Chapter 6, “The Aftermath”
In the generations after Marburg the debate about the nature of Jesus’ presence in communion continued. It often takes several generations for a doctrinal dispute to be clarified and settled. However, in this case, Sasse finds the differences have not found resolution. The aftermath of the Marburg Colloquy largely expressed itself in three streams of thought, each associated with an important theologian.
First, Martin Bucer, who represented neither Lutheran nor Zwinglian doctrine, pursued mediation of doctrine through negotiation. He, with Zwingli, did not think the body of Christ could literally and physically be given in communion, but that it was of relatively small importance, as the spiritual nourishment was primary. Bucer was unable to convince Lutherans of this view, as it negated the sacramental union and also failed to deal with the manducatio impiorum which would condemn those who did not rightly accept the true bodily presence of Christ.
Second, Melanchthon departed from Luther’s doctrine of the Real Presence insofar as he looked to Church Fathers for a solid precedent but found disagreement in early Christianity. He adopted a view that the Sacraments were primarily signs of God’s grace rather than that which imparts grace. Melanchthon is sharply criticized for an edition of the Augsburg Confession which altered some language in such a way as to make it acceptable to Calvinists. Though Melanchthon did not consider his alteration to have changed the meaning, many Lutherans have considered it a betrayal.
Third, Calvin made attempts to explain the Lord’s Supper. As a Lutheran he wished to defend Luther’s view. He was, however, influenced heavily bu Bucer, moving away from Jesus’ bodily presence other than in heaven and toward a spiritualized view of the eating and drinking. He finally denies that the unbeliever receives anything but bread and wine. Further he makes the Sacrament a sign, rather than a means of grace.
By 1580 the Formula of Concord emerged, restating and clarifying many of the doctrines of the Augsburg Confession. This document has not been accepted by all Lutherans, in large part due to its strong stand anathematizing those who believe otherwise. Yet it stands calling churches to accept unity which can be found by pursuit of biblical truth.
Sasse leaves us in this chapter with these four patterns, Bucer, Melanchthon, Calvin, and Luther. The four continue to have a strong influence to the present time.