Faithful Through the Ages

Faithful Through the Ages

Philip Melanchton – Gentleman German
The body of Philip
Melanchthon (1497 – 1560) appropriately lies buried beside
that of Martin
Luther in Wittenberg. He is considered the second man—the
gentleman—of the
German Reformation, faithfully working alongside Luther for
nearly three
decades. Orphaned at ten, Melanchthon lived with his grandmother
until he
enrolled at the University of Heidelberg at age twelve to study
philosophy, astronomy, and rhetoric. At sixteen he pursued graduate studies in
at the University of Tübingen. A student of Erasmus, he was a
author by the time Luther (fourteen years his senior) was posting
Ninety-five Theses.

Melanchthon’s opposition to scholastic theology
prompted him to question
Catholic dogma and traditions. At the same time he
learned of Luther’s
insights. In 1518 he accepted a post at the University of
Wittenberg, and the
two scholars became life-long partners. Brilliant and
popular, Melanchthon
drew students much like Abelard did four centuries
earlier. He was courted by
other academic institutions, but with Luther and
others playing cupid, he
married Katharina Krapp, daughter of the Wittenberg

One of Melanchthon’s most important achievements was his
contribution, at the
behest of Luther, to the Augsburg Confession. These
twenty-eight articles,
written in both Latin and German, were presented to
Emperor Charles V, who
summoned a Diet at Augsburg in 1530 to settle the
religious differences among
the German princes and people. Melanchthon began
with his usual conciliatory
style, affirming twenty-one statements accepted
by both Catholics and
Reformers. The remaining seven articles focused on
matters disputed with
Catholics, all supported with Scripture. The Augsburg
Confession established
the German Reformation on justification by faith alone
and serves today as a
foundational document of Lutheran belief.

In the
remaining years of his life, Melanchthon was embroiled in family
religious difficulties. Although he was considered by many to be
successor, opponents challenged his loyalty to the Reformation
insisting he was too eager to compromise with Catholics. Harshly
criticized in
his own day, he has been admired in recent generations for his
keen intellect
and his careful scholarship as well as for his efforts to
foster unity among
Christians. He was ever the patient and kind Reformer,
generous to a fault.

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