*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 19th of April 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
In the past few months, I have watched three television programs about start-up companies that changed, or almost changed, the world. It’s pretty boilerplate- Venture Capitalist sees up-start with potential despite red flags from the bombastic would-be disrupter.
And there is usually the person who has been around from the beginning, knows the disrupting entrepreneur- maybe even helped found the concept themselves. And, in the Facebook movie, the uber show, the WeWork show… that one person might be just the person to reel in the founder from their flights of fancy.
Today I introduce you to the Reformation version of the start-up's best friend: on this the 19th of April in 1560, Philipp Melanchthon died- he was Luther’s best friend, source of headaches and heartaches- the systematizer of the Wittenberg Reformation. He was called the “teacher of Germany” for his role in the foundation of public schooling in Germany. His name would also become a watchword- later in the 16th century, one might be called a “Philippist” if you were suspected of backsliding from the Lutheran Church.
Let’s look at this fascinating character- a quick note: here at 1517, we have several resources on Melanchthon- check out Lowell Green’s “How Melanchthon Helped Luther Discover the Gospel” from our press— that book has a forward from our Exec. Dir. Scott Keith. Scott also has his book “Meeting Melanchthon” in our store.
PM was born in 1497- called “Philipp Schwartzerd” he later changed the German name for “black earth” to “Melanchthon,” which is Latin for “black earth.”
He was a whiz- especially in Languages. He earned his master's at 15. His uncle was Johann Reuchlin- a humanist who applauded Luther’s early work and suggested Philipp go to Wittenberg.
PM’s Loci Communes (Commonplaces- or systematic theology) is the first Reformation systematic theology and did much to help Luther. (Luther preached and wrote tracts and was a fireball- PM could be the Superego to Luther’s Id)
Melanchthon was also the author of the Augsburg Confession- this is the first full-fledged confession of faith from the Reformation. BUT, like the Commonplaces, Melanchthon liked to revisit his old work and make edits.
As he moved towards a more Reformed understanding of the Lord’s Supper and had qualms with some of Luther’s thoughts on the bondage of the will, he would edit the documents he saw as his own- but the church saw as being collectively owned.
It is not uncommon for Lutherans to make a deal about the “unaltered Augsburg Confession” instead of Philipp’s later edits.
But despite his change in theology regarding these essential doctrines, Luther never ditched him. The famously tempestuous Luther offered the left foot of fellowship to several reformers who deviated from him (the Anabaptists and Calvinists in particular)- didn’t ditch Phil.
By 1535 Philipp had published a new edition of his commonplaces that revealed his changing theology- but his relationship with Luther didn’t change. Melanchthon's most notorious act- agreeing to compromise with the Catholic emperor- happened after Luther’s death.
But I think it’s fair to see Luther’s friendship with Philipp as not blinding Luther to a devious usurper but seeing the friendship as revelatory for Luther. Martin could spit and kick at the guys he disagreed with from a distance- but the strong bond between the Wittenberg Reformers allowed for some disagreement.
I spent the Summer of 2004 in Wittenberg- doing language study at the Leuchoria- a school set up by Melanchthon himself- next to his house, which was next to Luther’s house- their University, Church, and the printing press and studio of Lucas Cranach. These three are the original Wittenberg Reformers- before “Lutheran” was anything but a pejorative, these men were shaping the Reformation- and the great systematizer was the man we remember today- Philip Melanchthon. He died on this day in 1560. Born in 1497, he was 63 years old.
The last word for today comes from the common lectionary- it is from Psalm 118 and is a whopping two verses:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 19th of April 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man with no time for new start-ups- he’s waiting for Friendster, Quibi, and Jawbone to make comebacks. He Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who would like to tell you about a great opportunity I have for me and you, it’s the wave of the future and my free consultation service can set you up with…. I’m 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.