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August 14, 2013

Book of Concord: Part I

The last two terms I was in Confessions I and Confessions II.  You might think that is a weird title for a Lutheran class, especially if your mind roams to thoughts of confessionals and priests and penance.  However, Confessions is not about the act of confessing sins, but is about the act of confessing a set of beliefs and doctrines.  For example, as a Christian we confess the Christian faith meaning we hold certain set beliefs such as the Triune God, Christ as Savior, etc.

The specific confessions of the Lutheran church are contained in the Book of Concord.  So what is it exactly?  The Book of Concord was compiled in 1580 and contains Lutheran documents written during and shortly after the Reformation.  The exact starting point of the Reformation is up for debate, but no one can deny that the Reformation when into high gear when Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses in 1517.  These theses were points Luther made where he saw corruption and abuses in the church and thought that by addressing them they could be resolved.  Little did he know, he did not know these corruptions and abuses ran all the way up to the pope.  He did not mean to fracture the church, but when the church told him to recant or he would be excommunicated he had little choice.

In the sixteenth century, the government and the church were struggling for power, but the pope still held the most power.  So when Luther refused to recant, the pope sent Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor at the time, after Luther to execute him.  During this time, Luther gained support by the German princes and several other influential Germans who called for a meeting with the Roman Catholics to try and reconcile and resolve the issue.  The Catholics finally agreed and they met in Augsburg at a meeting called the Diet of Augsburg in 1530.  Philip Melanchthon, the public face of the Lutheran cause, wrote the Augsburg Confession in 1530 in which he wrote why the Lutherans were following the true faith while demonstrating how the Roman Catholics strayed.  This was the first real battle for the Lutheran's right to exist.  When the Roman Catholic representatives came back with a rebuttal against the Augsburg Confession called the Confutation, Melanchthon wrote the Apology (or Defense) of the Augsburg Confession in 1531.

The Book of Concord starts with the three Ecumenical Creeds (Apostle's, Nicene, and Athanasian) to show that the Lutheran identity stems from these three witnesses to Scripture and is in fact a continuation of this tradition of faith.  Next, the Book of Concord contains the Augsburg Confession and the Apology to the Augsburg Confession.  These make up the primary defense for the right to legal existence in the Holy Roman Empire by establishing their connection to the early church and showing how the Roman Catholic church no longer continues this tradition.

In the next blog post I will continue with the Smallcald Articles and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope.

If you would like to learn more in depth about the Book of Concord and the Lutheran Confessions, visit http://bookofconcord.org/index.php.

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