Saturday, June 25, 2011

Augustana Bonanza

I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame - Psalm 119:46.

A fitting verse for the 481st anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession. According to a brief synopsis in The Treasury of Daily Prayer, the Augustana (as it is also called), "the principal doctrinal statement of the theology of Martin Luther and the Lutheran reformers, was written largely by Philip Melanchthon. At its heart, it confesses the justification of sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone. Signed by the leaders of many German cities and regions, the confession was formally presented to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Augsburg, Germany, on June 25, 1530. A few weeks later, Roman Catholic authorities rejected the Confession, which Melanchthon defended in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531). In 1580, the Unaltered Augsburg Confession was included in the Book of Concord."

These form the doctrinal standard for the Evangelical Lutheran Church. And it is a marvelous confession of faith. The best way to study it, however, is not to listen to endless background commentary (although historical and theological context are valuable and necessary) nor read endless blog posts about how fantastic this confession is, but simply to open a copy up, set it next to an open Bible and read the two side-by-side (which you can read here at That is, after all, how it was written - from the Scriptures, faithfully, clearly and boldly. I am not sure the reformers/civil leaders had a choice about what day they were able to present the Augustana before Emperor Charles V (btw, the Holy Roman Empire was neither, holy, roman, nor a real empire), but it seems rather appropriate that the day of the presentation is one day after the commemoration of St. John the Baptizer who also spoke boldly before kings, and lost his head for it. If the newest Luther movie is accurate (and even if it isn't) there is a illustrative scene towards the end where the princes and rulers bow down before Charles V, not in servitude, but in humble proclamation, offering their necks if need be. It was no different for John the Baptizer, a faithful witness to Jesus in life and in death. These princes and rulers were faithful witnesses to Jesus on June 25, 1530. And now the Augustana continues to be a faithful witness to Jesus that we might follow in the same manner, risking all even death rather than fall away from the faith, as we confess at Baptism and again at confirmation. O Lord, let us too speak Your testimonies faithfully, boldly and clearly before kings and neighbors, friends and family alike.

For in these 28 articles (as in the rest of the 1580 Book of Concord) "We have mentioned only those things we thought it was necessary to talk about so that it would be understood that in doctrine and ceremonies we have received nothing contrary to Scripture or the Church universal. It is clear that we have been very careful to make sure no new ungodly doctrine creeps into our churches." God grant it in our day as well.

Solus Christus
Sola Scriptura
Sola Gratia
Sola Fide


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