Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 39:1 (Mar 1996)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

The Colloquy of Montbéliard. Religion and Politics in the Sixteenth Century. By Jill Raitt. Oxford: Oxford University, 1993, 226 pp., n.p.

Because of the gulf that is fixed between historians and theologians, historical theologians live in a virtual academic no-man’s land.

The theologians, who live on one side of the canyon, frequently run into difficulty because they fail to take account of the concrete historical situation in which theology is formulated. Such theologians too often make rash and insupportable generalizations, a failure from which they might have saved themselves with a little more historical savvy. Historians, who live on the other side of the canyon, too often seem squeamish about theological intricacies, which they seem to find uninteresting, unfathomable, or unimportant. Other considerations dominate their minds and texts.

Raitt, an historical theologian, avoids both failings. She lays out adequately the cultural and political setting in which the Colloquy of Montbéliard took place, bringing to life some of the major protagonists, ideas and the historical setting of what was one of the most significant theological and political struggles of the sixteenth century.

Following Luther’s death, Lutheran theology experienced a consolidation. Given that the success of the Reformation was still uncertain, the Lutheran reaction was natural. But the Lutheran consolidation created tension with Zwinglians and Calvinists who felt the need to press on theologically.

After the Peace of Augsburg (1555), tensions between Lutherans and Calvinists intensified considerably because Lutheran Protestantism was now a legal religion in the Empire while Calvinism was not. The 1577 Formula of Concord set the stage for the crisis in Montbéliard.

The central theological issue at Montbéliard was the nature of Christ’s presence in communion. The self-named “authentic” (gnesio) Lutherans, led by J. Andrae, insisted on the communicatio idiomatum, the communication of the properties of both of Christ’s natures such that what can be said of his divine nature can be predicated of his human nature. The Gnesio-Lutherans were “ubiquitarians” where the Calvinists were not. For these Lutherans, if one denied the actual physical presence of Christ in the Supper, one was a rationalist and perhaps even a Deist.

In defense, T. Beza rejected the communication of properties as contrary to Christ’s nature and argued that, though the Calvinists did not believe in a corporeal presence, they did believe in the “true” presence of Christ in the supper. Beza appealed to the same passages offered by Andrae, and on the doctrine of election he appealed...

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