The Primary Texts

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.

A New Confession

With the anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession, I have to wonder why we so vehemently oppose new confession? We acknowledge the confessions of the Book of Concord as both true exposition of God’s Word but also inherently historical and polemical documents. When we read an article of the Augustana, we are careful to not misapply it to a current situation, reflecting on its original context and issues to determine its relevancy to the contemporary situation.

We don’t consider this document universal. It does not address every situation every time. On the other hand we consider scripture universal and able to speaks to all situations. (Although not every scripture passage applies to every situation.) The confessions then are not comprehensive but speak to specific situations.

When new challenges to faith arise and when a historical confession does not provide suitable refutation, we must confess what God’s Word says to these challenges. New confessions aren’t wrong; they are necessary.

Hopefully we won’t have to wait three years to respond with Synodical ratification of a new confession, during which time the heresy may spiral out of control. With the ancients, they’d often call a council before this happened. We should do the same. Cost is a non-issue when true confession must be made.

Let us not forget Melancthon and the confessors, remembering always to remain diligent as they did and act when need arises.

What are Lutherans?

Ask the Pastor: The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

As a Lutheran pastor and theologian, especially since I began writing Ask the Pastor, I continually receive questions about my church: Who are we, where do we come from, what do we believe? Since we Lutherans have a very special remembrance this Sunday, I thought this a good time to share a bit of our history and teaching.

On this anniversary Pr. Synder has a nice short post on what are Lutherans both historically and doctrinally. If you are the least bit curious, you owe it to yourself to read his summary.