*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 15th of March 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
While spending my time reading and thinking about church history, one of the things I take great comfort in is the idea that, to the best of her ability, the church has tried to find a broad consensus in theology and practice.
Sure, there is a tragic amount of disunity in the church. On this podcast, we talk about some of the reasons why- BUT, we also know of so many councils and synods and other meetings where a diverse body of Christians could discuss and debate critical issues pertaining to doctrine and life.
One of the tragedies of any church schism is that these groups are often forever separated- our councils today look nothing like the council of Nicea.
And one of the unfortunate side effects of the Reformation is that after the 16th century, Protestants would have their increasingly smaller church bodies make decisions- Creeds and councils and confessions would become as numerous as there were church bodies.
Today we remember one of the very last- and perhaps the most significant- of these Church meetings during the age of the Reformation.
On this, on the 15th of March (the Ides of March!) in 1529, Catholic and Protestant magistrates met at the second Diet of Speyer- this was a big deal- let’s break down a few of the basic facts.
A “Diet” in German is an assembly- and so this was the second assembly meeting in Speyer- a town in southwest Germany near the French border. The first Diet of Speyer took place three years earlier, in 1526. This first Diet of Speyer resulted from the Diet of Worms in 1521.
If you haven’t spent much time in early Lutheran history or Early Modern Church history, you might get a kick out of something called the Diet of Worms. Nonetheless, it was there that Luther famously stood in front of the Emperor and proclaimed, “Here I stand, I can do no other” upon refusing to recant his works.
His elector famously kidnaps Luther to keep him safe. The Reformation kicks off in Wittenberg and around Germany. The emperor Charles was afraid of losing large swaths of his Empire. Not to mention, remember how Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 and was now Istanbul? Well, those same Turks had made their way through Hungary and parts of modern Austria and were knocking on the door of Charles’ Holy Roman Empire.
Charles could not have a division in his church with the Turks on the border- and he could not lose the German peoples. And so the FIRST Diet of Speyer was called in 1526, and it was agreed upon that the prince or magistrate of any particular region could dictate the theology of its realm- certain kinds of Reformation Christianity would thus be legal (this looks like the ultimate Reformation settlement of 1555).
But, by 1529, the Reformation continued its rapid spread throughout Europe.
And the agreement from the first diet of Speyer was seen by some as inconclusive as to how other reformation church bodies should be treated (primarily the Calvinists who were despised by Catholics and Lutherans alike).
And so the Second Diet of Speyer was convened on this day- and Ferdinand of Austria (the brother of Charles V) would preside. There were several takeaways from this Diet, but all pale in comparison to the revocation of the Edicts of the First Diet of Speyer and a re-invocation of the judgments of the Diet of Worms, which condemned Luther and his followers. Any hope of a peaceful conclusion may have been lost.
Several German princes who were pro-reform wanted to make their opposition known. Elector John the Steadfast, along with Phillip Melanchthon and about 20 others, drew up the “Instrument of Appellation”- this was their formal protest against the Empire. This formal protest would give these men and their followers an appellation all their own: “Protestants.” This is the birth of that term- it comes from the second Diet of Speyer.
There’s some silly arguing about who is or isn’t a Protestant. Technically- if you aren’t one of the 20 or so men who signed this document, you aren’t a Protestant. If you fall into a church body that has the Reformation as its genesis, though, you’re a Protestant.
And all of these fun word games come from that second diet of Speyer, which commenced on this, the 15th of March in 1529.
The Last word for today comes from the end of Psalm 27 in the Scottish Metrical Psalter.
13 I fainted had, unless that I
believed had to see
The Lord's own goodness in the land
of them that living be.
14 Wait on the Lord, and be thou strong,
and he shall strength afford
Unto thine heart; yea, do thou wait,
I say, upon the Lord.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 15th of March 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man for whom a German diet consists of Limburger cheese and blood sausage. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who could go for some pork knuckle, tongue sausage, or raw ground beef in the shape of a hedgehog (a real thing!), 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.