Majoristic Controversy

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One of various controversies within Lutheranism between Luther's death in 1546 and the definitive formulation of the Lutheran platform in the Book of Concord of 1580. The overarching concern of all of them was to maintain purity of doctrine (as Lutheranism saw it) without either relapsing into Catholicism or veering into Calvinism.

One of the concessions made by the Melanchthonians, or Philippists, to the Leipzig Interim after Charles V's defeat of the Smalcald League in 1547 was the assertion of Georg Major, a pupil of Melanchthon, that "good works are necessary to salvation." (Melanchthon had earlier made a like statement but had withdrawn it upon Luther's entreaty.)

The counterattack of the Gnesio - Lutheran ("true Lutheran") party was led by Flacius and Amsdorf, but especially the latter overshot the mark by his counterassertion that "good works are harmful to salvation" (although Luther had on occasion so expressed himself too).

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The bitter controversy was settled in Article IV of the Formula of Concord, which pointed out the excesses on both sides. Faith and good works (justification and sanctification) must not be confused in any way, but neither dare the importance of good works as an inevitable consequence of grace be minimized.

H D Hummel
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

F H Bente, Historical Introduction to the Book of Concord; A J Koelpin, ed., No Other Gospel; Essays in Commemoration of the 400th Anniversary of the Formula of Concord, 1580 - 1980; E F Klug and O F Stahlke, Getting into the Formula of Concord; R D Preus and W H Rosin, eds., A Contemporary Look at the Formula of Concord.

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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