Bishop and Christian, April 2009

Bishop and Christian*

From the Pastor

For the next few months, we are going to take a brief look at the foundational document for the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Augsburg Confession.  It was presented in Augsburg, Germany (hence the name) to the Emperor Charles on June 25, 1530, as a statement of the Evangelicals’ position; in fact, it was presented as evidence that the Evangelicals did not teach anything contrary to the catholic (universal) Faith, which was taught and believed by Christians everywhere.  As far as I know, the Augsburg Confession (and its Apology, or defense) is accepted by all Lutherans, of whatever nationality or particularity, as a primary and fundamental statement of the Faith.  So it appears in our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Constitution, and in every LCMS congregational constitution, as one of the confessions that correctly interprets the Holy Scriptures.  You can easily find a copy of the Augsburg Confession online, or if you would like a hard copy, Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions is available from Concordia Publishing House (cph.org).

The Augsburg Confession begins with what are often called the three “ecumenical” creeds.  These are creeds, especially the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, that have been confessed by Christians for centuries, and agreed upon as correct summaries of the Christian Faith (by the Christian “household,” oikoumenos in Greek).  The Apostles’ Creed is a revision and expansion of a creed (the Old Roman Creed) which has been used since the early 3rd century AD.  It was used especially by candidates for baptism, much as we use it in the Rite of Holy Baptism today.  The Nicene Creed, or Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (reflecting its adoption at the Council of Nicea in 325 and its revision at the Council of Constantinople in 381) is primarily used in the liturgy of the Divine Service (when the Lord’s Supper is celebrated).  The Athanasian Creed, which we use primarily on Trinity Sunday, was written by an unknown author probably sometime in the 5th century AD.  It was long attributed to Athanasius-thus the name.

The reason for including these creeds is to restate the fact that the Evangelicals never intended to teach anything that was not taught by Christians from the very beginning.  As they wrote to the Emperor, their purpose in presenting in writing their teaching is so that “by correcting whatever has been treated differently in the writings of both parties, everything could be brought together and returned to one single truth and to Christian concord” (Augsburg Confession, Preface).

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.

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