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H. Henry Meeter Center: Specializing in John Calvin, Calvinism, the Reformation, and Early Modern Studies


"German Calvinism in Crisis: The Heidelberg Conflict Over Church Discipline, 1568-1571"

Charles Gunnoe of Aquinas College

Audio Recording of the lecture

Given on November 15, 2007

The “Second Reformation” of Reformed Protestantism in the Holy Roman Empire took a bold step forward with the Electoral Palatinate's publication of the Heidelberg Catechism in 1563. The productive collaboration among Calvinists, Zwinglians, and Melanchthonian Lutherans that the catechism represented proved short lived, however, as the Heidelberg intellectual community exploded in conflict over the question of church discipline and the church's relationship with a Christian sovereign. While Caspar Olevianus, the theological faculty, and the influential Netherlandish exile community advocated in the institution of church discipline along the Genevan consistorial model, the medical professor Thomas Erastus and his increasingly radical partisans wanted to leave oversight of morals in the hands of the state. Ultimately a modified Calvinist conception of church discipline prevailed in the Palatinate, due both the persuasive abilities of the Heidelberg Calvinists and the fact that the “Anti-disciplinist” faction had become discredited when some of its leading members were revealed to be Antitrinitarians.