Crypto-Calvinism

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In the sixteenth century questions arose about how much the influence of Calvin should be allowed to penetrate into Lutheranism. Philip Melanchthon and some of his followers (Philippists) were accused of being too accommodating to Calvin's doctrines and of thus practicing Crypto - Calvinism, or "secret" Calvinism, whereby Calvin's views were covertly being held by members of the Lutheran church. In particular, controversies raged over the Lord's Supper, with debates taking place in Heidelberg, Bremen, and Saxony.

In 1552 Joachim Westphal, an ardent Lutheran, published a book which pointed out divergences between Luther and Calvin, including their differences on the Lord's Supper. Strict Lutherans held views of the ubiquity (omnipresence) of Christ's glorified body, its physical presence in the supper, and the partaking of Christ's body by unbelievers. Melanchthon, however, inclined toward Calvin's view on these issues that Christ was genuinely present at the supper but in a spiritual way, but he did not wish to commit himself publicly. His spirit of conciliation toward the Reformed had earlier led him to change his Augsburg Confession by omitting from its article on the supper the phrase "truly present" and the condemnation of opposite views (1542). But after Melanchthon's death, his views were declared to have been the same as Luther's.

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The Elector Augustus of Wittenberg declared the Philippists to be enemies of the state, expelling or imprisoning all of their leaders. In 1574 a commemorative medal was struck celebrating true Lutheranism's victory. The Formula of Concord (1577) formalized theologically the rejection of the view of Calvin and his followers that the "true, essential, and living body and blood of Christ" become truly present in the Holy Supper only "spiritually by faith."

D K McKim
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

Bibliography
J L Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought, III; K R Hagenbach, A Text Book of the History of Doctrines, II; Mst, II, 597; R Seeberg, Text book of the History of Doctrines; D C Steinmetz, Reformers in the Wings.


Also, see:
Book of Concord. Formula of Concord

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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