Neither Voice nor Heart Alone: German Lutheran Theology of Music in the Age of the Baroque

By Joyce L. Irwin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE BETWEEN FREEDOM AND OBLIGATION*

The theology of music in late sixteenth and early seventeenth century German Lutheranism was developed within different theological genres: polemical tracts, doctrinal commentary, biblical exegesis, and sermons or meditations. Not surprisingly, the perspectives of these approaches brought out different points of view regarding music. By the mid-seventeenth century, the systematizers and collectors of theological loci managed to organize all previous comments on music into a grand but bland outline. 24 To understand the conflicts which erupted in the late seventeenth century, however, it is necessary to look not at a finished system but at a process of historical development. Of enormous importance in this process is the fact that whereas the doctrinal status of music in Lutheranism had been determined by the opposition to Catholicism, the discussions of the doctrine in the late sixteenth century were shaped by fear of Calvinism more than of Catholicism.

Music is not explicitly mentioned in any Lutheran confessional statement, but when discussed in dogmatic theology, it came under the rubric "church ordinances" or article 15 of the Augsburg Confession of 1530. This article instructs the retention of humanly devised church orders "which may be observed without sin and which contribute to peace and good order in the church, among them being certain holy days, festivals, and the like." 25 It was to be understood, however, that such things were neither necessary nor contributory to salvation. They were variously labelled "indifferent matters," "middle things," or adiaphora. This term had been introduced by Melanchthon in his negotiations at the Diet of Augsburg, much to the dismay of Luther, who thought that calling any religious matter indifferent could easily lead to calling all of them indifferent. 26

____________________
*
The material in this chapter first appeared under the title "Music and the Doctrine of Adiaphora in Orthodox Lutheran Theology" in Sixteenth Century Journal, XIV/2 ( Summer, 1982), pp. 157-172.

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