Saturday, June 25, 2011

Augsburg Confession Day

On this day in 1530, the Augsburg Confession was read before The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, by Dr. Christian Beyer (Baier).  Confessional Lutherans can esteem this day as foundational for our visible church body.  But Dr. Beyer, along with the others who stood with him in the face of political and civic risk, was not articulating anything new.  He was quantifying Scriptural Christianity as handed down by God in the Holy Scripture throughout the Old and New Testament eras; and as confessed by the church fathers throughout the history of Christianity.  The message was one of Sin and Grace, of Justification by Grace alone, and of Submission to Scripture as the Only Source of Truth.

I'm friends with Pius X Traditional Catholics, mainstream Catholics, Confessional Lutherans, non-confessional Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Evangelical Free Christians, etc.  And no, unfortunately, we are not all the same.  A truth of sinful nature is that there will always be division.  I consider myself a Confessional Lutheran.  I hold to the Lutheran Confessions as the true representation of Biblical Truth.  But what does that mean?

I've had some who claim to be Confessional Lutherans accuse me of holding the Confessions above God's Word, which is not accurate.  I honor the Lutheran Confessions as a humanly written synopsis of Christian Doctrine, affirmed by both the writings of previous and subsequent church fathers, in accordance with the Holy Bible.  But although, in my human wisdom I accept them in their entirety as Biblical Truth, they are not the inspired Word of God, as is the Canonical Scripture.

In all honesty, although at the time of my confirmation I promised to accept these writings and hold to them, I've not read them all.  It seems to me a strange thing to ask a child to make such a promise, and it seemed so even at that time.  I remember that I considered asking not to be confirmed, because I felt like a hypocrite making such a promise.  It seemed to me to be taking an unnecessary oath, one of the things God exhorts us not to do.  But since I was often accused of asking too many questions and so being intentionally difficult, I decided not to make waves.

I understand now that the confirmation training I received had taught me the truth of the Confessional writings, and that although I hadn't read them, I did believe their content.  But I am still not altogether comfortable with the fact that I've never read the Lutheran Confessions in their entirety.

And so I started a week or so ago to read them.  It's not the first attempt I've made.  The business of life sometimes tempts me away from academic studies, even those academic studies of religious nature.

Shortly after Concordia Publishing house first came out with their recent Concordia, A Readers Edition of the Book of Concord, I ordered myself a copy and started to follow the included schedule for reading it in a year.  But I don't believe I followed the schedule for more than a handful of months.

This time, I'm not following the schedule.  I'm starting at the beginning, and continuing to the end (kind of, but more on that later).  I'm reading each morning for as long as my cup of coffee lasts.  Some mornings I read aggressively.  Other times I sit and watch the birds doing their morning dances, listening to them sing to each other and to the wind soughing in the trees, and watching my flowers bloom and grow.  (It may sound from that description that I ought to be reading Thoreau instead of Luther, Melanchthon and company.  But really I am Lutheran.  I may love the outdoors, but I'm Lutheran to the bone.)

Besides reading front to back, I'm also reading the historical summaries that are included with each document; doing a little extra research on google and by quizzing my husband; and also reading the sections from the other confessional documents that are referenced with each section.  So for instance, with Augsburg Confession Article I, I'm also reading Article I of both the Apology to the Augsburg Confession and the Smallcald Articles, because the editors of Concordia have referenced those as related articles.

I love the history!  It's been really fun to get a feel for the characters who played their roles in Reformation era history and the various pressures against which the early Lutherans stood fast.

But more importantly, I'm refreshing for myself those things I learned during my confirmation training years ago.  I'm digging deeper and understanding more fully the tenets of Lutheran Doctrine.  I'm strengthening in my mind the Scriptural foundations for the things I believe.  And as with any academic discipline, the more one takes into oneself on a matter, the more able one is to communicate that knowledge with others.  I want to be able to articulate, when called upon, how and why what I believe is Biblical; and why I believe what I believe.  In order to do that in a more faithful manner, I have to know the material myself.

No comments: