PART 16: MARTIN Part 16: LUTHER TRIES TO BRING CLARITY TO CONTROVERSIES  

 

 The First Diet of Speyer (1526)

          The newly formed churches were getting a good start.  Emperor Charles V was away fighting his greatest enemy, France, but the German princes went on holding their diets.  They talked about the “Lutheran problem,” but could not agree on what to do about it.  The enemies of Luther wanted to enforce the Edict of Worms, but his many friends didn’t want to hear about it.  So for five years after the Diet of Worms nothing was done.  Luther went on preaching and teaching in Wittenberg under the protection of the elector of Saxony.

          Some of the Catholic princes decided to band together to wipe out Lutheranism.  When the Lutheran princes of Germany heard of this, they formed the League of Torgau.  They agreed to fight rather than give up their new faith.  Now all of the Germany was split into two camps, Lutheran and Catholic.  When the Diet met in Speyer in 1526, the Catholics and the Lutherans made an important agreement.  They agreed to let each prince control church affairs in his own state as he saw fit.  This meant that Catholic princes would allow only the Catholic religion, and Lutheran princes would support Luther’s new church.  Emperor Charles didn’t like this, but he could do little about it until he finished his wars with France. 

The Second Diet of Speyer (1529)

          Three more years went by, and the Lutherans kept growing stronger.  In 1529 the second Diet of Speyer made another important decision.  In Lutheran states, Catholics as well as Lutherans were to be allowed freedom of worship, but in Catholic states only Catholics would have this freedom.  Of course, the Lutheran princes called this rule unfair.  “We protest before God and before men that we will not agree with the teachings of the Roman Catholic faith. 

The Sacramentarian Controversy and the Marburg Colloquy (1529)

          Luther had been thinking about questions concerning the Lord’s Supper for several years.  Already in 1519 Karlstadt’s ideas about understanding the Words of Institution symbolically had moved Luther to preach a sermon on the subject.  Several others had asked Luther about the Lord’s Supper, and Luther had always made the point that the bread and wine truly were Christ’s body and blood.  Late in 1524 Luther answered a letter from reform-minded pastors’ in Strasbourg, France, asking for his opinion about their idea that the bread and the wine were symbols of Christ’s body and blood.  Their views were close to those of Ulrich Zwingli of Zurich, Switzerland.  They followed Erasmus in their humanistic approach to interpreting Scripture; in their view, any Bible passage not clear to human reason should be interpreted in a way that harmonized with reason.

           In a sharply worded response, Luther said that human reason could not be allowed to change the plain meaning of Scripture.  “This is My body” and “This is My blood” meant just that, even though human reason could not understand how this could be.  Sola Scriptura permitted no other approach to biblical interpretation.  In 1529 Luther and several of his followers meet with Ulrich Zwingli and his followers at Marburg.  Zwingli was attempting to reform the churches in Switzerland much as Luther was doing in Germany.  Philip of Hesse, a Lutheran prince, thought it best if all reform groups would join forces.  He arranged the meeting in Marburg, hoping the men could agree in all the important matters.

          Luther and Zwingli did agree on many points, as expressed in the Marburg Articles, but they disagreed on one very important doctrine- the Lord’s Supper.  Luther insisted that Christ’s body and blood are truly present in the Sacrament.  Zwingli said that the bread and wine only stand for Christ’s body and blood and that Christ is present only in a spiritual way.  Again Luther showed that he was bound by the Holy Scripture.  The words “This is my body” were enough for him.  He accepted them by faith, even though he could not understand how they were true.  For Luther, Zwingli had committed the deadly sin of theology when he placed works above grace and reason above obedience to the Holy Scripture.  Luther beautifully stated the benefits of the Sacrament in the Small Catechism, which he completed in 1529, the same year as the Marburg Colloquy.  Luther and Zwingli parted without joining forces.