In Debating the Sacraments, Amy Nelson Burnett brings together the foundational disputes regarding the baptism and the Lord's Supper that laid the groundwork for the development of two Protestant traditions-Lutheran and Reformed-as well as of dissenting Anabaptist movements. Burnett places these disputes in the context of early print culture, tracing their development in a range of publications and their impact on the wider public. Burnett examines not only the writings of the major reformers, but also the reception of their ideas in the pamphlets of lesser known figures, as well as the role of translators, editors, and printers in exacerbating the conflict among both literate and illiterate audiences. Following the chronological unfolding of the debates, Burnett observes how specific arguments were formed in the crucible of written critique and pierces several myths that have governed our understanding of the sacramental controversies. She traces the influence of Erasmus on Luther's followers outside of Wittenberg and highlights the critical question of authority, particularly in interpreting the Bible. Erasmus and Luther disagreed not only about the relationship between the material world and spiritual reality but also on biblical hermeneutics and scriptural exegesis. Their disagreements underlay the public debates over baptism and the Lord's Supper that broke out in 1525 and divided the evangelical movement. Erasmus's position would be reflected not only in the views of Huldrych Zwingli and others who shared his orientation toward the sacraments but also in the developing theologies of the Anabaptist movement of the 1520s. The neglected period of 1525-1529 emerges as a crucial phase of the early Reformation, when evangelical theologies were still developing, and which paved the way for the codification of theological differences in church ordinances, catechisms, and confessions of subsequent decades.
Amy Nelson Burnett is a foremost authority on the controversy over Christ's bodily presence in the Lord's Supper, which pulled apart the early Reformation in the 1520s. In this new book she successfully combines two distinct approaches, the cultural history of printed communication and the history of theological doctrines. With immense learning and superb clarity, she invites us to re-think the 'who', 'how' and 'why' behind this acrimonious debate. --Euan Cameron, author of the European Reformation and Enchanted Europe This study is an instant classic, a new standard for interpreting the Protestant sacramental controversies as a whole. Burnett's exemplary contextual analysis of the unfolding series of printed exchanges that made the controversy the hottest discussion in the mid-1520s provides a rich model for assessing how published treatises could take on authoritative voice in addressing central matters of piety and practice. --Robert Kolb, Professor of Systematic Theology Emeritus, Concordia Seminary