Monday, September 11, 2023

Today on the Christian History Almanac podcast, we remember Johannes Brenz and the administration of the Reformation.

It is the 11th of September, 2023. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at I’m Dan van Voorhis.


Hey, it’s Monday- shouldn’t today be a mailbag? Yes. But I messed up and wrote Johannes Brenz down for the 12th, only to find my mistake and switch shows- mailbag tomorrow. Southwest German Reformer today.

It was on this, the 11th of September in 1570, that Johannes Brenz died- one historian has suggested that he is second only to Phillip Melanchthon as a reformer in the Lutheran tradition (obviously behind Luther as well). This is quite the claim, but one I think carries weight.

Johannes Brenz was born in 1499 near Stuttgart in Southwest Germany. He was the son of the mayor and headed off to the University of Heidelberg just as Luther was posting his Theses. One of Johannes's professors at the University was Johannes Oecolampadius (I love that name- he made it up; it just means house lamp). Oecolampadius was a humanist before he became a reformer in the vein of the Swiss and Zwingli, and those humanist/Renaissance views impressed Johannes. And so he was primed to join the Reformation movement when the Heidelberg Disputation took place in 1518 when he was a student there. He would hear Luther give his famous defense of a “theology of the cross” and was on board.

Upon graduating, he was called to be the Stadtprediger- a pastor over many churches in one area in nearby Schwäbisch-Hall. Here, he showed not only his theological abilities but also his administrative and persuasive capabilities as he successfully brought the town into the Lutheran camp and helped establish Protestant schools.

He joined the bigger conversation with a tract on the Lord’s Supper in which he rejected the moderate Reformed position favored by his old teacher, Oecolampadius.  

He and Luther wouldn’t always see eye to eye. He was more favorable to the Peasants in the wake of the Peasant's war, whereas Luther claimed the power of the sword should be taken to them. Johannes laid some of the blame on the Princes who had precipitated the revolt by refusing to teach the peasants the way of the true Gospel. Brenz's writings on toleration for anabaptists would become a popular defense for those arguing that the state shouldn’t have the power to put heretics to death.  

He would find favor with the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach and would be at the Diet of Augsburg and other significant events- he was a trusted administrator and theologian. And trust me, it is rare to find someone who excels as an academic and an administrator. On this, I am unanimous.

He would be invited, on the recommendation of the Margrave, to the University of Tübingen to help reform the curriculum. He furthermore was able to attract the rural parishes in Schwäbisch-Hall. He implemented a Church Order- a kind of hybrid catechism/hymnal and book of Order.

In 1548, the Augsburg Interim was implemented by Emperor Charles V. It was a stopgap measure wherein the Catholic and Lutheran churches would agree to a temporary truce and agreement until a larger council could be called. The conditions seemed too favorable to the Catholics, and thus, Brenz would have to flee. Duke Christopher of Württemberg refused to abide by the Interim and had the military scare off the Empire- thus, it became a haven for dissenters.

His reputation with the Margrave, among others, preceded him, and he was able to reform Württemberg along Lutheran lines with his “Great Church Order”- in it, he devised a system whereby he would give a consistory for ecclesiastical matters, a second body to deal with excommunication and then superintendents- it’s little top heavy and one might accuse it of being very German- it would be the model for German Lutheran churches until last century. 

That was his genius- he organized- he wrote documents that might not have the force of Luther or the brilliance of Melanchthon, but the Orders and catechisms he prepared were of the utmost practical use for parishes adopting the Reformation movement.

Johannes Brenz would die just as the second generation of Lutherans began their bickering and the resolution that came with the Book of Concord. He died on this, the 11th of September in 1570


The last word for today is from the lectionary and 1 Peter.

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 11th of September 2023, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by man Lutheran in all things except the bureaucracy- he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man whose last job was academics an administration, and the administrative part had me running for the door as fast as possible- Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be OK.

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