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Neo-Lutheranism

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Part of the series on
Lutheranism
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Luther's Seal
History

Christianity
Protestant Reformation
Lutheran Orthodoxy
Pietism
Neo-Lutheranism

People

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Martin Chemnitz · Johann Gerhard
Paul Gerhardt
Johann Sebastian Bach
Henry Melchior Muhlenberg
Lars Levi Læstadius
C. F. W. Walther

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Neo-Lutheranism was a 19th century revival movement within Lutheranism which began as a reaction against theological rationalism and pietism. This movement focused on a reassertion of the identity of Lutherans as a distinct group within the broader community of Christians, with a renewed focus on the Lutheran Confessions as a key source of Lutheran doctrine. Associated with these changes was a renewed focus on traditional doctrine and liturgy, which paralleled the growth of Anglo-Catholicism in England. It was sometimes even called "German Puseyism". In the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, neo-Lutheranism was paralleled by Johann Adam Möhler.

Neo-Lutheranism was reaction against the Prussian Union like Tractarianism against Government's decision to reduce the number of Irish bishoprics. A divide developed in neo-Lutheranism where one side held to repristination theology which tried to restore historical Lutheranism and on the other the theology of the Erlangen School. The repristination theology group was represented by Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, Carl Paul Caspari, Gustav Adolf Theodor Felix Hönecke, Friedrich Adolf Philippi, and C.F.W. Walther. Repristination theology is the mother of later Confessional Lutheranism. Confessionalism to the Erlangen School was not to be static but was to be dynamic. The Erlangen School tried to combine Reformation theology with the new learning. Those of the Erlangen School included Franz Hermann Reinhold von Frank, Theodosius Harnack, Franz Delitzsch, Johann Christian Konrad von Hofmann, Karl Friedrich August Kahnis, Christoph Ernst Luthardt and Gottfried Thomasius.

However, neo-Lutheranism is sometimes called only theology and activity represented by Theodor Friedrich Dethlof Kliefoth, August Friedrich Christian Vilmar, Johann Konrad Wilhelm Löhe, August Friedrich Otto Münchmeyer and Friedrich Julius Stahl who had particularly high ecclesiology. They were polemic against idea of invisible church, strongly claiming church as an outward, visible salvation institution and therefore laid emphasis on ordained ministry instituted by Christ and significance of sacraments above word as Means of Grace. However, unlike Erlangen School, this neo-Lutheranism did not make lasting influence on Lutheran theology. Properly speaking, High Church Lutheranism began in Germany much later, 1917 the Hochkirchliche Vereinigung Augsburgischen Bekenntnisses was created, inspired by 95 theses Stimuli et Clavi, exactly 100 years after Claus Harms' 95 theses.

Neo-Lutheranism should not be confused with term Neo-Protestantism, represented e.g. by Adolf von Harnack and his followers, which means exclusively liberal theology.

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