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  The term ‘Lutheran’ was first coined by Roman Catholic opponents of the 16th-century theological reform movement which adopted Martin Luther\'s doctrine of ‘justification through grace by faith alone, apart from works of law’. Luther himself abhorred the term, fearing that it would lead to narrow denominationalism. Although Lutheranism was mainly a theological movement for ecclesiastical reform it was soon used by German princes as a means to free themselves from papal jurisdiction. Under a principle known as cuius regio, eius religio (‘states shall have the religion of their rulers’), they established Lutheranism as the religion of their territories. After some 25 years of sporadic fighting and discussion, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V had to compromise, and the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 tolerated ‘the religion of the Augsburg Confession’ in areas where the prince was Lutheran. A century later, after the Thirty Years\' War (1618-1648), Lutheranism was fully accepted as a religion in the Holy Roman Empire. It spread to Denmark, Sweden and Norway and the Baltic cities, but was repressed in Poland and Hungary.

Lutheranism is predominantly Christocentric. Vernacular language is used in worship, with much emphasis on congregational singing and on preaching. Only the two sacraments of baptism (generally infant baptism) and the Lord\'s Supper are recognized.

Depending as it does for survival on political protection, Lutheranism has frequently suffered from too close an alignment between Church and State. The 17th-century Christian Orthodoxy mixed pure Lutheran doctrine with Christian law, and obedience toward the law became the centre of Lutheran ethics. In the 18th century this gave rise to the pietist reform movement, which stressed the ‘religion of the Heart’ and not the ‘religion of the head’. During the Enlightenment Lutheranism once again was compromised; so the ‘Neo-Lutherans’ (who called for a return to the biblical and confessional norms) made a stand which led to a significant Lutheran revival. At the time of the Third Reich, German Lutheranism succumbed once more to the state\'s demands. Attempts were made by ‘German Christians’ to merge Lutheranism with Nazism. Opposition, in the form of the ‘Confessing Church’, and help from Lutherans outside Germany (especially in the USA) and the ecumenical movement was at hand. They used the old cry of ‘Back to the Bible’ and the normative Lutheran writings to support their positions as well as the theology of Karl Barth.

The experiences of the two world wars, and unification movements inside the Lutheran Churches, created the desire to establish a body where common interests could be discussed, and this led to the establishment of the Lutheran World Federation (1947) as a ‘free association of Lutheran Churches’, which had 105 member churches in 1990. EMJ

Further reading J.M. Todd, Luther.



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