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9397[Covenanted Reformation] Re: Covenanting and Germany

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  • Volker-Jordan@t-online.de
    Dec 6, 2003

      Dear Dan, dear Jerry,

      I do not think that your example is that well-chosen or at least almost unpracticable, since the Reformed churches in Germany never adopted as a whole the Three Forms of Unity. This was, to be sure, the case in the Netherlands, and even (for a short time) in the Reformed church of the Rhineland, when that establishment was not yet independent from the Reformed church in the Netherlands. It still is the case with the Evangelical Old Reformed Church in Lower Saxony (although they themselves have become liberal in our day). But taken as a whole, only the Heidelberg Catechism obtained a universally accepted and subscribed to confessional status throughout the German Reformed churches. In many instances, the Canons of Dordt or the Belgic Confession were/are not even known in those ecclesiastical bodies.

      Regarding the Schmalkaldic League and the Schmalkaldic Articles, I have copied and pasted the relevant articles from the Encyclopaedia Britannica here for our easy reference. Certainly, the Schmalkaldic League was a political defensive alliance against emperor Charles V. with good fruits for Reformation in the participating states, but is thus in no way comparable to the Solemn League & Covenant and its obligations. Besides, only part of the German Protestant territories, and mainly Lutheran ones, joined it. Germany thus cannot be considered a covenanted nation at all.

      Schmalkaldic League

      German Schmalkaldischer Bund, during the German Reformation, a defensive alliance formed by Protestant states of the Holy Roman Empire to defend the newly formed Lutheran churches from attack by the Roman Catholic emperor Charles V. Established in 1531 at Schmalkalden, Ger., the league was led by Philip the Magnanimous of Hesse and John Frederick I of Saxony. Among its other original member states were Brunswick, Anhalt, Mansfeld, Magdeburg, Bremen, Strassburg, and Ulm.

      Fearing that the league would ally itself with his enemy, Francis I of France, Charles was forced to grant it de facto recognition until 1544, when he made peace with Francis. He then began military operations against its leaders and effectively destroyed it by 1547.

      Source: Encyclopædia Britannica, from Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2004 DVD. Copyright © 1994-2003 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. May 30, 2003.

      Because of a certain link to the Schmalkaldic Articles, I am also inserting here the EB entry about the Schmalkaldic Articles:

      Schmalkaldic Articles

      one of the confessions of faith of Lutheranism, written by Martin Luther in 1536. The articles were prepared as the result of a bull issued by Pope Paul III calling for a general council of the Roman Catholic Church to deal with the Reformation movement. (The council was actually postponed several times until it met in Trent in 1545.) John Frederick I, Lutheran elector of Saxony, wished to determine what issues could be negotiated with the Roman Catholics and what could not be compromised. He asked Luther to review earlier statements of faith by the Reformers to determine what was absolutely essential to the faith. After Luther had prepared the articles, he invited several Reformers to Wittenberg to discuss them, and after some minor changes eight theologians signed them. They were then sent to the Elector in January 1537.

      In February 1537 the Protestant secular heads of state who were members of the Schmalkaldic League met with several theologians at Schmalkalden to decide how to deal with a council of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther became ill and could not attend, but John Frederick I presented Luther's articles to the gathering. Because of Luther's somewhat controversial doctrine of the Lord's Supper, Melanchthon urged that the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, previously presented to Emperor Charles V, adequately presented the Reformer's faith and that additional statements should not be added. This decision was adopted and the Schmalkaldic Articles were not officially accepted. They were, however, circulated and read, and 44 theologians signed them as an expression of their personal faith. Subsequently, they were included in the Book of Concord (1580).

      The Schmalkaldic Articles are divided into three sections. The first discusses the unity of God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Christ, and on these subjects Luther believed there was no real controversy between Roman Catholics and Protestants. The second section dealt with Christ and justification by faith. According to Luther, “On this article rests all that we teach and practiceagainst the pope, the devil, and the world.” This section also discusses the mass, monastic orders, and the papacy. The third section discusses 15 articles that could be considered by Roman Catholics and Protestants. It includes such subjects as sin, the Law, repentance, the sacraments, confession, the ministry, and a definition of the church.

      Source: Encyclopædia Britannica, from Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2004 DVD. Copyright © 1994-2003 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. May 30, 2003.

      BTW, Schmalkalden still is a very nice little city with a historical old town centre, situated at the foot of the Thuringian Forest. For those of you which would be interested in visiting the old monuments of the German Reformation, it would certainly be quite useful to see. I have been there several times, and you see there much more pertaining to the Reformation than for example in Heidelberg, where, at least in many cases, not even the Heidelberg Catechism is known to the population.

      Warm regards in Christ,

      Volker Jordan


      (31, freelance translator for Reformed publishing houses, from Germany)

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