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After the Death of Luther —

How the Formula Of Concord Was Forged

Part Eight

The Crypto-Calvinists Triumph

Before Luther’s death most of the doctrinal battles were against the Medieval errors of Roman Catholicism. After his death in 1546 the errors of John Calvin began to undermine Lutheran doctrine.

Calvin’s errors, in this controversy, concerned the two natures of Christ and Lord’s Supper. What someone believes about Christ will inevitably be reflected in what he believes about Holy Communion. Calvin could not believe that the resurrected Christ could pass through solid walls (John 20:19). Similarly, he could not accept the Real Presence of Christ with the elements of the Lord’s Supper. In addition, he separated the work of the Holy Spirit from the Word, so the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism were symbolic and not effective in Calvin’s thought.

Once again, Melanchthon’s unionism, timidity, and lack of honesty played a tragic part in launching the evil Crypto-Calvinist party. His desire for union with Calvin’s Geneva and with Rome caused Melanchthon to change his views and try to strike a compromising position somewhere between the truth, Rome, and Geneva.

As early as 1535 Melanchthon harbored anti-Lutheran views, but hid them from Luther.

By 1540 Melanchthon had changed the Augsburg Confession to conform with Calvin’s views! Many people are still astonished today that Luther’s co-worker could alter a confession of the Lutheran Church on his own. That is why Lutheran denominations adhere to the “Unaltered Augsburg Confession” or UAC, as found on church cornerstones.

Melanchthon urged his followers to dissimulate, to cleverly deceive, rather than reveal their positions to the pure Lutherans. Modern Crypto-Calvinists, in the Church Growth Movement, also refuse to state their doctrinal beliefs.

Joachim Westphal was the first to warn Lutherans of the influence of Calvinism. Confusion was caused by Calvin’s early agreement with the Lutheran position and Melanchthon’s secret conversion. Westphal’s polemics brought out Calvin’s polemics, which clarified the differences between the two confessions.

In Wittenberg a group of Melanchthon’s followers conspired to deliver Luther’s Reformation to the Calvinists, not only by deceiving the Elector August that they were faithful Lutherans, but also by driving out the genuine Lutherans.

The Crypto-Calvinists gathered Melanchthon’s writings into a Corpus Philippicum, with the approval of Melanchthon. The group of writings included Malanchthon’s false doctrine and excluded Luther’s writings. Those who did not subscribe to the document were deposed and driven out of their church positions.

Early success made the Crypto-Calvinists bolder. They surrounded Elector August and convinced him to persecute sincere Lutherans as zealots and trouble-makers. Calvinist books were promoted to such a degree in Wittenberg that Luther’s books remained unsold.

The theologians craftily published a book, Exegesis Perspicua, which advocated union with the Calvinists, surrendering all doctrinal points to Calvin. Their triumph opened the eyes of the naive Elector, but one more stroke completely destroyed them in their cleverness. (To be continued)

— Pastor Gregory L. Jackson