Summary and Keywords
Despite positive remarks that Martin Luther made about the “Greeks,” neither he nor Philip Melanchthon possessed personal knowledge of, nor extensive contact with, the Orthodox Church of the 16th century. Second-generation Lutheran exchanges with Constantinople revealed the theological differences between the Orthodox and the churches of the Augsburg Confession. Despite sporadic 17th- and 18th-century encounters with the Orthodox that initially suggested common theological ground upon which to criticize Roman Catholic error, Lutherans came to view the Orthodox (whether Chalcedonian or Oriental) as suffering from corruptions nearly as alarming as those tolerated in Rome. Nineteenth- and 20th-century exchanges broadened to include the Orthodox in Russia, where a limited impact of Lutheran Pietism briefly influenced educational reforms. Imperial Germany’s alliance with the Ottomans prior and subsequent to World War I and the Armenian genocide further alienated the Orthodox from Lutherans and Protestants in general. Only in the late 1960s did serious theological dialogue begin, resulting in both national and international meetings. The rise of the Finnish school of Lutheran theology, with its interest in exploring the possible similarities between the Orthodox understanding of theosis and a transformative understanding of Lutheran justification, gave renewed impetus to dialogues into the early 21st century. Orthodox responses to Lutheran theology five hundred years after the Reformation now focus on questions of pneumatology, ecclesiology, and debates centered around questions of theological anthropology, with specific concerns about gender and sexuality.
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