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On this day…

On June 25th, 1530 Martin Luther and his followers presented the Augsburg Confession to the princes and electors of Germany, who in turn presented it to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, thus establishing the basis of confessional Lutheranism for centuries to follow.  What I find most interesting about the Augsburg Confession is its thoroughgoing catholic substance.  There is very little herein to which modern Roman Catholics should find major objection (though, the issues that do remain are certainly bound to be very vigorous ones: viz clerical celibacy, the number of the sacraments, the sacrament of orders, the rejection of monasticism as a Christian vocation, etc).

However, the self-understanding of the Confession is that “our churches dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary to the intent of the Canons”.  Whether or not this assessment is true is something that Lutheran and Roman communions will have to continue to wrangle over together.  However, if nothing else this is an important reminder that heresy can occur just as easily by addition as by subtraction.  And that a vibrant evangelical catholicity which is at once historical and critical is the goal toward which we all must strive.

6 Comments

  1. mike d wrote:

    “And that a vibrant evangelical catholicity which is at once historical and critical is the goal toward which we all must strive.”

    This is a good line. My Anglican mind (which strives to be Catholic and Reformed) nods in agreement.

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 4:12 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden. Why is the Augsburg confession a reminder about this? And how can you mention this confession without mentioning the (in my eyes) anti-christian condemnation of the anabaptists and other “heretics” within this confession? Is not A.C. more a reminder that we needs a church that follows Jesus without seeking the support of the state and other worldy powers?

    Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 3:56 am | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    Well, it’s certainly a reminder of that, too. I don’t demand for perfect purity in the history of the church before I strive to learn from it any more than I demand it of my brothers and sisters before I listen to them.

    Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 10:09 am | Permalink
  4. Well, sure. Neither do I. I think we should listen to and learn from all people since God´s spirit can be found anywhere. Even the George Bushes, satanists, fundamentalists and Bultmannians. My comment was not about some kind of absolute shunning.

    But some things cannot be combined and some things cannot properly be called “church” or “christian”, and in my eyes the AC and anabaptism is a good example of this. I agree with the historical anabaptist view that the “church” that persecutes true believers with the sword is not a true church.

    Sometimes you have to choose where to belong, and I was a bit surprised, having read about your anabaptist tendencies, that you seemed to identify with the movement that produced the AC. Or did I misread you?

    Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 11:33 am | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    Jonas, you restrict your definition of the church far more than I do even though I identify myself as anabaptist. I think that the people of God will sin and betray the gospel without ceasing to be the people of God. As such I think that the Lutheran churches that produced the Augsburg Confession, while wrong in many, many ways were still Christians, still the church and still God’s people.

    The difference between us seems to be that you insist that the church be constituted by its own morality. Thus, the church only exists among people that live up to such and such a standard. What makes the church the church for you is their moral effort and faithfulness. While I want to call the church to that same moral effort and faithfulness, I do not think that is what makes us the church. God does that through the Word in all its forms (Scripture, Community, Practices/Sacraments, etc). What makes us the church is not our moral achievements but God’s grace which evokes, sustains, and calls forth our obedience and discipleship.

    Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 11:45 am | Permalink
  6. I don´t think that the church is constituted by its own morality. I just think that God´s grace, when received, has a real impact on our way of living. And I do think that we aren´t truly God´s church if our morality is not effected. God´s grace calls forth our obedience, as you say, and this obedience can be seen by the world. If our discipleship is not visible and a witness of the coming kingdom, it´s not the discipleship of Jesus. God´s children can be acknowledged by their keeping of God´s commandments. No one can enter the coming kingdom without doing the will of God. Faith without deeds is dead. I think virtually every author in the New Testament has this kind of conviction (even Paul), even if lutherans don´t like it. Wouldn´t you agree?

    This doesn´t mean that God´s people are perfect or never fails. When we fail, we can confess our sins and get restored, and we will always be a people in the process of being transformed. But if there´s not a visible difference between God´s people and the world (“saltiness”), even regarding the way we live, I can´t see that our “salvation” is real. And I don´t think people crucifying christ, either in his pre- or post-resurrected body, can be God´s people if they boast about it and doesn´t want to repent.

    And I honestly cannot see how one could call oneself an anabaptist while denying this and still keep some historical substance in that word. I say this with a lot of respect for your writing and theology, so please explain…

    Friday, June 27, 2008 at 3:54 am | Permalink

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