Lutheran Orthodoxy

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The term Lutheran orthodoxy denotes a phase in the history of theology of the consolidation of Lutheran theology following the turmoil of the Reformation , approximately from 1580 to 1730. The development of a Lutheran teaching system and the publication of numerous dogmatic systems are particularly characteristic of this epoch. Lutheran orthodoxy was often accused of leading evangelical theology back into scholasticism . Although Lutheran theology of this period also brought Aristotelian metaphysics back to life, its essence was always understood, also in its dogmatic form, as an interpretation of Holy Scripture or as an aid to understanding it. The person and the teaching of Martin Luther are an important point of reference, but they are not unquestioned theological authority. Surprisingly, Luther is rarely referred to in theological argument. Rather, it is only the opponents of Orthodoxy who later always refer to Luther.

This theological-historical epoch is divided into three sections: Early Orthodoxy (1580–1600), High Orthodoxy (1600–1685) and Late Orthodoxy (1685–1730). The period between the death of Martin Luther (1546) and the publication of the formula of the Agreement (1580) is sometimes referred to as pre-orthodoxy or treated as part of early orthodoxy.

Pre-Orthodoxy and Early Orthodoxy (1546–1600)

After Martin Luther's death in 1546, Lutheran theology lacked the unifying authority of the reformer. As a result, theological battles between the reformer and companion of Martin Luther's Philipp Melanchthon and his followers ( defamed as Philippists by their opponents ) on the one hand, and those who believed that Melanchthon's position deviated from Luther's original path , soon broke out . In fact, Melanchthon had already distanced himself from Luther's doctrine of the Lord's Supper during Luther's lifetime, albeit without letting Luther himself know. The supporters of Luther's position adopted the originally polemical designation as Gnesiolutheran (from the Greek gnesios = actually).

The second sacrament controversy

The dispute over the understanding of the Lord's Supper was primarily a dispute between Lutherans and Reformed people . It broke out again as early as 1544, i.e. before Luther's death ( Second Supper Controversy ). A church fellowship with the Reformed was considered impossible by the Lutherans due to the differences in the understanding of the Lord's Supper. The dispute was initially a clear sign of increasing denominationalization within the evangelical camp. In 1552 the Gnesiolutheran Joachim Westphal attacked the Reformed doctrine again sharply and urged the Lutheran theologians to distance themselves clearly from the Reformed doctrine. The focus of criticism now came to Philipp Melanchthon, who was accused of being too accommodating to the Reformed. Melanchthon was forced to publicly distance himself from the Reformed doctrine of the Lord's Supper in 1557, although Calvin had tried hard to come to an understanding with the Lutherans about Melanchthon.

The interim / adiaphoristic dispute

Main article: Adiaphoristic dispute

After his victory in the Schmalkaldic War in 1547, Emperor Charles V forced the Augsburg interim on the Protestants . The Protestants now had to come to terms with the overwhelming Catholic power. In the Leipzig articles , which Melanchthon wrote on behalf of Elector Moritz von Sachsen, the Catholic side was therefore very accommodating in matters of the external rite. Melanchthon regarded the external rites and customs of the church as dogmatic and theologically not relevant to salvation, as adiaphora (middle things ). This reproached him with the group of Gnesiolutherans that was now forming around Nikolaus von Amsdorf and Matthias Flacius Illyricus and branded Melanchthon and his followers as adiaphorists. The Gnesiolutherans put it pointedly: “Nihil est adiaphoron in casu confessionis & scandali” - “There is no adiaphora in the case of confession and conflict”. Since the existence of true faith is at stake in the interim situation, it is important to profess true faith without any compromise. It was fatal for Melanchthon's position that he also marked such external rites as adiaphora, which were problematic in terms of their dogmatic-theological content, such as B. the Feast of Corpus Christi , which is associated with recognition of the Catholic doctrine of the Lord's Supper. Due to the close rapprochement with the Catholic rulers, Melanchthon had severely shaken his authority within the Lutheran camp.

The Osiandrian dispute over the doctrine of justification

The Osiandrian dispute was triggered by the doctrine of justification by Andreas Osiander , a reformer in Nuremberg. He claimed in 1550/51 that man's justification before God consists in the fact that Christ is actually present in man as the eternal Word of God and that man is thus justified through the righteousness of Christ. The Lutheran majority (this time under the leadership of Melanchthon) accused Osiander of blurring the line between justification and sanctification and therefore teaching that man is justified before God through his good works. That was a rough distortion of Osiander's position. They opposed this with a purely imputative understanding of justification: In justification, the righteousness of Christ is credited to man (Latin imputare) and in return his sins are credited to Christ. For the sins transferred to him, let Christ suffer God's punishment on the cross. This imputative understanding of justification became the standard doctrine of Lutheran Orthodox theology.

The majorist dispute over good works

Georg Major , Wittenberg theology professor and student of Philipp Melanchthon, triggered this dispute with his thesis that good works are necessary for the salvation of Christians. This in turn provoked overreactions on the part of the critics. In criticizing Major, Nikolaus von Amsdorf claimed that good works were harmful to bliss. In the end, the concord formula rejected both positions.

The synergistic dispute about free will (1556–1560)

Main article: Synergistic dispute

The history of this dispute goes back to 1535. In this year Melanchthon had already put forward the thesis that the free will of man is a third cause of conversion in addition to the external word of preaching and the internal work of the Holy Spirit. This assertion was also repeated in the Leipzig articles in 1547/48. The criticism of the Gnesiolutherans was only provoked by the Leipzig Johann Pfeffinger . Amsdorf and Flacius accused him of relapsing into scholastic theology. In his criticism, however, Flacius himself operated with the terms of scholastic anthropology and went so far as to say that original sin is the substance of man. This in turn earned him the charge of Manichaeism .

The formula of concord as a work of unification

The unified front of the Lutherans was increasingly called into question by the numerous theological disputes. This also made an agreement necessary on the political side. Thus, under the theological leadership of Jakob Andreae , a theological unification process came about from 1574 to 1580, which, however, did not take place without political pressure. The various articles of the concord formula (1577) clearly resolve the disputes dealt with: With regard to the understanding of the Lord's Supper, the real presence of Christ was set down in, with and under bread and wine and in Christology the Communicatio idiomatum in the three genera presented for the first time by Martin Chemnitz ( genus apotelesmaticum , genus idiomaticum and genus maiestaticum ) unfolded. The claim that original sin was man's substance was rejected, but Lutheran orthodoxy never achieved a clear conceptual development of the opposing position. The lack of freedom of the will with regard to the choice of salvation was laid down, the good works are seen here as the fruit of justification , which are not causally necessary for eternal life. Only the question about the so-called third use of the law ( tertius usus legis ), i.e. the question of the extent to which the divine law is valid for believers in the context of sanctification, was not answered clearly. Later representatives of Lutheran Orthodoxy taught him, however.

Important representatives and their works

  • Martin Chemnitz (1522–1586): Loci theologici, 1591 posthumously
  • Matthias Hafenreffer (1561–1619), Tübingen: Loci theologici, 1601
  • Aegidius Hunnius the Elder (1550–1603): Libelli IIII de persona Christi eiusque ad dextram Dei sedentis divina maiestate , 1585
  • Database on the controversies 1548–1577 / 80

High Orthodoxy (1600–1685)

Theological Aristotelianism

At the beginning of high orthodoxy there was Hofmann's dispute about the relationship between theology and philosophy around 1600. Daniel Hofmann , from Helmstedt , took the position that theology and philosophy were not the same thing, that is, there was a double truth. In contrast, the u. a. The position of simple truth represented by Johann Gerhard : There is only one truth in philosophy and theology. If philosophy is a pure philosophy (philosophia sobria), it does not conflict with theology. The consequence was the increased reintroduction of philosophical methods into Lutheran theology. As a result, Aristotelianism experienced a renaissance during the time of Lutheran Orthodoxy, and the philosophical and analytical instruments were intensified and expanded. It first came into its own with Johann Gerhard in his Loci Theologici (1610–1622). At the same time, Gerhard's work marks the beginning of the great systematic theological drafts that still have a significant impact on the image of high orthodoxy. The concentration on these systematic drafts, however, leads to a one-sided perception of this epoch, because the systems developed from a lively teaching and disputation activity. The phase of High Orthodoxy is also a time of the scientific heyday of Lutheran theology and philosophy.

From the loci method to the analytical ordo

While Johann Gerhard still organized his Loci Theologici according to the Loci method, as introduced by Philip Melanchthon, the so-called analytical ordo increasingly prevailed as an organizational principle as a result of Aristotelianism. The loci method lined up the most important topics that emerged from the biblical material in order to give a summary of the teaching of the Bible. Each biblical text was given its location (locus) in a theological thematic context.

The Aristotelian Giacomo Zabarella (1532–1589), following the Aristotelian philosophy, differentiated between two scientific principles of order, the ordo compositivus for the speculative sciences, which have to do with immutable beings, and the ordo resolutivus for the practical sciences, which have to do with the changeable being. Zabarella did not have theology in mind, but the Reformed theologian Bartholomäus Keckermann (1571–1609) adopted the organizational structure of the ordo resolutivus for theology, which he understands as a practical science analogous to medicine: just as medicine is about the physical May human salvation go, theology is concerned with human spiritual salvation. Keckermann no longer spoke of the ordo resolutivus, but of the ordo analyticus or the analytic ordo. While this principle of order could not prevail in Reformed theology, it was adopted by the representatives of Lutheran orthodoxy. The first was Georg Calixt (Helmstedt), viewed skeptically by Orthodoxy , and Calixt's greatest opponent, Abraham Calov (Wittenberg), helped this principle of order to break through .

The ordo analyticus starts with the determination of the end (finis), moves on to the object (subiectum) and ends with a consideration of the means (media) or principles (principia) that are necessary to achieve the end. The theological classification varied, v. a. in the third part. The purpose of theology was generally God and the vision of God (fruitio Dei) that the object was sinful man, over whom God had mercy. The third part saw the strongest variations: while Calov still distinguished between causes (Christ, Church), means (word and sacrament) and mode of salvation (appropriation of salvation through the Holy Spirit), Quenstedt only knew principles (predestination through the Father, salvation through Christ, dedication of salvation through the Spirit) and means (word and sacrament) of salvation. Various teaching pieces were difficult to accommodate in the scheme, such as B. the entire doctrine of ultimate things (eschatology).

Important representatives and their works

Late and Reform Orthodoxy (1650-1730)

The first offshoots of rationalism and the early enlightenment hit Lutheran theology at the end of the 17th century. With the increasing criticism of the Bible as an authority on questions of faith, robbed of its foundation, methodically cornered by the decline of the Aristotelian worldview, and challenged in its religious credibility by the blossoming piety of Pietism , the problems of legitimation for Lutheran orthodoxy got out of hand.

Within Lutheran theology, so-called Reform Orthodoxy emerged as early as the middle of the 17th century, which endeavored to deepen the theological reflection of Lutheran Orthodox theology in dealing with state absolutism and in the struggle for a renewal of moral life in the communities. Theology should also strengthen personal piety. The sermons focused more and more on personal faith, and the literature of edification experienced an upswing within Orthodox theology. In terms of content, the reform orthodoxy was also linked to the edifying literature and mystical theology of Johann Arndt (1555–1621) as well as to English Puritanism, whose writings were widespread in Germany at the time. Your most important representatives were u. a. Heinrich Müller , Theophil Großgebauer and Christian Scriver . Pietism tied in with reform orthodoxy in a certain way, but then actually left Lutheran orthodoxy.

The late Orthodoxy is mainly characterized by a defensive movement against Pietism and later against the Enlightenment . Leading opponents of Pietism were Johann Friedrich Mayer , Erdmann Neumeister and Valentin Ernst Löscher , who also led the fight against the early Enlightenment. Even larger systems emerged towards the end of the 17th century, such as the Compendium theologiae positivae (1686) by Johann Wilhelm Baier . In the end, however, even the representatives of Lutheran orthodoxy were no longer based on the methodological and fundamental foundations that once characterized Lutheran orthodoxy. The last great dogmatic work of Lutheran orthodoxy in this phase is the Examen theologicum acroamaticum (1707) by David Hollaz (1648–1713). The Institutiones Theologiae Dogmaticae (1723) by Johann Franz Buddeus were still strongly oriented towards Lutheran orthodoxy in terms of their external form, but the numerous content-related explanations clearly show the influence of Pietism and the Enlightenment.

Another Lutheran-Orthodox movement in the late 17th and early 18th centuries was directed against theater and drama: The applicable as immoral and unethical arisen since the end of the Thirty Years' War itinerant theatrical companies were of Eucharist and confession excluded. Lutheran representatives of this theater dispute were, for example, the Magdeburg deacon and preacher Johann Joseph Winckler (born December 23, 1670 in Luckau, † August 11, 1722 in Leipzig), who appealed to the church father Johannes Chrysostom for the condemnation of comedy troops ; as well as Johann Melchior Goeze , who wrote pamphlets and replies against the poet Gotthold Ephraim Lessing or the theater director Catharina Velten .


The neo-Lutheranism of the 19th century tied in with Lutheran orthodoxy in some respects, especially with its high esteem for the confessional writings . In some cases, the position of the late Orthodoxy against the Enlightenment was repeated. For some representatives, the doctrine of verbal inspiration was revived , which also became the guiding principle for the evangelical movement. Neither it nor Lutheran confessionalism can, however, be viewed as a simple continuation.


  • Kenneth G. Appold: Abraham Calov's Doctrine of Vocatio in Its Systematic Context. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1998, ISBN 3-16-146858-9 .
  • Kenneth G. Appold: Orthodoxy as Consensus Building. The theological disputation system at the University of Wittenberg between 1570 and 1710. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2004, ISBN 3-16-148215-8 .
  • Jörg Baur : Salus Christiana. The doctrine of justification in the history of the Christian understanding of salvation. Volume 1: From Antiquity to the Theology of the German Enlightenment. Gütersloh 1968.
  • Jörg Baur: Luther and his classical heirs. Mohr, Tübingen 1993, ISBN 3-16-146055-3 .
  • Jörg Baur: Valentin Ernst Löscher's Praenotiones theologicae. The Lutheran late orthodoxy in the polemical discourse with the early modern heterodoxy. In: Hartmut Laufhütte , Michael Titzmann: Heterodoxy in the early modern times. Niemeyer, Tübingen 2006, ISBN 978-3-484-36617-6 , pp. 425-475.
  • Michael Coors: Scriptura efficax. The biblical-dogmatic foundation of the theological system in Johann Andreas Quenstedt. A dogmatic contribution to the theory and interpretation of the biblical canon as holy scripture. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-525-56397-7 .
  • Jürgen Diestelmann: Usus and Actio. Holy Communion with Luther and Melanchthon. With a foreword by Reinhard Slenczka . Pro Business, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-86805-032-5 .
  • Werner Elert : Morphology of Lutheranism. CH Beck, Munich
    • Volume 1: Theology and Weltanschauung of Lutheranism mainly in the 16th and 17th centuries. 1931; Reprint ibid. 1965;
    • Volume 2: Social teachings and social effects of Lutheranism. 1932; Reprint ibid. 1965.
  • Tim Christian Elkar: Life and Teaching. Dogmatic Perspectives on Lutheran Orthodoxy and Pietism. Studies on Gerhard, König, Spener and Freylinghausen. Frankfurt / M. 2015. ISBN 978-3-631-65605-1 .
  • Bengt Hägglund : The Holy Scriptures and their interpretation in the theology of Johann Gerhards. An investigation into the ancient Lutheran understanding of scriptures. C. W. K. Gleerup, Lund 1951.
  • Volker Jung : The whole of the Holy Scriptures. Hermeneutics and scriptural interpretation with Abraham Calov. Calwer Verlag, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-7668-3633-1 .
  • Robert D. Preus: The theology of post-reformation Lutheranism. Vol. 1: A Study of Theological Prolegomena. Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis (Mon.) 1971, ISBN 0570032113 .
  • Otto Ritschl : Dogma History of Protestantism. Volume IV: Orthodoxy and Syncretism in Old Protestant Theology. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1927.
  • Walter Sparn : The return of metaphysics. The ontological question in Lutheran theology of the early 17th century. Calwer Verlag, Stuttgart 1976, ISBN 3-7668-0506-1 .
  • Johannes Wallmann : The theology concept in Johann Gerhard and Georg Calixt. Mohr (Siebeck), Tübingen 1961.
  • Johannes Wallmann: Collected essays. Volume 1: Theology and Piety in the Baroque Age. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1995, ISBN 3-16-146351-X .
  • Johannes Wallmann: Pietism and Orthodoxy . Collected essays, Vol. 3. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-16-150259-0 .
  • Max Wundt : The German school metaphysics of the 17th century. Mohr, Tübingen 1939; Reprint: Olms, Hildesheim / Zurich / New York 1992, ISBN 3-487-09603-X .
  • Winfried Zeller (ed.): The Protestantism of the 17th century. Schünemann, Bremen 1962; Brockhaus, Wuppertal 1988, ISBN 3-417-24114-6 .

Individual evidence

  1. Jürgen Diestelmann: Usus and Actio - The Holy Communion with Luther and Melanchthon. Berlin 2007.
  2. ^ Controversia et Confessio