saxony (17 January 1463 – 5 May 1525), also known as Frederick the Wise (German “Friedrich der Weise”), was Elector of Saxony (from the House of Wettin) from 1486 to his death. Frederick was the son of Ernest, Elector of Saxony and his wife Elisabeth, daughter of Albert III, Duke of Bavaria. He is notable as being one of the most powerful early defenders of Martin Luther, Lutheranism, and the Protestant Reformation. He is commemorated as a Christian ruler in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod on 5 May. His court painter since 1504 was Lucas Cranach the Elder.