Caspar Schwenckfeld

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Caspar (or Kaspar) Schwen(c)kfeld von Ossig (1489 or 1490 – 10 December 1561) was a German theologian, writer, and preacher who became a Protestant Reformer and spiritualist, one of the earliest promoters of the Protestant Reformation in Silesia.

Schwenckfeld came to Reformation principles through Thomas Müntzer and Andreas Karlstadt. However, he developed his own principles and fell out with Martin Luther over the eucharistic controversy (1524). He had his own views on the sacraments - the Heavenly Flesh doctrine - developed in close association with his humanist colleague, Valentin Crautwald (1465–1545). His followers became a new sect, which was outlawed in Germany, but his ideas influenced Anabaptism, Puritanism in England, and Pietism on mainland Europe.

Contents

Life

Early life

Schwenckfeld was born in Ossig near Liegnitz, Silesia now Osiek, near Legnica, Poland, to noble parents in 1489.[1] From 1505 to 1507 he was a student in Cologne, and in 1507 enrolled at the University of Frankfurt on the Oder. Between 1511 and 1523, Schwenckfeld served the Duchy of Liegnitz as an adviser to Duke Charles I (1511–1515), Duke George I (1515–1518), and Duke Frederick II (1518–1523).

Philosophy

In 1518 or 1519, Schwenckfeld experienced an awakening that he called a "visitation of God." Luther's writings had a deep influence on Schwenckfeld, and he embraced the "Lutheran" Reformation and became a student of the Scriptures. In 1521, Schwenckfeld began to preach the gospel, and in 1522 won Duke Friedrich II over to Protestantism. He organized a Brotherhood of his converts for the purpose of study and prayer in 1523. In 1525, he rejected Luther's idea of Real Presence and came to a spiritual interpretation of the Lord's Supper, which was subsequently rejected by Luther. Schwenckfeld began to teach that the true believer ate the spiritual body of Christ. He took strong efforts toward reformation wherever he went, but also criticized reformers that he thought went to extremes. He emphasized that for one to be a true Christian, one must not change only outwardly but inwardly. Because of the communion and other controversies, Schwenckfeld broke with Luther and followed what has been described as a "middle way". He voluntarily exiled himself from Silesia in 1529 in order to relieve pressure on and embarrassment of his duke. He lived in Strassburg from 1529–1534 and then in Swabia.

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