Controversy 155174 among Luth. theologians; named after G. Major.* Shortly. before he became supt. Eisleben 1552, Major was accused by N. v. Amsdorf* of denying the Luth. doctrine of justification in the Leipzig Interim.* After suspension from office Major replied that he had never doubted the sola* fide; but he defended the phrase good works are necessary for salvation, though he held that good works do not effect or merit forgiveness of sins, justification, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. M. Flacius* Illyricus joined Amsdorf, N. Gallus,* et al. in opposing Major and holding that good works are not necessary for salvation, but are necessary for other reasons. Major modified his position 1553 to hold that good works are necessary not to obtain but to retain salvation.
J. Menius* came under suspicion of siding with Major 1554; in 1556 he held that beginning of new life in believers is necessary for salvation. He was attacked by M. Flacius Illyricus, suspended from office, and called before a syn. at Eisenach 1556, where he subscribed to 7 propositions on good works which could be interpreted as a repudiation of his former position.
In 1558 Major tried to end controversy with a confession on justification which stated that he had ceased using the controversial phrase because of wrong interpretation placed on it; but he continued to hold that he had never erred in his teaching of the Gospel or his understanding of good works. M. Flacius Illyricus demanded of Major unqualified rejection of the phrase. Major refused.
Amsdorf attacked Menius 1559, stating that good works are harmful for salvation; he meant that trust in good works for salvation is injurious.
The controversy was settled by FC IV, which rejected both Major's and Amsdorf's terminology but held that believers, in so far as they are reborn, spontaneously do good works commanded by God. AHH
C. Schlüsselburg, De Maioristis, Catalogus haereticorum, VII (Frankfurt, 1599); W. Preger, Matthias Flacius Illyricus und seine Zeit, I (Erlangen, 1859); G. L. Schmidt, Justus Menius, der Reformator Thüringens, II (Gotha, 1867).
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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