CALOVIUS, ca-lo'vi-us (KALAU), ABRAHAM: Lutheran dogmatic theologian; b. at Mohrungen (62 m. s.s.w. of Königsberg), Prussia, Apr. 16, 1612; d. at Wittenberg Feb. 25, 1686.

Education and Early Professorial Activity.

He was driven away by the plague from the first two schools he attended, at Thorn and at Königsberg, but he prosecuted his studies at home to such good purpose that when barely fourteen he was able to enter the University of Königsberg. Here he took his master's degree six years later, and was at once taken into the philosophical faculty. He lectured on philosophy and mathematics, while eagerly continuing the study of theology. His polemical activity began with a tractate against the Reformed court preacher Berg (1635). In 1634 he migrated to the University of Rostock, of which he became a doctor in 1637. Then he returned to Königsberg, was made assessor to the theological faculty, and resumed his lectures. Two years later he became adjunct professor, and visitor of the Samland district; in 1643 he went to Danzig as rector of the gymnasium there and pastor of Trinity Church. He was a delegate to the Thorn Conference of 1645, where he came in contact with Calixtus. From this time on a great part of his life was devoted to polemical activity, especially against Syncretism and Calvinism.

Calovius at Wittenberg.

In 1650, at the invitation of the elector John George I., he went to Wittenberg, where the rest of his life was to be spent. He began there as third professor and preacher at the parish church, of which he became pastor in 1652 and general superintendent of the district, and by 1660 he was head professor and dean of the faculty. The university increased considerably in numbers through the attraction of his teaching, though the increase fell off when the elector of Brandenburg forbade his subjects (1662) to go there for theology or philosophy, on account of the opposition of the principia Caloviana to the Reformed teaching. An iron constitution enabled him to work incessantly at his books and lectures, as well as to support the loss of five wives and thirteen children and to marry again at the age of seventy-two.

His Controversial Writings.

A complete record of his activity is left in his books, since he nearly always expanded his lectures into that form. His polemical activity was directed chiefly against the Syncretistic school of Helmstädt and its Königsberg allies Behm, Dreier, and Latermann, as well as later against the Hessian friends of Calixtus. He had paid his compliments to the latter's teaching even in his Danzig days, and in his Institutionum theologicarum prolegomena (2 parts, 1649-50). More important onslaughts on this school were Synopsis controversiarum potiarum (1652), with an introduction specially directed against Calixtus; Syncretismus Calixtinus (1653); and Harmonia Calixtina-hœretica (1655), in which he accuses the "innovators" not merely of tolerating false doctrine but of teaching it themselves, and proves his point by attempting to show their "harmony" with Calvinists and Papists, Armenians and Socinians. By the date of this publication Calovius thought the time was ripe for a step which he had been urging for four years. The Consensus repetitus fidei verœ Lutheranœ is undoubtedly in its essence the work of Calovius, in its first as well as in its final form. The purpose of this new dogmatic standard, the exclusion of the Syncretists from the Church and so from the protection of the religious truce, was not attained; in fact; after 1655, and still more after 1669, when definite instructions were conveyed to the Wittenberg theologians to restrain their polemical ardor, there is a noticeable slackening of anti-Syncretist activity; and Calovius turned his attention rather to the Jena school, and especially to Musæus. In 1682, finally, he published a complete account of the whole controversy is his Historia syncretistica. Owing to the prohibition of polemical publications, it appeared without any author's name or place of printing, described merely as the work of "D. A. C. [Dr. Abraham Calovius], a distinguished theologian." The elector John George III., who objected on political grounds to such literature, had all the copies bought up, so that this edition is very rare. A second edition appeared in 1685, with Calovius's approval and with his name on the title-page. He attacked the Roman Catholics in his Matœologia papistica (1647), and the Socinians in several small works, which when collected (1684) filled two folio volumes. As if the conflict within his own Church did not give him enough to do, he interposed in the controversies of the Calvinists with his Consideratio Arminianismi (1655) and his Theses theologicœ de Labbadismo (1681). His last work, the Anti-Bœhmius (1684), directed against Jakob Böhme, shows a failure in power.

His Constructive Theology.

In the way of constructive theology, his Systema locorum theologicorum (12 vols., 1655-77) is, with the possible exception of Gerhard's, the most important dogmatic production of the century–the true exemplar of what has been called Lutheran scholasticism. It takes the Lutheran doctrine, as it had developed on the basis of the Formula Concordiœ and the Scriptural principles, pushed to their extreme since the Regensburg conference of 1601, and defends it with unyielding logic and firmness against the intellectual forces of a new age. Even his principal exegetical work, the Biblia illustrata (4 vols., 1672-76), has a polemical bearing, being intended to correct the Annotata of Hugo Grotius, which is incorporated in it. He accomplishes his task with great acuteness, wonderful learning, and more feeling for the sense of Scripture than his opponent, whose preference was for secular authors, but with his inevitable dogmatic limitations.

Estimate of Calovius.

The circumstances of his life render it difficult to pronounce a summary judgment on the man and his career.


The party of Calixtus naturally hated and despised him; but the fact that they found it necessary to spread absurd fictions about his horrible end shows clearly enough that nothing could justly be said against his personal character. In his own day he compelled the respect and admiration of a great variety of men, and his talents have been fully recognized by some who were far from agreeing with him, like Buddeus, Walch, and Stäudlin. His incessant controversial activity has left a misleading impression of him; he himself says of this branch of his work, "I come to this kind of writing unwillingly and by force; my disposition inclines me rather to stick to positive doctrinal work." As a theologian he was a faithful member of the Wittenberg school. No one has insisted more on the necessity of a Scriptural basis for all teaching. It is true, of course, that the defects of Lutheran orthodoxy–its hardness and its extremes–are to be found in him. Faith is essentially the acceptance of the orthodox system; not only the essentials (and they covered a great deal of ground in those days), but every derived article must be accepted, for the faith is one. The standard books of doctrine are theoretically subordinate to the Scriptures; but the student is required to accept them not hypothetically but categorically–not in so far as, but because, they agree with the Bible. His firm conviction of the truth of his system gives, however, a certain dignity to his polemics; but his untiring activity never reached its aim–he did not succeed in raising the Consensus repetitus to the dignity of a creed, and a new era had dawned before he went to his rest.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: The sources for a life of Calovius are: his own Historia syncretistica, 1682; a funeral discourse by his colleague J. F. Mayer, 1686; and C. S. Schurzfleisch, Orationes panegyricœ, pp. 71 sqq., Wittenberg, 1697. Consult: H. Pipping, Memoria theologorum, pp. 108-136, Leipsic, 1705; J. C. Erdmann, Lebensbeschreibungen . . . von den wittenbergischen Theologen, pp. 88-91, Wittenberg, 1804; A. Tholuck, Der Geist der lutherischen Theologen Wittenbergs, pp. 185-211; Gotha, 1852; E. L. T. Henke, Georg Calixtus und seine Zeit, 2 vols., Halle, 1853-1856.


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