Free Online Bible Library | Andreas Karlstadt

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Andreas Karlstadt

c.1477- 1541. German Protestant Reformer. Born in Bavaria, he was educated at Erfurt, Cologne, and Wittenberg, where he became a member of the theological faculty. In 1511 he traveled to Rome and Siena to receive a doctorate. He was at first a defender of Scholasticism* and an opponent of Luther, but after reading Augustine he became an advocate of grace and divine sovereignty. In 1518 he wrote 380 theses on the supremacy of Scripture and the fallibility of councils in support of Luther's Ninety-Five Theses.* He debated these principles against J. Eck* at Leipzig (1519). Later he gave his interpretation of the debate in a tract, Against the Dumb Ass and Stupid Little Doctor Eck. The bull Exsurge Domine which condemned Luther and other Reformers included Carlstadt.

There were, however, differences between Luther and Carlstadt, and these became clear in 1521. While Luther was hiding in the Wartburg, Carlstadt made many reforms. Luther allowed a good deal of liberty in the Christian life, but Carlstadt considered some changes as necessary, such as Communion in both kinds, the marriage of the clergy, and ridding the liturgy of music. He also believed infant baptism was unnecessary and Communion was a memorial service. When Luther returned to Wittenberg, Carlstadt left for Orlamünde. Here he became a very popular preacher and renounced his academic degrees. He took an anticlerical attitude, began dressing as a peasant, wearing no shoes, and asked that people call him “Brother Andrew.” These actions were based upon his conviction that inner religious experience demanded social equality. Luther visited Orlamünde, and in a debate with him Carlstadt claimed he spoke by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit, rather than with the “papistical” talk of Luther. In 1524 the Saxon authorities asked Carlstadt to leave the city. Eventually he settled in Switzerland, associating for a while with Zwingli* in Zurich and later with Bullinger* in Basle.

A brilliant, often petty, man, Carlstadt in his “turgid and long-winded pamphlets,” as Gordon Rupp has pointed out, anticipated much of Puritanism.

See K. Müller, Luther und Karlstadt (1907), and E.G. Rupp, “Andrew Karlstadt and Reformation Puritanism,” JTS, NS, X (1959).

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