Conciliators of the Reformation

Hewer, Christopher T (1987). Conciliators of the Reformation. The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f7da

Abstract

This thesis sets out to show that there were men of conciliatory nature involved at the highest level of negotiations between the various parties in the 16th century Reformation. It focuses on Philip Melanchthon, the close friend and ally of Martin Luther, who represented the Evangelical cause in many colloquies. As the author of the Augsburg Confession he ranks among the greatest theologians of the period yet he was suspected of being too compliant and was at times called both crypto-Catholic and crypto-Calvinist. Melanchthon is unique in that he spent forty years of his life in discussions with humanists. Catholics and Protestants always seeking to find the middle way on which all men of goodwill could agree. Melanchthon was fired with a desire to reform a united Church but not at any cost. It is the mark of the conciliator that, while he will give unimportant ground wherever necessary, ultimately he will hold firm to his conscience and will not sacrifice his integrity for any apparent gain. A conciliator is by no means weak but rather the strongest of men.

Melanchthon was not the only conciliator. There were men of a similar disposition on all sides who will be referred to here in dialogue with Melanchthon. A special section is devoted to the last real attempt at reconciliation, the Diet of Regensburg. It is viewed through the eyes of Cardinal Caspar Contarini, the Papal Legate. Contarini risked much in his attempt at reconciliation which was doomed to failure.

By following Melanchthon and Contarini along their tortuous paths the thesis will bring out the nature of conciliation, its potential and analyse the Herculean effort which was expended in an attempt to restore the glorious unity of the Church with fidelity to the will of God as they perceived it.

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