Philip Melanchthon's view of salvation in relation to that of Bernard of Clairvaux



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Texas Tech University


Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Philipp Melanchthon (1498-1560) both had little praise for monasticism. Yet, both of them, and John Calvin as well, had some very kind words for Bemard of Clairvaux (1091-1153). How, in the face of their dislike for the institution as a whole, could they have an affinity for medieval Christendom's most famous champion of monasticism?

The present study approaches skeptically the traditional dichotomy between monastic spirituality and evangelical Lutheranism, or, more generally, between Catholic and Protestant devotion. Its main thmst will be to examine the possibility of considerable agreement between Catholic monastic piety and the evangelical piety of the Wittenberg Reformers. In particular, the study will examine the evangelical theology of Melanchthon against the background of the monastic theology of Bemard. How did these two different theologians understand the requirements for salvation? This thesis explores the possibility that the Reformers respected Bernard because within his language they clearly recognized a "deep structure" of Christian spirituality, a structure that included not only the fundamental Christological and soteriological dogmas but also the demands they made on the individual: "Repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). The historical comparison of Christian spiritualities is of interest not only for its own sake but also because the misunderstandings and false conflicts over monasticism may be paradigmatic in the solution of a wider range of Reformation issues. A study such as the present one is especially important because it addresses the concems of those who work to bring about reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics.