Message from Vicar Heydt

From The Vicar:  OF GOOD WORKS: The Lutheran notion of justification by faith does not somehow condemn good works; faith causes them to do good works as a sign of our justification (or salvation), not a requirement for salvation.                                       – Article XX of The Augsburg Confessions

Last month we observed the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession in 1530. I thought it appropriate to give some background on this as it is a major part of the Reformation’s beginning. And, we Lutherans, should have more insight as to what Luther and the reformers were saying.

Sunday, June 25, 1530

On this day in 1530 the German and Latin editions of the Augsburg Confession were presented to the Emperor Charles of the Holy Roman Empire. The Augsburg Confession was written by Philipp Melanchthon and endorsed by Martin Luther, and consists of a brief summary of points in which the reformers saw their teaching as either agreeing with or differing from that of the Roman Catholic Church of the time.

The Augsburg Confession consists of 28 articles presented by Lutheran princes and representatives of “free cities” at the Diet of Augsburg that set forward what the Lutherans believed, taught and confessed in positive (theses) and negative (antitheses) statements. The theses are 21 Chief Articles of Faith describing the normative principles of Christian faith held by the Lutherans; the antitheses are seven statements describing what they viewed as abuses of the Christian faith present in the Roman Catholic church.

The Augsburg Confession became the primary confessional document for the Lutheran movement, even without the contribution of Martin Luther. Following the public reading of the Augsburg Confession in June 1530, the expected response by Charles V and the Vatican representatives at the Diet of Augsburg was not immediately forthcoming. Following debate between the court of Charles V and the Vatican representatives, the official response known as the Pontifical Confutation of the Augsburg Confession was produced to the Diet, though the document was so poorly prepared that the document was never published for widespread distribution, nor presented to the Lutherans at the Diet.

The purpose was to defend the Lutherans against misrepresentations and to provide a statement of their theology that would be acceptable to the Roman Catholics. On August 3 the Catholic theologians replied with the Confutation, which condemned 13 articles of the Confession, accepted 9 without qualifications, and approved 6 with qualifications. The emperor refused to receive a Lutheran counter-reply offered on September 22, but Melanchthon used it as the basis for his Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531). This 1530 version of the Confession (known as the “unaltered” version) has been authoritative for Lutherans, but proponents of the eucharistic doctrine of Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin accepted a modified edition prepared by Melanchthon (the Variata of 1540).

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