« Prev An Abortive Symbol against Syncretism, 1655. Next »

§ 49. AN ABORTIVE SYMBOL AGAINST SYNCRETISM, 1655.

Finally, we must briefly notice an unsuccessful attempt to increase the number of Lutheran symbols which was made during the Syncretistic controversies in the middle of the seventeenth century.707707   H. Schmid: Geschichte der Synkretistischen Streitigkeiten in der Zeit des Georg Calixt, Erlangen, 1846. W. Gass: G. Calixt und der Synkretismus, Breslau, 1846; and his Geschichte der Protest. Dogmatik, Vol. II. p. 68. Baur: Ueber den Charakter und die Bedeutung des calixtin. Synkretismus, in the Theol. Jahrbücher for 1848, p. 163. E. L. Th. Henke: G. Calixtus und seine Zeit, Halle, 1853–1860, 2 vols.; and his Art. Synkretismus and Synkretistische Streitigkeiten, in Herzog, Vol. XV. (1862), pp. 342 and 346. G. Frank: Geschichte der Protest. Theologie. Leipz. Vol. II. 1865, p. 4.

George Calixtus (1586 to 1656), Professor of Theology in the University of Helmstädt (since 1614), which had previously protested against 350the ubiquity dogma of the Formula of Concord, was disgusted with the exclusive and pugnacious orthodoxy of his day, and advocated, in the liberal and catholic spirit of Melanchthon, peace and conciliation among the three great Confessions—the Lutheran, Catholic, and Reformed. He went back to the Apostles' Creed and the œcumenical consensus of the first five centuries (consensus quinquesecularis) as a common basis for all, claiming for the Lutheran Church only a superior purity of doctrine, and surrendering as unessential its distinctive peculiarities. This reaction against sectarian exclusiveness and in favor of Catholic expansion within the Lutheran communion was denounced by the orthodox divines of Wittenberg and Leipzig as Syncretism, i.e., as a Babylonian mixture of all sorts of religions, or a Samaritan compound of Popish, Calvinistic, Synergistic, Arminian, and even atheistic errors. A war to the knife was waged against it, and lasted from 1645 to 1686. Calixtus had expressed a hope to meet many Calvinists in heaven, but this was traced directly to an inspiration of the devil.

The chief opponent of Syncretism was Abraham Calovius, the fearless champion of an infallible orthodoxy, admired by some as the Lutheran Athanasius, abhorred by others as the Lutheran Torquemada; in his own estimation a strenuus Christi athleta, certainly a veritable malleus hæreticorum; of vast learning and a herculean working power, which no amount of domestic affliction could break down.708708   Abraham Calov (properly Kalau) was born in 1612 at Mohrungen, Prussia (the birthplace of the great Herder—'Esau and Jacob from one womb'), and labored with untiring industry as Professor and General Superintendent at Wittenberg from 1650 to his death, 1686. He stood in high esteem, and controlled the whole faculty, except Meisner, who fell out with him in 1675, so that they no more greeted each other, not even at the communion altar. The Elector, George II., always stayed at his house when he was at Wittenberg. Calovius wrote a system of theology, in twelve volumes (Sytstema locorum theolog. 1655–1677), a Commentary on the whole Bible against Grotius, in four folios (Biblia illustrata, 1672), and an endless number of polemical works against ancient and modern heretics, some of which had to be prohibited. His domestic history is perhaps without a parallel. He buried no less than thirteen children and five wives in succession. At the death-bed of the fourth he sang with all his might the hymn, 'Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern,' especially (as Tholuck relates) the last stanza, 'Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh.' etc. He asked her whether she were willing to go to her Lord; she replied: 'Herr Jesu, dir leb' ich, Herr Jesu, dir sterb' ich.' A few months after the death of his fifth partner, when seventy-two years of age ('senili amore, morbo nequaquam senili, vehementer laborans,' and 'maxima cum multorum offensione'), he led to the altar the youthful daughter of his colleague, Quenstädt. A friend of Spener wrote to the latter, May 10, 1684 (as quoted by Tholuck): 'The septuagenarian senex consularis has prostituted himself strongly intra and extra ecclesiam. What is the use of all learning, if one can not control his appetites? He is said to be so debilitated that he can not walk five steps sine lassitudine.' Calovius enjoyed his sixth marriage only two years. For a full account of him, see Tholuck, Wittenberger Theologen, 1852, pp. 185–211, and his Art. Calov, in Herzog, Vol. II. p. 506; also Gass, Geschichte der protest. Dogm. Vol. I. p. 332; and G. Frank, Vol. II. p. 26. Tholuck characterizes him thus (W. Theol. p. 207): ' Gemüthlose Zähigkeit bei innerlich kochender Leidenschaftlichkeit erscheint als Grundzug dieses theologischen Charakters; weder auf der Kanzel, noch in vertraulichen Briefen, noch in den theologischen Schriften ein Lebenshauch christlicher, selten auch nur menschlicher Wärme. Die Menschen erscheinen ihm wie Zahlen, und unter den dogmatischen Problemen bewegt er sich wie unter Rechenexempeln.' His daily prayer was, 'Reple me, Deus, odio hœreticorum.' 351He excluded Calixtus, as well as Bellarmin, Calvin, and Socinus, from heaven. As the best means of suppressing this complex syncretistic heresy, and of preventing a schism in the Lutheran Church, he prepared in 1655 a Repeated Consensus of the truly Lutheran Faith, which was finally published in Latin and German at Wittenberg in 1664.709709    'Consensus repetitus fidei vere Lutheranæ in illis doctrinæ capitibus, quæ contra puram et invariatam Augustanam Confessionem aliosgue libros symbolicos in Libro Concordiæ comprehensos, scriptis publicis impugnant D. G. Calixtus, ejusque complices.' First published in the Consilia Theologica Wittebergensia, 1664, then often separately by Calovius. A new edition by the late Prof. Henke of Marburg: Consensus repetitus fidei veræ Lutheranæ, MDCLV. Librorum ecclesiæ evangelicæ symbolicorum supplementum, Marburg, 1847 (pp. viii. and 70). For a summary, see H. Schmid, l.c. pp. 376 sqq., and Frank, l.c. Vol. II. pp. 12 sqq. Calovius wrote no less than twenty-eight books against the Syncretists, the principal of which are Syncretismus Calixtinus, 1653; Synopsis controversiarum . . . cum hæreticis et schismaticis modernis Socinianis, Anabaptistis, Weigelianis, Remonstrantibus, Pontificiis, Calvinianis, Calixtinis, etc. 1652; and Harmonia Calixtino-hæretica, etc., 1655. See H. Schmid, l.c. p. 237, who with all his orthodox sympathies complains of the endless repetitions and prolixity of these controversial writings. They are almost unreadable. I have before me a defense of the Consensus Repetitus, by Aegidius Straucher. Wittenb. 1668 (551 pp.), the mere title of which covers twenty-nine lines.

This creed first professes and teaches, in the order of the Augsburg Confession, the orthodox doctrine, and then rejects and condemns no less than eighty-eight syncretistic heresies, proved from the writings of Calixtus, Hornejus, Latermann, and Dreier. The first fundamental section anathematizes the Calixtine concession of the imperfection of the Lutheran Church, the relative recognition of Catholics and Calvinists as Christian brethren, and the assertion of the necessity of Church tradition alongside of the Scriptures. The following doctrines are rejected, not simply as doubtful, erroneous, or dangerous opinions (which some of them are), but as downright heresies: That the article of the Trinity is not clearly revealed in the Old Testament; that the Holy Spirit dwells in believers as a gift, not as an essence; that theology need not prove the existence of God, since it is already certain from philosophy; 352that Jews and Mohammedans are not idolaters; that original sin is simply a carentia justitiæ; that souls are created by God (creationism); that Christ's body is not omnipresent; that sanctification enters in any way into the idea of justification; that the true Church embraces also Calvinists, Papists, and Greeks; that infants have no faith; that John vi. treats of the Lord's Supper; that man is active in his conversion; that symbolical books are to be only conditionally subscribed quatenus Scripturæ S. consentiunt; that the symbols contain many things as necessary to salvation, which God has not fixed as such; that unbaptized infants are only negatively punished; that good works are necessary to obtain eternal life. A prayer that God may avert all innovations and corruptions from the Orthodox Church, and preserve it in this repeated consensus, forms the conclusion.

This new symbol goes far beyond the Formula of Concord, and would have so contracted Lutheranism as to exclude from it all independent thought and theological progress. It prolonged and intensified the controversy, but nowhere attained ecclesiastical authority. It was subscribed only by the theological faculties of Wittenberg and Leipzig, and rejected by the theologians of Jena, who were pupils of the celebrated John Gerhard, and occupied a milder position. With the death of Calovius the controversy died out, and his symbol was buried beyond the hope of a resurrection. Orthodoxy triumphed, but it was only a partial victory, and the last which it achieved.

During these violent controversies and the awful devastations of the Thirty-Years' War, there arose among a few divines in the Lutheran, Reformed, and Catholic Churches an intense desire for the reunion of Christendom, which found its expression in the famous adage so often erroneously attributed to St. Augustine: 'In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.710710   Dr. Lücke (in a special treatise, Göttingen, 1850) traces the authorship with some degree of certainty to Rupert Meldenius, who belonged to the irenical school of the seventeenth century. Comp. Klose, in Herzog, Vol. IX. p. 304. It had no practical effect, but sounds like a prophecy of better times.

Soon afterwards arose a second and more successful reaction in the Pietism of Spener and Francke, which insisted on the claims of practical piety against a dead orthodoxy in the Lutheran Church, just as the school of Coccejus did in the Reformed Church of Holland, and the 353Methodism of Wesley and Whitefield in the Church of England. Then followed, toward the close of the eighteenth century, the far more radical reaction of Rationalism, which broke down, stone by stone, the venerable building of Lutheran orthodoxy, and the whole traditional system of Christian doctrine. Rationalism, in its various forms and phases, laid waste whole sections of Germany, especially those where once a rigorous orthodoxy had most prevailed; it affected also the Reformed churches of the Continent, and, in a less degree, those of England and America. Fortunately the power of this great modern apostasy has been broken, in the nineteenth century, by an extensive revival of the principles of the Reformation, with a better appreciation of its Confessions of Faith, not so much in their subordinate differences as in their essential harmony.


« Prev An Abortive Symbol against Syncretism, 1655. Next »





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |