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Prior to Luther's Reformation, has the matter of salvation - whether it is by works or by faith alone - ever been considered on any councils of the Catholic and Orthodox churches?

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You might be interested in this link. –  DJClayworth May 23 '12 at 13:49
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The first big controversy on this topic emerged with the teachings of Pelagius. His doctrine (about salvation from deeds and about Adam and Christ only "giving example") were condemned on local councils of Diopolis and Carthage and on the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus. Search the web for the term 'pelagianism' to learn more.

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That doesn't really answer the question as the Pelagian controversy was not about faith vs works at all, but about predestination vs free will as the origin of faith. –  david brainerd May 2 at 2:39
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