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This is just an outstanding scholarly work which incorporates the history of the twenty-five year exegetical debate between Melanchthon and Agricola over poententia. While Agricola sees this as nothing more than the work of the gospel which led the sinner to love the righteousness of Christ, Melanchthon continued to contend for the movement of law to gospel in contrition/justification won the day then, and properly so, as Wengert substantiates. Luther's role is significant, as he was so prone to do, he had in mind the common man's view, so although he could sense that poententia brought about not only fear and terror of God but also love of righteousness, he would not settle to make anyone (let alone the laity) have to make this discretion. In the escalating debate between the two catechisms and commentaries were the vehicles which carried the controversy on. Finally, due to historical circumstances which Wengert documents and presents articulately, Luther introduced his own, which clarified the argument in Philip's favor with his infamous, "we should fear, love and trust" as well as focus on the Decalog and its significant place in the Word's proclamation. Wengert is to be highly commended on this excellent down work. It exhibits the highest in scholarship and research, presented in organized way to follow the debate's development with all its subtle sidebars and backgrounds. Students of the Reformation will be well served by the study of this work. There is a great deal of Latin and German which remains untranslated. However, main points of his developing argument are not greatly affected. It is questionable how the layperson who holds no knowledge of the Confessions nor their background material would have much interest or skill in following this fascinating historical chapter.
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This rather academic work should be read by anyone interested in: (1) Philip Melanchthon's theology and the development of his theological methods and ideas, including his commentaries on Colossians, his Visitation Orders, and the origins of his Third Use of the Law; (2) the development of Law/Gospel theology, ideas on repentence (poenitentia), and the Antinomian controversy within Lutheranism in the 1520s and 1530s; (3) John Agricola's theology from about 1525-1530; and (4) Lutheran catechisms of the 1520s.
This work is primarily centered on Philip Melanchthon and Wegert is both very respectful of Philip and rather positively disposed to his methods and ideas. Wengert provides needed balance to the views of Philip, showing he was both his own theologian as well as the significant positive relationship, esp. in the world of theology, between he and Luther. Agricola and Luther exist in thise work mainly to show either how they "motivate" Philip's writings or their reactions to Melanchthon's ideas.
It is odd that in a work that seemed at first designed to culminate in the Torgau Conference of 1527, the actual conference is rather glossed over and is over by p. 138. Yet, the real heart of the work is afterwards, esp. Philip's commentary on Colossians in the Scholia of 1528 and 1534.
I think Wengert does fail to do adequate justice to one area related to Melanchthon's thoughts. As Graybill clearly discusses in his work Evangelical Free Will: Philip Melanchthon's Doctrinal Journey on the Origins of Faith (Oxford Univ. Press, 2010), Melanchthon was horrified by the reaction against authority and the anarchy exhibited early in the Reformation as shown by people like the Zwickau Prophets (1521-22) and during the Peasant's Revolt (1524-25).Read more ›
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