It is the 21st of October 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1528.
There are a few decades in the modern west that were as consequential as the 1520s. Just for fun, I've ranked the top decades over the past 500 years. I've got the 1780s, the 1890s, the 1940s, and the 1520s, in no particular order. One of the remarkable aspects of the decade was how ecclesiastical leaders and secular authorities were pushed to redefine their roles in society and even make unlikely alliances.
1528 saw the union of England and France, an unlikely pairing if there ever was one. The old enemies joined forces against Emperor Charles V with the Treaty of Westminster. The English and French had buried the hatchet at the Treaty of Hampton Court a few years earlier when the Emperor and King of France were doing battle in the Italian Wars. Of course, that overturned a non-aggression pact signed by the Emperor, France, England, and others a few years before that. The point is that no alliance was safe, enemies became allies, and allies could become enemies.
Speaking of odd bedfellows, the disputed king of Hungary, John Zapolyas, made peace with Suleiman the Magnificent in 1528. Only two years after Suleiman's forces wiped out the Hungarians at the Battle of Mohacs, Zapolyas was crowned by his faction against Ferdinand's claims, the brother of Emperor Charles V.
And it wasn't only issues of national sovereignty or strategic alliances. Theological issues loomed large in 1528 as well. Martin Luther published his "Confession Concerning Christ's Supper" this year. That document would have some of the longest-lasting impacts for the future of the Reformation. In this document, Luther laid out his position on the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament; that is, it was not the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, and it was not the strictly memorial or spiritual eating of some of the more radical reformers. What made this document so important was the response it garnered from many theologians, most notably: Huldrych Zwingli. The Marburg Colloquy, which resulted from this document, would sever the Reformation's Swiss and German branches.
And there was the lingering question of what to do about those radical reformers that were stirring up the countryside with peasant's revolts and disruptive dissent. As of about 1525, Luther abandoned the radicals to the punitive power of the state, famously claiming that princes were free to subdue the peasants, and violently if need be. The significance of writing this to the princes may not be convincing the local authorities to act, but rather in it signaling that Luther would rely on the magistrate's power to promote the Reformation. Of course, the question would arise as to whether the magistrates in their civic functions should have any recourse to theological arguments for their judgments. Anabaptists, general dissenters, anti-clerical peasants, and others could soon find themselves not only run afoul of the church but the state as well.
And it was in this context, on this day in 1528, that the reformer Johannes Brenz would publish a tract that would help to establish religious toleration for Anabaptists. The question of re-baptism was necessary for the church, as some reformers questioned the practice of infant baptism and adopted the practice of re-baptizing adults. Both Luther and Melanchthon wrote scathing attacks on the practice from a theological perspective. Still, it was Brenz's work, which began as an addendum to Melanchthon's work, which would protect Christian minority groups. But Brenz was no weak-willed or spineless reformer. He had joined Luther's movement in 1518 after the Heidelberg Disputation and wrote against the practice of re-baptizing.
But he noted that the secular sword could not be used for ecclesiastical offenses. Brenz used the language of "two realms" and believed that only sedition could be punished, not heterodoxy. Brenz's ideas would be popular as a theory but rarely put into practice. However, as questions of tolerance were increasingly raised, Brenz thought on the matter was re-engaged, and the idea of "two realms" would morph into what we today call "two kingdoms." And it was on this day, amid turmoil, revolt, and the general rowdiness of the 1520s, that Brenz published his tract to stop the persecution of his rival anabaptists.
The reading for today comes from Alice Meynell, "Easter Night."
All night had shout of men
And cry of woeful women filled his way;
Until that noon of sombre sky
On Friday, clamour and display smote him;
No solitude had He,
No silence, since Gethsemane.
Public was death;
But power, but Might,
But life again, but Victory,
Were hushed within the dead of night,
The shuttered dark, the secrecy.
And all alone, alone, alone,
He rose again behind the stone.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 21st of October 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who will punch you if you use the word consubstantiation, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.