Melanchthon, Philipp (1497-1560)

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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 Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.

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