Synergism (συνεργέω, to work-together) is the doctrine that the human will co- operates with divine grace in the work of conversion, as it was advanced by Erasmus in his controversy with Luther, and afterwards represented by Melancthon and his school. Luther taught that sin had absolutely ruined man, making of his reason a ravenous beast and of his will a slave, so that it is impossible for him to contribute in any way towards his conversion; and in the first edition of his Loci Communes Melancthon's teaching is in entire harmony with Luther's view. Such a view necessarily resulted in the doctrine of predestination, and both Luther and Melancthon traced everything back to God as the first cause, the sin of Judas no less than the conversion of Paul. It was, however, an unnatural view for Melancthon to hold, and he receded from it into the dualistic idea that human liberty must be recognized as a factor in conversion by the side of the divine necessity. In the third edition of the Loci sin is derived from the will of the devil and of man, instead of that of God; not everything, consequently, is to be ascribed to the divine causality, and there is a realm of contingencies by the side of the realm of necessity which is founded on the freedom of the human will. A certain measure of volitional freedom to perform outward works of obedience to the divine law remains to man even after the Fall; but he cannot, without the aid of the Holy Spirit, quantitatively and qualitatively fulfill that law, and accordingly in every good action three causes work together (συνεργοῦσι) the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the human will, which does not resist the Word of God, and is at times described directly as facultas sese applicanci ad gratiam. The doctrine of predestination fell, of course, so soon as man came to be regarded as other than a volitionless statue. This synergistic theory of Melancthon's was admitted into the Leipsic Interim (q.v.) in the words "God does not operate on man as on a block, but draws him in such a way that his will co- operates." It was also advocated in a polemical address by Johann Pfeffinger, professor and pastor at Leipsic (1555), against whom Amsdorff (q.v.) contended, in 1558, that "it is presumptuous to hold that man could, in the exercise of his natural powers, prepare and fit himself to receive grace." Pfeffinger had said, however, that the Holy Spirit must first arouse the will, after which the latter is required to do its part in conversion. From this personal stage the question was lifted into the schools by Flacius (q.v.). He denied all participation of the will in the work of conversion, because it is dead to all good, wanting in all powers for good, and inclined to evil constantly. Tod, therefore, is the sole agent in conversion, and man is not only passive, but also unwilling. To the defense of such postulates Flacius devoted two days in a disputation at Jena, which latter university now became the center of strict Lutheranism as against Wittenberg, where the spirit of Melancthon ruled. The next measure of this Lutheran champion was the publication of the Weimar Book of Confutations, which committed the duke of Saxony to the defense of orthodoxy, and served, at the same time, to refute all the errors of the time. It likewise occasioned the overthrow of Strigel (q.v.), who had been forced to aid in making a first draft of the book, but was unwilling to admit into it any of the improvements suggested by Flacius, and wrote against it in the form in which it was given to the world. He was seized and imprisoned on Easterday, 1559, but was soon afterwards liberated in deference to the censure with which public opinion everywhere visited that act of violence; and a colloquy was ordered to be held at Weimar in August, 1560, with a view to settling the dispute. On this occasion Flacius inconsiderately asserted that original sin is not an accident, but part of the substance of man, and obstinately refused to retract the statement. The favor of the court now began to wane, and in exactly the same degree did the Flacianist divines rage against all who refused to sustain their opinions. Punishment naturally followed, and reached its culmination in the dismissal from office of Flacius and his clique, Dec. 10, 1561. Strigel, on the other hand, was induced to draw up a Declaration of his views, and was thereupon reinstated, which event was followed by an explanatory Super declaration from the hand of superintendent Stiossel, designed to conciliate the opposite party (Cothurnus Stoesselii, in Salig, 3, 891). Strigel, however, refused to accept the interpretation of hisviews given by Stossel, and took refuge from the machinations of false brethren in Leipsic. The Lutherans who rejected Stossel's compromise were banished, to the number of forty. The accession of John William to the throne of ducal Saxony (1567) restored the Flacianists, Flacius himself excepted, to power; a futile colloquy was held for the purpose of giving peace to the Church at Altenburg, Oct. 21,1568; and the duke was eventually constrained to order the forming of the Corpus Doctrinae Thuringicum (Jena, 1571) with a view to the protection of assailed orthodoxy. The Formula of Concord gave the finishing stroke to the conflict, and settled it substantially in harmony with the Flacian view. See Salig, Hist. d. Augqsb. Conf. 1, 648; Walch, Religionsstreitigkeiten innerhalb d. luth. Kirche, 1, 60; 4:86; Planck, Gesch. d. prot. Lehrbegriffs, 4, 553; Schlüsselberg, Catalogi
Haeret. 5; Galle, Melancthon, p. 326; Thomasius, Bekenntniss d. luth. Kirche, etc., p. 119; Dillinger, Reformation, 3, 437; Schmid, in Zeitschr. f hist. Theol. 1849, p. 13; Preger, Mf. Flacius Illyricus, etc., 2, 104-227. — Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.