On this anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, I am reminded of a comment made at this year’s Catechetical Symposium in Sussex, Wisconsin. The emphasis of Lutheran catechesis is on the primary texts: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. This is the catholic faith that must be believed. Luther’s explanations are secondary. The LCMS Questions and Answers are tertiary at the most.
Unfortunately, for many Lutherans, these chief texts have fallen into disuse. Of the three, the Ten Commandments are the most obvious. This is to our disadvantage and to the weakening of our faith. To the outsider, Lutherans also often are perceived as antinomian, that is, haters of the law. Of course, the charge of antinomianism is largely due to the licentious practices of many so-called “Lutherans”. But the charge may also stem from the lack of knowledge and practice of the Ten Commandments. These ten commands are not prayed daily. They are largely not part of our public worship (with the exception of the Service of Prayer and Preaching). And they are not well known by most.
By ignoring these chief texts, we cease to be catholic, that is, according to the whole or universal. This is the emphasis of the Augsburg Confession. The Augsburg Confession does not speak something new, or different, or sectarian. Our confession is the catholic confession. A quick perusal of the Augustana will reveal that our dogma is the dogma of the Holy Scriptures, as summarized in the Commandments, Creed, and Prayer. Nothing new. Everything apostolic.
When we read these chief texts, when we meditate upon them day and night, and when we pray them privately and corporately, we continue in the faith of the confessors. This is not a new or different faith but it is the one handed down to us by the apostles. We do well to place these impress these words upon our hearts and minds and thus be kept steadfast in the one true faith.
From the Preface to the Augustana:
Most Invincible Emperor, Caesar Augustus, Most Clement Lord: Inasmuch as Your Imperial Majesty has summoned a Diet of the Empire here at Augsburg to deliberate concerning measures against the Turk, that most atrocious, hereditary, and ancient enemy of the Christian name and religion, in what way, namely, effectually to withstand his furor and assaults by strong and lasting military provision; 2] and then also concerning dissensions in the matter of our holy religion and Christian Faith, that in this matter of religion the opinions and judgments of the parties might be heard in each other’s presence; and considered and weighed 3] among ourselves in mutual charity, leniency, and kindness, in order that, after the removal and correction of such things as have been treated and understood in a different manner in the writings on either side, these matters may be settled and brought back to one simple truth and Christian concord, 4] that for the future one pure and true religion may be embraced and maintained by us, that as we all are under one Christ and do battle under Him, so we may be able also to live in unity and concord in the one Christian Church.