“…The Word of God shall establish articles of faith and no one else,
not even an angel.” (Luther, SA, Part II, Art. II)
A Closer Look at the Smalcald Articles (SA) (First of Three)
1. Establishing our “Confessional” Identity
The plan is to use valuable space in our little magazine, beginning next month, with a series of articles on one of our Lutheran Confessions—the Smalcald Articles. As one historian has put it: “The least known of all the confessions in the Book of Concord are the so-called Smalcald Articles. But they should not be, since their author is Martin Luther.” Luther wrote this confession in 1537, making 2012 its 475th anniversary year.
That said, we realize we are living in a day which doesn’t look favorably on reviewing the past. Even in many religious quarters the “ancient” creeds and confessions are frowned upon, if not discounted, as not useful for our “advanced” day and age.
We have a stark example of this in a pamphlet picked up at a Christian church in our city where we audited a creation seminar last fall (the seminar sponsored by Answers in Genesis was great!). The host church introduced people to their church with words such as these:
Just who and what is… [our] Church?
Our beliefs are simple:
God is God… always has been
and always will be.
Jesus is God’s Divine son [sic]!
The Holy Spirit is real and has his very own personality, personhood, and purpose.
God said it – we believe it – which settles it!
[Following a listing of Bible passages which this church
purports to believe, this
“statement of belief” is given:]
We are a family of believers who seek to follow Christ only, to be Christians only. We purpose to restore the church to what is described in the New Testament. Therefore we accept no human creed or confession of faith. Christ is our creed (Matthew 16:16), the bible [sic] is our only rule of faith and practice which leads us to and [sic] ever growing relationship with its author, our Lord and Savior: Jesus Christ.
Is there anything amiss with such a statement? Perhaps not on the face of it, yet the “face” of a religious statement may camouflage a whole lot of unsavory things—as a mask may cover some ugly scars
So it is that Lutherans who
strive to walk in the footsteps of
Dr. Luther are much inclined to follow his lead when it comes to statements of religious belief.
We count ourselves among such Lutherans. We are conscience-bound not just to say “this we believe” on the basis of the Bible, but at the same time to spell out—as did Dr. Luther and the rest of our confessional forefathers—exactly what it is we believe on a given Bible teaching, then adding “this we reject” to all that is in conflict with God’s Word of truth on the matter. Our confessions approach the divinely inspired Holy Scriptures that way, and so do we, because any “humanly inspired” false teachings are spiritually harmful and even deadly to blood-bought souls (see Matthew 7:15, Romans 16:17-18,
2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
Consider: “After Jesus had asked His disciples about the false ideas others had of Him, He turned to them and said, ‘Who do you say I am?’ They confessed, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16). In the face of error, Christians confess the truth that the Holy Spirit has taught them in Scripture. A Christian says, ‘This is what I believe; this is what I have learned from Scripture; this I am convinced is the true meaning of Scripture.’” (Martin Luther: Reformer, A. Schuetze, NPH,
2005, p. 93).
So, in stark contrast to what is asserted in the “statement of belief” above, we of the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) have always been and remain a creedal/confessional church in a “deeds not creeds” day. We stand with Luther and those confessing Lutheran Christians who over four centuries ago penned the Confessions contained in the Book of Concord.
Consider further: “Occasions for confession were frequent for Luther. There was Rome with its numerous errors. There were those who claimed to be reformers but departed from the truth: Carlstadt, Zwingli, the Anabaptists, and the Sacramentarians. Luther was not a heresy hunter. But Satan raised opposition everywhere, and the Reformer had to contend and say, ‘Here I stand.’ By confessing the truth in the face of error—by confessions he wrote as occasions demanded—Luther gave the emerging church an identity. It was necessary that the Lutheran church become a confessing church. If it is to remain faithful to its Lord, it must continue as such.” (Ibid.)
Stay tuned, dear readers, as we take a closer look at Dr. Luther’s Smalcald Articles in coming months. We hope to grow together in appreciation of our identity
as a confessional Lutheran
— To follow —
2) Historical Setting of the SA
3) God’s Word Alone the Rule