Preliminary History (§ 1).

Mediation of Jakob Andreä (§ 2).

The Formulas of Maulbronn and Torgau (§ 3).

The Formula of Concord (§ 4).


I. Preliminary History.

The Formula of Concord is the last of the six confessional books of the Lutheran Church, forming the close of the Book of Concord. The Lutheran Church, from the beginning, has stood for pure doctrine; i.e., the doctrine of the three symbols of the ancient Church, of the Augsburg Confession (or more precisely of Luther,) and of the church and school of Wittenberg. Melanchthon dogmatized and thus externalized the authority of Luther; but he departed from Luther's doctrine. Thus, after Luther's death dissensions arose, and two opposite tendencies were developed. Both parties--the Melanchthonians or Crypto-Calvinists (see PHILIPPISTS) and the Gnesio-Lutherans such as Flacius (q.v.)--fell into extremes and exaggerations. Among the questions in dispute may be mentioned the Interim and the matter of adiaphora (after 1547); Osiander's doctrine of justification (after 1550); the Majoristic controversy (see MAJOR, GEORG) over the assertion of Major and Menius that good works are necessary for salvation and the opinion of Amsdorf that they are an obstacle to salvation (after 1552), and in connection with it the antinomistic controversy; the controversy on the Lord's Supper (after 1552); the synergistic controversy (after 1555); and the Christological controversies, which began in the early sixties. The idea of effecting an agreement between the two contending parties arose at an early time. In 1556 Flacius issued "lenient propositions" in that direction, but made them dependent upon a public confession of those who had erred. Melanchthon acknowledged his fault in regard to the Interim, but excused his attitude. The seriousness of the situation was generally felt at the Religious Colloquy of Worms in 1557 (see WORMS), when the Saxon theologians (i.e., the party of Flacius) questioned the right of their Philippist opponents to appeal to the Augsburg Confession. The Protestant princes tried to establish peace by the Frankfort Recess (q.v.) in 1558, at which the introduction of an official censorship of writings of a religious nature was decreed; but the adherents of Flacius successfully resisted all such attempts. At the Diet of Naumburg (1561), where an open Calvinist like Frederick III. of the Palatinate was the leader, the divergence in doctrine regarding the Lord's Supper became more evident than ever. It was felt that the Augsburg Confession was not a sufficient confessional basis. A convention at Lüneburg, for instance, demanded a corpus doctrinœ which should comprise, besides the Augsburg Confession, the Augsburg Apology, the Schmalkald Articles, and Luther's catechism, as well as his other writings. Such corpora doctrinæ arose now in different parts of the country. The Melanchthonians also produced a Corpus doctrinæ christianæ (Leipsic, 1560), in which they embodied chiefly works of Melanchthon. In this way fixed norms of doctrine were established. The next task was to establish a common corpus doctrinæ for the whole Lutheran Church of Germany. It was solved by the "Book of Concord" [the title of the Formula concordiæ in the editio princeps, 1580; this name was afterward reserved for the collection of all the Lutheran symbols], in which the different corpora doctrinæ found their consummation.


2. Mediation of Jakob Andreä.

The different collections of confessions, however, did not wipe out the old controversies on the Philippist errors. The need of a new confession as the only satisfactory solution of the difficulty was felt more and more. In June, 1567, Landgrave William IV. of Hesse-Cassel and Duke Christopher of Württemberg commissioned Jakob Andreä to draw up a formula which could be accepted by all theologians of the Augsburg Confession. It bore the title, Bekenntnis und kurze Erklärung etlicher zwiespaltiger Artikel, nach welcher eine christliche Einigkeit in den Kirchen, der Augsb. Konfession zugethan, getroffen und die ärgerliche, langwierige Spaltung hingelegt werden möchte. It related chiefly to the five articles of justification by faith, good works, free will, adiaphora and the Lord's Supper. But the time was not yet ripe for the success of the plan. Duke Christopher, the originator of the idea, died, and Landgrave William of Hesse-Cassel conceived the impracticable scheme of applying the intended agreement not only to elements of German Protestantism, but also to the Reformed Churches outside of Germany. Electoral Saxony Philippism still flourished, and the theologians of Ducal Saxony still clung to their ultra-Lutheran views. Andreä's journeys to Saxony in 1569 and 1570 did not alter the situation. After the death of Duke John William Saxony the ultra-Lutheran party was dispersed under the protectorate of Elector August, and eyes of the elector, who had always regarded himself a good Lutheran, were opened to the Crypto-Calvinism existent in his own country. In 1573, the overthrow of Crypto-Calvinism in Electoral Saxony, Andreä had published Sechs christliche Predigten (Tübingen, 1573), in which he tried to settle the controversies not by theological investigations, but by the catechism. The sermons openly showed his Lutheran convictions. He changed his position; there was no attempt any longer to conceal anything that might be disagreeable to the Philippists. The original thought of reconciling Lutherans and Philippists by a formula of compromise had been abandoned as impossible. The plan now was to draw up a formula that should consolidate all Lutherans against Philippists and Calvinists. Through the mediation of the theological faculty in Tübingen, the sermons of Andreä were not unfavorably received in North Germany by leaders like Martin Chemnitz of Brunswick, Joachim Westphal of Hamburg, David Chytræus and the theological faculty of Rostock. Andreä was asked to put his sermons in the form of articles. Thus originated the so-called Swabian Concordia, which showed great similarity to the later Formula of Concord. It was signed by the theologians in Tübingen and the members of the consistory in Stuttgart, and in Mar., 1574, was sent to Duke Julius of Brunswick and to Chemnitz, that they might enter into negotiations with the churches of Lower Saxony.


3. The Formulas of Maulbronn and Torgau.

After the overthrow of Philippism in Electoral Saxony, the elector himself felt the need of ending the disastrous controversies by a generally accepted formula. In Nov., 1575, at the instance of Count George Ernest of Henneberg, Duke Louis of Württemberg and Margrave Charles of Baden, Lucas Osiander, court preacher of Württemberg, Balthasar Bidembach, provost at Stuttgart, and Abel Scherdinger, court preacher of Henneberg, with several theologians of Baden, composed the Formula of Maulbronn, which was signed in the monastery of Maulbronn Jan. 19, 1576. This formula agreed with the Swabian Concordia in content, but departed from it in that it preserved the order of articles in the Augsburg Confession. Both formulas were sent to Elector August, who asked Andreä for an opinion on them. Andreä gave the preference to the Formula of Maulbronn and at the same time induced the elector to convoke an assembly of theologians for the purpose of establishing a common corpus doctrinæ. The time was favorable, as many of the old polemical agitators had died. In Feb., 1576, there was a convention at Lichtenberg, and from May 28 to June 7 at Torgau. The leading theologians were Nicolaus Selnecker, Andreä, Chemnitz, Chytræus, and Andreäs Musculus.On the basis of the Swabian and Maulbronn formulas there was established a third one acceptable to all parties, the Book of Torgau, of which Elector August sent copies to most of the Evangelical estates of Germany. As Landgrave William and others criticized the prolixity of the Book of Torgau, Andrei made an epitome (Kurzer summarischer Auszug der Artikel, so zwischen den Theologen augsburgischer Konfession viele Jahre streitig, zu Torgau durch die daselbst versammelten und unterschriebenen Theologen im Monat Junio 1576 christlich verglichen worden).


4. The Formula of Concord.

By Feb., 1577, most of the requested criticisms on the Book of Torgau had been sent to Dresden. Elector August then commissioned Andreä, Chemnitz and Selnecker to come to an agreement on the final form of the confession. After having been joined later by Andreäs Musculus and Christof Körner of Electoral Brandenburg, and by David Chytræus of Rostock, they began their meetings at Bergen, near Magdeburg; and on May 28, 1577, there was laid before the elector the Book of Bergen (Bergen Formula), which is identical with the Solida declaratio of the Formula of Concord. At the same time Andreä's epitome of the Book of Torgau was carefully read, article by article, and approved. The electors of Saxony and Brandenburg now sent copies of the Book of Bergen for approbation and subscription to all estates whose consent to the new plan was undoubted. It is not strange that the confession was not received everywhere with the same willingness. Churches which had gone through a different process of confessional development and had adopted the later doctrines of Melanchthon, in order to retain their connection with the Calvinistic Church, rejected the confession of Bergen and were driven to the Reformed confession. At the instigation of Queen Elizabeth of England, Count Palatine John Casimir, an adherent of the Reformed faith, attempted to obstruct the acceptance of the Formula of Concord by forming a counterunion of all the Reformed Churches at the Convention of Frankfort (1577), but without success.


The "Book of Concord" was published, in German, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Augsburg Confession (June 25, 1580). The first authorized Latin text appeared in 1584, in Leipsic. The confession was signed by three electors, twenty dukes and princes, twenty-four counts, four barons, thirty-eight free cities, and nearly eight thousand preachers and teachers. It was rejected by Hesse, Anhalt, Pfalz-Zweibrücken, Brunswick, Schleswig-Holstein, Denmark, Frankfort-on-the-Main, Danzig, Bremen, Speyer, Worms, Nuremberg, Strasburg, Magdeburg, and Nordhausen. Silesia did not take part in the negotiations. Some of the dissenting State Churches accepted the Formula of Concord at a later time. Although it does not and can not speak the last word of the religious knowledge of Lutheranism, it was a historical necessity. The doctrinal differences produced by Melanchthonian ideas necessitated a separation of churches. The more Philippism approached Calvinism and Gnesio-Lutheranism stepped out of the limits of a party, the less possible was a union. Andreä perceived this at the right moment. A concord among the friends of Lutheranism and the establishment of a uniform corpus doctrinæ was possible only if the extreme Philippists together with the Calvinists were excluded. The great importance of the Formula of Concord and of the Book of Concord lies in the fact that by them the Lutheran Church maintained its independence over against Calvinism. It must not be imagined that a theological party had here merely obtruded its views upon the Lutheran Church; in the Formula of Concord there have come to their full development the germs of a really existing consensus of belief. Not only the extremes of Philippism, but also those of the Gnesio-Lutherans, such as Flacius, Amsdorf, and Osiander, were cut off. Thus the Formula of Concord brought peace to the Lutheran Church, and for a long time gave direction to the efforts of the Church in the sphere of dogmatics.*


*The Formula of Concord consists of two parts, the Epitome and the Solida repetitio et declaratio, each divided into twelve articles, follows: i., of original sin; ii., of free will; iii., of justification by faith; iv., of good works; v., of the Law and the Gospel; vi., of the third use of the Law; vii., of the Lord's Supper; viii., of the person of Christ; ix., of Christ's descent into hell; x., of church usages and ceremonies called adiaphora; xi., of God's foreknowledge and election; xii.. of several heresies and sects. The second part repeats at greater length what is concisely stated in the Epitome with confirmatory quotations.