Lutheran orthodoxy

Last updated

Lutheran orthodoxy was an era in the history of Lutheranism, which began in 1580 from the writing of the Book of Concord and ended at the Age of Enlightenment. Lutheran orthodoxy was paralleled by similar eras in Calvinism and tridentine Roman Catholicism after the Counter-Reformation.

Lutheranism form of Protestantism commonly associated with the teachings of Martin Luther

Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the teaching of Martin Luther, a 16th century German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation. The reaction of the government and church authorities to the international spread of his writings, beginning with the 95 Theses, divided Western Christianity.

<i>Book of Concord</i> Lutheran doctrinal standard of 10 authoritative credal documents: Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian Creeds; Augsburg Confession; Apology of the Augsburg Confession; Small and Large Catechisms; Smalcald Articles; Melanchthon’s Tractate; Formula of Concord

The Book of Concord (1580) or Concordia is the historic doctrinal standard of the Lutheran Church, consisting of ten credal documents recognized as authoritative in Lutheranism since the 16th century. They are also known as the symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Age of Enlightenment European cultural movement of the 18th century

The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".



Martin Luther died in 1546, and Philipp Melanchthon in 1560. After the death of Luther came the period of the Schmalkaldic War and disputes among Crypto-Calvinists, Philippists, Sacramentarians, Ubiquitarians, and Gnesio-Lutherans.

Martin Luther Saxon priest, monk and theologian, seminal figure in Protestant Reformation

Martin Luther, was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, monk, and a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation.

Schmalkaldic War conflict

The Schmalkaldic War refers to the short period of violence from 1546 until 1547 between the forces of Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, commanded by Don Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba, and the Lutheran Schmalkaldic League within the domains of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Philippists formed a party in early Lutheranism. Their opponents were called Gnesio-Lutherans.

Early orthodoxy: 1580–1600

The Book of Concord gave inner unity to Lutheranism, which had many controversies, mostly between Gnesio-Lutherans and Philippists, in Roman Catholic outward pressure and in alleged "crypto-Calvinistic" influence. Lutheran theology became more stable in its theoretical definitions.


Gnesio-Lutherans is a modern name for a theological party in the Lutheran churches, in opposition to the Philippists after the death of Martin Luther and before the Formula of Concord. In their own day they were called Flacians by their opponents and simply Lutherans by themselves. Later Flacian became to mean an adherent of Matthias Flacius' view of original sin, rejected by the Formula of Concord. In a broader meaning, the term Gnesio-Lutheran is associated mostly with the defence of the doctrine of Real Presence.

High orthodoxy: 1600–1685

Lutheran scholasticism developed gradually, especially for the purpose of disputation with the Jesuits, and it was finally established by Johann Gerhard (1582-1637). Abraham Calovius (1612-1686) represents the climax of the scholastic paradigm in orthodox Lutheranism. Other orthodox Lutheran theologians include (for example) Martin Chemnitz, Aegidius Hunnius, Leonhard Hutter (1563-1616), Nicolaus Hunnius, Jesper Rasmussen Brochmand, Salomo Glassius, Johann Hülsemann, Johann Conrad Dannhauer, Valerius Herberger, Johannes Andreas Quenstedt, Johann Friedrich König and Johann Wilhelm Baier.

Lutheran scholasticism was a theological method that gradually developed during the era of Lutheran Orthodoxy. Theologians used the neo-Aristotelian form of presentation, already popular in academia, in their writings and lectures. They defined the Lutheran faith and defended it against the polemics of opposing parties.

Johann Gerhard Lutheran theologian

Johannes Gerhard was a Lutheran church leader and Lutheran Scholastic theologian during the period of Orthodoxy.

Abraham Calovius German theologian

Abraham Calovius was a Lutheran theologian, and was one of the champions of Lutheran orthodoxy in the 17th century.

The theological heritage of Philip Melanchthon arose again in the Helmstedt School and especially in the theology of Georgius Calixtus (1586-1656), which caused the syncretistic controversy of 1640-1686. Another theological issue was the Crypto-Kenotic Controversy [1] of 1619-1627.

Philip Melanchthon German reformer

Philip Melanchthon was a German Lutheran reformer, collaborator with Martin Luther, the first systematic theologian of the Protestant Reformation, intellectual leader of the Lutheran Reformation, and an influential designer of educational systems. He stands next to Luther and John Calvin as a reformer, theologian, and moulder of Protestantism.

University of Helmstedt university

The University of Helmstedt, was a university in Helmstedt in the Duchy of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel that existed from 1576 until 1810.

The syncretistic controversy was the theological debate provoked by the efforts of Georg Calixt and his supporters to secure a basis on which the Lutherans could make overtures to the Roman Catholic and the Reformed Churches. It lasted from 1640 to 1686.

Late orthodoxy: 1685–1730

Late orthodoxy was torn by influences from rationalism and pietism. Orthodoxy produced numerous postils, which were important devotional readings. Along with hymns, they conserved orthodox Lutheran spirituality during this period of heavy influence from pietism and neology. Johann Gerhard, Heinrich Müller and Christian Scriver wrote other kinds of devotional literature. [2] The last prominent orthodox Lutheran theologian before the Enlightenment and Neology was David Hollatz. A later orthodox theologian, Valentin Ernst Löscher, took part in a controversy against Pietism. Mediaeval mystical tradition continued in the works of Martin Moller, Johann Arndt and Joachim Lütkemann. Pietism became a rival of orthodoxy but adopted some orthodox devotional literature, such as those of Arndt, Scriver and Stephan Prätorius, which have often been later mixed with pietistic literature.

In philosophy, rationalism is the epistemological view that "regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge" or "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification". More formally, rationalism is defined as a methodology or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive".

Pietism movement within Lutheranism

Pietism is a movement within Lutheranism that combines its emphasis on biblical doctrine with the Reformed emphasis on individual piety and living a vigorous Christian life.

A postil or postill was originally a term for Bible commentaries. It is derived from the Latin "post illa verba textus", referring to Biblical readings. The word first occurs in the chronicle of Nicolas Trivetus, but later it came to mean only homiletic exposition, and thus became synonymous with homily in distinction from the thematic sermon. Finally, after the middle of the fourteenth century, it was applied to an annual cycle of homilies.

Worship and spirituality

Congregations maintained the full Mass rituals in their normal worship as suggested by Luther. In his Hauptgottesdienst (principal service of worship), Holy Communion was celebrated on each Sunday and festival. The traditional parts of the service were retained and, sometimes, even incense was also used. [3] Services were conducted in vernacular language, but in Germany, Latin was also present in both the Ordinary and Proper parts of the service. This helped students maintain their familiarity with the language. [4] As late as the time of Johann Sebastian Bach, churches in Leipzig still heard Polyphonic motets in Latin, Latin Glorias, chanted Latin collects and The Creed sung in Latin by the choir. [5]

Church music flourished and this era is considered as a "golden age" of Lutheran hymnody. [6] Some hymnwriters include Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, Johann von Rist and Benjamin Schmolck in Germany, Haquin Spegel in Sweden, Thomas Hansen Kingo in Denmark, Petter Dass in Norway, Hallgrímur Pétursson in Iceland, and Hemminki Maskulainen in Finland. The most famous orthodox Lutheran hymnwriter is Paul Gerhardt. Prominent church musicians and composers include Michael Praetorius, Melchior Vulpius, Johann Hermann Schein, Heinrich Schütz, Johann Crüger, Dieterich Buxtehude and Bach. [7] [8] Generally, the 17th century was a more difficult time than the earlier period of Reformation, due in part to the Thirty Years' War. Finland suffered a severe famine in 1696-1697 as part of what is now called the Little Ice Age, and almost one third of the population died. [9] This struggle to survive can often be seen in hymns and devotional writings.


The era of Lutheran orthodoxy is not well known, and it has been very often looked at only through the view of liberal theology and pietism and thus underestimated. The wide gap between the theology of Orthodoxy and rationalism has sometimes limited later theological neo-Lutheran and confessional Lutheran attempts to understand and restore Lutheran orthodoxy.

More recently, a number of social historians, as well as historical theologians, have brought Lutheran orthodoxy to the forefront of their research. These scholars have expanded the understanding of Lutheran orthodoxy to include topics such as preaching and catechesis, devotional literature, popular piety, religious ritual, music and hymnody, and the concerns of cultural and political historians. [10]

The most significant theologians of Orthodoxy can be said to be Martin Chemnitz and Johann Gerhard. Lutheran orthodoxy can also be reflected in such rulers as Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Altenburg and Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden.

See also

Related Research Articles

Georg Major German theologian

George Major was a Lutheran theologian of the Protestant Reformation. He was born in Nuremberg and died at Wittenberg.

Johann Arndt German Lutheran theologian

Johann Arndt was a German Lutheran theologian who wrote several influential books of devotional Christianity. Although reflective of the period of Lutheran Orthodoxy, he is seen as a forerunner of pietism, a movement within Lutheranism that gained strength in the late 17th century.

Crypto-Calvinism is a pejorative term describing a segment of German members of the Lutheran Church accused of secretly subscribing to Calvinist doctrine of the Eucharist in the decades immediately after the death of Martin Luther in 1546.

History of Lutheranism

Lutheranism as a religious movement originated in the early 16th century Holy Roman Empire as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church. The movement originated with the call for a public debate regarding several issues within the Catholic Church by Martin Luther, then a professor of Bible at the young University of Wittenberg. Lutheranism soon became a wider religious and political movement within the Holy Roman Empire owing to support from key electors and the widespread adoption of the printing press. This movement soon spread throughout northern Europe and became the driving force behind the wider Protestant Reformation. Today, Lutheranism has spread from Europe to all six populated continents.

Christian Scriver German hymnwriter

Christian Scriver was a German Lutheran minister and devotional writer.

Joachim Westphal (of Hamburg) German "Gnesio-Lutheran" theologian

Joachim Westphal was a German "Gnesio-Lutheran" theologian and Protestant reformer.

Aegidius Hunnius German theologian

Aegidius Hunnius the Elder was a Lutheran theologian of the Lutheran scholastic tradition and father of Nicolaus Hunnius.

The Leipzig Interim was one of several temporary settlements between the Emperor Charles V and German Lutherans following the Schmalkaldic War. It was presented to an assembly of Saxon political estates in December 1548. Though not adopted by the assembly, it was published by its critics under the name "Leipzig Interim."

The Academic Gymnasium Danzig, was a school founded in Gdańsk. It was founded in 1558 by Johann Hoppe (1512–1565), who had previously worked at schools in Culm (Chełmno) and Elbing (Elbląg) until Catholic Prince-Bishop Stanislaus Hosius closed them. For most of its existence it had a character similar to that of a university, and after 1580 it was named Akademisches Gymnasium Danzig.

Fredrik Gabriel Hedberg Finnish writer and priest

Fredrik Gabriel Hedberg was Finnish Lutheran priest and vicar. He was a Neo-Lutheran theologian, prominent figure in the Finnish evangelical revival movement and a leader of confessional Lutheranism in Finland.

Viktorin/Victorinus Strigel was a Philippist Lutheran Theologian and Protestant reformer.

Johann Stössel was a Lutheran Theologian and Reformer.

Tilemann Heshusius Gnesio-Lutheran theologian

Tilemann Heshusius was a Gnesio-Lutheran theologian and Protestant reformer.

Johann Wigand German Lutheran bishop

Johann Wigand was a German Lutheran cleric, Protestant reformer and theologian. He served as Bishop of Pomesania.

Hymnody in continental Europe developed from early liturgical music, especially Gregorian chant. Music became more complicated as embellishments and variations were added, along with influences from secular music. Although vernacular leisen and vernacular or mixed-language Carol (music) were sung in the Middle Ages, more vernacular hymnody emerged during the Protestant Reformation, although ecclesiastical Latin continued to be used after the Reformation. Since then, developments have shifted between isorhythmic, homorhythmic, and more rounded musical forms with some lilting. Theological underpinnings influenced the narrative point of view used, with Pietism especially encouraging the use of the first person singular. In the last several centuries, many songs from Evangelicalism have been translated from English into German.


  1. Lutheran Theology after 1580 article in Christian Cyclopedia
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-03-05.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. Gesch. d. ev. Kirche in Deutschland, p. 300 by Rudolf Rocholl
  4. Worship and Liturgy in the 17th century Archived 2006-03-17 at the Wayback Machine Lutheran Music, accessed November 7, 2006
  5. Worship and Liturgy in the 16th century Archived 2006-03-17 at the Wayback Machine Lutheran Music, accessed November 7, 2006
  6. Hymnody, Christian Archived 2005-04-26 at the Wayback Machine , article in Christian Cyclopedia
  7. Composers of the 17th century Archived 2006-03-17 at the Wayback Machine Lutheran Music, accessed November 7, 2006
  8. Composers of the 18th century [ permanent dead link ] Lutheran Music, accessed November 7, 2006
  9. History of Finland. Finland chronology Archived 2011-04-27 at the Wayback Machine , Fagan, Brian M. (2001-12-24). The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850. Basic Books. ISBN   0-465-02272-3.
  10. Halvorson, Michael J. (2010). Heinrich Heshusius and Confessional Polemic in Early Lutheran Orthodoxy. Farnham, England: Ashgate Publishing. pp. 18–20. ISBN   978-0-7546-6470-3. OCLC   1011233712.