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Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) wrote the Confession of Augsburg (1530), one
of the defining statements of the Lutheran faith. He was a classicist, reformer,
theologian, educator, and close friend of Martin Luther. Melanchthon was also,
for the most part, a strong defender of Luther's religious views.
Initially, Melanchthon accepted Luther's notion of justification by faith alone,
which took the strong Augustinian position on the futility of man's will to
effect salvation. Eventually, however, his deep interest in moral philosophy
led him to argue that the individual must have at least the capacity to accept
God's salvation in order to be held accountable for his actions and so become
a man of faith. Such an individual would naturally seek to do good works. This
led Melanchthon to make a fine distinction indeed between his view of justification
by faith and the notion of merit through good works, arguing that it is not
the works themselves that merit the saving of the soul, but rather they are
an outward sign of the faith within. Luther, by contrast, would not allow good
works to be an indication of salvation to any degree. Melanchthon was one of
the principal Protestants involved in discussions of reconciliation with the
Catholics, but the effort failed because he refused to compromise on issues
of justification by faith and the authority of Scripture.
During Luther's captivity (1521), Melanchthon became the leader of the Reformation
in Wittenberg and published Loci communes, the first comprehensive
presentation of Protestant doctrine. Melanchthon later participated in the Diet
of Augsburg (1529) and wrote the Augsburg Confession (1530), a forceful statement
of the reform and evangelical ideals that has influenced all subsequent Protestant
creeds. In response to criticism that the Confession included undesirable compromises,
Melanchthon published the Apology for the Confession of Augsburg (1531), restating
the original positions and denying any changes. Both works are important sources
of Lutheran doctrine.
During his time in Wittenberg, Melanchthon reorganized the school system, initiating
a model that was copied by nearly all of Germany. His educational theories and
textbooks became profoundly influential, and his expertise was enlisted for
the founding of universities in Jena, Königsberg, and Marburg, and for
reforming others. On his death, he was buried next to Luther.
Works by the Author
Melanchthon, Philipp. The Loci Cummunes of Philip Melanchthon. Translated
by Charles Leander Hill. Boston: Meandor Publishing Company, 1944.
The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The
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