Syncretistic Controversies

Syncretistic Controversies The title applies in ordinary practice to such disputes only as originated in connection with efforts made in the second half of the 17th century to promote union and fellowship between the Protestant churches of Germany. These disputes raged less between Reformed and Lutheran theologians than between the strict and the liberal wing of the Lutheran Church itself. The progress of controversy, moreover, generally resulted in the interweaving of extraneous and foreign matters with the direct question at issue; and in this way the syncretistic controversies became also disputes with reference to the degree of freedom to be allowed theological schools and theological science, the disputants being known as Gnesiolutherani and Moderatiores. The term syncretism (q.v.) is not broad enough to cover all these several disputes, but is in practice so employed by all parties. Everything prior to the transactions of the year 1645 must be regarded as preliminary to the syncretistic controversies proper. From that date we may distinguish three periods to the death of Calovius and the practical end of the dispute.

1. From the Colloquy of Thorn to the Death of George Calixtus (1645- 56). — Calovius had succeeded in preventing the selection of Calixtus as the delegate of Dantzic to the Colloquy of Thorn; and when the latter was appointed to serve for Konigsberg instead, Calovius caused him to be deprived of all opportunity to co-operate with the Lutheran delegates. Calixtus thereupon associated and counseled with the Reformed theologians, and thereby gave opportunity for his opponents to fasten on him the charge of an unwarrantable combining of diverse religions a charge persistently urged, though he publicly and in writing rejected the Reformed Confession of Thorn. The next measure was a union of all the Saxon theologians, led by Weller, the superintendent of Brunswick, in a censure of the University of Helmstadt, which favored Calixtus, on the alleged ground that it had made innovations in doctrine and had departed from the generally received Consensus Formula et Catechesis Rudiorum. To this Calixtus responded with a denial under date of Feb. 26, 1647; but with no other result than that of increasing the eagerness with which every peculiarity in the teaching of Helmstadt was scanned for the discovery of error. In Prussia, the appointment of the Calixtines Chr. Dreier and Johann Latermann to the faculty of Konigsberg excited similar disputes, which called forth numerous volumes in defense of either side; and Calovius, who had been superseded by Dreier, continued to fan the flame from a distance, even after Myslenta, its originator, had died (in 1653).

The increasing prominence of the electors palatine and Brandenburg was in this period regarded with anxiety by the electoral court of Saxony, and the representatives of the latter, in the Peace Congress of Westphalia, had standing instructions, accordingly, to prevent, if possible, the concession of rights to the Reformed churches equal to those enjoyed by the Lutheran; but the endeavor failed altogether. The class of Lutheran theologians 'which approved the action of the congress in this regard was accordingly not in favor in electoral Saxony; and as early as Jan. 21, 1648, the theologians of Wittenberg and Leipsic were commanded to investigate the errors of the Helmstadt theologians, and state them "article by article." In the following year the elector addressed to the dukes of Brunswick a paper in which he rehearsed all the objections of his theologians against Calixtus and Helmstadt, and requested that the latter, as disturbers of the Church and State, should be forbidden to write against the Saxon divines. In November, 1650, Calovius, the redoubtable defender of Lutheran orthodoxy, was called to the faculty of Wittenberg. An immense quantity of controversial writings preceded and followed this event. The dukes of Brunswick refused to accede to the request to silence their theologians, and caused a defense of their position to be written by Horneius, and a reply to the elector by Calixtus himself; and they also rejected the proposition to convene a diet of theologians, as tending rather to increase than diminish the troubles of the Church. They proposed instead a convention of "political councilors who love peace and are acquainted with affairs; but this was rejected by Saxony. On Jan. 9,1654, twenty-four accredited representatives of evangelical powers united in a renewed proposition to submit the questions in dispute to a body of peacefully inclined theologians and statesmen for discussion; but the elector of Saxony, acting under the advice of, his theologians, would not entertain the project. The Saxons now pursued the plan of dismissing the party of Helmstadt from the Lutheran Church more zealously than before, and in the course of their labors produced a work which was expected to serve as the confession of faith of all who would continue in the purified Church-the Consensus Repetitus Fidei vere Lutherance. To secure the largest possible number of supporters, a mass of writings in harmony with its teachings was issued; but it became speedily apparent that but few were ready to adopt the new confession, and this fact, coupled with the death of George Calixtus in the spring of 1656, caused a cessation of the strife.

Five years of almost total quiet ensued, interrupted only by slight agitations in Brandenburg, where the Lutheran preacher Samuel Pomarius (q.v.) was suspended for preaching against the Reformed and the syncretists. This period was followed, however, by Renewed Conflicts (1661-69). — The immediate occasion of strife was found in the measures taken by the landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, William VI, to secure a religious constitution for his land which should be sufficiently broad and generous to comprehend both Lutherans and Reformed under its operation. His endeavors culminated in a convention, which met at Cassel consisting of two members of the (Reformed) University of Marburg and two theologians belonging to the (Lutheran) faculty of Rinteln. A declaration was drawn up which recognized existing divergences of opinion between the parties, but at the same-time showed an agreement between them on all essential matters, and on the ground of such consent urged the exercise of brotherly love and the recognition of both parties as belonging to one Church, sharing in a common faith and looking towards a common heaven. The appearance of this declaration roused the Wittenbergers to action. They issued a circular asking the support of all good Lutherans against the Cassel colloquy, and induced the faculties of Jena and Leipsic to unite with them in admonishing the theologians of Rinteln concerning the lapse of which they had been guilty. A fusilade of papers in Latin and German, aimed at both the learned world and the public, was now kept up until after the death of William VI, in 1666, when the zeal of Rinteln became much cooler in consequence of benefits conferred, on the Reformed at the expense of the Lutheran party.

The renewal of the dispute in Hesse soon, reacted upon Brandenburg, whose duke was brother-in-law to the landgrave, and thoroughly in sympathy with his plans. The government issued a manifesto deprecating the custom of discussing points of controversy in the pulpit and before mixed audiences, and soon afterwards (Aug. 21, 1663) a colloquy was summoned to Berlin for the purpose of "inaugurating a state of fraternal unity." The Lutherans, however, proved unyielding, the poet Paul Gerhardt (q.v.) in particular being fixed in his opposition to any compromise, and the colloquy ended without result. Various orders now followed in quick succession, by which preachers were forbidden to apply opprobrious names to their opponents in the pulpit, and also to attribute to them doctrines inferred from their principles, but not avowed by them. The Lutherans refused to sign a pledge of obedience to these edicts, this being in their eyes tantamount to a formal abandonment of their position. The government eventually compelled them to yield, though many chose deposition from office and exile rather than submission.

A new phase of the dispute began in 1664 with the publication of a great collection of Consilia Theologica Witebergensia, which included a multitude of judgments against Calixtus and the syncretists, and also the Consensus Repetitus Fidei vere Lutherance. The exclusion of the syncretists was now less aimed at than the rallying of all strict Lutherans about the Consensus as a new confession of faith. The terms of the Consensus, however, implicitly condemned Calixtus and his adherents as non-Lutheran and heretical; and the new movement accordingly drew out the son of Calixtus, Frederick Ulric, who from this time made it the object of his life to resist the persistent attacks of Calovius on his father's character and work. Both were extremists, and could not substantiate all the assertions they put forth; but the party of Calovius triumphed over Calixtus for a time through the efforts of a new combatant whom they had gained to their support-the youthful Strauch, professor of history and assessor in theology at Wittenberg. The University of Helmstadt, on the other hand, enlisted the services of Herman Conring (q.v.), a scholar and statesman of European fame, and he succeeded in so presenting to view the danger to the peace of the Church and to the liberty of teaching which grew out of the attempt to force the Consensus upon the Church as a confession of faith, that universities and princes were alarmed, and a period of quiet was secured, 1669.

3. Final Confiict. — Calovius reopened the war in 1675 with accustomed energy; and, although the temper of the time was changing, and disgust with the interminable quarrel began to be manifested, he was able, by 1679, to compel the entire University of Jena to disavow all sympathy with syncretism. This, however, proved to be his last victory. His aged patron, the elector Johann Georg II of Saxony, died in the following year, and the new ruler was not so fond of controversy as the old one had been. In 1682 the Historia-Syncr., which Calovius had made a storehouse of the details of his life-long contest, and published anonymously to evade the law forbidding such publications, was bought up and prevented from circulating among the people by the government. He died of apoplexy Feb. 21, 1686. No considerable features in connection with the syncretistic controversy appear after the death of Calovius. Lutherans and members of the Reformed Church in Germany neither desired nor sought fraternity with each other during more than another century. When the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes occurred, in 1685, only the Reformed population in Germany welcomed the fugitive Protestants from France. The end of the controversy-a peaceful separation between theology and religion, the regulation of the boundaries intervening between Church and school, between confession and science, between that which is and that which is not, obligatory upon all Christians was not attained. Calovius held pure doctrine to be the one thing needful, and regarded that as fixed and settled, so that every soul is required to simply accept it as the truth. Calixtus did not believe the acceptance of doctrine to be, upon the whole, the essential thing in Christianity, nor that all doctrine has equal importance; and he held that the points of belief which a Christian absolutely must receive are but few. He was thus able to overlook minor differences and desire fraternity among all Protestant Christians.

The literature of the controversy is vast. See especially Calovius, Hist. Syncret.; Walch, Streitigkeiten d. luth. Kirche, pt. 1 and 4; Tholuck, Akad. Leben d. 17ten Jahrh. (1854), pt. 2; id. Lebenszeugen d. luth. Kirche (Berl. 1859); id. Kirchl. Leben d. 17ten Jahrh. (ibid. 1861) Gass, Gesch. d.prot. Dogmatik (ibid. 1857), vol. 2; and the works mentioned s.v. "Calixtus, George." — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.

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