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  • Melanchthon und der Calvinismus
  • Robert Kolb
Günter Frank and Herman J. Selderhuis , eds. Melanchthon und der Calvinismus. Melanchthon-Schriften der Stadt Bretten. Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog, 2005. 376 pp. index. illus. €48. ISBN: 3–7728–2236–3.

Both scholars and partisans have been making comparisons between Melanchthon and Calvin, as well as assessments of Melanchthon's impact on Calvinist thought, since the Wittenberg professor's own lifetime. In the past two decades the general appraisal of this colleague of Luther's, dubbed the "Preceptor of Germany" while he still lived, has taken on a more positive tone while expanding the focus of study on a wider spectrum of his contributions to Western European learning and ecclesiastical culture. The thirteen essays in this volume contribute to the discussion of Melanchthon's relationship to the Genevan reformer and his followers from a variety of angles. On balance, those who compare the attitudes toward and use of humanism by Melanchthon and Calvin (R. Faber), their respective treatment of church councils and their authority (M. Becht), and their doctrines of God and the Trinity (G. Frank) conclude that, despite oft-mentioned similarities, significant differences separated the two.

Appraisals of the Wittenberger's influence on Calvin's heirs vary in their evaluations of his impact. Karin Maag's review of the conditions in which Melanchthon taught at the already-established University of Wittenberg and in which Calvin and Beza worked in launching the Genevan Academy shows a common perception of the educational task in the general orientation of both schools; however, some differences distinguished the two, among them [End Page 910] Wittenberg's more intensive fostering of newer disciplines, especially in the natural sciences. Herman Selderhuis's provocative judgment that the Heidelberg theological faculty of the 1560s was striving to be "Lutheran" rather than either "Philippist" or "Calvinist" — albeit following Luther in different ways than its "Lutheran" critics — will be tested in more extensive evaluations, for he raises questions regarding a larger number of factors than can be explored in one essay. In a related study Lyle Bierma concludes that among the several theological strains — from Luther, Melanchthon, and Calvin — apparent in the composition of the Heidelberg Catechism, none can be labeled as dominant because its authors were trying to avoid being placed in one specific reforming camp.

Jan Rohl's helpful overview of developments in the use of Aristotelian method in Protestant theology from Melanchthon to Zabarella sketches — without benefit of reference to some recent discussions of the topic — how the former's thinking engaged the Stagyrite and was in turn put to use by Reformed theologians as they confronted the challenge of Peter Ramus and formed their own method of practicing theology. Willem van't Spijker proffers a similar general overview of the impact had by Melanchthon and Calvin on Reformed scholasticism. Christoph Strohm shows that Melanchthon played a significant, though limited, role in Lambert Daneau's pioneering work in Calvinist ethics.

Theodor Mahlmann's meticulous examination of the early usage and origin of the term Crypto-Calvinist provides a significant addition to the discussion of those so labeled — by later scholars if not immediately by their own contemporaries, as Mahlmann shows. Two elements are missing in his careful survey of the Preceptor's successors whose spiritualizing teaching on the Lord's Supper have earned them this inaccurate epithet. (Despite similarities in their teaching with that of Geneva, they developed their views out of Melanchthon's later thinking on the Lord's Supper and related issues of Christology much more than out of Swiss influences.) Mahlmann's thorough treatment could be expanded by analysis of Melanchthon's student Viktorin Strigel and his influence on his own student Christoph Pezel, who (along with Melanchthon's son-in-law, Caspar Peucer, of the Wittenberg medical faculty) became the theological leader of those labeled Crypto-Calvinist in Wittenberg in the early 1570s. Second, like Faber's, Mahlmann's comparison of Melanchthon's and Calvin's respective understandings of predestination fails to take into account that the Wittenberger's use of the distinction of law and gospel conditions and shapes his expressions regarding the tension between God's responsibility for salvation of sinners and the...


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pp. 910-912
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Archived 2009
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