A Turn of Events – From Chaos to Comfort – A History of the Heidelberg Catechism (1)

He was a man of great intellect and strong opinions, but where would his opinions lead? Dr. Thieleman Hesshuss taught at the new seminary in Heidelberg, Germany in 1560. Professors holding to various religious opinions taught at this school at this time, and Hesshuss held his Lutheran views on the Lord’s supper very highly. Differing views on the Lord’s supper were a big issue. Luther had nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of Wittenberg only forty-three years before. People were not yet clear on all the doctrines of the Reformation, especially doctrines about the Lord’s supper. Calvin held different views on it than Luther did. On top of that, in most of Europe the tides of persecution were swelling and many a Protestant, whether Lutheran or Calvinist, was dying for his faith. For the time being Heidelberg was a safe haven from this flood. But if such persecution could not be brought to Heidelberg, the devil would find a crack from within to let a tide of trouble seep in. Hesshuss was his man.

Dr. Hesshuss was also minister of a large and important church in Heidelberg, the Church of the Holy Spirit. Hesshuss had the opinion that the psalms ought not be sung in worship because they were too “Calvinistic,” and that eating bread in the Lord’s supper should be done with a napkin lest someone drop a crumb. Hesshuss’ views were so strong that even Luther would not have approved of them.

Wilhelm Klebitz was a student under Dr. Hesshuss at the seminary, as well as a deacon in his church, and Klebitz was a young man who also freely voiced his opinions. Klebitz wrote a thesis paper defending Calvin’s view on the Lord’s supper. When it was time for Klebitz to graduate, the professors at Heidelberg not only approved of his paper, they also appointed him to be a professor there. All this happened while their fellow professor, Dr. Hesshuss, was out of town. Hesshuss was furious when he returned.

Hesshuss immediately preached against Klebitz and his views. Klebitz fired back with equal venom. The mayor of Heidelberg tried to calm the situation, but to no avail. The tide of trouble was rising. The following Sunday Hesshuss announced from the pulpit that both the mayor and Klebitz were excommunicated from the church.

Now Elector Frederick III, the ruler of the land, became involved. He called Hesshuss and Klebitz to silence, but neither would give up. The very next Sunday during Lord’s Supper, Dr. Hesshuss and Deacon Klebitz began to physically wrestle and fight in front of church!

A flood of chaos had come. What was the result? Hesshuss and Klebitz were thrown out of Heidelberg, Germany, and now Heidelberg needed another pastor and professor. Who would fill these important places without causing more trouble? The devil took glee in the chaos he had caused, but God was in control of it all for the good of his church. Such would be the turn of events…