Bishop and Christian, May 2009

[a little backed up on these…]

The Augsburg Confession, pt. 2

The first 21 articles of the Augsburg Confession (AC) are summarized by Philip Melanchthon in this way: “This is nearly a complete summary of what is preached and taught in our churches for proper Christian instruction and the comfort of consciences, as well as for the improvement of believers…Since, then, this teaching is clearly grounded in Holy Scripture and is, moreover, neither against nor contrary to the universal Christian church—or even the Roman church—so far as can be observed in the writings of the Fathers, we think that our opponents cannot disagree with us in the articles set forth above” (AC, Conclusion of Part One, Kolb/Wengert 58).  Thus, the first part of the AC is trying to lay out the Christian Faith which “is believed everywhere by everyone.”

The AC follows a very logical path from God, the Source and Goal of all life (Article I), to Original Sin, the intrusion of death and destruction into God’s good creation (Article II), to the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity and the solution to Original Sin (Article III).

Article I.  The AC starts in Art. I by citing the Council of Nicea and confessing that there is only one God (one “essence”), and yet “there are three persons in the same one essence” (I:3).  The counterpart of this confession is that those who hold to a different god are rejected (e.g., Manichaeans [who thought, among other things, there were two gods, one good and one evil], Arians [who believed that the Son was created, and so not of “one substance with the Father”], and Mohammedans, or Muslims, who hold to an absolute divine oneness).

Article II.  “Furthermore, it is taught among us that since the fall of Adam, all human beings who are born in the natural way are conceived and born in sin” (II:1).  The AC goes on to affirm that this means that no human can possess by nature true fear of and faith in God, and that Original Sin is truly sin—which needs to be forgiven and taken away—not just an inclination toward sinning.  Thus, Original Sin “condemns to God’s eternal wrath all who are not in turn born anew through baptism and the Holy Spirit” (II:2).  “Rejected, then, are the Pelagians” (II:3), who believed that human nature was not completely corrupt and could, by its own power, do what was pleasing to God.

Article III.  If it is the case that Original Sin damns to hell, it is also true that God did not leave His creatures without hope.  So, Christ, fully God and fully man, was “‘born, suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried’ in order both to be a sacrifice not only for original sin but also for all other sins and to conciliate God’s wrath” (III:3).  This article goes on to speak about Christ as we confess Him in the Apostles’ Creed.

Next month, we will continue with the next three articles.

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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