Diet of Augsburg, 1530

TalkReformation Era: History and Literature

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Diet of Augsburg, 1530

Edited: Mar 19, 7:35pm

I thought I’d just share my notes from one passage of Lyndal Roper’s Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet about the Diet of Augsburg in 1530. At that time, Philipp Melanchthon was negotiating for the Lutherans. Luther was at a castle in Coberg and, by correspondence, actually, played a disruptive role, according to Roper. There was a possibility in these negotiations to bring a certain level of peace, and even avoid the complete schism of the Christian Church, making it, to some extent, one church again. Here are some of the things both Churches were willing to compromise on.

The Sacrament - “… it appeared that the Catholics side was surprisingly willing to allow the Lutherans to give the chalice to the laity, if they also taught that receiving the sacrament in one kind (bread only) … was sufficient for salvation.” (p. 327)

Clerical marriage - “The Catholics were again willing to tolerate those marriages that had already taken place ‘until a council is held’ …” (p. 327)

Salvation - “Moreover, on the fundamental issue of the Reformation, the Catholics were even apparently ready to agree that salvation is by faith and grace, not by works alone - an extraordinary concession, and an apparent victory for Augustinian theology.” (pp. 327-28)

Confession before Mass - Luther “was happy to reinstitute compulsory confession before Mass, as long as people should not be compelled to confess absolutely every sin, as it would only burden their consciences.” (p. 328)

Bishops - Luther “showed a surprising willingness to compromise. Their offices and jurisdiction could certainly be reinstituted,” (p.328) but the sacramentarians (those who believed in the symbolic bread and wine only) and the Nurembergers had issues with that. “As many evangelicals saw it, giving the bishops back their power would allow them to rule over the Lutherans once more, and before long burn them as heretics.” (p.328)

I think this shows an incredible flexibility on both sides to compromise. Melanchthon knew that on the other side of the negotiations lay war, and Roper accentuates this. She says that since the sacramentarians (or Reformed evangelicals) were kept out of the negotiations in 1530, they would also be kept out of the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 - “contributing eventually to the Thirty Years’ War.”

This shows us, in our own century, how unexpectedly great the possibility of peace can be - when we compromise, and when we learn to understand and tolerate the other side. It also shows how close we can come to success and yet still fail, as the Diet of Augsburg itself failed to come up with an agreement. The result for them was, eventually, the Thirty Years’ War, one of the most destructive and appalling wars in European history.

This is only one passage of Roper’s book, showing how easily she can encapsulate the issues (although she does spend some time on the Diet of Augsburg). The book, of course, centers mostly on Luther and takes a social view of his life. How can we understand this man who had such a gargantuan influence on the Christian Church and its history? This book helps with that project: outlining his influences and describing in detail the kind of man he was.