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The Colloquy of Montbeliard: Religion and Politics in the Sixteenth Century.

The 1586 Colloquy of Montbeliard, in which Theodore Beza, chief spokesman for Reformed (Calvinist) theology, faced Jacob Andreae, the leading theologian for Wurttemberg's Lutheran tradition, provides an excellent opportunity to see in microcosm some of the chief forces of the Age of Confessionalism at work. Raitt focuses on the interplay of theology, personality and politics - local and international - to reveal the complex reality which stood in the way of Protestant unity and any simple implementation of the 1555 Peace of Augsburg formula of "cuius regio eius religio."

The County of Montbeliard's geographic location and confessional evolution make it an ideal site for investigating the politics and theology of confessional identity in the later 16th century. Situated in the southwest corner of the Empire, French-speaking yet subject to the Lutheran Duchy of Wurttemburg, Montbeliard shared borders with Catholic Lorraine and the Swiss cantons. Furthermore, following the ascendancy of the Catholic Holy League in France in 1585, Montbeliard harbored several hundred Huguenot exiles seeking to receive communion under their French Reformed Confession. Traditionally the Colloquy of Montbeliard has been dismissed as yet another futile attempt at Calvinist/Lutheran doctrinal harmony called at the behest of a small community of French exiles. Using French and German sources, Raitt instead convincingly demonstrates the ways a meticulous reconsideration of the Colloquy sheds new light on the international politics and confessional debates of the later 16th century.

There are a number of contexts from which to view the importance of the Colloquy of Montbeliard. In her introduction and first and second chapters Raitt analyzes international politics and the role of Henry of Navarre and his German policy in convening the Colloquy. This discussion makes clear the strategic importance of the Colloquy to all powers, including England, who sought to forge an effective Protestant alliance against international Catholicism. The general calculation here was that resolution of the theological differences separating Calvinists and Lutherans would clear the way for a confessionally mixed coalition of German Protestant princes to provide assistance to Henry of Navarre in his struggles against the Catholic League in France.

In addition, chapter one, entitled "Ancient Liberties and Evangelical Evolution," explores in some depth the confessional evolution of the bourgeoisie of the town of Montbeliard who worshipped according to their own blend of Calvinist and Lutheran doctrines distinct from the conservative Lutheranism which reigned in Duchy of Wurttemberg. This is a welcome addition to the complex history of confessionalism within the Empire since it explores the key question of whether or not a "dependent territory" (in this case, actually, the enfranchised bourgeoisie of the town of Montbeliard within the County of Montbeliard) could assert its ecclesiastical independence from its political suzerain, the Duke of Wurttemberg. This chapter also begins to explore the construction of confessional identity as a social process - an issue flagged in the foreword by Robert Kingdon and acknowledged directly by Raitt when she raises the question of how theologians' debates on Christ's eucharistic presence affected "the lives of the laity" (6).

Raitt is at her best in the central chapters of the book, which provide a most lucid analysis of the proceedings of the colloquy itself and the doctrinal disputes between the vituperative Jacob Andreae and the more conciliatory Theodore Beza. The heart of their debate concerned the Lord's Supper and the nature of Christ's presence in the eucharist. Here Raitt draws from her earlier book, The Eucharistic Theology of Theodore Beza, laying out the range of christological issues intrinsic to Reformed and Lutheran interpretations of the eucharist. This is a most important discussion for anyone interested in the development of eucharistic theology and Calvinist/Lutheran doctrinal evolution, including as well the issues of images, baptism and predestination.

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Author:Ramsey, Ann W.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1995
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