Archive for November 2012

Lutheran Church in Czech Republic

Prague was the fourth Central European Capital in three days, where we met with Lutheran pastors and church leaders from the ECAV in Czech Republic (Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Czech Republic). This is not the only Lutheran Church in the Czech Republic, for instance the Silesian Lutheran Church near the Polish boarder is much larger. Our route did not take us to Silesia but from Bratislava, Slovakia, to Brno and then to Prague.

In Brno, we met with two pastors of the local Lutheran church. Pastors Martin and Jaroslav took us to dinner near St. Peter and Paul in Brno.


Pastor Martin told the story of how he became both a Christian and a Lutheran. He said that he was a musician and he discovered J.S. Bach. He said the music drew him to study the text. The words of the Gospel in Bach’s music, caused him to seek a church. Bach is as some say the “Fifth Evangelist.”


He began attending a Czech Brethren Church. He said I thought they were Lutheran, but they were not. Instead they were Reformed. Later, I found the Lutheran church. I asked him given his experience was using Bach’s music an effective evangelism tool for people in the Czech Republic, or in Europe. Pastor Martin replied, “Absolutely not. Bach reached me because I was a musician and I had a deep desire to understand what motivated him to produce such beautiful music. Bach’s love of Christ and understanding of the Gospel drove his music. Most people would not seek a church because of Bach’s music.” Pastor Martin’s insights were very interesting, especially as people seek creative ways to reach people with the Gospel. Although Bach was effective for him, he did not believe it would be successful for many other people.

Pastor Jaroslav told us how he studied to be a pastor “underground” during communism.


The next day, I met with Pastor David Jurech and Vicar Dalibor Vik at the new offices of the ECAV in Czech Republic. Dalibor Vik had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta, Georgia, with Superintendent Marian Čop for the International Conference on Confessional Leadership. He enjoyed the conference very much and found the Reformation worship particularly meaningful. It also provided an opportunity for church leaders from the Czech Republic to connect with leaders from Lithuania and Siberia, Russia.


Pastor Jurech also explained how the government restitutions would affect the Lutheran Church in the Czech Republic. A challenge is that the government will no longer pay the salaries of pastors. An opportunity is that the government will pay restitutions for oppressing the church during communism. If these funds are managed wisely, the church has not only more freedom but the possibility to flourish in a way it could not under the ld system. Pastor Jurech said, “It will give us am opportunity to teach Biblical stewardship. This is something our people have new had to learn until now.”


St. Michael Lutheran Church in Prague.

In the “tradition” of this trip, an article on Lutheranism in the Czech Republic is provided. In this case, the article describes why Lutheranism has struggled to exist in the Czech Republic.

- Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations.

The Eclipse of Lutheranism in 17th-Cenairy Czechoslovakia

MARIANKA SASHA FOUSEK

CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY, November 1966.

THE AREA

T his article is concerned with the fate of Lutheranism in “Czechoslovakia” in the 17th century. I am using the some-what anachronistic name “Czechoslovakia” for this area as a convenient symbol for both the Czech lands, that is, the crown lands of Bohemia, and the Slovak territory under Hungary. The Czech lands, often referred to also as the crown lands of St. Wenceslas, included Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and Lusatia. Slovakia on the other hand belonged to the Hungarian crown of St. Stephen ever since the Magyar invasion of the Danube valley in the 11th century. Thus in spite of the close cultural and ethnic ties, there was no political tie be-tween the Czech lands and Slovakia except when a Bohemian king happened to wear the crown of St. Stephen also. Such unity as did exist among the Czech lands was rather loose. Bohemia is, of course, the center, but there was also much going on in Moravia, and events in Bohe-mia did not always involve Moravia. Mora-via was a semiautonomous land. Closely tied to Bohemia historically and politically, Moravia nevertheless had its own diet or assembly of estates, and its own laws, and at times Moravia and Bohemia took in-dependent courses of action, each at cross-purposes with the other. Nonetheless, the destinies of the two lands and of the Lu-theran Church in them were closely tied together. Ultimately they always shared the same fate. Silesia had a status something

like that of an annexed province. It also had its own diet and laws and its own way of life. Nevertheless, Silesia was politically much more dependent on Bohemia than was Moravia; the relations between the Silesians and the Bohemian Czechs were not very cordial, since the Silesians resented the Czech sovereignty over their land. Lusatia had a somewhat similar status and was even worse off in its relationship of dependence on Bohemia than was Moravia or Silesia. Ethnically most of the population of the Czechoslovak territory was Slavic, with the Czechs living in Bohemia and Moravia and the Slovaks in Slovakia. The Lusatians and the Silesians were by and large also Slavic, but the cities of Silesia were mainly German. Moravia and Bohemia also had their strong German minorities. German colonies were especially strong in Moravian cities and in the cities of Slovakia. Nat-urally Slovakia had also a strong Hun-garian minority, since the ruling class there was largely Hungarian. The area of Czechoslovakia therefore presents a rather complicated and heterogeneous political and ethnic picture. Yet it so happens that all of the lands of Czechoslovakia were under the same ruling house since the election of the Hapsburg Ferdinand I as king of Bohemia in 1526. However, he ruled each land as a separate entity, simply accumu-lating in his person the title to all these lands. And there were even short periods 628

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when the Hapsburg yoke would be thrown off in one part of Czechoslovakia while it was still borne by the rest of the area. The formal defeat of the Reformation in the Czech lands came, of course, with the defeat of the insurgent Bohemian estates at the battle on the White Hill, or Mountain, in November 1620. The defeat was sealed when all religious nonconform-ity was outlawed by the new constitution the Hapsburgs gave Bohemia and Moravia in 1627. The eclipse of the Reformation in Slovakia came somewhat later. The downfall of Lutherans in Czechoslovakia was long in the making. It was caused by a complex of factors, and we shall have to examine its total historical-political-social setting in order to understand this tragedy.

THE POLITICAL SETTING The central government in the period preceding the defeat of the Protestant estates in 1620 was weak. (The term “Protestant” is used in this article as a gen-eral designation for all the non-Roman Catholic parties — Lutheran, Reformed, Utraquist, and the Unitas Fratrum.) In his day, Ferdinand I had tried rather hard to centralize the government and to attain more power for the crown. The estates resisted him as much as they could, how-ever, and he succeeded in subduing the autonomy of the cities but not of the no-bility. Ferdinand took advantage of the defeat of the Smalcald League in 1547, a war in which the Czech estates had been involved on the side of the Lutherans. As the Smalcald War was regarded in its Czech aspects as a rebellion against the king, the king could legitimately punish the estates, once the imperial armies had defeated the Protestant armies. Ferdinand very cleverly revenged himself only against

the cities and “graciously” pardoned the nobility. Thus he divided the opposition, creating hatred between the now powerless cities and the higher nobility, which came out of the defeat unscathed. Ferdinand took away the privileges of the cities and thus broke the backbone of the people, be-cause the cities represented the more demo-cratic element in the nation. The cleavage between the cities and the feudal magnates had already been great before. The widen-ing of the breach contributed heavily to the defeat of the Lutherans in 1620. Al-though sharing the same faith, the cities were not eager to defend the cause of the nobles, which is what they considered the rebellion of the Czech estates against the Hapsburgs in 1618 to be.

THE SOCIAL SITUATION The defeat of the Czech cities also had disastrous economic consequences for the nation. The punitive tax burdens imposed on the cities by Ferdinand and the restric-tive laws and government he imposed on the cities crippled the economic life of the cities and thus blighted the economy of the whole country. A lack of financial re-sources was an important reason for the defeat of the Lutheran cause in 1620. The peasants were in an even worse plight. This, too, was an important reason for the defeat of Lutheranism in 1620. In the 15 th century, the Hussite armies were able to ward off an army much superior to theirs, but in the 17th century the defeat of the Reformation camp was almost effort-less. What caused the difference? One of the reasons for this is the social transforma-tion of the Czech nation from the 15 th to the 17th century. In the 15 th century the peasants were free; in the 17th century they were serfs. The 15th-century Hussite wars

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had so decimated the population that the small farmer had become forcibly tied to the land in order to provide a work force for the feudal lord. The serfs not only were economically destitute but also had no legal privileges, no rights, no possibility of appeal beyond their local feudal lords. In the 16th and 17th centuries the feudal lords failed to identify themselves with their people, and thus the people had little sense of a common cause with the nobility and of involvement in the life of the na-tion. In the 15 th century when the peasants were fighting for the faith, they were fight-ing for their own cause; in the 17th cen-tury the fight seemed to be less for the faith and much more for the cause of the nobles. Naturally the peasants did not feel personally involved, and they had no enthu-siasm or interest for the battle.

THB SITUATION IN SLOVAKIA In Slovakia the situation was somewhat different. In one way it was almost worse, but in another way it was better than in the Czech lands. The feudal magnates had even greater power in Slovakia than they had in the Czech territories to the west. Hungary was almost an oligarchy. Because of the constant threat of the Turks in Slo-vakia, the king had to compromise with the estates even more than in Bohemia and Moravia. The Protestant estates in Slovakia could use the threat of the Turks as a lever against the king and thus gain concessions from him. He needed their support in the fight against the Turks. There was no such immediate danger in Bohemia or Moravia. The independence of the feudal magnates in Slovakia made it possible for them to protect their respective Protestant faiths against the king much more effectively than was possible in Bohemia or Moravia. The

prince of Transylvania, for example, was almost an independent power vis-à-vis the king. He became a Calvinist and a strong protector of all Protestants in Slovakia. Thus there was more religous freedom in Slovakia than in Bohemia or Moravia, in spite of the fact that all three lands were governed by the same king. From this point of view the situation in Slovakia was better than in the Czech lands. For this reason, too, Protestants, including Lu-therans, were never as effectively wiped out in Slovakia as they were in Bohemia or Moravia. A strong Lutheran minority sur-vived among the Slovaks, whereas the de-feat of Lutheranism among the Czechs was overwhelming.

On the other hand, the Slovaks had the terrible problem of a constant decimation of the population and an ongoing pillaging resulting from the never ending warfare against the Turks. Damage came not only from the Turks but also from the ever present imperial army stationed in Slo-vakia. In addition to this, there were the constant local uprisings among the feudal magnates, uprisings in which the common people were compelled to take part. The continuous warfare was in a sense both a disadvantage and an advantage to the people of Slovakia. The Czechs had a long period of peace. There had really been no war on Czech soil since the Hussite wars. This means that there had been about 150 years of peace for the Czechs when the Thirty Years’ War broke out in 1618. As a consequence of this long period of peace, the people had lost all military force, and there was no draft to call for military skills or for military leaders. There was simply no Czech army and no presuppositions for it. When Ferdinand called the people to

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arms in the Smalcald War, the footsoldiers, the serfs, were in such poor physical shape and so lacking in morale that there was no point in bothering with them. The king simply sent them home. The military pre-paredness of the Slovaks was, by contrast, more favorable to the defense and survival of the Reformation.

THE CHURCH SITUATION The great majority of the Czechs and Slovaks were Protestant. Although accurate statistics are unavailable, it is thought that about 90 percent of the population was Protestant. Eighty percent of the nation probably was Lutheran, perhaps 10 percent Reformed or Czech Brethren, and the re-mainder Roman Catholic.

Utraquism In the 15th century the majority of the Czech population was Hussite. Hussitism was a very heterogeneous classification in the 15 th century. What survived of it into the 16th century was, on the one hand, the very conservative attempt at an uneasy modus vivendi with Rome, the so-called Utraquist party, and on the other hand, the more radical but very small Unitas Fra-trum. There was really very little that dis-tinguished the life and beliefs of the early-loth-century Utraquist from the Roman Catholic. The distinguishing mark of Utraquism was, of course, the chalice for the laity. According to Utraquist theologi-ans, Communion “under both kinds” was not merely a more apostolic practice, but it belonged to the essence of Communion: the communicant who did not receive the cup did not receive the blood of Christ. The chalice acquired a great emotional, symbolic, and almost mystical significance for the Czech people. It was the primary

symbol of their heroic fight for obedience to the Word of God following Huss’ con-demnation by hierarchy and empire.

the Bohemian Brethren The Bohemian Brethren, or the Unitas Fratrum, originated as a protest group within Utraquism, from which they split off in 1467 by setting up their own schis-matic ministry. The Brethren were consid-ered heretical by the Hussites and were frequently persecuted by them. It was only the influence of the central European Ref-ormation on both Utraquists and the Bohe-mian Brethren that finally brought the two groups somewhat together.

The Lutheran Influence Lutheran influence in Czechoslovakia was very strong. It transformed the greater part of Utraquism, exerted a deep influence on the Bohemian Brethren, and in Slovakia, Lusatia, and Silesia it appears to have won over the majority of the population. Under the impact of the Reformation from neighboring Germany, Czech Utra-quism split into two groups, the Neo-utraquists and the Old Utraquists. Neo-utraquism became, in effect, Czech Lu-theranism, while Old Utraquism stuck to the minimal differences between itself and Rome and was eager for reconciliation with Rome. The Old Utraquists retained the loyalty of only a very small part of the population. If they had not received the active support of the king, they would have disappeared altogether. The king was very eager to preserve the Old Utraquists be-cause to him they were not heretical. He wanted to use the constitutional freedoms guaranteed to the Utraquists as a means of crushing the Neoutraquists by insisting that the freedoms had been meant only for

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the Old Utraquists. The king naturally did not consider the Neoutraquists bona fide Utraquists but Lutherans. The Neoutra-quists defended themselves, insisting that they were the true successors and heirs of the old Hussites. They were convinced not only that Hussitism and Lutheranism were related but that Lutheranism was really the daughter of Hussitism. They were quite sure that the Lutheran Reformation was a result of Hussite influence on Luther and his disciples. Thus when Lutheranism came from Germany to Bohemia, it was simply returning to its original home, they claimed. The Neoutraquists were con-vinced that they were continuing, or rather reviving, the old tradition of the fathers that had been forgotten for a while. Now, although Lutheranism and Hussitism dif-fered doctrinally in many very important aspeas, the Neoutraquists were perhaps not quite so far off in their insistance on the tie between the two reformations. They sensed that Luther and his followers were carrying the spirit of Hussite reform, which after all called for a radical reformation of the life of the church according to the Gospel and not for mere changes in the ritual.

The Bohemian Brethren were also influ-enced by Luther. The Reformer himself approved of the confession of the Brethren published under his auspices in Germany in 1535, and there was a period when the Unitas was under the influence of real Lutheranism. The Bohemian Brethren, however, did not long remain very truly Lutheran. One of the characteristics of the Bohemian Brethren was their stress on church discipline and order. This was one of the principal reasons, if not the reason, for their original split from the Hussite

camp. They had felt that the lack of dis-cipline in the Roman communion, includ-ing the Utraquist segment, was dangerous to salvation because an impenitent com-municant was eating damnation to himself at Communion. The easy way in which the priests were giving people absolution, the Brethren felt, was a way of pushing people right into hell, because the false security this gave to them prevented them from ever arriving at true repentance. They therefore started their communion, or their Unitas, as a community of brotherly dis-cipline, a discipline carried out with great consistence. They retained their concern when everyone around them was captured by enthusiasm for the Saxon reformers. They were profoundly disturbed by the evi-dent lack of discipline in the Lutheran churches. Luther had voiced admiration for the discipline of the Brethren and had ex-pressed the hope that one day he would be able to introduce a similar discipline into the churches in Germany. When Calvinism emerged, the Bohemian Brethren were at-tracted to it, not so much because of its doctrine as because of its discipline. The Unitas, like the Utraquists, sent their stu-dents to study in Germany at the various evangelical universities there. At first most of the Czech students were sent to Witten-berg. When Wittenberg was taken over by the Philippists, the more radical fol-lowers of Philip Melanchthon, “Philippist” Lutheranism was imported into the Czech churches and became the dominant the-ology both among the Bohemian Brethren and the Utraquists. It took greater hold among the Bohemian Brethren, and when the University of Wittenberg came under the control of the Gnesio-Lutherans, the Bohemian Brethren stopped sending their

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students to Wittenberg and started sending them to Heidelberg and to Basel. From then on, the most gifted theological stu-dents of the Unitas were trained in Calvin-ist universities.

The Neoutraquists remained Lutheran, but the situation within Utraquism was very fluid, somewhat like that in Germany prior to the great theological unification brought about by the Formula of Concord. Since there was no universally accepted definition or formulation of what was Lu-theran and orthodox and no Lutheran or Utraquist theological faculty at the univer-sity in Prague to give theological direction to the clergy, the Utraquist church was full of different currents of thought and prac-tice. This, combined with a lack of any overall church administration prior to 1609, produced within Utraquism a chaotic situation fraught with disastrous conse-quences. The absence of organization dates back to the old attempt of the Utraquists to receive recognition from Rome and to maintain the episcopal succession un-broken. Until the impact of Lutheranism made itself fully felt in Utraquist circles, the Utraquists believed in the necessity of a regular episcopal ordination for a valid ministry. But the pope was not willing to authorize an archbishop for the Hussites. So the priests of Bohemia and Moravia were without supervision, and the young candidates had to go abroad for their ordi-nation. There was no effective oversight, no training, no administrative authority in the Utraquist church. The body that gov-erned the Utraquist church was the so-called Lower Consistory of Prague, headed by an administrator, in lieu of an arch-bishop, and appointed by the king. As the king favored the Old Utraquists in his

appointments, the authority of the con-sistory was not recognized by the Neoutra-quists in the country. The administrator was often a man of poor character and little theological knowledge, just a politician. Thus the situation of the Lutherans in Bohemia and Moravia was rather disastrous in terms of leadership, training, morale, or even theological understanding. The cities and most of the nobility had turned Lu-theran, but it seems that most of them did not understand what this really involved or demanded of them, and the lack of any church discipline among the Lutherans did not help the moral chaos in the land. The almost limitless power of the feudal mag-nates and the corruption resulting from its misuse also contributed heavily to the spir-itual anarchy in the land. Thus the defeat of Czech Lutheranism in the 17th century was caused not so much by external as by internal factors. The old saying that a na-tion cannot be defeated from without if it is not defeated from within is particularly appropriate here.

The Jesuits

The Jesuits, the only dynamic Roman Catholic force in the country, started a counteroffensive against the Reformation in the second half of the 16th century in Czechoslovakia, using schools, pageantry, politics, and the other means of the Counter-Reformation, just as in the rest of central Europe. The Jesuits were extremely active and were supported by the king. They did not gain a great following, but they gained many sons of the aristocracy through their schools. Since the king con-sistently supported Roman Catholic mem-bers of the aristocracy and usually put only Roman Catholics in charge of the admin-istration of the royal cities, it was profitable

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to become a Roman Catholic For this reason many nobles of lesser character turned Roman Catholic not because of con-viction but because of vested interests, just as they and their forbears may often have turned Lutheran originally, thinking there would be a political advantage to it.

THE BOHEMIAN CONFESSION AND THE CONSTITUTIONAL STRUGGLE

In order to receive legal recognition from the king, the Protestant estates of Bohemia presented to Maximilian II in 1575 a joint confession of faith, the so-called Confessio Bohémica, for which they requested constitutional guarantees. The Confession was an expression of an agree-ment between the Neoutraquists and the Bohemian Brethren. It is largely patterned on the Augsburg Confession, but it con-tains certain characteristics of its own that are usually attributed to the influence of the Bohemian Brethren. The Bohemian Brethren were a small, yet very active and alert, minority in the nation, with good leadership even among the estates, and thus had an influence far out of proportion to their numbers. Apart from special additional emphases that are characteristic of the Bohemian Brethren, the Confession seems to be Lu-theran. There is a great stress in it on good works, yet not as a condition for winning God’s grace. There is no doubt in the Confession that salvation is an un-deserved and unconditioned gift from God, to be received simply by faith. There is no synergism involved. Yet it stresses that the new life God gives through the Holy Spirit necessarily produces fruit. According to the Bohemian Confession, if there is some-thing that looks like faith but does not bring forth fruit, it simply isn’t faith.

The Confession also contains an interest-ing enumeration of the “marks of the church.” In addition to the chief marks of the church, the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, the Confession also names brotherly love, the bearing of the cross, and the exercise of church discipline. The Confession names these as marks that help to identify the true church with greater security. It does not say that the church cannot exist without these works or that a person cannot be saved in a community that lacks them, but rather insists that one cannot be sure that the church is there in such a case. The addi-tional marks were intended to give a Chris-tian greater assurance of his membership in the true church. As far as the sacra-ments are concerned, the Confession is soundly Lutheran. It betrays no Calvinistic tendencies.

Maximilian did not give the estates the written guarantee of religious freedom that they requested. He made only oral prom-ises of the freedoms. But in 1609 his suc-cessor Rudolph gave a written guarantee of freedom to those who adhered to the Bohemian Confession, and the guarantee became a part of the constitution of the kingdom. This religious freedom also in-volved the serfs, which was rather revolu-tionary, including those living on ecclesias-tical, that is, Roman Catholic, property. This occurred because the traditional law considered ecclesiastical property to be royal property that was only lent, so to speak, to the church. This was the legal reason or pretext for the uprising in 1618. The estates proclaimed an insurrection against the king-elect, Ferdinand II, be-cause two Protestant churches built on Ro-man Catholic ecclesiastical property were

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torn down m spite of the constitutional right of the local peasants to have such churches there. The violation of this prin-ciple in these two incidents proved to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” culminating a series of breaches of faith on the part of the king. The churches were actually torn down by the Roman Catholic owners of the land and not by the king, but the king refused to rectify the situation or punish the offenders. This incident and the king’s inaction became the spark that helped kindle the Thirty Years’ War. The king had consistently pursued a Counter-Reformation policy, pushing appointments and regulations unfavorable to Protestants. Thus there was only one Protestant on the royal council, and although the majority of the city population was Protestant, all the royal city councils were dominated by Roman Catholics. There was further a general oppression of Protestants in the kingdom.

There was a strong political motivation behind the uprising too. The estates did not like the absolutizing tendencies of the Hapsburgs. The great nobles were espe-cially displeased with Ferdinand. It is a moot position whether the more important element in the 1618 revolution was politi-cal or religious.

THE UPRISING

In 1618 the Bohemian estates, assembled at the Hrad&ny Castle in Prague, defen-estrated the two regents who were the representatives of the king, thereby declar-ing themselves in insurrection against the king. The act of defenestration was chosen in imitation of the defenestration incident that started the Hussite wars. The estates wanted in this way to link their protest with the Hussite tradition. Unfortunately

for the cause of the revolutionaries, the defenestration was not successful. The two men were not killed because the castle moat was not deep enough, and the result was that things were made worse for the estates. The freedoms guaranteed in 1609 had given the Protestant estates a false security. The royal decree of that year gave the nation not only religious liberties but also a great number of constitutional guarantees and safeguards against arbitrary action on the part of the king. These royal conces-sions, however, were mainly for the benefit of the feudal lords. Having won such guarantees, the feudal magnates did not feel in any great danger from the Haps-burgs, and, strangely enough, the Protestant estates elected another Hapsburg to succeed the aging Maximilian, Ferdinand II of Styria. The election is especially strange in the light of the record Ferdinand had in the suppression of Protestantism in Styria. The estates were not alert enough to realize the suicidal nature of the election at that time. They realized their mistake very soon, however, and within a few months of the election rose in an insurrection against the king and proclaimed war against the Hapsburgs. The 1618 uprising was ill-fated inas-much as there had been no real prepara-tions for it. There was no soil for a suc-cessful uprising in Bohemia. First of all, there Was the general situation of the country as described above: The cities were alienated from the nobility, and the peas-ants felt they had no stake in the life of the nation. Even within the cities the situ-ation was not good; the patricians were exploiting the common townspeople, and the sense of responsibility of the latter was

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very low. The Silesians supported the Czech uprising only halfheartedly, and Upper Lusatia and even Moravia at first remained loyal to the emperor. The eco-nomic situation was bad because of the heavy taxation, the oppressive regulations imposed on the cities, and the irresponsible feudal administration of the greater por-tion of the wealth and resources of the country. There were no military leaders, and there was no single political leader or administrator of the uprising. When the estates deposed the king, they elected 30 of their number to govern the country. The council was unable to govern effectively, much less direct the uprising. But no mem-ber of the council was willing to abdicate his powers and prerogatives in favor of anyone else. The moral fiber of the nation was thin, and a sense of political unity was nonexistent.

THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION Further, the international situation af-forded little opportunity for help from abroad. The estates had not bothered to find out in advance whether they would receive outside aid. Why did they elect Frederick of the Palatinate for their new king? The Protestant estates at first had wanted to choose George, the Elector of Saxony, but he had not been interested. Besides, the estates had not gained a favor-able impression of George during his re-cent visit in Prague. He seemed to them to be addicted to drink and unable to strike up any cordial relationships with the Czech leaders. The estates had also tried to secure James, King of England, for their king; he, too, was not interested in the office for himself but supported the candidacy of Frederick, his son-in-law. The Protestant estates therefore elected Frederick, who was

head of the predominantly Reformed Evan-gelical Union and was also supported by King James, the real leader of the Protes-tant camp.

Frederick’s election served to alienate the elector of Saxony from the Bohemian estates completely. He not only felt slighted by it, even though he himself did not want the crown, but it also increased his distrust of the Lutheran orthodoxy of the Czechs. In this he was supported by his chaplain, Matthias Hoe von Hoenegg, who strongly disliked the Bohemians, especially the Bohemian Brethren, whom he suspected of crypto-Calvinism. Most of the other Lu-theran princes of Germany naturally sided with Saxony. The Reformed elector of Brandenburg would have come to Fred-erick’s assistance, but could not afford alienating his Lutheran subjects any fur-ther. The interconfessional situation in Germany being what it was, the election of Frederick was the least expedient thing the Bohemian estâtes could have done if they wanted to receive German Lutheran sup-port for their cause. No monarch, it seems, particularly favored the election of Fred-erick except James.

Gustavus Adolphus disliked Frederick and the Union because they had refused his application for membership in the Union. France, after the death of Henry IV, re-versed its old anti-Hapsburg policy and started to support Ferdinand. It was France who pushed the Evangelical Union into peace with the Catholic League. This peace of Ulm (July 1620) made it possible for Bavaria to send troops against the insur-gents in Bohemia. Thus France really helped in the defeat of Bohemia, although afterwards she soon returned to her anti-Hapsburg policy. The Turks had just con-

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eluded a peace with the emperor, and there was now no threat from them. Even James of England, although a Protestant, was not enthusiastic about supporting the Protes-tant rebellion in Bohemia. He was on prin-ciple opposed to any act of insubordination to royalty, and every form of insurrection was repugnant to him. He was also in the process of negotiating a marriage with Spain and shied away from getting in-volved in the fight against the Hapsburgs. The tragedy was that apparently no one realized the critical nature of the situation. There was, it seems, little awareness that this was a battle of life and death between the supporters and the opponents of the Reformation. Even the Protestant estates of Bohemia or Moravia were not aware of it. Much less, of course, were the German Lutheran princes or the Protestant estates of Upper and Lower Austria aware of it. No one dreamt that this was a matter that would eventually involve all of Europe. And so nobody came to the help of Fred-erick of the Palatinate. Even his own Union was not interested because of the great jealousies existing in the Union itself. Thus the Bohemians received no appre-ciable help in support of this cause.

THE DOMESTIC SITUATION The domestic situation was chaotic. The royal government had been abrogated, and nothing was put in its place. The imperial troops were devastating the land, and there was no possibility of restraining them, since there was no military leadership at home. The Protestant estates at first tried to re-cruit a voluntary military force, but the soldiers who appeared were not worth hir-ing because of the lack of any military tradition in the land. The estates finally engaged a mercenary army. The merce-

naries, soldiers from abroad, behaved just as ruthlessly toward the Protestant popula-tion as did the imperial army. The estates were not able to collect enough money for the support of their army, and the generals kept much of what had been collected for themselves. This drove the mercenaries to looting. Now the general populace, beset by the marauding imperial army and the army of the estates, wanted only to get behind safe walls and hide. There was no feeling in the country that the war was a national cause, especially because it was mercenaries from abroad who were representing the estates. The common people thought of the insurrection as a cause of the nobles that involved no one else. The cause of the Protestant insurgents, whether considered from the international or the domestic an-gle, was doomed from the start. The lack of leadership, of morale, and of finances combined to make the defeat inevitable.

THE OUTCOME

The small battle that finally finished the 2-year war, the battle on the White Hill in November 1620, was really just a skir-mish, and yet it was here that the war was decided. The nation had already been de-feated prior to this battle. The “Winter King” simply ran away, the leaders ran away with him, and the emperor had no difficulty in subjugating the land. The na-tion was not aware of the tragedy that was forthcoming. The people were afraid but did not anticipate the extent to which the king would now go in his Counter-Ref-ormation effort. In 1627 the emperor abrogated all religious liberties and all the constitutional privileges of the estates. The only recognized church in Bohemia and Moravia now was Roman Catholic. This law was strictly and systematically en-

638 17th-CENTURY CZECHOSLOVAKIA

forced. The free citizens, that is, everyone but the serfs, could move out of the country if they wished and could take their prop-erty with them. But, of course, one could not take real estate, and it was hard to sell it when so many landowners seemed to be moving out. Many serfs fled secretly. The depopulation of Bohemia and Mo-ravia during the Thirty Years’ War is almost unbelievable. This was due partly to the decimation caused by the war and partly to the great exodus of Protestants. It is strange that people who were not heroic enough to fight for their faith were now heroic enough to leave everything be-hind and face the uncertain future of exiles for the sake of that faith. They were re-ceived in the foreign lands to which they fled with some suspicion and faced politi-cal, economic, and even religious insecurity abroad. Exiles from Moravia went largely to neighboring Slovakia, and refugees from Bohemia usually went to Silesia, Poland, and Prussia. In many instances Lutheran lands looked at the exiles with suspicion because they did not trust the orthodoxy of the Czechs. Most of the Neoutraquist immigrants eventually merged with Lu-therans and most of the Bohemian Breth-ren with the Reformed community. In Slovakia and Poland the Bohemian Breth-ren maintained separate churches for a while, but the Unitas had really lost its raison d’être as a separate community once it had become heavily influenced by Cal-vinism by the beginning of the 17th century. In Slovakia Protestantism was never completely outlawed, and it was only grad-ually that severe religious restrictions were imposed there. There was persecution for Protestants in Slovakia, but there was no

overall pattern for it. Each region had its own rules and the cities, too, differed in their regulations concerning religious non-conformity. In Hungary the king was never really master, and the estates were able to fight more effectively for their rights. There were always a few cities in which Protestant public worship was permitted. Moreover, in Hungary it was never illegal to have Protestant worship in the home. Nor were Protestant books burned as sys-tematically as in Bohemia and Moravia. In Silesia the Lutheran Church was tol-erated in certain regions and cities, depend-ing on the local feudal magnates or city governments, who were able to buy reli-gious freedom for themselves and their sub-jects with heavy financial payments. Lusatia was given to Saxony as a reward for the help the Lutheran Elector of Saxony gave the Roman Catholic Ferdinand in his conquest of Lutheran Bohemia. Lusatia’s Lutheranism was thus preserved, though its population was gradually deprived of its ethnic and cultural identity by its German rulers. CONCLUSION

The eclipse of Lutheranism in Czecho-slovakia was caused both by political-social factors and by the internal weakness of Czech Lutheranism in the 16th century. Had the Neoutraquists possessed some of the leadership and spiritual vigor, as well as the organization and discipline, of the Bohemian Brethren and had they been able to instill a new spirit into the demoralized nation in the 16th century, as the Hussite movement was able to do in the 15 th cen-tury, it is doubtful that the Lutheran Church could have been so effectively wiped out in Bohemia and Moravia as it was. Furthermore, the situation would un-

Uth-CENTURY CZECHOSLOVAKIA 639

doubtedly have been different if the aris-tocracy had assumed a different role in the life of the nation than that of simply in-sisting on its privileges, with no ties or responsibilities to the common people. As it was, the cause of the Czech Lutherans was too weak to survive any concerted at-tack from without.

THE POSTLUDE

This, then, is the end of the Lutheran Church in Bohemia and Moravia in the 17th century. Many Protestants maintained the faith in secret for generations, both in the Czech lands and in Slovakia. Preachers from abroad, especially from neighboring Saxony, would come in secret and try to strengthen the faithful remnant by services held at night in outlying places or even in some homes and by distributing Protestant literature to the faithful. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries it was especially through Pietist preachers and literature that some awareness of the evangelical heritage was preserved among the descendants of the Lutherans and Bohemian Brethren who remained in the old homeland. Protestant “pockets” were preserved in certain rural regions, and they were totally destroyed in others; but in the Czech cities the Counter-Reformation was 100 percent successful. The “hidden seed” in the country provided the basis for the restoration of the Lutheran and Reformed churches during the Enlight-enment, when the Toleration Act of 1781 gave legal toleration to the Augsburg and Helvetian Confessions in the Austro-Hun-garian Empire. Small groups of people here and there in the country were able to reconstitute congregations, especially with the help of pastors coming from abroad to help in the resurrection of the Reformation heritage in the Czech lands. In Slovakia, that is, in Hungary, the effect of the tolera-tion edict was not so dramatic, since it meant only a partial betterment and not a revolutionary improvement in the status of the Protestants there. In 1742 the greater part of Silesia was lost by Empress Maria Theresa to Frederick II of Prussia and was thus linked to Prussian develop-ment until the modern period.

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Location:Opatovická,Prague,Czech Republic

Slovakia: The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession

(Left to Right: Rev. Tony Booker, LCMS Missionary based in Prague; General Bishop Miloš Klátik, Ph.D, of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia; Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations; DCE David Fiala, LCMS Missionary based in Žilina, Slovakia)

On 28 November 2012, a delegation from the LCMS met with the General Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia. The ECAC in Slovakia is the second largest church in the Slovak Republic with 316,250 members. The largest church is the Roman Catholic Church. The ECAC in Slovakia has 686 churches and 361 pastors. The church has 9 kindergartens, 6 elementary schools, and 6 high schools. The church also has a seminary, the Evangelical Theological Faculty of the Commenius University in Bratislava.

The church is divided into two districts (the Western and the Eastern), each with a bishop, who are presided over by the General Bishop. The church does ordain women, however, many of these women serve in roles very similar to LCMS deaconesses.

A Brochure about the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia.

A SIDE NOTE ON WOMAN’S ORDINATION IN CENTRAL EUROPE (and in other churches such as Africa)

Due to the context in the United States, when it is heard that a church body ordains women, many LCMS members immediately assume that a church body is “liberal” in the sense of “American Liberal Protestant Churches,” that deny the authority of the Holy Scriptures, do not hold to a quia subscription to the Book of Concord, and have accepted the liberal social agenda that afflicts much of Western Society. The reality of these churches in Central Europe and in Africa is often quite different.

Many (most) of these churches are socially conservative that are resisting the societal trends of the Western World. On social issues most of these church hold the exact same position as the Missouri Synod.

When it comes to the understanding of the Scriptures, many of the churches confess nearly the same as the Missouri Synod, that the Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant word of God. Some of these churches in Europe due to the effects of atheistic communism have a different conception of the Hexaemera (Six Day Creation) than the Missouri Synod. In the African churches, the view of Scripture is often identical to that of the Missouri Synod.

If the the view of Scripture in these churches is similar or nearly identical to that of the Missouri Synod, why did these churches ordain women? In a general way, the answer can be described as the result of pragmatic reasons (extreme isolation under Communism and a shortage of men), decades of exposure to atheism, and the egalitarian social justice doctrine of the contemporary world that seeks to remove all gender distinctions, even that of Mother and Father / Brother and Sister in families in the case of Sweden, where the acceptable legal terms are “parent” and “sibling.”
Despite these differences, these churches maintain a strong sense of Lutheran identity in the face of persecution and incredible challenges. There is much for the Missouri Synod to learn from churches that faced persecution under communism, especially as religious liberty is under increasing attack in the United States. Additionally, these churches may benefit from conversation with the Missouri Synod as they try to maintain their Lutheran identity (holding fast to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions).

Although there are differences that may prevent the Missouri Synod from entering into pulpit and altar fellowship, it is also important for the Missouri Synod to engage in conversation where we are able to do so — for the mutual benefit of all involved, as we seek to confess the truth of the Reformation to the world.

 

We also visited Maly Kostol, the “small church” in Bratislava. The church is of interest for a couple of reasons: 1) from the outside the church appears to be an ordinary building. It was illegal for a Lutheran church to look like a church, but it was permitted to exist if the people met in what appeared to be an ordinary building; 2) the church displays a painting depicting the Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia.

 

The painting begins with the creation of the world, then goes to the Baptism of Jesus, to the preaching of the apostles, the coming of the Christian church to Slovak lands, to Martin Luther and the Reformation, then to the coming of the Reformation in Slovakia, then it passes through the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries and the communist persecution of the church. It is an incredible testament to the Gospel in Slovakia.

David Fiala stands next to the painting to give perspective to its size.

 

After meeting with the Bishop, we stopped by the seminary, the Evangelical Theological Faculty of the Commenius University in Bratislava. A distinguishing mark of this faculty is that it is entirely Lutheran. Although the churches both in Poland and in Hungary have theological faculties, those faculties are not entirely Lutheran, but mixed with Reformed professors. The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia has been able to maintain its strong Lutheran identity in part due to the strength of their seminary.

Dr. Lubo Batka, rector of the theological faculty, talks with us in our office. I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Batka for the first time six years ago at the 2006 Luther Congress in Brazil. We were able to briefly speak to one another at the 2012 Luther Congress in Helsinki, Finland, in August. It was very good to see him in Bratislava.
In keeping with the past several posts, I have included an article on the history of the Reformation in Slovakia. It is a longer article, but worth the effort if one wants to understand the history of the Lutheran Church in Slovakia.
— Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations.
Daniel, David P. “Highlights of the Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia.” Concordia Theological Quarterly 42, no. 1 (1978): 21–34.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LUTHERAN REFORMATION IN SLOVAKIA
David P. Daniel The Pennsylvania State University, Erie, Pennsylvania
The territory of modern Slovakia, encompassing much of what was formerly upper Hungary, was, during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, a Protestant stronghold and the heartland of Slavic Lutheranism. It is one of the few Slavic regions of Europe where a substantial number of Lutherans1 have maintained their theological and liturgical traditions as the heritage of the Reformation, and the Lutherans played a role in the cultural-national awakening of the Slovaks of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries far more significant than their numbers would have suggested.
Unfortunately, the history of Lutheranism and the Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia has been neglected by most historians. Even Czech historians do little more than assert that the Reformation strengthened the cultural and linguistic ties between the Czechs and the Slovaks while Hungarian historians, understandably, do not differentiate between the growth of Lutheranism in the Carpathians and the Reformation in the rest of Hungary.2
More disquieting is that only a handful of Slovaks have addressed themselves to the formal study of the Lutheran Reformation and many of these were primarily interested in indicating the relationship which they believed existed between the Czech Hussites of the fifteenth century and the Lutherans of the sixteenth century, hoping to justify the concept of a Czechoslovak people.
But this argument, that the Hussites were the direct precursors of Lutheranism in Slovakia, reflects the realities of nineteenth rather than of sixteenth century history. Based upon a widely held folk tradition which ascribed to Hussite foundation many of the oldest Lutheran congregations in Slovakia, this interpretation appeared verified by evidence which indicated that Lutheranism was most quickly and widely accepted in those counties and cities which had been under the hegemony of John Jiskra and his Hussite warriors. This interpretation, though facile and attractive to advocates of a Czechoslovak nationality, lacks concrete historical substantiation.3
Even a cursory study of the Reformation Era in Slovakia indicates that the first to accept Lutheranism were the German burghers of the cities of central and eastern Slovakia. Nevertheless, although the Reformation in Slovakia began as an
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extension of and was strongly influenced by the reformers at the University of Wittenberg, by the end of the sixteenth century, Slovaks would form the majority in the Lutheran Church in Slovakia. Slovak clergy would increase their voice in the administration of the Church during the sixteenth century and would look less and less to Wittenberg for guidance and direction. It was this acculturation of Lutheranism in Slovakia which helps to explain why it was able to endure until the present while in other regions inhabited by “Slavic peoples, Lutheranism died out or was retained only as the faith of Germanic peoples.
Luther’s ideas were promulgated and found acceptance in Slovakia shortly after his debate with John Eck at Leipzig. Merchants from the cities of central and eastern Slovakia returned from their regular visits to the Leipzig fair with news of and pamphlets by the Wittenberg Professor. In 1520 Thomas Preisner, Pastor at Leibitz near Käsmark in Zips county of eastern Slovakia, read Luther’s Ninety-five Theses from his pulpit.4 Two years later a small congregation of Lutherans had been founded at Nove Mesto pod Siatrom.6 In 1522 George Baumhenckel of Neusohl became the first student from Slovakia to enroll at the University of Wittenberg and was followed in 1523 by Thomas Matthias, also from Neusohl, and Martin Cyriacus from Leutschau.’ By 1525 the citizens of Bartfeld, a major trading center in eastern Slovakia, were caught up in a debate of Luther’s ideas, we were the citizens of the cities of the montana region of central Slovakia.7
Luther’s influence was even felt within the court of Hungary. There the most prominent advocate of Luther was none other than the military tutor of Louis and the close confident of Mary, George of Brandenburg. George seems to have accepted Luther’s ideas quite early, for in 1522 he was condemned by many of the lesser Hungarian nobles, clerics, and Italians at the court as a German heretic.8 A ready target for their reproaches because of his pro-Habsburg attitudes, George made no effort to conceal his views. In a letter to Luther dated 5 January 1523 George indicated how he had himself defended the German Reformer before the King.9
It was George who arranged the appointment of Conrad Cordatus, later active in Slovakia and Germany, as the court chaplain of Mary. But the fiery and intemperate attack Cordatus made upon the Pope, the Papal Legate to Hungary, and the cardinals after the publication of Decet Romanum led to his dismissal and brief imprisonment.10 He was replaced by John Henckel from Leutschau who, though an advocate of reform, was much more in sympathy with the views of Erasmus than with those of Luther. Except for a brief sojourn in Kaschau in
Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia
23
1526, Henckel served the Queen until 1530 when she departed Hungary to assume the Regency of the Netherlands.n
Mary herself was attacked for tolerating Lutheranism because she sought to reduce the tensions between her brother Ferdinand and the evangelicals12 and because Luther dedicated to her his exposition of four penitential psalms of 1526.13 Although Mary never expressly accepted the ideas of Luther, neither did she explicitly repudiate him. Even as late as 1530, despite all of her protestations to Ferdinand that she did not tolerate heretics in her retinue, she still indicated an interest in Luther and his doctrine when she was at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530.14 She would not define her own religious convictions with precision but seems to have sympathized more with the ideas of Erasmus.
Because of its attraction for the Germans in the court of Hungary and in the cities of Slovakia, Lutheranism was viewed as a very real threat to the kingdom by the lesser Magyar nobility and the Roman Catholic hierarchy. On 24 April 1523 the Diet accepted an anti-Lutheran proposal drawn up by Cardinal Cajetan and endorsed by Stephen Werböczy stating that “all Lutherans and those favoring them shall have their property confiscated and themselves be punished as heretics and foes of the most holy Virgin Mary.”15 Various royal governors also tried to stamp out the evangelical movement but without any real success, and in 1525 the Diet once again felt compelled to decree that all Lutherans should be purged from the land by both the secular and the ecclesiastical authorities.1β.
These laws must be understood, however, in light of the many problems confronting Hungary in 1525; the rivalries among the nobility, the conflict between the nobles and the monarchy, the fear of Habsburg influence and of the advance of the Turkish armies in southern Hungary and especially the financial difficulties facing the nation. Hoping to alleviate these problems, Werböczy and the lesser nobility sought to assume the direction of the mines of central Slovakia, largely controlled by the Fugger-Thurzo company. Angered by the German domination of the cities of Slovakia, which were vital to the economic well-being of the nation, the increasingly xenophobic lesser Magyar nobility took advantage of the revolt of the miners in the montana region, which broke out in 1525, to attack this German influence by identifying it with the doctrines emanating from Wittenberg.17
This was not difficult to accomplish. Many of the leading burghers of Neusohl, a center of the revolt, and of the other six major cities of the montana region, had gone over to Lutheranism during the 1520’s. In Neusohl Valentin Schneider, who had been elected magistrate in 1521, and his brother-in-law, Heinrich KindHnger, the curator of the churches of the
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city, converted to Lutheranism. It was their not so secret intention to call Simon Bernhard Kech, a follower of Luther, as a preacher for the city churches. But the city pastor, Nicolaus of Zeeben, strongly opposed this maneuver, arguing that the attempt by the magistrates to name a cleric to a position subordinate to his own, without his approval, was an illegal interference in the rights and responsibilities of the city pastor. Nicolaus appealed to both the Queen and the hierarchy, the latter responding quickly in favor of Nicolaus and sending a commission to the city on 4 April 1524 to root out and destroy Lutheran books.18 Not to be thwarted by the opposition of Nicolaus, after Kech requested to be excused from his earlier acceptance of the call because of the dispute, the magistrates resorted to the convention of inviting evangelical preachers to work in the city for specific terms and honorariums. Among these were Conrad Cordatus, John Kryssling and Dominikus Hoffmann. Even the hesitant Kech delivered a series of sermons in Neusohl in the winter of 1526.19
This tactic only served to prolong the struggle and led to its involvement in the revolt of the miners. For once the revolt broke out, Nicolaus charged that the reformist preachers had stirred up the workers. While Kryssling and Cordatus were imprisoned briefly, they were found innocent of any connection with the uprising, and Nicolaus, who had hoped to strengthen his hand, found that he had lost most of his support. Upon his death in 1529, the council of Neusohl selected Stephen Spetinger as the first Lutheran city pastor.20 The dispute in Neusohl was not confined to theology but involved jurisdictional issues. The heat of the controversy was fired by the increasing desire of the lay leaders of the community to gain a greater voice in the administration of the churches in the city than they had previously exercised, justifying their actions by an appeal to their traditional prerogatives as embodied in their civic charters of privilege.
Evangelical clerics were also aided and protected by some of the most powerful families of Hungary living in Slovakia, who joined the Lutheran movement during the first half century of the Reformation. Among them were the Thurzo, Illéshàzy, Török, Ballassi, Dragfi, Kostka, Révay, Perényi, and Nádasdy families. All of them tolerated evangelical reformers in their territories, most of them called protestant clerics to serve the chapels on their estates, and some of them, including Thomas Nádasdy, Francis Révay, and Peter Perenyi, corresponded directly with Melanchthon and Luther, seeking advice in theological and ecclesiastical matters.21
As magistrates and magnates went over to the new faith, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, which had suffered severe losses at
Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia
25
the battle of Mohacs in 1526 and in the subsequent disorders of the Turkish occupation of most of Hungary, could not inhibit the growth of Lutheranism in Slovakia. The paucity of leaders within the Roman Catholic Church allowed the reformers in Slovakia to work within the old ecclesiastical organization to bring about the reform of liturgy and doctrine. As they took over the administration of the churches at the municipal and district levels, the reformers encountered little effective opposition and thus felt no need to organize outside the existing structures until the end of the century.
This was the pattern of reform throughout Slovakia and can be seen clearly in the eastern counties and cities. In Bartfeld, Esias Lang and Michael Radaschinus were early supporters of reform, as was Matthew Ramaschi, pastor at Zeeben, who corresponded regularly with the Wittenberg reformers.22 Even George Moeller, the Senior of the Fraternity of the pastors of the twenty-four Zips cities, one of the most important pastoral conferences in Slovakia, eventually went over to Lutheranism despite his earlier attempts to halt its spread in Leutschau.23 In 1544 he called Bartholomäus Bogner of Eperies to come to Leutschau as Deacon in order to preach in the spirit of Luther, while Moeller himself addressed the need to establish a continuing basis of financial support for the evangelical churches and schools.
In central Slovakia Stefan Spetinger, Bartholomäus Frank, and Raphael Steger were the propagators of Lutheranism in Neusohl,2* while Andreas Jacobaeus and Stanislaus Koskossinus did the same in Altsohl. In western Slovakia, where the magnates were particularly active in fostering the growth of Lutheranism, Slovak clergy were quite prominent in the Lutheran movement, including Caspar Kolarik, Jaroslav Urbanovic, and Michael Marcellus or Marcek in Arwa county, and Basüius Modonius, Paul de Hunicov, and George Bohemicus in Trentschin.25
The rectors of the city and village schools of Slovakia were also active in the reform movement. The schools, which came increasingly under the control of lay patrons, were one of the most effective agencies for the propagation of Lutheranism in Slovakia. The magistrates or magnates would name the rectors, confirm the curriculum and orders or discipline for both teachers and pupils, and adjudicate disputes.26 Continuing the pedagogical traditions of northern humanism and merging them with Lutheran doctrine, the evangelical schools of Slovakia attracted the sons of the magnates and the burghers.
Most significant were the schools located at Kasmark, Eperies, Neusohl, Leutschau and Bartfeld. Under Leonhard Stocket, a former student and life-long friend of Luther and Melanchthon,
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the Humanist School at Bartfeld attained such fame that its curriculum served as a model for many of the other schools of Slovakia.27
Many of the pastors and rectors patterned their activity after the model of the reformers at Wittenberg as they had learned to know them during their sojourn at the University. Although the universities at Vienna, Cracow, and Padua still drew substantial numbers of students from Hungary, as did the University at Prague, the overwhelming majority of the evangelicals from Slovakia sought a Wittenberg education. By the time of Melanchthon’s death in 1560 some 442 students from Hungary had enrolled at Wittenberg, and by the end of the century the number reached 1018.28 Frequently aided by stipends and subsidies from patrons at home, the students absorbed the teachings of Luther and Melanchthon, the latter being especially solicitous of the welfare of the students from Hungary.29 Moreover, since the approval of the bishops, who were still Roman Catholic, was required for ordination at home, many of these students went to Wittenberg not only to complete their education but to be ordained there. It seems that many viewed their ordination at Wittenberg as bestowing upon their ministry the authority and blessing of the alma mater of Lutheranism.
Since many of the lay patrons of the reformation movements in Slovakia were primarily concerned with moral and liturgical reform, it is not too surprising that a specifically Lutheran movement was slow to develop. Almost all who advocated reform were called Lutherans by their enemies, irrespective of the doctrine they preached. The theological particularization which was evident quite early in Germany and Switzerland developed much more slowly in Slovakia. Nevertheless, there had been, even during the early years of the evangelical reform movement in Slovakia, some egregious theological debates between the radical Anabaptists and the more moderate reformers in eastern Slovakia. Andreas Fischer from Kremnitz advocated Anabaptist and then Sabbatarian and Judaizing views in the cities of Zips county during the 1530’s, achieving some success among the lower classes in the cities.30 An even greater challenge to Lutheranism was that of Calvinism, which became increasingly popular among the Magyars. Presaged by Matthias Biro Dévay who, after returning to Hungary from Wittenberg, inclined more and more to the doctrinal formulations of the Helvetic Reformation, many of the Magyars, even those who attended Wittenberg, would accept first Philippist and then distinctly Calvinist doctrine.81
At Wittenberg, the Magyar students formed a specific nation, the Hungarian Coetus, limited to those whose mother
Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia
27
tongue was Hungarian. Throughout its history, no German or Slovak from Slovakia ever joined the Coetus; and thus there emerged at Wittenberg a distinction between the Magyars, on the one hand, and the Germans and the Slovaks, on the other. This differentiation was not confined to ethnic or linguistic differences but became increasingly theological. At first characterized by the moderation of Melanchthon in doctrine, to whom the Magyars were especially attracted, the members of the Coetus would adhere more and more to purely Helvetic teachings after Melanchthon’s death. After attacks were made upon it by the Archduke August of Saxony in the 1570*8, only a handful of members remained in the organization and most of the Magyars sought out the universities of Switzerland and the Rhineland to complete their education.82 The process which began at Wittenberg continued in Hungary as the students returned home. The theological and ethnic differentiation began to split apart the evangelical movement and was accentuated by the need to define the evangelical faith as a result of the defeat of the Smalcaldic League at Mühlberg in 1547, the repudiation of protestant ideas at the first sessions of the Council of Trent, the renewal of Catholicism, and the passage of the first anti-protestant laws by the Hungarian Diet since 1525.
At Pressburg in 1548 the Diet approved an article ordering the expulsion of Anabaptists and Sacramentarians from the kingdom was approved.38. Fearing the influence of Anabaptism and other more radical theologies, the Lutheran party had joined with the Roman Catholic party to enact this law. But the Catholic hierarchy, with the support of the King, immediately began to interpret the law as meaning that all “innovators” in religious matters, including Lutherans, should be expelled. In response to this very obvious threat, the Lutherans of Slovakia, and subsequently the Magyar Calviniste, sought to define their faith and to defend themselves by disavowing the Anabaptist views proscribed by the law of 1548.
Attempts to define the theology of the evangelicals had taken place in 1545 at Erdöd and one year later at the Synod of Eperies. At the latter, where discussions focused primarily upon ceremonies and feast days, the representatives of the five royal free cities of eastern Slovakia, Eperies, Zeeben, Bartfeld, Käsmark, and Leutschau, declared their adherence to both the Augsburg Confession and the Loci Communes of Melanchthon.84 After the passage of the law of 1548, the need for a definition of the evangelical faith became even more pressing. Believing themselves entitled to the same toleration which had been extended to their co-religionists in the Empire, the Lutherans of Slovakia would, after 1548, seek to make their adherence to the Augustana even clearer by drawing up three
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confessions of faith: the Confessio Pentapolitana authored by Leonhard Stocket in 1548 and accepted by the five royal free cities of eastern Slovakia; the Confessio Montana of 1558 which was largely the work of Ulrich Cubicularius of Schemnitz and accepted by the seven free cities of central Slovakia; and the Confessio Scepusiana prepared by Valentin Megander and Cyriak Koch using the Montana as their model and approved by the Contubernia of the pastors of twenty-four Zips cities in 1569. Although each of these confessions was a response to a specific threat to the independence of the evangelicals in each region by the Catholic hierarchy, they all conformed to the doctrines of the Augustana while expressing these doctrines in moderate, almost conciliatory language. Clearly repudiating the views of the Anabaptists, these confessions also stressed the true catholicity which the Lutherans believed characterized their views.36
At the same time, the Magyar Calviniste were defining their doctrinal stance and, while attempts were made to reconcile the differences between the two parties, they were to no avail. By the last quarter of the sixteenth century each party, Lutheran and Calvinist, had so defined their own theology through confessions of faith as to make reconciliation impossible. The process of definition of dogma led to the differentiation of the evangelical Reformation in Hungary into two distinct groups and to the perpetuation of the separation between the Calvinist Magyars and the Lutherans of Slovakia.
These confessions did differentiate between the Lutherans of Slovakia and the Magyar Calviniste as well as the Anabaptists but did not eliminate another major threat to the Lutherans in Slovakia, that of dissension within their own ranks. The very moderation of language and brevity, which characterized all three of the confessions accepted by Lutherans within Slovakia, allowed for a variety of interpretation. After 1580, attempts to have the Formula of Concord accepted as the normative statement of Lutheran theology for the Lutherans of Slovakia resulted in a generation of debate. On the one hand, many German Lutherans of the central and eastern cities of Slovakia were reluctant to accept the very precise doctrinal definitions which had been incorporated into the Formula of Concord and accepted by the orthodox Lutherans in Germany. On the other hand, the clergy of Slovak ancestry, often supported by the leading magnates of Slovakia, and seeking a greater voice in the administration of the Church in which Slovaks were now numerically the majority, became the ardent advocates of the Formula.
It could have been expected that the controversies leading to the formulation and acceptance of the Formula of Concord
Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia
29
would be echoed in Slovakia. For many of the issues treated in the Formula had already emerged in the cities of Slovakia. In 1551 Matthias Lauterwald, Pastor at Eperies, accepted and proclaimed an Helvetic interpretation of the Lord’s Supper and a synergistic interpretation of the doctrine of salvation. Michael Radaschinus and Leonhard Stocket both chastized Lauterwald, who had been influenced by Osiander and the other Königsberg theologians. This dispute eventually involved the town councils of Bartfeld and Eperies, who appealed to the faculty of Wittenberg for a decision in the case. On 30 October 1554 Melanchthon wrote to the magistrates of Eperies indicating that, if Lauterwald persisted in his views, they had the right to dismiss him from his post.36 Even before Lauterwald, both Andreas Fischer and George Leudischer from Leutschau had preached doctrines more radical then those generally accepted as Lutheran; while, during the second third of the sixteenth century, Francis Stancarus of Poland, who also labored in Transylvania, and Francis David of eastern Hungary, proclaimed even more radical Unitarian doctrines. These radical theologians had had some influence in eastern Slovakia and this region had also been the center of the moderate Philippist Lutherans. It is quite understandable, therefore, that the Formula provoked hostility among the clerics in eastern Slovakia.
The first attempt to have the Formula accepted as a normative theological statement was made in central Slovakia. George Melzer, from Neusohl, advocated its acceptance at the Synod of Kremnica in March 1580. Many of the other clergy at the Synod were reluctant to accept the Formula and, as tempers flared, Matthias Eberhard, the Senior of the district, worked out a compromise which led to a reiteration, by the clergy, of the theology of the Confessio Montana.37 In eastern Slovakia, Gaspar Kreutzer and Albert Grawer of Kaschau, who had come to Slovakia from Germany, took up the advocacy of the Formula while Anton Platner of Leutschau became its most outspoken critic and was joined by John Mylius, Sebastian Lam, and Sebastian Ambrosius, all of whom were considered Philippist, in opposing its adoption.38
The controversy over the Formula of Concord focused largely on the definition of the communicatio idiomatum and its implications for the theology of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. It seems that few, if any, who adhered to Lutheranism in Slovakia, denied the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. But it is also obvious that there were many who were reluctant to define the precise manner by which the bread and the wine communicated the Body and Blood of Christ to the believer. While many of the
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clergy were Philippists, most did not consider themselves anything but Lutherans, as can be seen in the frequent and clear repudiations of Calvinist, Zwinglian, and Anabaptist views. It seems most logical, therefore, to conclude that they were reluctant to accept the Formula of Concord because it might have been considered a new confession of faith which could have endangered their own position within the nation.
The Lutherans of Slovakia had consistently defended their right to follow their own religious faith and practice by citing their allegiance to and conformity with the Augsburg Confession recognized in the Empire and also by the rights devolving from their charters and patents of privileges to appoint pastors and rectors. By formally accepting the Formula, they could open themselves to the charge of having adopted a new, non-recognized confession and thus lose what was already a tenuous claim to toleration, a situation which appeared to be happening in Bohemia after the acceptance of the Confessio Bohémica of 1575. The threat was made all the more real when Bishop George Bornemissa, whose authority extended to eastern Slovakia, warned that any cleric accepting the Formula in his territory would be considered as having dishonored Christ and would be appropriately punished.39.
During the 1590*8, however, the changing political situation made it necessary for the Lutherans to establish both theological unity and organizational independence. The organization of the Lutheran congregations apart from the old structures and the acceptance of the Formula of Concord might have taken much longer had the political situation remained stable. But during the 1590’s the various regions of Slovakia were being threatened by a reinvigorated, post-Tridentine Catholic hierarchy and the absolutist pretensions of Rudolf II and Matthias, who challenged both the traditional political and religious liberties and prerogatives of the cities and nobles. In the face of these threats, the lay leaders came to the foreground as advocates of the Formula of Concord. It was at this juncture of events that the clergy of Slovak ancestry also emerged to assume more prominent roles of leadership within the Lutheran community in Slovakia. In eastern Slovakia, Severinus Scultety, Pastor at Bartfeld, sought to have the Formula recognized by the eastern cities and finally attained his goal at the Synod of Leutschau in 1596.40 In western Slovakia, Elias Lani’, a former instructor at the evangelical school at Strata and the chaplain and advisor to the Lutheran magnate and later Palatine of Hungary, George Thurzo, gained the acceptance of the Formula at Sankt Martin in Thurotz in 1608.41
As the debate over the Formula continued, all of Hungary was thrown into an uproar by the attack of the Turks in 1591 and by the renewal of the conflict between the Habsburgs and
Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia
31
the nobles of Transylvanian Hungary. For fifteen years the destructive struggles raged on until the peace of Vienna and of Szitva Tóròk in 1606. Largely due to the successes of the Calvinist nobleman, Stephen Bocskay, articles recognizing the religious privileges of the nobles were incorporated into the Treaty of Vienna. These were subsequently confirmed, clarified, and extended to the cities by the articles approved at the Diet of 1608.42 Taken together, the Pacificatio Viennensis and the decisions of the Diet of 1608 laid the legal foundations for the existence of Protestantism in all of Hungary. All nobles and cities were to enjoy the free practice and exercise of their religion. Public offices, civil and military, were likewise to be open to all qualified candidates irrespective of their religious persuasion. Moreover, each Protestant group—that is, the Lutherans, Calviniste, and Unitarians—was allowed to establish its own separate ecclesiastical organization.43
Under the patronage of George Thurzo, who was elected Palatine in 1609, the Lutherans of western Slovakia took advantage of these laws to organize themselves at the Synod of Sillein in March 1610. A presbyterial structure, independent of the Catholic hierarchy, was retained and the responsibility for administering the churches was laid upon the seniors who were to be assisted by inspectors. Three seniorats for central and western Slovakia were established, each of them administered by a Slovak senior. Three inspectors were also selected, two for the German speaking congregations and one for the Magyar congregations. Each senior, moreover, was to take an oath of office which included the statement that “in my public and private life I will teach and foster no other doctrine but that which is found in the prophetical and apostolic writings which are embodied in the confession presented in Augsburg to Emperor Charles V in 1530 and which is found in the Formula of Concord.”44 The Synod of Sillein thus not only created an independent ecclesiastical organization for the Lutherans of central and western Slovakia; it also ended the controversy over the acceptance of the Formula of Concord. It was not until 22 January 1614, however, that the Lutherans of eastern Slovakia were able to create a similar seniorat system of ecclestiastical administration at the Synod of Kirchdrauf. Held under the patronage of Christoph Thurzo, the Synod followed the pattern established at Sillein, even to the acceptance of the Formula of Concord as the theological norm for the two seniorats created by the Synod.45
These synods placed the responsibility of administering the Lutheran churches of Slovakia largely in the hands of the clergy. It was this structure which helped the Lutherans maintain their existence even after most of the magnates
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returned to Catholicism during the counter-Reformation and the churches of the cities were restored, often by force, to the control of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
Equally vital to the continuance of Lutheranism in Slovakia was that the majority of the members of the some nine hundred Lutheran congregations were Slovaks. Lutheranism had not remained merely a German religion but was acculturated by the native Slovak population. It was a process that was not completed, however, until the middle of the seventeenth century with the publication of the Cithara Sanctorum or Harp of the Saints by George Tranoscius.46 Born in Silesia and having studied at the University of Wittenberg prior to settling in Slovakia where he died in 1637, George Tranoscius prepared the Cithara Sanctorum to serve as a hymnbook, prayerbook, and service book all in one. Written in the kralicina or the language of the Czech Kralice Bible, which served as the literary language of the Slovaks, it encapsulated in song and verse the spirit and substance of the Lutheran Reformation. The leading monument of Slovak literature and culture of the Reformation movement, it was the final step in the acculturation of the Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia.
Although Lutheranism was first accepted by the German burghers of the cities of upper Hungary or Slovakia, its gradual acculturation by the Slovak population helps to explain why Lutheranism maintained itself in Slovakia. In contrast to other regions of eastern Europe inhabited by Slavs where Lutheranism remained merely a “German” religion or was accepted primarily by the higher nobility for distinctly political purposes, in Slovakia Lutheranism gained the allegiance of a broad spectrum of the native population. The spread of Lutheranism into Slovakia is thus a unique episode in the history of the Lutheran Reformation. Among all the Slavic peoples, only the Slovaks retained their allegiance to Lutheranism and only in Slovakia did Lutheranism remain a powerful cultural force.
FOOTNOTES
* This article was presented, in a slightly abridged form, at a joint meeting of the ASRR and the ARR held in St. Louis Missouri on 30 October 1976. The author would like to recognize the financial assistance provided by the Center for Reformation Research, the Aid Association for Lutherans, and the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies of the Pennsylvania State University.
1. In 1973 there were about 450,000 baptized members in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia which had 326 parishes and 14 districts. In the United States there are two Lutheran bodies which have their roots in Synods founded by Slovak Lutheran immigrants: the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) with 19,953 baptized members and 58
Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia
33
congregations and the Zion Lutheran Synod (of the Lutheran Church in America) with 13,326 baptized members and 40 congregations.
2. For the only survey of the historiography of the Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia in English see David P. Daniel, ‘The Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia, 1517-1618,” Diss. The Pennsylvania State University 1972, pp. 1-78.
3. There is no evidence of any direct ties between the Hussites of the fifteenth
century and the sixteenth century Lutherans, although the latter did have ties to the contemporary Hussites in Bohemia. Definitive studies on the question have been produced by Branislav Varsik, Husiti a reformada na slovensku do %ilinskej synody (Bratislava, 1932) and Husitske revolucne hnutie a Slovensku (Bratislava, 1965).
4. Alzbeta Gollnerová, “Poïatky reformace ν Banske Bystrici,” Bratislava IV
(1930), p. 583.
5. Branislav Varsik, “Prva’ evanjelicka cirkev na Slovensku?” Bratislava II
(1928). pp. 70-73.
6. Johann Borbis, Die evangelisch-lutherische Kirche Ungarns (Nördlingen,
1861), pp. 29-30; J. P. Tomasik, Andenken an die 300-jährige Jubelfeier der evangelischen Gemeine in der k. Freistadt Leutschau (Leutschau, 1844), pp. 17-18.
7. Jan Kvacala, Dejiny reformacie na Slovensku (Lipt. Sv. Mikulasf, 1935), p.
46; Bartolomei Krpelec, Bardejov a jeho okolie davno a dnes (Bardejov, 1935), pp. 40-41.
8. Louis Neustadt, Markgraf Georg von Brandenburg als Erzieher an der
Ungarischen Hofe (Breslau, 1883), pp. 19-29, 40-44.
9. WA Br. III, p. 568.
10. Deszö Wiczian, “Beitrage zu Leben und Tätigkeit Conrad Cordatus,” Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte LV (1964), p. 219-221; Jane de Iongh, Mary of Hungary; Second Regent of the Netherlands (London, 1958), pp. 85-86; Adalbert Hudak, “Der Hofprediger Johannes Henckel und seine Beziehungen zu Erasmus von Rotterdam,” Kirche im Osten II (1959), p. 108.
11. Gustav Bauch, “Dr. Johann Henckel, der Hofprediger der Königin Maria von Ungarn,” Ungarische Revue IV (1884), pp. 599-600; Lajos Nyikos, “Erasmus und der böhmisch-ungarische Köhigshof,” Zwingliana VII (1937), pp. 356-368.
12. CR II, p. 178.
13 WA, XIX, pp. 542-615.
14. CR II, p. 233; WA Br. V, pp. 510-511; Jan Kvacala, “Kralovom Maria a jej iicast ν dejoch reformacie,” Viera a Veda I (1930), pp. 102-105.
15. Corpus Juris Hungarica, I (Budae, 1884), Article 54, 1523.
16. Ibid., Article 54, 1525.
17. For an account of the miners revolt see Günther Frhr. von Probszt, Vie niederungarischen Bergstadte: Ihre Entwicklung und wirtschaftliche Bedeutung bis zum Übergang an das Haus Habsburg, 1546 (München, 1966); also “Die sozialen Ursachen des ungarischen Bergarbeiteraufstandes von 1525-1526,” Zeitschrift für Ostforschung X (1961), pp. 1-25; and especially Peter Ratkol, Povstanie banlkov na Slovensku roku 1525-1526 (Bratislava, 1963).
18. Gustav Hamman, “Magister Nicolaus von Sabinov: Ein Beitrag über den Humanismus und die frühe Reformation in der Slowakei,” Zeitschrift fur Ostforschung XVI (1967), pp. 25-40.
19. Ibid., p. 38; Göllnerpva, pp. 587-590.
20. Hamman, pp. 42-43.
21. Kvacala, Dejiny, pp. 51-52.
22. Andreas Fabo, Codex evangelicorum utriusque confessionis in Hungaria et Transylvania diplomaticus (Pesthini, 1869), pp. 13-16.
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CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY
23. Tomasik, pp. 24-35.
24. Arnold Ipolyi, Geschichte der Stadt Neusohl: Eine kulturgeschichtliche Skizze, II (Wien, 1875), pp. 118-119.
25. Borbis, pp. 12-13.
26. The best study of the organization of the schools during the Reformation Era in Slovakia is Peter Vajcik, Skolstvo, \tudijne a ïkolské poriaäky na Slovensku ν 16. s toro Ü/( Bratislava, 1955).
27. Mihaly Buesay, Geschichte des Protestantismus in Ungarn (Stuttgart, 1959), pp. 33-34; Mathias Szlávik, Die Reformation in Ungarn (Halle, 1884), pp. 20-23.
28. Gèza Szabo, Geschichte des ungarischen Coetus an der Universität Wittenberg, 1555-1613 (Halle, 1941), pp. 15-16.
29. Ladislaus Stromp, “Ungarn und Melanchthon,” Deutschevangelische Blätter, N.F. III (1903), pp. 727-746; Adalbert Hudak, “Melanchthon und die Slowakei,” in Desider Alexy, ed., Roland Steinacker: Ein Leben für Kirche und Volk, Festschrift zur Geburtstag von R. Steinacker (Stuttgart, I960), pp. 33-37. v, v
30. Kvacala, Dejiny, pp. 58-59; Peter Ratkos, “Pociatky nevokrstenectva na Slovenska,” Historicky Öasopis V (1957), pp. 185-203.
31. Stöckel attacked Dévay for having forsaken Lutheranism, and news of the controversy between Devay and other reformers in eastern Slovakia , reached Luther, who in 1544 wrote the clergy of Eperies to deplore the growth of sectarian views in eastern Slovakia and expressing astonishment at the reports concerning Dévay. In any case, Luther wrote, Devay had not learned such ideas at Wittenberg. WA Br. X, pp. 555-556.
32. Szabo, p. 101; Bucsay, p. 80.
33. CJH, Article 6, 1548.
34. Iohannes Ribini, Memorabilia augustanae confessionis in regno Hungariae, I (Posomi, 1787), pp. 67-70.
35. Viktor Bruckner, Gedenkbuch anlasslich der 400. jährigen Jahreswende der Confessio Augustana (Leipzig, 1930), pp. 3-67.
36. CR VIII, pp. 354-361; Kvacala, Dejiny, pp. 120-121.
37. Ribini, pp. 521-528; Kva&la, Dejiny, p. 124.
38. Kvacala, Dejiny, pp. 134-136; Borbis, p. 39.
39. Borbis, p. 39.
40. Kvacala, Dejiny, pp. 131-132.
41. For the best short study of Lani see Jan Mocko, Elias Lâni, prvy superintendent cirkve evanj. augi. vyzn. ν Uhrach a jeho doba (Lipt. Sv. Mikulááf, 1902).
42. Josef Irinyi, Geschichte der Entstehung des 26. Gesetzartikels von 1790/1 über Religionsangelegenheiten (Pest, 1857), pp. 7-10; KvaKala, Dejiny, pp. 147-148.
43. CJH, Articles I, X, XIII. 1608 Ante Coron.
44. Johannes Szeberinyi, Corpus maxime memorabilium synodorum Evangelicarum Augustanae Confessionis in Hungaria cum praefatione Histórica in Singulas {Pesthim, 1948), pp. 15-20; Borbis, pp. 124-126.
45. Szeberinyi, pp. 29-42. ^ ^
46. Concerning Tranoscius and his work see Jan Mocko, Zivot Jura Tranovskèho (Senke, 1891) and also Lu,dovit Haan, Cithara Sanctorum, jeji historia (Pest, 1873) and Jan P. Durovic, ìivotopis Juraja Tranovskèho (Lipt. Sv. Miku&s, 1942).
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Location:Křemencova,Prague,Czech Republic


Slovakia — The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession


(Left to Right: Rev. Tony Booker, LCMS Missionary based in Prague; General Bishop Miloš Klátik, Ph.D, of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia; Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations; DCE David Fiala, LCMS Missionary based in Žilina, Slovakia)
On 28 November 2012, a delegation from the LCMS met with the General Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia. The ECAC in Slovakia is the second largest church in the Slovak Republic with 316,250 members. The largest church is the Roman Catholic Church. The ECAC in Slovakia has 686 churches and 361 pastors. The church has 9 kindergartens, 6 elementary schools, and 6 high schools. The church also has a seminary, the Evangelical Theological Faculty of the Commenius University in Bratislava.


The church is divided into two districts (the Western and the Eastern), each with a bishop, who are presided over by the General Bishop. The church does ordain women, however, many of these women serve in roles very similar to LCMS deaconesses.


A Brochure Explaining the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia.


A SIDE NOTE ON WOMAN’S ORDINATION IN CENTRAL EUROPE (and in other churches such as Africa)

Due to the context in the United States, when it is heard that a church body ordains women, many LCMS members immediately assume that a church body is “liberal” in the sense of “American Liberal Protestant Churches,” that deny the authority of the Holy Scriptures, do not hold to a quia subscription to the Book of Concord, and have accepted the liberal social agenda that afflicts much of Western Society. The reality of these churches in Central Europe and in Africa is often quite different.

Many (most) of these churches are socially conservative that are resisting the societal trends of the Western World. On social issues most of these church hold the exact same position as the Missouri Synod.
When it comes to the understanding of the Scriptures, many of the churches confess nearly the same as the Missouri Synod, that the Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant word of God. Some of these churches in Europe due to the effects of atheistic communism have a different conception of the Hexaemera (Six Day Creation) than the Missouri Synod. In the African churches, the view of Scripture is often identical to that of the Missouri Synod.

If the the view of Scripture in these churches is similar or nearly identical to that of the Missouri Synod, why did these churches ordain women? In a general way, the answer can be described as the result of pragmatic reasons (extreme isolation under Communism and a shortage of men), decades of exposure to atheism, and the egalitarian social justice doctrine of the contemporary world that seeks to remove all gender distinctions, even that of Mother and Father / Brother and Sister in families in the case of Sweden, where the acceptable legal terms are “parent” and “sibling.”
Despite these differences, these churches maintain a strong sense of Lutheran identity in the face of persecution and incredible challenges. There is much for the Missouri Synod to learn from churches that faced persecution under communism, especially as religious liberty is under increasing attack in the United States. Additionally, these churches may benefit from conversation with the Missouri Synod as they try to maintain their Lutheran identity (holding fast to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions).
Although there are differences that may prevent the Missouri Synod from entering into pulpit and altar fellowship, it is also important for the Missouri Synod to engage in conversation where we are able to do so — for the mutual benefit of all involved, as we seek to confess the truth of the Reformation to the world.


We also visited Maly Kostol, the “small church” in Bratislava. The church is of interest for a couple of reasons: 1) from the outside the church appears to be an ordinary building. It was illegal for a Lutheran church to look like a church, but it was permitted to exist if the people met in what appeared to be an ordinary building; 2) the church displays a painting depicting the Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia.


The painting begins with the creation of the world, then goes to the Baptism of Jesus, to the preaching of the apostles, the coming of the Christian church to Slovak lands, to Martin Luther and the Reformation, then to the coming of the Reformation in Slovakia, then it passes through the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries and the communist persecution of the church. It is an incredible testament to the Gospel in Slovakia.


David Fiala stands next to the painting to give perspective to its size.


After meeting with the Bishop, we stopped by the seminary, the Evangelical Theological Faculty of the Commenius University in Bratislava. A distinguishing mark of this faculty is that it is entirely Lutheran. Although the churches both in Poland and in Hungary have theological faculties, those faculties are not entirely Lutheran, but mixed with Reformed professors. The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia has been able to maintain its strong Lutheran identity in part due to the strength of their seminary.


Dr. Lubo Batka, rector of the theological faculty, talks with us in our office. I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Batka for the first time six years ago at the 2006 Luther Congress in Brazil. We were able to briefly speak to one another at the 2012 Luther Congress in Helsinki, Finland, in August. It was very good to see him in Bratislava.
In keeping with the past several posts, I have included an article on the history of the Reformation in Slovakia. It is a longer article, but worth the effort if one wants to understand the history of the Lutheran Church in Slovakia.
— Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations.
Daniel, David P. “Highlights of the Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia.” Concordia Theological Quarterly 42, no. 1 (1978): 21–34.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LUTHERAN REFORMATION IN SLOVAKIA
David P. Daniel The Pennsylvania State University, Erie, Pennsylvania
The territory of modern Slovakia, encompassing much of what was formerly upper Hungary, was, during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, a Protestant stronghold and the heartland of Slavic Lutheranism. It is one of the few Slavic regions of Europe where a substantial number of Lutherans1 have maintained their theological and liturgical traditions as the heritage of the Reformation, and the Lutherans played a role in the cultural-national awakening of the Slovaks of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries far more significant than their numbers would have suggested.
Unfortunately, the history of Lutheranism and the Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia has been neglected by most historians. Even Czech historians do little more than assert that the Reformation strengthened the cultural and linguistic ties between the Czechs and the Slovaks while Hungarian historians, understandably, do not differentiate between the growth of Lutheranism in the Carpathians and the Reformation in the rest of Hungary.2
More disquieting is that only a handful of Slovaks have addressed themselves to the formal study of the Lutheran Reformation and many of these were primarily interested in indicating the relationship which they believed existed between the Czech Hussites of the fifteenth century and the Lutherans of the sixteenth century, hoping to justify the concept of a Czechoslovak people.
But this argument, that the Hussites were the direct precursors of Lutheranism in Slovakia, reflects the realities of nineteenth rather than of sixteenth century history. Based upon a widely held folk tradition which ascribed to Hussite foundation many of the oldest Lutheran congregations in Slovakia, this interpretation appeared verified by evidence which indicated that Lutheranism was most quickly and widely accepted in those counties and cities which had been under the hegemony of John Jiskra and his Hussite warriors. This interpretation, though facile and attractive to advocates of a Czechoslovak nationality, lacks concrete historical substantiation.3
Even a cursory study of the Reformation Era in Slovakia indicates that the first to accept Lutheranism were the German burghers of the cities of central and eastern Slovakia. Nevertheless, although the Reformation in Slovakia began as an
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extension of and was strongly influenced by the reformers at the University of Wittenberg, by the end of the sixteenth century, Slovaks would form the majority in the Lutheran Church in Slovakia. Slovak clergy would increase their voice in the administration of the Church during the sixteenth century and would look less and less to Wittenberg for guidance and direction. It was this acculturation of Lutheranism in Slovakia which helps to explain why it was able to endure until the present while in other regions inhabited by “Slavic peoples, Lutheranism died out or was retained only as the faith of Germanic peoples.
Luther’s ideas were promulgated and found acceptance in Slovakia shortly after his debate with John Eck at Leipzig. Merchants from the cities of central and eastern Slovakia returned from their regular visits to the Leipzig fair with news of and pamphlets by the Wittenberg Professor. In 1520 Thomas Preisner, Pastor at Leibitz near Käsmark in Zips county of eastern Slovakia, read Luther’s Ninety-five Theses from his pulpit.4 Two years later a small congregation of Lutherans had been founded at Nove Mesto pod Siatrom.6 In 1522 George Baumhenckel of Neusohl became the first student from Slovakia to enroll at the University of Wittenberg and was followed in 1523 by Thomas Matthias, also from Neusohl, and Martin Cyriacus from Leutschau.’ By 1525 the citizens of Bartfeld, a major trading center in eastern Slovakia, were caught up in a debate of Luther’s ideas, we were the citizens of the cities of the montana region of central Slovakia.7
Luther’s influence was even felt within the court of Hungary. There the most prominent advocate of Luther was none other than the military tutor of Louis and the close confident of Mary, George of Brandenburg. George seems to have accepted Luther’s ideas quite early, for in 1522 he was condemned by many of the lesser Hungarian nobles, clerics, and Italians at the court as a German heretic.8 A ready target for their reproaches because of his pro-Habsburg attitudes, George made no effort to conceal his views. In a letter to Luther dated 5 January 1523 George indicated how he had himself defended the German Reformer before the King.9
It was George who arranged the appointment of Conrad Cordatus, later active in Slovakia and Germany, as the court chaplain of Mary. But the fiery and intemperate attack Cordatus made upon the Pope, the Papal Legate to Hungary, and the cardinals after the publication of Decet Romanum led to his dismissal and brief imprisonment.10 He was replaced by John Henckel from Leutschau who, though an advocate of reform, was much more in sympathy with the views of Erasmus than with those of Luther. Except for a brief sojourn in Kaschau in
Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia
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1526, Henckel served the Queen until 1530 when she departed Hungary to assume the Regency of the Netherlands.n
Mary herself was attacked for tolerating Lutheranism because she sought to reduce the tensions between her brother Ferdinand and the evangelicals12 and because Luther dedicated to her his exposition of four penitential psalms of 1526.13 Although Mary never expressly accepted the ideas of Luther, neither did she explicitly repudiate him. Even as late as 1530, despite all of her protestations to Ferdinand that she did not tolerate heretics in her retinue, she still indicated an interest in Luther and his doctrine when she was at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530.14 She would not define her own religious convictions with precision but seems to have sympathized more with the ideas of Erasmus.
Because of its attraction for the Germans in the court of Hungary and in the cities of Slovakia, Lutheranism was viewed as a very real threat to the kingdom by the lesser Magyar nobility and the Roman Catholic hierarchy. On 24 April 1523 the Diet accepted an anti-Lutheran proposal drawn up by Cardinal Cajetan and endorsed by Stephen Werböczy stating that “all Lutherans and those favoring them shall have their property confiscated and themselves be punished as heretics and foes of the most holy Virgin Mary.”15 Various royal governors also tried to stamp out the evangelical movement but without any real success, and in 1525 the Diet once again felt compelled to decree that all Lutherans should be purged from the land by both the secular and the ecclesiastical authorities.1β.
These laws must be understood, however, in light of the many problems confronting Hungary in 1525; the rivalries among the nobility, the conflict between the nobles and the monarchy, the fear of Habsburg influence and of the advance of the Turkish armies in southern Hungary and especially the financial difficulties facing the nation. Hoping to alleviate these problems, Werböczy and the lesser nobility sought to assume the direction of the mines of central Slovakia, largely controlled by the Fugger-Thurzo company. Angered by the German domination of the cities of Slovakia, which were vital to the economic well-being of the nation, the increasingly xenophobic lesser Magyar nobility took advantage of the revolt of the miners in the montana region, which broke out in 1525, to attack this German influence by identifying it with the doctrines emanating from Wittenberg.17
This was not difficult to accomplish. Many of the leading burghers of Neusohl, a center of the revolt, and of the other six major cities of the montana region, had gone over to Lutheranism during the 1520’s. In Neusohl Valentin Schneider, who had been elected magistrate in 1521, and his brother-in-law, Heinrich KindHnger, the curator of the churches of the
24
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city, converted to Lutheranism. It was their not so secret intention to call Simon Bernhard Kech, a follower of Luther, as a preacher for the city churches. But the city pastor, Nicolaus of Zeeben, strongly opposed this maneuver, arguing that the attempt by the magistrates to name a cleric to a position subordinate to his own, without his approval, was an illegal interference in the rights and responsibilities of the city pastor. Nicolaus appealed to both the Queen and the hierarchy, the latter responding quickly in favor of Nicolaus and sending a commission to the city on 4 April 1524 to root out and destroy Lutheran books.18 Not to be thwarted by the opposition of Nicolaus, after Kech requested to be excused from his earlier acceptance of the call because of the dispute, the magistrates resorted to the convention of inviting evangelical preachers to work in the city for specific terms and honorariums. Among these were Conrad Cordatus, John Kryssling and Dominikus Hoffmann. Even the hesitant Kech delivered a series of sermons in Neusohl in the winter of 1526.19
This tactic only served to prolong the struggle and led to its involvement in the revolt of the miners. For once the revolt broke out, Nicolaus charged that the reformist preachers had stirred up the workers. While Kryssling and Cordatus were imprisoned briefly, they were found innocent of any connection with the uprising, and Nicolaus, who had hoped to strengthen his hand, found that he had lost most of his support. Upon his death in 1529, the council of Neusohl selected Stephen Spetinger as the first Lutheran city pastor.20 The dispute in Neusohl was not confined to theology but involved jurisdictional issues. The heat of the controversy was fired by the increasing desire of the lay leaders of the community to gain a greater voice in the administration of the churches in the city than they had previously exercised, justifying their actions by an appeal to their traditional prerogatives as embodied in their civic charters of privilege.
Evangelical clerics were also aided and protected by some of the most powerful families of Hungary living in Slovakia, who joined the Lutheran movement during the first half century of the Reformation. Among them were the Thurzo, Illéshàzy, Török, Ballassi, Dragfi, Kostka, Révay, Perényi, and Nádasdy families. All of them tolerated evangelical reformers in their territories, most of them called protestant clerics to serve the chapels on their estates, and some of them, including Thomas Nádasdy, Francis Révay, and Peter Perenyi, corresponded directly with Melanchthon and Luther, seeking advice in theological and ecclesiastical matters.21
As magistrates and magnates went over to the new faith, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, which had suffered severe losses at
Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia
25
the battle of Mohacs in 1526 and in the subsequent disorders of the Turkish occupation of most of Hungary, could not inhibit the growth of Lutheranism in Slovakia. The paucity of leaders within the Roman Catholic Church allowed the reformers in Slovakia to work within the old ecclesiastical organization to bring about the reform of liturgy and doctrine. As they took over the administration of the churches at the municipal and district levels, the reformers encountered little effective opposition and thus felt no need to organize outside the existing structures until the end of the century.
This was the pattern of reform throughout Slovakia and can be seen clearly in the eastern counties and cities. In Bartfeld, Esias Lang and Michael Radaschinus were early supporters of reform, as was Matthew Ramaschi, pastor at Zeeben, who corresponded regularly with the Wittenberg reformers.22 Even George Moeller, the Senior of the Fraternity of the pastors of the twenty-four Zips cities, one of the most important pastoral conferences in Slovakia, eventually went over to Lutheranism despite his earlier attempts to halt its spread in Leutschau.23 In 1544 he called Bartholomäus Bogner of Eperies to come to Leutschau as Deacon in order to preach in the spirit of Luther, while Moeller himself addressed the need to establish a continuing basis of financial support for the evangelical churches and schools.
In central Slovakia Stefan Spetinger, Bartholomäus Frank, and Raphael Steger were the propagators of Lutheranism in Neusohl,2* while Andreas Jacobaeus and Stanislaus Koskossinus did the same in Altsohl. In western Slovakia, where the magnates were particularly active in fostering the growth of Lutheranism, Slovak clergy were quite prominent in the Lutheran movement, including Caspar Kolarik, Jaroslav Urbanovic, and Michael Marcellus or Marcek in Arwa county, and Basüius Modonius, Paul de Hunicov, and George Bohemicus in Trentschin.25
The rectors of the city and village schools of Slovakia were also active in the reform movement. The schools, which came increasingly under the control of lay patrons, were one of the most effective agencies for the propagation of Lutheranism in Slovakia. The magistrates or magnates would name the rectors, confirm the curriculum and orders or discipline for both teachers and pupils, and adjudicate disputes.26 Continuing the pedagogical traditions of northern humanism and merging them with Lutheran doctrine, the evangelical schools of Slovakia attracted the sons of the magnates and the burghers.
Most significant were the schools located at Kasmark, Eperies, Neusohl, Leutschau and Bartfeld. Under Leonhard Stocket, a former student and life-long friend of Luther and Melanchthon,
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the Humanist School at Bartfeld attained such fame that its curriculum served as a model for many of the other schools of Slovakia.27
Many of the pastors and rectors patterned their activity after the model of the reformers at Wittenberg as they had learned to know them during their sojourn at the University. Although the universities at Vienna, Cracow, and Padua still drew substantial numbers of students from Hungary, as did the University at Prague, the overwhelming majority of the evangelicals from Slovakia sought a Wittenberg education. By the time of Melanchthon’s death in 1560 some 442 students from Hungary had enrolled at Wittenberg, and by the end of the century the number reached 1018.28 Frequently aided by stipends and subsidies from patrons at home, the students absorbed the teachings of Luther and Melanchthon, the latter being especially solicitous of the welfare of the students from Hungary.29 Moreover, since the approval of the bishops, who were still Roman Catholic, was required for ordination at home, many of these students went to Wittenberg not only to complete their education but to be ordained there. It seems that many viewed their ordination at Wittenberg as bestowing upon their ministry the authority and blessing of the alma mater of Lutheranism.
Since many of the lay patrons of the reformation movements in Slovakia were primarily concerned with moral and liturgical reform, it is not too surprising that a specifically Lutheran movement was slow to develop. Almost all who advocated reform were called Lutherans by their enemies, irrespective of the doctrine they preached. The theological particularization which was evident quite early in Germany and Switzerland developed much more slowly in Slovakia. Nevertheless, there had been, even during the early years of the evangelical reform movement in Slovakia, some egregious theological debates between the radical Anabaptists and the more moderate reformers in eastern Slovakia. Andreas Fischer from Kremnitz advocated Anabaptist and then Sabbatarian and Judaizing views in the cities of Zips county during the 1530’s, achieving some success among the lower classes in the cities.30 An even greater challenge to Lutheranism was that of Calvinism, which became increasingly popular among the Magyars. Presaged by Matthias Biro Dévay who, after returning to Hungary from Wittenberg, inclined more and more to the doctrinal formulations of the Helvetic Reformation, many of the Magyars, even those who attended Wittenberg, would accept first Philippist and then distinctly Calvinist doctrine.81
At Wittenberg, the Magyar students formed a specific nation, the Hungarian Coetus, limited to those whose mother
Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia
27
tongue was Hungarian. Throughout its history, no German or Slovak from Slovakia ever joined the Coetus; and thus there emerged at Wittenberg a distinction between the Magyars, on the one hand, and the Germans and the Slovaks, on the other. This differentiation was not confined to ethnic or linguistic differences but became increasingly theological. At first characterized by the moderation of Melanchthon in doctrine, to whom the Magyars were especially attracted, the members of the Coetus would adhere more and more to purely Helvetic teachings after Melanchthon’s death. After attacks were made upon it by the Archduke August of Saxony in the 1570*8, only a handful of members remained in the organization and most of the Magyars sought out the universities of Switzerland and the Rhineland to complete their education.82 The process which began at Wittenberg continued in Hungary as the students returned home. The theological and ethnic differentiation began to split apart the evangelical movement and was accentuated by the need to define the evangelical faith as a result of the defeat of the Smalcaldic League at Mühlberg in 1547, the repudiation of protestant ideas at the first sessions of the Council of Trent, the renewal of Catholicism, and the passage of the first anti-protestant laws by the Hungarian Diet since 1525.
At Pressburg in 1548 the Diet approved an article ordering the expulsion of Anabaptists and Sacramentarians from the kingdom was approved.38. Fearing the influence of Anabaptism and other more radical theologies, the Lutheran party had joined with the Roman Catholic party to enact this law. But the Catholic hierarchy, with the support of the King, immediately began to interpret the law as meaning that all “innovators” in religious matters, including Lutherans, should be expelled. In response to this very obvious threat, the Lutherans of Slovakia, and subsequently the Magyar Calviniste, sought to define their faith and to defend themselves by disavowing the Anabaptist views proscribed by the law of 1548.
Attempts to define the theology of the evangelicals had taken place in 1545 at Erdöd and one year later at the Synod of Eperies. At the latter, where discussions focused primarily upon ceremonies and feast days, the representatives of the five royal free cities of eastern Slovakia, Eperies, Zeeben, Bartfeld, Käsmark, and Leutschau, declared their adherence to both the Augsburg Confession and the Loci Communes of Melanchthon.84 After the passage of the law of 1548, the need for a definition of the evangelical faith became even more pressing. Believing themselves entitled to the same toleration which had been extended to their co-religionists in the Empire, the Lutherans of Slovakia would, after 1548, seek to make their adherence to the Augustana even clearer by drawing up three
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confessions of faith: the Confessio Pentapolitana authored by Leonhard Stocket in 1548 and accepted by the five royal free cities of eastern Slovakia; the Confessio Montana of 1558 which was largely the work of Ulrich Cubicularius of Schemnitz and accepted by the seven free cities of central Slovakia; and the Confessio Scepusiana prepared by Valentin Megander and Cyriak Koch using the Montana as their model and approved by the Contubernia of the pastors of twenty-four Zips cities in 1569. Although each of these confessions was a response to a specific threat to the independence of the evangelicals in each region by the Catholic hierarchy, they all conformed to the doctrines of the Augustana while expressing these doctrines in moderate, almost conciliatory language. Clearly repudiating the views of the Anabaptists, these confessions also stressed the true catholicity which the Lutherans believed characterized their views.36
At the same time, the Magyar Calviniste were defining their doctrinal stance and, while attempts were made to reconcile the differences between the two parties, they were to no avail. By the last quarter of the sixteenth century each party, Lutheran and Calvinist, had so defined their own theology through confessions of faith as to make reconciliation impossible. The process of definition of dogma led to the differentiation of the evangelical Reformation in Hungary into two distinct groups and to the perpetuation of the separation between the Calvinist Magyars and the Lutherans of Slovakia.
These confessions did differentiate between the Lutherans of Slovakia and the Magyar Calviniste as well as the Anabaptists but did not eliminate another major threat to the Lutherans in Slovakia, that of dissension within their own ranks. The very moderation of language and brevity, which characterized all three of the confessions accepted by Lutherans within Slovakia, allowed for a variety of interpretation. After 1580, attempts to have the Formula of Concord accepted as the normative statement of Lutheran theology for the Lutherans of Slovakia resulted in a generation of debate. On the one hand, many German Lutherans of the central and eastern cities of Slovakia were reluctant to accept the very precise doctrinal definitions which had been incorporated into the Formula of Concord and accepted by the orthodox Lutherans in Germany. On the other hand, the clergy of Slovak ancestry, often supported by the leading magnates of Slovakia, and seeking a greater voice in the administration of the Church in which Slovaks were now numerically the majority, became the ardent advocates of the Formula.
It could have been expected that the controversies leading to the formulation and acceptance of the Formula of Concord
Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia
29
would be echoed in Slovakia. For many of the issues treated in the Formula had already emerged in the cities of Slovakia. In 1551 Matthias Lauterwald, Pastor at Eperies, accepted and proclaimed an Helvetic interpretation of the Lord’s Supper and a synergistic interpretation of the doctrine of salvation. Michael Radaschinus and Leonhard Stocket both chastized Lauterwald, who had been influenced by Osiander and the other Königsberg theologians. This dispute eventually involved the town councils of Bartfeld and Eperies, who appealed to the faculty of Wittenberg for a decision in the case. On 30 October 1554 Melanchthon wrote to the magistrates of Eperies indicating that, if Lauterwald persisted in his views, they had the right to dismiss him from his post.36 Even before Lauterwald, both Andreas Fischer and George Leudischer from Leutschau had preached doctrines more radical then those generally accepted as Lutheran; while, during the second third of the sixteenth century, Francis Stancarus of Poland, who also labored in Transylvania, and Francis David of eastern Hungary, proclaimed even more radical Unitarian doctrines. These radical theologians had had some influence in eastern Slovakia and this region had also been the center of the moderate Philippist Lutherans. It is quite understandable, therefore, that the Formula provoked hostility among the clerics in eastern Slovakia.
The first attempt to have the Formula accepted as a normative theological statement was made in central Slovakia. George Melzer, from Neusohl, advocated its acceptance at the Synod of Kremnica in March 1580. Many of the other clergy at the Synod were reluctant to accept the Formula and, as tempers flared, Matthias Eberhard, the Senior of the district, worked out a compromise which led to a reiteration, by the clergy, of the theology of the Confessio Montana.37 In eastern Slovakia, Gaspar Kreutzer and Albert Grawer of Kaschau, who had come to Slovakia from Germany, took up the advocacy of the Formula while Anton Platner of Leutschau became its most outspoken critic and was joined by John Mylius, Sebastian Lam, and Sebastian Ambrosius, all of whom were considered Philippist, in opposing its adoption.38
The controversy over the Formula of Concord focused largely on the definition of the communicatio idiomatum and its implications for the theology of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. It seems that few, if any, who adhered to Lutheranism in Slovakia, denied the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. But it is also obvious that there were many who were reluctant to define the precise manner by which the bread and the wine communicated the Body and Blood of Christ to the believer. While many of the
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clergy were Philippists, most did not consider themselves anything but Lutherans, as can be seen in the frequent and clear repudiations of Calvinist, Zwinglian, and Anabaptist views. It seems most logical, therefore, to conclude that they were reluctant to accept the Formula of Concord because it might have been considered a new confession of faith which could have endangered their own position within the nation.
The Lutherans of Slovakia had consistently defended their right to follow their own religious faith and practice by citing their allegiance to and conformity with the Augsburg Confession recognized in the Empire and also by the rights devolving from their charters and patents of privileges to appoint pastors and rectors. By formally accepting the Formula, they could open themselves to the charge of having adopted a new, non-recognized confession and thus lose what was already a tenuous claim to toleration, a situation which appeared to be happening in Bohemia after the acceptance of the Confessio Bohémica of 1575. The threat was made all the more real when Bishop George Bornemissa, whose authority extended to eastern Slovakia, warned that any cleric accepting the Formula in his territory would be considered as having dishonored Christ and would be appropriately punished.39.
During the 1590*8, however, the changing political situation made it necessary for the Lutherans to establish both theological unity and organizational independence. The organization of the Lutheran congregations apart from the old structures and the acceptance of the Formula of Concord might have taken much longer had the political situation remained stable. But during the 1590’s the various regions of Slovakia were being threatened by a reinvigorated, post-Tridentine Catholic hierarchy and the absolutist pretensions of Rudolf II and Matthias, who challenged both the traditional political and religious liberties and prerogatives of the cities and nobles. In the face of these threats, the lay leaders came to the foreground as advocates of the Formula of Concord. It was at this juncture of events that the clergy of Slovak ancestry also emerged to assume more prominent roles of leadership within the Lutheran community in Slovakia. In eastern Slovakia, Severinus Scultety, Pastor at Bartfeld, sought to have the Formula recognized by the eastern cities and finally attained his goal at the Synod of Leutschau in 1596.40 In western Slovakia, Elias Lani’, a former instructor at the evangelical school at Strata and the chaplain and advisor to the Lutheran magnate and later Palatine of Hungary, George Thurzo, gained the acceptance of the Formula at Sankt Martin in Thurotz in 1608.41
As the debate over the Formula continued, all of Hungary was thrown into an uproar by the attack of the Turks in 1591 and by the renewal of the conflict between the Habsburgs and
Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia
31
the nobles of Transylvanian Hungary. For fifteen years the destructive struggles raged on until the peace of Vienna and of Szitva Tóròk in 1606. Largely due to the successes of the Calvinist nobleman, Stephen Bocskay, articles recognizing the religious privileges of the nobles were incorporated into the Treaty of Vienna. These were subsequently confirmed, clarified, and extended to the cities by the articles approved at the Diet of 1608.42 Taken together, the Pacificatio Viennensis and the decisions of the Diet of 1608 laid the legal foundations for the existence of Protestantism in all of Hungary. All nobles and cities were to enjoy the free practice and exercise of their religion. Public offices, civil and military, were likewise to be open to all qualified candidates irrespective of their religious persuasion. Moreover, each Protestant group—that is, the Lutherans, Calviniste, and Unitarians—was allowed to establish its own separate ecclesiastical organization.43
Under the patronage of George Thurzo, who was elected Palatine in 1609, the Lutherans of western Slovakia took advantage of these laws to organize themselves at the Synod of Sillein in March 1610. A presbyterial structure, independent of the Catholic hierarchy, was retained and the responsibility for administering the churches was laid upon the seniors who were to be assisted by inspectors. Three seniorats for central and western Slovakia were established, each of them administered by a Slovak senior. Three inspectors were also selected, two for the German speaking congregations and one for the Magyar congregations. Each senior, moreover, was to take an oath of office which included the statement that “in my public and private life I will teach and foster no other doctrine but that which is found in the prophetical and apostolic writings which are embodied in the confession presented in Augsburg to Emperor Charles V in 1530 and which is found in the Formula of Concord.”44 The Synod of Sillein thus not only created an independent ecclesiastical organization for the Lutherans of central and western Slovakia; it also ended the controversy over the acceptance of the Formula of Concord. It was not until 22 January 1614, however, that the Lutherans of eastern Slovakia were able to create a similar seniorat system of ecclestiastical administration at the Synod of Kirchdrauf. Held under the patronage of Christoph Thurzo, the Synod followed the pattern established at Sillein, even to the acceptance of the Formula of Concord as the theological norm for the two seniorats created by the Synod.45
These synods placed the responsibility of administering the Lutheran churches of Slovakia largely in the hands of the clergy. It was this structure which helped the Lutherans maintain their existence even after most of the magnates
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returned to Catholicism during the counter-Reformation and the churches of the cities were restored, often by force, to the control of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
Equally vital to the continuance of Lutheranism in Slovakia was that the majority of the members of the some nine hundred Lutheran congregations were Slovaks. Lutheranism had not remained merely a German religion but was acculturated by the native Slovak population. It was a process that was not completed, however, until the middle of the seventeenth century with the publication of the Cithara Sanctorum or Harp of the Saints by George Tranoscius.46 Born in Silesia and having studied at the University of Wittenberg prior to settling in Slovakia where he died in 1637, George Tranoscius prepared the Cithara Sanctorum to serve as a hymnbook, prayerbook, and service book all in one. Written in the kralicina or the language of the Czech Kralice Bible, which served as the literary language of the Slovaks, it encapsulated in song and verse the spirit and substance of the Lutheran Reformation. The leading monument of Slovak literature and culture of the Reformation movement, it was the final step in the acculturation of the Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia.
Although Lutheranism was first accepted by the German burghers of the cities of upper Hungary or Slovakia, its gradual acculturation by the Slovak population helps to explain why Lutheranism maintained itself in Slovakia. In contrast to other regions of eastern Europe inhabited by Slavs where Lutheranism remained merely a “German” religion or was accepted primarily by the higher nobility for distinctly political purposes, in Slovakia Lutheranism gained the allegiance of a broad spectrum of the native population. The spread of Lutheranism into Slovakia is thus a unique episode in the history of the Lutheran Reformation. Among all the Slavic peoples, only the Slovaks retained their allegiance to Lutheranism and only in Slovakia did Lutheranism remain a powerful cultural force.
FOOTNOTES
* This article was presented, in a slightly abridged form, at a joint meeting of the ASRR and the ARR held in St. Louis Missouri on 30 October 1976. The author would like to recognize the financial assistance provided by the Center for Reformation Research, the Aid Association for Lutherans, and the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies of the Pennsylvania State University.
1. In 1973 there were about 450,000 baptized members in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia which had 326 parishes and 14 districts. In the United States there are two Lutheran bodies which have their roots in Synods founded by Slovak Lutheran immigrants: the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) with 19,953 baptized members and 58
Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia
33
congregations and the Zion Lutheran Synod (of the Lutheran Church in America) with 13,326 baptized members and 40 congregations.
2. For the only survey of the historiography of the Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia in English see David P. Daniel, ‘The Lutheran Reformation in Slovakia, 1517-1618,” Diss. The Pennsylvania State University 1972, pp. 1-78.
3. There is no evidence of any direct ties between the Hussites of the fifteenth
century and the sixteenth century Lutherans, although the latter did have ties to the contemporary Hussites in Bohemia. Definitive studies on the question have been produced by Branislav Varsik, Husiti a reformada na slovensku do %ilinskej synody (Bratislava, 1932) and Husitske revolucne hnutie a Slovensku (Bratislava, 1965).
4. Alzbeta Gollnerová, “Poïatky reformace ν Banske Bystrici,” Bratislava IV
(1930), p. 583.
5. Branislav Varsik, “Prva’ evanjelicka cirkev na Slovensku?” Bratislava II
(1928). pp. 70-73.
6. Johann Borbis, Die evangelisch-lutherische Kirche Ungarns (Nördlingen,
1861), pp. 29-30; J. P. Tomasik, Andenken an die 300-jährige Jubelfeier der evangelischen Gemeine in der k. Freistadt Leutschau (Leutschau, 1844), pp. 17-18.
7. Jan Kvacala, Dejiny reformacie na Slovensku (Lipt. Sv. Mikulasf, 1935), p.
46; Bartolomei Krpelec, Bardejov a jeho okolie davno a dnes (Bardejov, 1935), pp. 40-41.
8. Louis Neustadt, Markgraf Georg von Brandenburg als Erzieher an der
Ungarischen Hofe (Breslau, 1883), pp. 19-29, 40-44.
9. WA Br. III, p. 568.
10. Deszö Wiczian, “Beitrage zu Leben und Tätigkeit Conrad Cordatus,” Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte LV (1964), p. 219-221; Jane de Iongh, Mary of Hungary; Second Regent of the Netherlands (London, 1958), pp. 85-86; Adalbert Hudak, “Der Hofprediger Johannes Henckel und seine Beziehungen zu Erasmus von Rotterdam,” Kirche im Osten II (1959), p. 108.
11. Gustav Bauch, “Dr. Johann Henckel, der Hofprediger der Königin Maria von Ungarn,” Ungarische Revue IV (1884), pp. 599-600; Lajos Nyikos, “Erasmus und der böhmisch-ungarische Köhigshof,” Zwingliana VII (1937), pp. 356-368.
12. CR II, p. 178.
13 WA, XIX, pp. 542-615.
14. CR II, p. 233; WA Br. V, pp. 510-511; Jan Kvacala, “Kralovom Maria a jej iicast ν dejoch reformacie,” Viera a Veda I (1930), pp. 102-105.
15. Corpus Juris Hungarica, I (Budae, 1884), Article 54, 1523.
16. Ibid., Article 54, 1525.
17. For an account of the miners revolt see Günther Frhr. von Probszt, Vie niederungarischen Bergstadte: Ihre Entwicklung und wirtschaftliche Bedeutung bis zum Übergang an das Haus Habsburg, 1546 (München, 1966); also “Die sozialen Ursachen des ungarischen Bergarbeiteraufstandes von 1525-1526,” Zeitschrift für Ostforschung X (1961), pp. 1-25; and especially Peter Ratkol, Povstanie banlkov na Slovensku roku 1525-1526 (Bratislava, 1963).
18. Gustav Hamman, “Magister Nicolaus von Sabinov: Ein Beitrag über den Humanismus und die frühe Reformation in der Slowakei,” Zeitschrift fur Ostforschung XVI (1967), pp. 25-40.
19. Ibid., p. 38; Göllnerpva, pp. 587-590.
20. Hamman, pp. 42-43.
21. Kvacala, Dejiny, pp. 51-52.
22. Andreas Fabo, Codex evangelicorum utriusque confessionis in Hungaria et Transylvania diplomaticus (Pesthini, 1869), pp. 13-16.
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CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY
23. Tomasik, pp. 24-35.
24. Arnold Ipolyi, Geschichte der Stadt Neusohl: Eine kulturgeschichtliche Skizze, II (Wien, 1875), pp. 118-119.
25. Borbis, pp. 12-13.
26. The best study of the organization of the schools during the Reformation Era in Slovakia is Peter Vajcik, Skolstvo, \tudijne a ïkolské poriaäky na Slovensku ν 16. s toro Ü/( Bratislava, 1955).
27. Mihaly Buesay, Geschichte des Protestantismus in Ungarn (Stuttgart, 1959), pp. 33-34; Mathias Szlávik, Die Reformation in Ungarn (Halle, 1884), pp. 20-23.
28. Gèza Szabo, Geschichte des ungarischen Coetus an der Universität Wittenberg, 1555-1613 (Halle, 1941), pp. 15-16.
29. Ladislaus Stromp, “Ungarn und Melanchthon,” Deutschevangelische Blätter, N.F. III (1903), pp. 727-746; Adalbert Hudak, “Melanchthon und die Slowakei,” in Desider Alexy, ed., Roland Steinacker: Ein Leben für Kirche und Volk, Festschrift zur Geburtstag von R. Steinacker (Stuttgart, I960), pp. 33-37. v, v
30. Kvacala, Dejiny, pp. 58-59; Peter Ratkos, “Pociatky nevokrstenectva na Slovenska,” Historicky Öasopis V (1957), pp. 185-203.
31. Stöckel attacked Dévay for having forsaken Lutheranism, and news of the controversy between Devay and other reformers in eastern Slovakia , reached Luther, who in 1544 wrote the clergy of Eperies to deplore the growth of sectarian views in eastern Slovakia and expressing astonishment at the reports concerning Dévay. In any case, Luther wrote, Devay had not learned such ideas at Wittenberg. WA Br. X, pp. 555-556.
32. Szabo, p. 101; Bucsay, p. 80.
33. CJH, Article 6, 1548.
34. Iohannes Ribini, Memorabilia augustanae confessionis in regno Hungariae, I (Posomi, 1787), pp. 67-70.
35. Viktor Bruckner, Gedenkbuch anlasslich der 400. jährigen Jahreswende der Confessio Augustana (Leipzig, 1930), pp. 3-67.
36. CR VIII, pp. 354-361; Kvacala, Dejiny, pp. 120-121.
37. Ribini, pp. 521-528; Kva&la, Dejiny, p. 124.
38. Kvacala, Dejiny, pp. 134-136; Borbis, p. 39.
39. Borbis, p. 39.
40. Kvacala, Dejiny, pp. 131-132.
41. For the best short study of Lani see Jan Mocko, Elias Lâni, prvy superintendent cirkve evanj. augi. vyzn. ν Uhrach a jeho doba (Lipt. Sv. Mikulááf, 1902).
42. Josef Irinyi, Geschichte der Entstehung des 26. Gesetzartikels von 1790/1 über Religionsangelegenheiten (Pest, 1857), pp. 7-10; KvaKala, Dejiny, pp. 147-148.
43. CJH, Articles I, X, XIII. 1608 Ante Coron.
44. Johannes Szeberinyi, Corpus maxime memorabilium synodorum Evangelicarum Augustanae Confessionis in Hungaria cum praefatione Histórica in Singulas {Pesthim, 1948), pp. 15-20; Borbis, pp. 124-126.
45. Szeberinyi, pp. 29-42. ^ ^
46. Concerning Tranoscius and his work see Jan Mocko, Zivot Jura Tranovskèho (Senke, 1891) and also Lu,dovit Haan, Cithara Sanctorum, jeji historia (Pest, 1873) and Jan P. Durovic, ìivotopis Juraja Tranovskèho (Lipt. Sv. Miku&s, 1942).
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McGrath Affirms Luther’s Value in Contemporary Culture, Part 1

{Dr. Alister McGrath, Kings College, London, recently presented a paper to the 120 attendees of the International Conference on Confessional Leadership. Hosted by the LCMS, this conference focused on whether or not Lutheranism remains relevant in today’s culture and climate. Due to its length, Dr. McGrath’s keynote presentation, titled “Luther’s Witness and Its Continuing Value in the Global Church: A View from Outside Lutheranism,” will be posted in three parts. The first follows.}

Dr. Alister McGrath, Kings College, London

Well, let me begin my apologizing for the change in accent. It’s a huge pleasure to be with you today, and what I want to do is to talk with you as a member of the Church of England about why Luther is of such fundamental importance, whyhe is a resource to all of us as we think about the future of the Church, the future of the Gospel, and I find this a great privilege to be able to address these themes. The Church of England doesn’t really have many great theologians so we tend to borrow other people’s, and Luther really is a remarkable example.

I would struggle to find anyone who stands up to [Luther] in any way as a liturgist, as a theologian, as a Bible translator, as all these things, and as a hymn writer as well.

And that’s what I want to do is try and unfold why I think Luther has so much to say to us. I’ll be working through a number of topics, and I hope you’ll find these seem to you to be relevant to be the themes of this conference.

My own background is, of course, in the Church of England, which is a church that is deeply rooted in the heritage of the Reformation and which maintains those connections regarding Luther to this day with great respect. I want to explore some of the areas in which it seems to me that Luther continues to challenge the global Church on the one hand and offers encouragement and theological resources on the other. I think I need to begin by explaining how I came to discover Martin Luther. I grew up in northern Ireland in the 1960s, and I was an atheist. In fact, I was quite an aggressive atheist. In fact, I have to say to you when I read the works of Richard Dawkins, I sometimes feel a bit nostalgic because I was like that back in those days. And it just seemed to me that Christianity was of the past; it had no significant future, it didn’t really engage with the way the world was, and I was a scientist, and it seemed to be science simply eroded the conceptual space that God hadn’t once been thought to occupy. And it just seemed to me that the future was God-lessand that within a generation religion would simply fade away.

Then I went up to Oxford and began to think about these things in more detail, and I discovered to my surprise that Christianity had this immensely rich and resilient intellectual vision. And I began to realize that I had rejected something over caricature of the real thing, and I began to realize that atheism itself was far less evidentially rigorous than I had expected and that the Christian faith had this remarkable ability to make sense of things, to bring stability and meaning to life. And so I began to rethink everything: what life was all about, what the future of my own life would be. And although I was a scientist, I decided I would bring my study of the sciences to an end after I had done my doctorate and shift into the area of theology. And I knew I’d be interested in the relation of science and theology, so I decided to do a degree in theology and then move to Cambridge in East Anglia to try and begin to look at the relationship of science and religion.

I needed somebody to help me think about what to study so I thought I would study the Copernican prophecies of the 16th century. I needed someone to guide me, and Gordon Rupp, whom you may know better asE.G.Rupp, had just retired as DixieProfessorof Ecclesiastical History. And he said he’d be delighted to help me wrestle with Copernicus. At our first meeting, he said I would probably do well if, before looking at Copernicus, I just spent a short time looking at Luther, and to cut a very long story short, I never got on to Copernicus. Actually, with Rupp as my guide, I began to discover Luther and began to appreciate something of his rich and dynamic intellectual vision. But it was a complex business because I find Luther to be a challenge as much as a resource.

I began to study theology with a mindset that was shaped by the Enlightenment, that was shaped by modernity, and as I read Luther I constantly found him saying things that I couldn’t make sense of, assuming this meant Luther was wrong, but gradually began to realize that the reason I couldn’t make sense of him was that he was offering me a different, and, I subsequently discovered, a better vision of how to do theology. And it seems to me that Luther is a remarkable catalyst, particularly through his theology of the cross, to thinking about the way we engage with the world today.

Luther, it seems to me, is indeed a voice from the past, but he’s a voice from the past who speaks powerfully to us today. We don’t hear him as a past voice, but rather as a prophetic voice who challenges us and resources us to think how we do things.

This is one of the quotes from Luther I discovered early on in my engagement with him: “Living, even dying and being damned make a theologian, not understanding, reading or speculating.” You all know those words very well. And the first time I encountered them I found them baffling because surely theology was about reading books and trying to make sense of things, and I think looking back on those days, my reaction to Luther was not so much “He’s wrong” as “He’s incomprehensible.” I checked my translation of the Latin, and that’s what Luther had said. So, what was going on is either he knew something I didn’t, or else he was just all but on a different planet. And as I began to think more, Luther planted seeds in my mind, which helped me to challenge the prevailing paradigm of how we do theology.

Other phrases challenged me, particularly those I found in his writings from 1517 to 1521. Here’s one: “The cross alone is our theology.” Here’s another: “The cross puts everything to the test.” Using my somewhat rationalist approach to theology, I could make some sense of what Luther was saying. He seemed to me to be saying that theologies of the atonement were really important, and I agreed. Yet, as I read Luther more closely, he seemed to be saying something rather more than that. Luther seemed to be saying that the cross itself took priority over any attempt to interpret it, and again the seeds were sown by which I was able to begin to develop a deeper and richer understanding of theology.

As I look back on my own theological reflections of the early 1980s, I think I can see two fundamental convictions that Luther helped to undermine, not initially by demolishing them, but more by eroding them from within. First of all, being a very rational person, I tended to think of Christianity and its relevance to life primarily in terms of its ideas, and perhaps this was shaped by my own conversion, which was very rationalistic, very intellectual. For me, I discovered Christianity makes sense of things, and that remains central to my thinking to this day.

But Luther helped me discover that there was rather more to Christianity than just making sense of things and helped me open up a deeper and richer vision of what theology was all about, discovering its emotional, relational and aesthetic dimensions as well. Luther helped point me to discovering a richer vision of theology.

And secondly, I bought into—I fear a little uncritically—the essentially Cartesian idea that knowledge has to be expressed in clear and distinct language. Reality according to the Cartesians was not to be understood as unfocused or fuzzy or ambiguous, and so for me any suggestion that we had to cope with only partial out-of-focus glimpses of reality seemed to call into question the validity of Christian theology. I took the view that human reason was able to put nearly everything neatly into its correct ontological place. But as I saw things, those who spoke of the mystery of God were simply descending into a rationality, yet Luther held my attention at this point. He seemed to be suggesting that the price you pay for rational neatness is a smaller, diminished world, a world that doesn’t really bare much relation to the one that we experience and observe.

Maybe that’s why the Enlightenment values reason so highly, because by rationalizing reality, we create a diminished and manageable world that is so much less threatening than the chaotic and seemingly uncontrollable world in which we live. Now, there’s much more I could say about these themes, and I intend to speak about some of them more in my second lecture this morning, but what I want to do now, if I may, is begin to focus on some themes that seem to me to be relevant to our agenda. Obviously, the whole theme of the centrality of Scripture is going to be of major importance. Luther is one who encourages, demands theological attentivenesstowardsScripture, seeing as this is the God-given way in which God’s promises are passed on from one generation to another. It enables us to remain in contact with the apostolic Church, ensuring that the message we proclaim is not one of our devising, but rather one that has been entrusted to us and which we have the privilege to pass on to others, and I will speak more of that later on.

I want to begin with a major theme, which seems central to Luther’s way of thinking: justification by faith alone. And we know how this came to be of such central importance to Luther. We know that the young Luther was deeply concerned about his own standing in the sight of God. Convinced of his own sinfulness, Luther entertained what he regarded as entirely reasonable and justified doubts about his own ability to do whatever it took to gain favor and acceptance in the sight of God. And we find hints throughout his early writings of his profound anxiety about his hopes of salvation and his constant frustration at his own inability to break free from what he regarded as sinful actions and thoughts. It’s too easy, I think, to describe Luther as a perfectionist with an excessively sanitized theological conscience. There’s something deeper here: the question of how fundamentally unrighteous human beings can ever find acceptance in the sight of a righteous God.

And, as you all know, Luther entered the Augustinian Monastery at the University of Erfurt in 1505. And although he was meticulous in confession of his own sins, he felt profoundly ill with himself. His conscience was troubled by those sins, which he felt he was personally incapable of overcoming. How could a righteous God overlook such sin? Luther tells us of his enormous difficulties with the notion of the righteousness of God, especially as used by Paul in Rom. 1:16–17. How could the revelation of the righteousness of God be Gospel when it seemed simply to mean the just condemnation of sin and sinners? And Luther describes how he wrestled with this passage wondering what on earth it meant, feeling that there was a key to something here that he had yet to discover and use to unlock the secrets of the Gospel.

In a piece of writing dated 1545, a year before his death, Luther recalled the agony that gripped him during his earlier period. “I hated,” he wrote, “that phase ‘the righteousness of God,’ by which God is righteous and punishes sinners. Although I lived an irreproachable life as a monk, I felt that I was a sinner with an uneasy conscience in the sight of God. I was angry with God, saying to myself it’s bad enough that miserable sinners should be condemned forever by original sin with all kinds of extra burdens laid upon us by the Old Testament law, and God makes things even worse through the Gospel.”

But then Luther began to realize there was another way of looking at things. God was indeed able to forgive Luther’s sins. Luther began to read Scripture in a completely new light. No longer did themes such as the righteousness of God cause him to panic; they now resonated the theme of the grace of God. The righteousness of God was not the righteousness by which God punished sinners, but the righteousness that God gave to sinners is a totally unmerited gift, in order that they might find solace and peace in Him. As Luther later recalled, it was as if he had entered into paradise. Let me read to you from him: “I began to understand that righteousness of God as the righteousness by which righteous people live by the gift of God, in other words faith, and the sentence the righteousness of God is revealed to mean a passive righteousness by which the merciful God justifies us by faith. This immediately made me feel as if I’d been born all over again and entered a paradise through open gates. From that moment onwards, the whole face of Scripture appeared to me in a different light and where I had once hated that phrase the righteousness of God, I now began to love it and praise it as the sweetest of words, so as this passage in Paul became the very gate of paradise for me.”

Now that discovery of a gracious God, I suggest, is of central importance to Luther’s theological transformation and also his theological vision. Graceful Luther came to refer to a cluster of related ideas all with a direct relevance to live. Above all it refers to the astonishing fact that God loves sinners. Our status before God is something given by God, not something that we earn or achieve. As Luther later put it, sinners are attractive because they are loved. They are not loved because they are attractive. And the amazing grace of God is shown in that we are loved before we are made lovable.

The Lutheran Church in Hungary

Yesterday, we stopped in Budapest, Hungary, to visit the Lutheran Church in Hungary. The origins of the Lutheran Church in Hungary dates back to the Reformation with many pastors studying in Wittenberg in the 1520s and 1530s. Several of the Hungarian pastors who studied with Phillip Melanchthon started the first Lutheran school for children in 1559 (about the same time the Old Latin School in Wittenberg was built).


We met at the headquarters of the North Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary. Rev. Tony Booker, LCMS Missionary to Prague; DCE David Fiala, LCMS Project Coordinator for Central Europe; Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMD Director of Church Relations, met with Dr. Tamás Fabiny, Bishop of the North Diocese; Dr. Virgil László, Counselor to the Bishop; and Dr. Klára Tarr Cselovszky, Director of Ecumenical and Foreign Relations.


The Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Hungary has about 300,000 members, representing 3% of the population in Hungary. This makes the Lutheran Church the third largest church in Hungary, after the Reformed (20% of the population) and the Roman Catholics (60% of the population). Ethnically, the
Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Hungary historically was composed of Germans, Slovakians, and Hungarians. After World War I, two-thirds of Hungary’s territory was reallocated to other nations, significantly reducing the Lutheran population in Hungary.


Bishop Fabiny points to Martin Luther’s Will, the original manuscript resides in the Lutheran Museum in Budapest.

The Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Hungary has about 300 congregations in three Districts (Northern, Southern, and Western). The church has other institutions including 37 schools with 7,000 students and 1,000 teachers. In 1971, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Hungary introduced the ordination of women as pastors. The stated reason for this was the shortage of male pastors. Although there are theological differences between the Missouri Synod and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Hungary, there is a desire to work together particularly in the common social issues churches in the West face such as the disintegration of the family and the changing attitudes and acceptance of homosexuality as a normal lifestyle. Another desire is to have LCMS provide theological education and continuing education in Hungary. Despite the differences, it is good for the LCMS to be in conversation with Lutheran churches that are socially and generally theologically conservative.


At lunch we were joined by Dr. Tibor Fabiny, whose expertise is hermeneutics. Over lunch Dr. Tibor Fabiny spoke fondly of the Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel whom he and his father first met in London, England, when Dr. Nagel served there as a parish pastor. He also spoke fondly of a meeting with Dr. Nagel at a Luther Congress in 1993.


After the meeting we walked around beautiful Budapest.

Below is an article on the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Hungary from the 1950s, published in Concordia Theological Monthly.

- Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations.
A NOTE ON THE HISTORY OF THE LITURGY IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN HUNGARY

(Lajos Jánossy, “A NOTE ON THE HISTORY OF THE LITURGY IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN HUNGARY,” Concordia Theological Monthly, March 1954: 231-235.)

(NOTB: The Rev. Prof. Dr. La jos Jánossy, Sopron, Hungary, is one of the outstanding Lutheran liturgiologists in Central Europe. Recently the under-signed had occasion to request information from Professor Jánossy concerning the use of vestments in the Church of the Augsburg Confession in Hungary. Professor Jánossy replied with the paragraphs here reproduced. We share them in translated form with our readers in view of the extensive information which they furnish concerning a development in Lutheranism on which little infor-mation is available in English. — ARTHUR CARL PIEPKORN.)

The pure Gospel recovered by the Lutheran Reformation rapidly made a triumphant conquest throughout Hungary. In all three parts

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of the Hungarian Empire — in the so-called Kingdom of Hungary; in the areas occupied by the Turks; as well as in Erdély-Transylvania in the Eastern part of the country, which was just gradually developing into an independent Hungarian principality — the Lutheran Reforma-tion brought about a renovation of the Church in the Apostolic Gospel. In line with her conservative attitude and nature, the rich liturgical life of the Hungarian Church, thus renewed according to the standards of the Wittenberg Reformation, continued with new power, purity, and an ever more extensive use of the vernacular. On the basis of the sources one must emphasize as strongly as possible that an overwhelm-ing proportion — approximately eighty per cent — of the Hungarian, that is, Magyar, population of the Hungarian empire had adopted the Lutheran Reformation as enthusiastically as had the minority groups that had settled among us: the Germans, the Slovaks, the Croatians, and so forth. In the cities and towns where the whole population became Lutheran the Church buildings were left for the most part unchanged. Even the retention of several altars was not infrequent. On Sundays and other holy days — a total of eighty-five were observed annually—the purified Evangelical Lutheran Mass was celebrated in the morning at the high altar. It was preceeded in the early morning by matins or lauds, and vespers were sung in the late afternoon. Morn-ing and evening services were likewise conducted on nonfestival week-days. Candles, paraments, the colorful Mass vestments at the Holy Eucharist, the surplice, with stole [when appropriate], at non-Eucharistic offices, and sometimes even incense, continued in use. In the 60’s and 70’s of the sixteenth century 80 to 85 per cent of the entire population of the Hungarian Empire were Evangelical Lutheran! Before the renovated Church in Hungary could achieve a constitu-tionally recognized status and an independent organization, the papal hierarchy, assisted and re-enforced by the new Hapsburg dynasty, began a programmatic persecution. Simultaneously the so-called “Helvetic orientation” forced its way into Hungary during the decades referred to and began to infect the Hungarian Church, on one hand as Zwinglianism, on the other as Melanchthonianism, then as crypto-Calvinism, still later as a mild form of open Calvinism, and finally as Calvinistic Puritanism. Thus from the middle of the sixteenth century the Evangelical Lutheran Church had to defend herself on a number of fronts. Our forebears, who constituted a predominant majority in the Hungarian Diet as early as 1548, were still hoping that King Miksa I [Maximilian} would bring about a comprehensive

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reformation without breaching the unity of the ecclesiastical organism. The result was that they neglected the splendid chance of securing the freedom and the independence of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on a constitutional basis under King Miksa. The regional synods of the sixteenth century occupied themselves with establishing for smaller or larger territories of the country the pure doctrine and with the ordering of congregational life. Under these circumstances it was possible for the papal archbishop of Esztergom in the single year 1559 to drive out more than 300 Evangelical Lutheran rectors of parishes in the western and northern parts of the empire, that is, the Kingdom of Hungary, and to deprive the Evangelical Lutheran Church of a like number of church buildings. Nevertheless, in the more than 2,000 parishes in which we were able to keep possession of the parish churches, the liturgical life of the Evangelical Lutheran Church continued in full vigor. Even in the purely Magyar parishes our priests wore the full liturgical vesture at the Holy Eucharist — amice, [girdled] alb, maniple, stole, and chas-uble— and at non-Eucharistic offices and services the surplice, with or without the stole [according to circumstances]. This is amply demonstrated by visitation records from the latter decades of the six-teenth century, as well as by the Articles of Murány of 1596, the Articles of the Synods of Rozsnyó of 1592 and 1604, the Articles of the Magyar Congregational Order of Sopron of 1669, and the Con-gregational Order of Sárvár of 1576. Of particular interest in this connection is the letter of vocation which the council of the royal free city of Kassa in Upper Hungary issued in 1559 to the new Hungarian preacher and chaplain, the Reverend János Petho. Under the terms of this letter he was to cele-brate High Mass every other Sunday in the parish church of St. Eliza-beth in Hungarian in full Mass vestments “according to the colors of the season,” that is, according to the church year, and on the inter-vening Sunday he was likewise to conduct High Mass in Hungarian, again in full liturgical vestments, in St. Michaers Chapel, since on these Sundays Mass was celebrated in German in the parish church. In some parts of the country the population was divided between adherents of the Roman Catholic religion and adherents of the Lu-theran religion. Where in such communities the parish church was not available for use by the Lutherans and our Evangelical Lutheran services had to be held in an emergency chapel or privately in the homes of individual members, or where we were robbed of our Evan-

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gelical Lutheran churches, the Magyar Lutheran clergymen wore only albs or surplices, both of which could still be obtained quite easily. In 1610 at the synod of Zsolna [Silein] three Evangelical Lutheran dioceses were erected in northwestern Hungary. Canon VI of this synod dispenses the Magyar priests “for certain and evident reasons” from wearing the alb. We must remember that at this period the “Helvetic orientation” was creeping in from the strictly Magyar ter-ritories into these ten counties of Upper Hungary, especially in the Danube district. The Calviniste were propagandizing energetically against liturgical vestments, particularly against Mass vestments, and our clergy in these congregations were often slandered as being Papists. Where the Magyar parishes were able to escape such dan-gers, for instance, in Western Hungary, in the counties of Sopron, Gyor, Vas, and Zala, notably under the patronage of the Counts of the Nádasdy line, our Evangelical Lutheran Church retained and used at her services in hundreds of purely Magyar parishes the magnificent “festal vesture” of historic Christianity — amice, [girdled] alb, man-iple, stole, and chasuble at Mass, and surplice, with stole [when appro-priate], at other services. With reference to vestments, the Evangelical Lutheran episcopal visitation records from the years 1631 to 1642 show that there were still more than three hundred Hungarian Lu-theran parishes in which our clegry were wearing Mass vestments according to the old prescription. With the apostasy of Count Thomas Nádasdy in 1643 we lost more than two hundred parishes and parish churches, and more than forty thousand Hungarian Lutheran rural families were coerced at sword’s point into accepting the Roman Mass and the Papacy. Nor was that the only case. In that most tragic decade from 1671 to 1681, in the western part of the Empire (that is, in the so-called Kingdom of Hungary) alone, almost nine hundred Evangelical Lutheran church buildings were forcibly taken away from us. The liturgical life in these areas naturally broke down, and the clergy had to content themselves here and there, in some forest or mountain fastness or in some private home, with preaching a ser-mon and with administering the Blessed Sacrament as quickly and as simply as possible in the dead of night.

In the eighteenth century the persecution of the Evangelical Lu-theran Church was continued, particularly in the areas that had been liberated from the Turks. As late as the period of King Karel III and Maria Theresa more than three hundred additional parish churches were stolen from us. When at the end of the eighteenth century our Church gradually

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recovered her constitutional liberty, she had unfortunately become an interiorly weak Church that suffered under Reformed, Rationalist, Puritan, and Pietist influences and had no positive relationship to authentic Evangelical Lutheran Church life. Thus it happened that there was no recovery of liturgical life; that is, no renewal took place. Here and there in a few parishes — chiefly Upper Hungarian urban congregations with mixed Magyar, Slavic, and German constituencies — the wearing of the surplice, at least at the Holy Eucharist, survived. After the dismemberment of the Hungarian Empire in 1920 the use of the surplice within the present boundaries of Hungary was limited to a few places, such as the large Magyar-Slovak congrega-tion in Nyiregyháza and in the large Slovak-Magyar parish in Béké-scsaba, but in all these instances the use of the surplice was limited to celebrations of Holy Communion. Naturally, no liturgical revival followed World War II.

Sopron, Hungary LAJOS JANOSSY

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