he became a Lutheran minister (1524), but he resigned (1529) when disenchanted by the immorality of Luther's followers. He settled in Strasbourg (1530-2) but was expelled when he disparaged imperial rule in print. He lived next in Ulm (1533-9) as a printer and even earned citizenship, before being expelled once again, this time for his theological views. He spent his last three years in Basel.

Franck exercised a stark scepticism that drew upon late scholasticism, mysticism, humanism, and his own unhappy experience. The proliferation of sects, both in history and in the Reformation, seemed to him a cautionary tale against any certain knowledge in religious matters. The Bible did not escape his censure. Apparent contradictions and innumerable competing interpretations convinced Franck that God used scripture only to drive despairing believers to consult the inner word in their own hearts. Franck also condemned all theology as hubris. Equivalent to Schwenckfeld's inner Christ, the inner word was less a message than a faculty of spiritual judgement. Franck's critique of the outer word extended to the entire church and all of the sacraments. Convinced that the church had fallen almost immediately after the death of the Apostles, Franck thought it wrongheaded to reinstitute it:

I ask what is the need or why should God wish to restore the outworn sacraments and take them back from Antichrist, yea, contrary to his own nature (which is Spirit and inward) yield to weak material elements . . . And does he wish now, just as though he was weary of spiritual things and had quite forgotten his nature, to take refuge again in the poor sick elements of the world and re-establish the besmirched ... sacraments ofboth Testaments?... nothing has been taken from the child except its doll with which it has played long enough. One must leave the nest and thereupon strive for greater and more serious things, namely faith, penitence, denial of self... God permitted, indeed, gave the outward signs to the church in its infancy, just like a doll to a child .. . But when the child is at length strong enough and able to throw the staff away, the father does not thereupon become angry, but rather the same is pleasing to the father.9

Mature Christians did not need externals and should not allow such a diversion from the inner word.

Franck was best known to contemporaries for his Chronicle, Book of Time, and Historical Bible (1531), a compilation of histories, in which he consistently found the heretics to have been the only good Christians. His inclusion of Erasmus in that group and his mocking portrayal of the imperial eagle as a bird of carrion

9 'Letter to John Campanus' (1531) in Williams, Spiritual and Anabaptist writers, pp. 154-5.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment