The Augsburg Confession (known in Latin as Confessio Augustana), is the primary confession of faith used in the Lutheran Church and one of the most important documents of the Protestant Reformation. It was written in both German and Latin, and was presented by a number of German rulers to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Augsburg on June 25, 1530. Charles V had called on the Princes and Free Territories in Germany to explain their religious convictions in an attempt to restore religious and political unity in the Holy Roman Empire, and to rally support against the Turkish invasion.
The Augsburg Confession provides a succinct statement of 28 articles of faith in the Lutheran Church and is the fourth document contained in the Lutheran Book of Concord. The document enumerates several alleged abuses in the Roman Catholic Church at the time (from the Lutheran viewpoint) and makes arguments for their rectification.
Origin of the confession
On January 21, 1530, the Emperor Charles V issued letters from Bologna, inviting the German diet to meet in Augsburg for the purpose of discussing and deciding various important questions. Although the writ of invitation was couched in very peaceful language, it was received with suspicion by some of the Evangelicals. (The far-seeing Landgrave of Hesse hesitated to attend the diet.) Nevertheless, Martin Luther, Justus Jonas, Johannes Bugenhagen, and Philipp Melanchthon met in Torgau, and formulated a summary of the Lutheran faith to be presented before the emperor at the diet. They collectively produced the "Torgau Articles" (March 1530), which were subsequently developed into an "apology" by Melanchthon, with the consultation of the others. On June 23, the final form of the text was adopted in the presence of the Elector John of Saxony, the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, the Margrave George of Brandenburg, the Dukes Ernest and Francis of Luneburg, the representatives of Nuremberg and Reutlingen, and other counselors, in addition to twelve theologians.
Diet of Augsburg
The Augsburg Confession was read before the Diet of Augsburg on the June 25, 1530. Emperor Charles V had ordered the confession to be presented to him but the evangelical princes asked that it be read in public. When their request was refused, the evangelical princes declared that they would not hand over the confession until its public reading was allowed. The emperor reluctantly agreed and the date of June 25 was selected for its presentation. However, in order to exclude the masses, the small chapel of the episcopal palace was appointed for the reading, in place of the spacious city hall, where the meetings of the diet were being held. The two Saxon chancellors Bruck and Beyer, one with the Latin copy, the other with the German, stepped into the middle of the assembly, and against the wish of the emperor, the German text was read. The reading lasted two hours and allegedly was so distinct that every word could be heard outside the chapel. Following the reading, the two copies were handed over to imperial authorities. It is said that the German copy was given to the Elector of Mainz (imperial chancellor), while the Latin copy was given to the emperor himself. However, neither of the copies are now extant.
The first official publication (Editio princeps) of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession appeared in 1531, under the editorship of Philipp Melanchthon, a professor at the University of Wittenberg and close friend of Martin Luther.
In 1540, Melanchthon produced a revised edition, the Augsburg Confession Variata, which was signed by John Calvin. Many Lutheran churches specify in their official documents that they subscribe to the "Unaltered Augsburg Confession," as opposed to the Variata.
Contents of the Augsburg Confession
The Augsburg Confession consists of 28 articles of Lutheran belief. The first twenty-one articles outline important teachings in Lutheranism. The last seven articles identify alleged abuses in the Roman Catholic Church.
A summary of the Confession follows below:
The preface contains a plea for Christian unity in light of the Turkish threat, and claims that the Lutherans "are neglecting nothing that may serve the cause of Christian unity."
Articles of Faith
I. Concerning God—a brief explanation of the Trinity, which was not a point of controversy. However, various opponents claimed that Luther did not accept such a doctrine, so its inclusion is understandable.
II. Concerning Original Sin—a brief explanation of Original Sin, which was not a point of controversy either.
III. Concerning the Son of God—a standard, short explanation of the dual nature of Jesus. Not a point of controversy.
IV. Concerning Justification—the doctrine of Justification by Faith. This was the primary difference between Lutherans and Roman Catholics at the time. This article appeals to Paul's epistle to the Romans.
V. Concerning the Office of Preaching—a brief statement on the preaching. Not a point of controversy, though the Anabaptists are condemned for teaching that the Holy Spirit does not come to humans without their "preparations and works."
VII. Concerning the Church—a statement on the belief in one Christian Church. Not a point of controversy.
VIII. What is the Church?—a statement on the acceptance of all believers into the aforementioned church.
IX. Concerning Baptism—a statement on the belief in infant baptism and a condemnation of the Anabaptists for preaching otherwise. Not a point of controversy for the Diet.
X. Concerning the Lord's Supper—a statement on the Lutheran view of the real presence in the Eucharist. All other views are condemned.
XI. Concerning Confession—a statement supporting the practice of confession, although it is stated that not all sins are capable of being confessed.
XII. Concerning Repentence—a statement on the belief that repentance is to feel sorrow for one's sins. It is no longer considered to have sacramental status. Anabaptists who teach that to be baptized is to be free of sin are condemned.
XIII. Concerning the Use of Sacraments—a standard statement on the use of sacraments, which was not a point of controversy. Those who say that one is justified by use of sacraments are condemned.
XIV. Concerning Church Government—a standard statement on the belief that one must be called to be a minister. Not a point of controversy.
XV. Concerning Church Regulations—a statement about how festivals not commanded in the Bible will have no bearing on justification and are contrary to the gospel.
XVI. Concerning Public Order and Secular Government—a statement in support of secular government. Anabaptists are condemned for teaching otherwise, along with a condemnation of those who do good for fear of the government and not God. Not a point of controversy.
XVII. Concerning the Return of Christ to Judgement—a standard statement about the End of Days, which stipulates that Jesus will judge the living and the dead, the elect will go to heaven and the "ungodly" will go to Hell. Condemned are Universalism and the belief that the elect will have a secular government. Not a point of controversy.
XVIII. Concerning Free Will—a statement about the belief in man's inclination to sin, and the need for external help from the Holy Spirit to please God. Those who teach that man can keep the commandments without the Holy Spirit are condemned. This is only a controversy insofar as the scholastics who taught that man does have some say in whether or not he/she may please God.
XIX. Concerning the Cause of Sin—a statement on the inclination of evil and "ungodly" people to sin. This was not a point of controversy.
XX. Concerning Faith and Good Works—a statement about good works being good, but not assisting in salvation and standing before God. This is followed by an explanation and defense of the doctrine of Justification by Faith.
XXI. Concerning the Cult of the Saints—a statement about the nature of saints: Helpful to assisting in one's personal faith, but of no postmortem metaphysical use.
Disputed articles, listing abuses that have been corrected
These sections address some of the alleged wrongs and abuses of the Roman catholic Church and provide arguments for needed reforms.
XXII. Concerning Both Kinds of the Sacrament—a statement explaining scriptural and historical grounds for distributing both elements of the Eucharist to laity, who had only been permitted to receive the bread.
XXVIII. Concerning the Marriage of Priests—a lengthy argument that there is Scriptural basis for allowing priests to marry.
XXIV. Concerning the Mass—another lengthy argument, this time as to the nature of mass. It is argued that all sins were rebuked by the "satisfaction" of Jesus' death. Roman Catholics held that the death of Jesus only rebuked the Original Sin and that other ones were rebuked by Mass.
XXV. Concerning Confession—reiteration of the view that private absolution is no better than general absolution. While the Evangelical Church still practiced private absolution, it was maintained that it was Christ, not the pastor, who forgave the sins.
XXVI. Concerning the Distinction among Foods—a statement declaring that scheduled fasting, ceremonies, etc. were not necessary under Justification by Faith.
XXVII. Concerning Monastic Vows—a statement is made that monasticism was once a desirable (i.e. voluntary) lifestyle, but had since been corrupted. The vows of monks are also rejected.
XXVIII. Concerning the Power of Bishops—a lengthy statement calling for the separation of political and theological power.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Grane, Leif and John H. Rasmussen. The Augsburg Confession: A Commentary. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1987. ISBN 978-0806622521
- Maurer, Wilhelm. Historical Commentary on the Augsburg Confession. Fortress Pr, 1986. ISBN 978-0800607814
- Melanchthon, Philip. The Augsburg Confession. Concordia Pub House, 2006. ISBN 978-0758609939
- Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. 1914.
All links retrieved August 21, 2023.
- The Augsburg Confession The Book of Concord
- The Augsburg Confession AD 1530 Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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