A Humanist in Reformation Politics

Philipp Melanchthon on Political Philosophy and Natural Law


This book is the first contextual account of the political philosophy and natural law theory of the German reformer Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560). Mads Langballe Jensen presents Melanchthon as a significant political thinker in his own right and an engaged scholar drawing on the intellectual arsenal of renaissance humanism to develop a new Protestant political philosophy. As such, he also shows how and why natural law theories first became integral to Protestant political thought in response to the political and religious conflicts of the Reformation. This study offers new, contextual studies of a wide range of Melanchthon's works including his early humanist orations, commentaries on Aristotle's ethics and politics, Melanchthon's own textbooks on moral and political philosophy, and polemical works.

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Biographical Note
Mads Langballe Jensen, Ph.D. (2014), University College London, is post-doctoral research assistant at Royal Holloway University of London. He has published on Protestant political thought from the Reformation to the early eighteenth century. This is his first book.
Table of contents
Preface: Melanchthon’s natural law as a combative concept

Introduction: Melanchthon, political philosopher of the Lutheran Reformation
I. Melanchthon and the political thought of the Protestant Reformation
II. Melanchthon: a humanist in the Reformation
III. Protestant Wittenberg in Imperial politics

Chapter 1: Sedition, Tyranny, and Law in the early 1520s
I. The Wittenberg Movement and the split with Karlstadt
II. Melanchthon’s humanist conception of politics
III. Melanchthon’s early Ciceronian political thought
IV. Humanists on law
V. Melanchthon’s Oratio de legibus
VI. Conclusion: Melanchthon’s distinctiveness

Chapter 2: “The causes that lead us to institute government and obey rulers”
I. Melanchthon’s turn to Aristotle’s moral philosophy: the 1529 commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics
II. The identifiable targets of Melanchthon’s Politics
III. Ockhamists and radical preachers: “imperium ex consensu populi”
IV. Rebelling peasants and radical preachers
V. Melanchthon’s reassessment: Aristotelian natural law, state and government
VI. Property
VII. Forms of kingship
VIII. Wycliffe
IX. Justice and rule limited by law
X. Conclusion

Chapter 3: A true and learned philosophy according to the law of God
I. Cura religionis, tertius usus legis, and the law of nature in the 1530s
II. Natural law and the Decalogue in the Philosophiae moralis epitome
III. Political authority as a divine ordination
IV. Justice and the best order of the state
V. Divine law, natural law, the law of nations, and positive law
VI. The limits on political power
VII. Conclusion

Chapter 4: Liberty, Tyranny, and Defence of the True Religion
I. Resistance and defence, or rebellion?
II. The Schmalkaldic War: political legitimacy and the true Christian faith
III. Melanchthon's editing of Von der Notwehr Unterricht
IV. Melanchthon's philosophical theory of resistance in the NUII
V. The Magdeburg Confession
VI. Conclusion

Conclusion: Melanchthonian moral philosophy and the beginnings of Protestant natural law
Historians, political theorists and theologians, academics and students, interested in the Reformation, Philipp Melanchthon, the history of early modern political thought, and natural law theory.
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