In concluding our second article on the topic “What is Truly Lutheran?”, we summarized the contents of the Augsburg Confession [cf. April 2012 Lutheran Spokesman, p. 15ff].
The Augsburg Confession—the classic confession of the Lutheran Church—was read publicly in June of 1530. One of the Catholic bishops who heard it said, “All of this is exact truth. We cannot deny that” (Living with Luther, J. M. Weidenschilling, p. 38).
The three ecumenical Creeds (the Apostolic, the Nicene, and the Athanasian) together with the Augsburg Confession and five other specific Lutheran confessions—the Apology [defense] of the Augsburg Confession, the Small Catechism and the Large Catechism of Martin Luther, the Smalcald Articles, and (after Luther’s death) the Formula of Concord—are all drawn directly from the Scriptures!
Each is a faithful confession of the Scriptures and, individually and collectively, declare the doctrine to which true Lutherans subscribe. Because these confessions are true to God’s Word, they cannot be denied or changed by any who would still justifiably claim to be truly Lutheran!
The Augsburg Confession addressed issues of doctrine that separated what is called evangelical Lutheranism from Roman Catholicism. Consequently, not all doctrinal matters that concern us in our day were addressed.
The total body of confessional statements of genuine Lutheranism are found in the Book of Concord of 1580.
Many people in the world profess to be Christian. Many churches identify themselves as Christian. The implication is that they are built upon the foundation of the doctrine of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).
The foundation of the Christian Church is Christ and His Word. Yet many churches have departed from that narrow but firm foundation—adding to and/or subtracting from it—so that their use of the name of Christ to describe themselves is at best suspect and at worst a lie!
The same is true of the name Lutheran. “We do not say that any man shall believe that the Confession of our Church is Scriptural. We only contend that he should neither say nor seem to say so, if he does not believe it” (Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, Augs. Publ. House, Mpls., Minn., 1963 ed., p. 171).
The descendants of Krauth in the church world today are, for the most part, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
There is no unanimity of doctrine in the ELCA today, or for that matter in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS). Krauth, who today would not be at home in his own church, also wrote, “Could the day ever come, in which we imagined that the Evangelical Lutheran Church had abused her right of private judgment, so as to reach error, and not truth by it, we should, as honest men, cease to bear her name… On the other hand, should the Evangelical Lutheran Church ever have evidence, that we have abused our right of private judgment into the wrong private misjudgment, so as to have reached error, and not truth by it, then as a faithful Church, after due admonition and opportunity for repentance have been given us in vain, she is bound to cast us forth, to purify her own communion, and to make it impossible for us, in
her name, to injure others”
(ibid., pp. 169-170).
The testing of the faithfulness of a church must be done first of all in the light of the Holy Scriptures and, inasmuch as it is Lutheran, in the light of the Lutheran Confessions! When it is manifest that error is being taught, promoted, and defended, what is called for is action, not compromise! Krauth again says, “You must show to my private judgment, that God’s word teaches it [what another’s private judgment holds—DF] before I dare recognize you as in the unity of faith. If you cannot, we have not the same faith, and ought not to be of the same communion; for the communion is properly one of persons of the same faith” (p. 172). Again, “Men must be honest in their difference, if they are ever to be honest in their agreement” (ibid., p. 290).
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark
them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that
are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ,
but their own belly; and by good words
and fair speeches deceive the hearts of
the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).
Thus the Lord speaks to us so that His Word might be glorified among us, our faith might remain unshaken, and our witness before the world might be faithful
God help us of the Church of the Lutheran Confession to be true to Scripture and to the name whereby we call ourselves!
May the spirit of compromise find no place among us!
May He keep us faithful Christians and honest Lutherans!