Archive for the ‘Lutheran Confessions’ Category

Radio Shows on the Formula of Concord: Get Caught Up an/or Listen Online

November 14th, 2013 1 comment


I’ve been doing more-or-less weekly interviews with Todd Wilken of Issues, Etc. on the Formula of Concord. We finished our fifth segment yesterday. If you would like to hear what we’ve talked about so far, get caught up, or listen again, here are links to the interviews.

Part 1: Introduction to the Formula of Concord

Part 2: Original Sin

Part 3: Free Will

Part 4: The Righteousness of Faith

Part 5: Good Works


Categories: Lutheran Confessions

J.S. Bach’s Cantatas for the 200th Jubilee Anniversary Celebration of the Augsburg Confession

June 25th, 2013 1 comment

Bach composed Cantatas for the bicentennial anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, which was celebrated in Leipzig in 1730, since it was one of the last bastions of Lutheran Orthodoxy, before the evils of Pietism overran nearly all of orthodox Lutheranism in Germany. Here are the texts from his Cantatas. He based a couple of these on previously composed Cantatas.

BWV 190a Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied!

The Bicentennial of the Augsburg Confession.

Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander), Ernst-Schertzhaffte und Satyrische Gedichte, Teil III (Leipzig, 1732); Facs: Neumann T, p. 333; Reprint: Sicul, Annales Lipsienses, Sectio XXXVII (1731) and Das Jubilierende Leipzig (1731).

1. Ps. 149:1, 150:4 and 6; Martin Luther, beginning of the German Te Deum, 1529 (Wackernagel, III, #31); 2. Martin Luther, the same text with interpolated recitative; 7. Martin Luther, verse 3 of “Es woll uns Gott genädig sein,” 1524 (Wackernagel, I, #189).

25 June 1730, Leipzig; Parody: 1, 2, 3, 5 <— BWV 190.

1. Chorus (= BWV 190/1.)

2. Chorale and Recit.

Lord God, we give thee praise,
God, that thou both our shield
And our redeemer art.
Lord God, we give thee thanks.
Triumphant shall we go forth
And seek now, Lord, thy countenance,
For thy dear grace extends
As far as heaven’s breadth,
And thine own truth sheds light
As far as clouds are ranging.
Lord God, we give thee praise
That still thy brilliant light
Within our land doth shine.
O God, how great is this thy kindness,
Which doth such faith to all thy children show!
Forget that loving disposition,
My Zion, yea, forget it not!
Lord God, we give thee praise.

Read more…

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

The Bible Summarized in Only a Few Words

June 12th, 2013 10 comments


Take a look at this interesting study of the Nicene Creed. I encourage you to use this and walk through the various articles and phrases of the Creed, look up the corresponding recommended Bible verses, and study them in The Lutheran Study Bible, and you will have a very rich and rewarding experience with God’s Word. Thanks to Michael Mapus for sending me this information.

When I confess the creeds during the Divine Service, I find myself closing my eyes, folding my hands, and praying the creeds. It is a deeply devotional and spiritual moment for me at that point and as I say each phrase a whole host of thoughts and images race through my mind. I see images of each of the events confessed. I think of the historic circumstances why each phrase was chosen and think of the church fathers, particularly Athanasius, who sacrificed so much to protect, defend and confess the faith so that we today would be rightly worshiping and confessing the Holy and Blessed Trinity, all glory to Him, for ever and ever!

This was prepared by Richard Gilbert, from Hacienda Hts. California. He suffers from severe MS and put this together about 10 years ago. WHAT A GEM! It is posted for public use. Please remember Brother Gilbert in your prayers!

The Nicene Creed According to the Scriptures

I Believe
Rom. 10:9, Jas 2:19, John 14:1

In one God,
Deut. 6:4, Is. 44:6

The Father
Is. 63:16, 2 Pet 1:17, Matt. 6:9

Gen. 17:1, Ps. 91:1, Rev. 4:8

Job 4:17, 35:10, Is. 17:7, 54:5

of heaven
Gen 1:1, 8

and earth
Ps. 104:5, Jer. 51:15

and of all things
Gen 1:31

visible and invisible.
Ps. 89:11-12, Amos 4:13, Rev. 3:5, Col. 1:16

And in one Lord
Eph. 4:5

Jesus Christ,
Acts 10:36, 11:17, Rom. 1:7, 5:1, 1 Cor 1:2, 6:11, 2 Cor. 1:2, 8:9
Gal. 1:3, 6:14, Eph. 1:2, 3:11, Phil. 1:2, 3:20, Col. 1:3, 2:6, 1 Thes. 1:1, 5:9,
2 Thes. 1:1, 2:14, 1 Tim. 6:3, 14, 2 Tim. 1:2, Philemon 1:3, 25, Heb. 13:20,
Jas. 1:1, 2:1, 1 Pet. 1:3, 3:15, 2 Pet. 1:8, 14, Jude 17, 21, Rev. 22:20-21

the only-begotton,
John 1:18

Son of God,
Matt 3:17, John 3:16

Begotten of His Father,
Heb. 1:5

Before all worlds,

John 1:1, Col. 1:17, 1 John 1:1

John 1:1, Heb. 1:5

Not Made,
Mic. 5:2, John 1:18, 17:5

Being of one substance with the Father,
John 10:30, 14:9

By whom all things were made;
1 Cor. 8:6, Col 1:16

Who for us men
Matt 20:28, John 10:10

and for our salvation
Matt 1:21, Luke 19:10

came down from heaven
Rom. 10:6, Eph. 4:10

and was incarnate
Col. 2:9

by the Holy Spirit
Matt 1:18

of the Virgin Mary
Luke 1:34-35

and was made man;
John 1:14

and was crucified
Matt. 20:19, John 19:18, Rom. 5:6, 8, 2 Cor. 13:4

also for us
Rom. 5:8, 2 Cor. 5:15

under Pontius Pilate.
Matt. 27:2, 26, 1 Tim 6:13

He suffered
1 Pet. 2:21, Heb. 2:10

and was buried.
Mark 15:46, 1 Cor. 15:4

And the third day
Matt. 27:63, 28:1, 1 Cor. 15:4

He rose again
Mark 16:6, 2 Tim. 2:8

according to the Scriptures
Ps. 16:10, Luke 24:25-27, 1 Cor. 15:4

and ascended
Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9

Into heaven
Mark 16:19, Acts 1:11

and sits at the right hand of the Father.
Ps. 110:1, Matt. 26:64, Acts 7:56, Heb. 1:3

And He will come again
Jn. 14:3, 1 Thes. 4:16

with glory
Matt. 16:27, 24:30, 25:31, 26:64, Mark. 8:38, Col. 3:4

to judge
Matt. 25:31-46, Acts 17:31

both the living and the dead,
Acts 10:42, 1 Pet. 4:5

whose kingdom
John 18:36, 2 Tim. 4:1, 18

will have no end.
Luke 1:33, Rev. 11:15, Ps. 145:13

And I believe in the Holy Spirit,
Matt. 28:19, Acts 13:2

The Lord
2 Cor. 3:17

And giver of life,
John 6:63, Rom. 7:6, 8:2, 2 Cor. 3:6

who proceeds from the father

John 14:16-17

and the Son,
John 15:26, Rom. 8:9, Gal. 4:6

Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped
Luke 4:8, John 4:24

and glorified
John 4:24, 1 Tim. 1:17

Who spoke by the prophets.
1 Pet. 1:10-11, 2 Pet 1:21

And I believe in one
1 Cor. 10:16-17, 12:12-13

Eph. 3:16-17, 5:27, 1 Pet. 2:9

1 Cor. 1:2

and Apostolic
Eph. 2:20, Rev. 21:14

Acts 20:28, Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:24, Heb. 12:23, 1 Pet. 2:9

I acknowledge one Baptism
John 3:5, Rom. 6:3, Eph. 4:5

For the remission of sins,

Acts 2:38, 1 Pet. 3:21, Tit. 3:5

And I look for the resurrection of the dead

1 Thes. 4:16, 1 Cor. 15:12-13, 16, 52

And the life of the world to come.
1 Cor 15:54-57, Rev. 22:5

Ps. 41:13, 2 Cor. 1:20


Categories: Lutheran Confessions

When Lutherans Assert that the Bible is the Verbally Inspired Word of God, and Actually Mean it, Are they Fundamentalists or Calvinists?

February 7th, 2013 3 comments


The one, holy, catholic and apostolic church has confessed throughout her entire history, until the last couple of centuries, that the Sacred Scriptures are precisely what they claim to be: the God-breathed words of God—the very words that God chose to have set down in written form. This is simply a fact.

I was reading recently statements made to the effect that insisting on this truth is a result of the influence of American fundamentalism, or if a person dares venture a bit further back in Church history, there is the charge that Lutherans who confess the Bible is verbally inspired and thus free from error and incapable of error have come under the influence of Calvinism. This is nothing short of stupendous ignorance of the facts of church history, in which one need spend only a small amount of time to find that the ancient fathers of the Christian Church were quite happy to confess the Bible is the very Word of God. Any claim that the doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is some kind of more recent American fundamentalist assertion, or something Lutheranism took over from Calvinist is totally bogus. If or when you hear any Lutheran saying that you can be assured that you are hearing from a person who is abysmally ignorant of Lutheran doctrine, history and, for that matter, church history as a whole.

As for Lutherans…the “Second Martin,” as he was called, Martin Chemnitz, the foremost of the followers of Luther’s reformation insights after the great Reformers death, makes it abundantly clear what Lutheranism has to say about the inspired text, in his magnum opus, from which to this day remains the most definitive refutation of the Council of Trent ever published, The Examination of the Council of Trent.

The quote below comes from the very first volume of Chemnitz’ work where he is setting for the Church’s understanding of the Holy Scriptures and why they, not “tradition” or any other source are the supreme source for everything the Church believes, teaches and confesses. In great detail he works through how God chose to transmit His Word to his people, by means of written communication of His Word, seen already in how God chose to give His people the Commandments:

“It will profitably clear up and simplify the present controversy concerning the Holy Scripture by showing how the Scripture itself began. History shows—and I think this must be noted especially—that God not only instituted this way and method of preserving and retaining the purity of the heavenly doctrine by means of the divinely inspired Scriptures but that He also by His own act and example initiated, dedicated, and consecrated that way and method when He Himself first wrote the words of the Decalog. Therefore the first beginning of Holy Scripture must have God Himself as the author.

“I have related these things in order that it might be observed from the divinely inspired Scriptures, which God wanted preserved and made available for posterity, that nothing was written before the tables of the Decalog, which were written by the finger of God. It does much to shed light on the dignity and authority of Holy Scripture that God Himself not only instituted and commanded the plan of comprehending the heavenly doctrine in writing but that He also initiated, dedicated, and consecrated it by writing the words of the Decalog with His own fingers. For if the writing of the sacred books had first been begun by men, an exclusion of more than two thousand years could have been argued, where in the better times of the world and among the most outstanding patriarchs the doctrine of the divine Word was transmitted without writing, by the living voice. Therefore God Himself with His own fingers made a beginning of writing in order that He might show how much importance is to be attached to this method, according to which the purity of the doctrine is to be preserved to posterity by writings.

“For the fact that He took tablets of stone on which to write the words of the Decalog there is another reason, which is explained 2 Cor. 3.

“In order that those things which were either to be written through men of God, adorned for this by miracles and divine testimonies, or to be approved by them after they had been written, should not have a lesser authority or no authority at all for the confirmation of dogmas and the refutation of errors, God chose not to write the whole Law Himself, but, having written the words of the Decalog, He gave Moses the command that he should write the remainder from His dictation. And in order that the people of God might be certain that this Scripture of Moses was not introduced by the will of man but was divinely inspired, God gave the testimony of Moses authority through many mighty miracles both before and after the writing, and during the writing itself.

“We have thus shown two things from the most ancient sacred history: (1) that the purity of the heavenly doctrine was not preserved always and everywhere through tradition by the living voice but was repeatedly corrupted and adulterated; (2) in order that new and special revelations might not always be necessary for restoring and retaining purity of the doctrine, God instituted another method under Moses, namely, that the doctrine of the Word of God should be comprehended in writing.

“This is how the Scripture began. Now that this has been shown, it remains that we consider further what use God wanted us to make of the Scripture, and what was to be its dignity and authority. Because the history is clear, we shall be content merely to list the passages.

“Moses included in four books not only the history of his own time, the exodus from Egypt, and what happened during the 40 years in the desert, but his plan was chiefly to write the doctrine of the Law, which God delivered to the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai in the desert. Besides, in the first book, he summed up the chief points of the doctrine and faith of the patriarchs, which they had received by tradition, on the basis of the revelation of God Himself from the beginning of the world almost down to his own time, and which they had also professed.

“God commanded that the tables of the Decalog, written by God’s own hand, should be deposited in the ark of the convenant, which was in the holy of holies in the tabernacle. And Moses commanded that his own writings, composed by divine inspiration, should be put into the side of the ark (Deut. 31:25–26). The custody and preservation of this deposit he entrusted to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. He also ordered that the king should have with him a copy of the Law, written according to that which was before the face of the priests and Levites, lest he depart from it either to the right hand or to the left (Deut. 17:18–20). He also commanded that the people should write these words on the posts, the doors, the lintel, and the gates of their houses. (Deut. 6:9 and 11:20)”

From: Examination, Volume 1, pgs. 53-54.


The Beauty, Comfort and Power of the Doctrine of Objective Justification

August 26th, 2012 2 comments

It has come to my attention that there are some laypeople who read my blog, and follow my Facebook page, who have had the unfortunate experience of stumbling across very negative and harmful discussions on the Internet of what is called the doctrine of “objective justification.” There is a former Lutheran pastor who has made it his life’s mission to attack this comforting doctrine. I urge and warn all those who read this blog and my Facebook page to avoid any such discussions and to flee from any false teachers who would rob you of the comfort of the Gospel. They like to insert themselves everywhere they can on various forums where justification is discussed. Pray for their repentance and restoration to a true and living faith. They are the very kind of persons whom the Apostle warns us about when he urges us to make sure we are “keeping Faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1 Timothy 1:19). Mark and avoid anyone who casts doubt on the doctrine of objective justification, and particularly mark and avoid any pastor who does so Do not be deceived. Cling to the truth.

Rejoice in this beautiful explanation of the doctrine of objective justification written by the Rev. Dr. Robert Preus, in 1981.

“The doctrine of objective justification is a lovely teaching drawn from Scripture which tells us that God who has loved us so much that He gave His only to be our Savior has for the sake of Christ’s substitutionary atonement declared the entire world of sinners for whom Christ died to be righteous (Romans 5:17-19).

“Objective justification which is God’s verdict of acquittal over the whole world is not identical with the atonement, it is not another way of expressing the fact that Christ has redeemed the world. Rather it is based upon the substitutionary work of Christ, or better, it is a part of the atonement itself. It is God’s response to all that Christ died to save us, God’s verdict that Christ’s work is finished, that He has been indeed reconciled, propitiated; His anger has been stilled and He is at peace with the world, and therefore He has declared the entire world in Christ to be righteous.

“According to all of Scripture Christ made a full atonement for the sins of all mankind. Atonement (at-one-ment) means reconciliation. If God was not reconciled by the saving work of Christ, if His wrath against sin was not appeased by Christ’’ sacrifice, if God did not respond to the perfect obedience and suffering and death of His Son for the sins of the world by forgiveness, by declaring the sinful world to be righteous in Christ -–if all this were not so, if something remains to be done by us or through us or in us, then there is no finished atonement. But Christ said, “It is finished.” And God raised Him from the dead and justified Him, pronounced Him, the sin bearer, righteous (I Timothy 3:16) and thus in Him pronounced the entire world of sinners righteous (Romans 4:25).

“All this is put beautifully by an old Lutheran theologian of our church, “We are redeemed from the guilt of sin; the wrath of God is appeased; all creation is again under the bright rays of mercy, as in the beginning; yea, in Christ we were justified before we were even born. For do not the Scriptures say: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them?’’ This is not the justification which we receive by faith…That is the great absolution which took place in the resurrection of Christ. It was the Father, for our sake, who condemned His dear Son as the greatest of all sinners causing Him to suffer the greatest punishment of the transgressors, even so did He publicly absolve Him from the sins of the world when He raised Him up from the dead.” (Edward Preuss, “The Justification of a Sinner Before God,” pp. 14-15)

“The doctrine of objective justification does not imply that there is no hell, that God’s threats throughout Scripture to punish sins are empty, or that all unbelievers will not be condemned to eternal death on the day of Christ’s second coming. And very definitely the doctrine of objective, or general, justification does not threaten the doctrine of justification through faith in Christ. Rather it is the very basis of that Reformation doctrine, a part of it. For it is the very pardon which God has declared over the whole world of sinners that the individual sinner embraces in faith and thus is justified personally. Christ’s atonement, His propitiation of God and God’s forgiveness are the true and only object of faith. Here is what George Stoekhardt, perhaps the greatest of all Lutheran biblical expositors in our country, says, “Genuine Lutheran theology counts the doctrine of general (objective) justification among the statements and treasures of its faith. Lutherans teach and confess that through Christ’s death the entire world of sinners was justified and that through Christ’s resurrection the justification of the sinful world was festively proclaimed. This doctrine of general justification is the guarantee and warranty that the central article of justification by faith is being kept pure. Whoever holds firmly that God was reconciled to the world in Christ, and that to sinners in general their sin was forgiven, to him the justification which comes from faith remains a pure act of the grace of God. Whoever denies general justification is justly under suspicion that he is mixing his own work and merit into the grace of God.”

“Objective justification is not a mere metaphor, a figurative way of expressing the fact that Christ died for all and paid for the sins of all. Objective justification has happened, it is the actual acquittal of the entire world of sinners for Christ’s sake. Neither does the doctrine of objective justification refer to the mere possibility of the individual’s justification through faith, to a mere potentiality which faith completes when one believes in Christ.

“Justification is no more a mere potentiality or possibility than Christ’s atonement. The doctrine of objective justification points to the real justification of all sinners for the sake of Christ’s atoning work “before” we come to faith in Christ. Nor is objective justification “merely” a “Lutheran term” to denote that justification is available to all as a recent “Lutheran Witness” article puts it – although it is certainly true that forgiveness is available to all. Nor is objective justification a Missouri Synod construct, a “theologoumenon” (a theological peculiarity), devised cleverly to ward off synergism (that man cooperates in his conversion) and Calvinistic double predestination, as Dr. Robert Schultz puts it in “Missouri in Perspective” (February 23, 1981, p. 5) – although the doctrine does indeed serve to stave off these two aberrations. No, objective justification is a clear teaching of Scripture, it is an article of faith which no Lutheran has any right to deny or pervert any more than the article of the Trinity or of the vicarious atonement.

“Objective justification is not a peripheral article of faith which one may choose to ignore because of more important things. It is the very central article of the Gospel which we preach. Listen to Dr. C. F. W. Walther, the first president and great leader of our synod, speak about this glorious doctrine in one of his magnificent Easter sermons: “When Christ suffered and died, He was judged by God, and He was condemned to death in our place. But when God in the resurrection awakened Him again, who was it then that was acquitted by God in Christ’s person? Christ did no need acquittal for Himself, for no one can accuse Him of single sin. Who therefore was it that was justified in Him? Who was declared pure and innocent in Him? We were, we humans. It was the whole world. When God spoke to Christ, ‘You shall live,’ that applied to us. His life is our life. His acquittal, our acquittal, His justification, our justification….Who can ever fully express the great comfort which lies in Christ’s resurrection? It is God’s own absolution spoken to all men, to all sinners, in a word, to all the world, and sealed in the most glorious way. There the eternal love of God is revealed in all its riches, in its overflowing fullness and in its highest brilliance. For there we hear that it was not enough for God simply to send His own Son into the world and let Him become a man for us, not enough even for Him to give and offer His only Son unto death for us. No, when His Son had accomplished all that He had to do and suffer in order to earn and acquire grace and life and blessedness for us, then God, in His burning love to speak to us sinners, could not wait until we would come to Him and request His grace in Christ, but no sooner had His Son fulfilled everything than He immediately hastened to confer to men the grace which had been acquired through the resurrection of His Son, to declare openly, really and solemnly to all men that they were acquitted of all their sins, and to declare before heaven and earth that they are redeemed, reconciled, pure, innocent and righteous in Christ.”


NEWSLETTER – Spring 1981
6600 North Clinton
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825

The Small Catechism in Four Languages

August 21st, 2012 3 comments

My colleague, Dr. Benjamin Mayes, found an interesting resource in Google books, Luther’s Small Catechism in four languages: German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

Take a look at the whole thing here.

Here is a screen shot of a couple of pages.

Why the Book of Concord is Important

May 23rd, 2012 7 comments

Over the years, it’s been my experience that the people who are the most insecure, shy, and embarrassed about being Lutheran are … Lutherans. It is simply sad. I could say more, but I won’t.

Please watch this video.

I insist:


Categories: Lutheran Confessions

The Book of Concord on the Internet

March 2nd, 2012 5 comments

A number of years ago I posted the public domain version of the Book of Concord on the Internet and a site started to develop supplying supporting documents and supplemental documents, from the period that the various documents in the Lutheran Confessions were being developed. has grown now into the largest and most frequently visited Internet site for the Lutheran Confessions. Last year, the site attracted half-a-million unique visitors, and many more who return to read and study on the site.

Eventually Mr. Norm Fisher stepped into to help develop a nicer looking web site for the Book of Concord, and has since helped maintain the site, adding things as we gathered them, including, most recently a complete audio recording of the Book of Concord, completed by Pastor Jon Lange.

If you have not visited for a while, or if you are not linking to this site from your web sites or blogs or any other Internet presence you have, I encourage you to do so. The site attracts visitors literally from around the world and is often the only way people have to access the Book of Concord. To see a larger version of the image below, click on it once, then again, for the largest possible version.



Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Audio Recording of Entire Book of Concord, Free and in the Public Domain

February 9th, 2012 1 comment

Pastor Jonathan Lange has completed a real labor of love. He has recorded the entire text of the Lutheran Confessions, as contained in the Book of Concord. The basis for his recording is the English translation contained in the Concordia Triglotta, which is now, due to its age, in the public domain. Here’s a direct link to the page where you get get all the recordings and use them however you wish. You can also click on the picture below, to go to the page:


Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Why We Lutherans Reject Denominationalism and Why We are So Hard to Figure Out: Overheard on a Lutheran Forum

August 31st, 2011 16 comments

My good friend Pastor Weedon made a comment on a Lutheran forum and a few of you have drawn it to my attention. So, I’m passing it along to the rest of you. I think Pr. Weedon is making a point that is lost on many Lutherans, or, to be more charitable about it, not clearly understood, neither by Lutherans or non-Lutherans. Lutherans are very hard for Calvinists, Evangelicals, Baptists, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthdoox to figure out. Just when they think they’ve got us nightly shut up tightly into our “denominational” box we go and say something, or do something, that jumbles their well ordered “systems.”

Here then is why this is so, as explained by Pr. Weedon:

We in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod do not accept denominationalism.  We do not believe in the “branch theory” of the Church.  We recognize that our practice of closed communion is exactly what would be appropriate for the entire visible Church on earth.  We believe that what we believe is precisely what every jurisdiction/communion should believe, because it is—we hold—nothing other than what the Scriptures teach.

In other words, we don’t regard those who hold to a different Confession as just “another denomination.”  We regard the other confessions to the extent they differ from ours to be falsifications of the truth.  As offensive and prideful as they may sound, it’s not intended to be anything less than what (until very recent times) everyone believed about their own confession.

So we act in our communion discipline as what we believe the Lutheran confession of the Faith actually is: the legitimate heir and successor to the Catholic Church of the West. That’s a self-understanding derived from our Lutheran Symbols.  We do not claim to be the only jurisdiction in this Catholic Church of the West, purified by the Gospel.  We recognize other particular churches around the globe in whom the same faith resides—from the churches of the Archbishop of Latvia, to the churches of the Archbishop of Kenya and the Bishop of Southern Africa and the President of the Lutheran Church—Canada, and a bunch of others.  Consequently the notion that our altars are closed to non-Missourians is actually not at all accurate.

In the corrupted state of the Church in which doctrine that we cannot but regard as false and dangerous is enshrined in the confessions of other jurisdictions, this leads invariably to acknowledging in them that while members of the Church Catholic may well reside in their midst (in fact, most certainly DO), nonetheless those Churches by the acceptance of various falsehoods alongside the truth of God, cannot be acknowledged as true sister churches on a par with our Synod.  Again, I know it sounds horrific to the ears of those who think denominationally, but if you think confessionally it makes perfect sense:  confessions can be entirely pure, somewhat corrupted, or totally destructive of the Christian faith.  We tend to put almost all the other confessions (Anglican, Reformed, Roman, Orthodox) as “somewhat corrupted.”  Totally destructive would be something like a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness confession.

So back to the assumption that an LCMS person holds the pure confession – that IS the assumption we would make, unless the person in question gives evidence that his participation at our altars is in fact a lie – that he disagrees with our Lutheran confession of the Christian faith as expressed in our Lutheran Symbols.

I’ve probably offended all my ELCA friends and many of my Missouri ones by the above, but I think it’s clear that until we can get the differing ecclesiologies understood, there’s no hope of anyone understanding our practice of responsible communion (my preferred term), which takes seriously into account the nature of one’s public profession at a given altar.

Want a Digital Copy of the First Edition of the Book of Concord? Free Download Available

July 19th, 2011 6 comments


I mentioned a few weeks ago a link that Pastor Harrison had sleuthed out in his never ending quest to find rare and wonderful first editions of Lutheran works. He had found a complete, full color, scanned version of the Book of Concord from a German library and I had failed to notice that not only can you have fun viewing it online, you can download the whole thing as a PDF file and explore it to your heart’s content off-line. Here’s the direct link to the PDF download. It is a large file, so if you have only dial-up or slower broadband, so be advised.

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

What is the Purpose of the Lutheran Confessions?

July 18th, 2011 4 comments

What is the purpose and spirit of the Lutheran Confessions?

We use the word “confession” in a variety of ways today. A young man confesses his love for his fiancee. A criminal confesses to a felony. Christians confess their sins to a fellow believer or at the appropriate time in the church service. The Lutheran Confessions are something quite different from all that. They are written, formal statements with which a group of Christians, or an individual, declare to the world their faith, their deepest and undaunted convictions.

The Lutheran Confessions represent the result of more than 50 years of earnest endeavor by Martin Luther and his followers to give Biblical and clear expression to their religious convictions. The important word in that definition is the word “convictions.” This word reveals the spirit in which the Lutheran Confessions were written, not a spirit of hesitation or doubt, but of deepest confidence that Lutherans, when they were writing and subscribing the Concessions and creeds, because their content was all drawn from the Word of God, Scripture, were affirming the truth, the saving truth.

Listen to what the Lutheran confessors say in the very last paragraph of the Book of Concord (FC SD, XII, 40), a statement that describes their assurance and their doctrinal certainty:

Therefore, it is our intent to give witness before God and all Christendom, among those who are alive today and those who will come after us, that the explanation here set forth regarding all the controversial articles of faith which we have addressed and explained—and no other explanation—is our teaching, faith, and confession. In it we shall appear before the judgment throne of Jesus Christ, by God’s grace, with fearless hearts and thus give account of our faith, and we will neither secretly nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it. Instead, on the strength of God’s grace we intend to abide by this confession.

Here we observe that those who wrote and signed the Lutheran Confessions were not merely settling controversies, or expressing opinions, or devising new and clever doctrinal formulations. They were confessing their faith and expressing their determination never to depart from that confession. They take their stand as in the presence of God and stake their very salvation on the doctrine they confess. So confident are they of their position, so certain of their doctrine, that they dare bind not only themselves but also their posterity to it. And in another place they show their willingness to submit themselves not only to the content but to the very phrases of their confession: “We have determined not to depart even a finger’s breadth either from the subjects themselves, or from the phrases which are found in [the Confessions]” (Preface of the Book of Concord, quoted from Concordia Triglotta [St. Louis: Concordia, 1921], p. 23).

I am sure that such a profession seems like an impossible anachronism today, a mark of inflexible pride which can no longer be respected or emulated by enlightened people. But certainly with such expressions of certainty the Confessions have captured the spirit of Christ and the New Testament. Our Lord taught with authority and promised His disciples that they would “know the truth.” And how often does the inspired apostle Paul dogmatically affirm, “I know,” “I speak the truth … .. I am persuaded”!

The Lutheran confessors are convinced that Christians, basing their doctrine on Scripture and the promises of God, can be certain of their salvation and can formulate and confess true statements about God and all the articles of the Christian faith. It is this spirit in which all our Confessions were written and in which they so eloquently give witness to the Gospel of Christ. The Importance of Doctrine

According to the Lutheran Confessions, true doctrine, i. e., correct teaching about God and His activity toward us, is not some remote possibility but a marvelous fact, the result of God’s grace; and this doctrine is demonstrated in the Confessions themselves. Those who wrote our Confessions were convinced of this (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 13); but more than that, they were persuaded that true doctrine, theology (which means language about God), is of inestimable importance to the church and to individual Christians. Why?

It is first and foremost by pure doctrine that we honor God and hallow His name, as we pray in the First Petition of the Small Catechism. “For,” Luther says, “there is nothing he would rather hear than to have his glory and praise exalted above everything and his Word taught in its purity and cherished and treasured” (LC, 111, 48). It is by agreement in the pure doctrine that permanent concord and harmony can be achieved in the church. “In order to preserve the pure doctrine and to maintain a thorough, lasting, and God-pleasing concord within the church, it is essential not only to present the true and wholesome doctrine correctly, but also to accuse the adversaries who teach otherwise (1 Tim. 3:9; Titus 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:24; 3:16)” (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 14). Doctrine is important to Lutherans because they believe that Christian doctrine is not a human fabrication but originates in God. It is God’s revealed teaching about Himself and all He has done for us in Christ. Therefore Luther says confidently and joyfully: “The doctrine is not ours but God’s” (WA, 17 11, 233). And he will risk everything for the doctrine, for to compromise would do harm to God and to all the world. Luther’s spirit is echoed throughout our Confessions as they affirm that their doctrine is “drawn from and conformed to the Word of God” (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 5, 10). Pure Christian doctrine is important for our Lutheran Confessions because it brings eternal salvation. It “alone is our guide to salvation” (Preface to the Book of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, p. 11). For this reason our Confessions call it “heavenly doctrine” and they never fail to show and apply this saving aim of evangelical doctrine.

This emphasis on the importance of Christian doctrine is often not understood or appreciated in our day of relativism and indifference.

How often do modem church leaders declaim that the church will never achieve purity of doctrine; nor is it necessary! Therefore we should concentrate our efforts toward ministry to people in their needs. The longest article in our Confessions deals with good works and ministry to people in their needs (Ap, IV, 122-400) and insistently admonishes the church to follow such an enterprise. But this does not make doctrine less important! Today when people are leaving the church in droves and abandoning the faith, we must keep our priorities straight.

Luther says:

The great difference between doctrine and life is obvious, even as the difference between heaven and earth. Life may be unclean, sinful, and inconsistent; but doctrine must be pure, holy, sound, unchanging … not a tittle or letter may be omitted, however much life may fail to meet the requirements of doctrine. This is so because doctrine is God’s Word, and God’s truth alone, whereas life is partly our own doing…. God will have patience with man’s moral failings and imperfections and forgive them. But He cannot, will not, and shall not tolerate a man’s altering or abolishing doctrine itself. For doctrine involves His exalted, divine Majesty itself (WA, 30 111, 343 f.)

Strong words! But this is the spirit of confessional Lutheranism.

Again theologians remind us today that what matters for the Christian is his faith relation to Christ: Faith is directed toward Christ and not a body of doctrine. Of course! And how often do our Confessions stress just this point! But the Christ in whom we believe and live and hope is not a phantom or myth, but the very Son of God who became a man, who really lived and suffered and died as our Substitute, and who rose again for our justification. In short, He is the Christ of whom we can speak meaningfully and cognitively; and the minute we begin to speak about Him and confess Him, we are speaking doctrine.

Again we are told that we are saved by Christ, not by pure doctrine. True! But does this make pure doctrine unimportant? We are not saved by good works or social concern either. But does that make social concern and works of love of no account? No, pure doctrine has its function. It enables us to glorify God with our lips, to teach and proclaim a pure and saving Gospel and not a false gospel, to bring poor sinners to know their true condition and to know God as He is, a wonderful and gracious Savior, and not to flounder seeking and chasing phantoms.

Let us take our Confessions seriously when they see pure doctrine as a wonderful gift and instrument for glorifying God and building His church. This was Paul’s conviction: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16). 14 Confessional Subscription, an Evangelical Act

Lutherans have always held that creeds and confessions are necessary for the well-being of the church. Just as Christ’s church and all Christians are called upon to confess their faith (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9; 1 Peter 3:15; 1 John 4:2), so the church, if it is to continue to proclaim the pure Gospel in season and out of season, must for many reasons construct formal and permanent symbols and confessions and require pastors and teachers to subscribe these confessions. It is impossible for the church to be a nonconfessional church, just as impossible as to be a nonconfessing church. And so today and ever since the Reformation Lutheran churches over the world have required their pastors to subscribe the Lutheran Confessions.

What does this mean? With her confessions the church is speaking to the world, but also to God, who has spoken to her in His Word-speaking to Him in total commitment, speaking to Him by an unequivocal, unconditional response in the spirit of, “We believe, teach, and confess” (FC Ep, Rule and Norm, 1). This response is Scriptural, taken from Scripture itself. How often do we read in our Confessions that the teaching presented is “grounded in God’s Word”! And so the Confessions are no more than a kind of “comprehensive summary, rule, and norm,” grounded in the Word of God, “according to which all doctrines should be judged and the errors which intruded should be explained and decided in a Christian way” (FC Ep, Heading). This would be an unbelievably arrogant position to take, were it not for the fact that all the doctrine of our Confessions is diligently and faithfully drawn from Scripture.

And so when the Lutheran pastor subscribes the Lutheran Confessions (and the confirmand or layman confesses his belief in the Catechism [LC, Preface, 19]), this is a primary way in which he willingly and joyfully and without reservation or qualification confesses his faith and proclaims to the world what his belief and doctrine and confession really are. Dr. C. F. W. Walther, the father of the Missouri Synod, long ago explained the meaning of confessional subscription, and his words are as cogent today as when they were first written:

An unconditional subscription is the solemn declaration which the individual who wants to serve the church makes under oath (1) that he accepts the doctrinal content of our Symbolical Books, because he recognizes the fact that it is in 15 full agreement with Scripture and does not militate against Scripture in any point, whether that point be of major or minor importance; (2) that he therefore heartily believes in this divine truth and is determined to preach this doctrine…. Whether the subject be dealt with expressly or only incidentally, an unconditional subscription refers to the whole content of the Symbols and does not allow the subscriber to make any mental reservation in any point. Nor will he exclude such doctrines as are discussed incidentally in support of other doctrines, because the fact that they are so stamps them as irrevocable articles of faith and demands their joyful acceptance by everyone who subscribes the Symbols.

This is precisely how the Confessions themselves understand subscription (FC Ep, Rule and Norm, 3, 5, 6; SD, Rule and Norm, 1, 2, 5).

Needless to say, confessional subscription in the nature of the case is binding and unconditional. A subscription with qualifications or reservations is a contradiction in terms and dishonest.

Today many Lutherans claim that such an unconditional subscription is legalistic. Sometimes they assert that such a position is pompous and not even honest.

We might respond: What can possibly be wrong about confessing our faith freely and taking our confession seriously? For it is the freest and most joyful act in the world for those of us who have searched these great confessional writings and found them to be Scriptural and evangelical to subscribe them. Of course, to force or bribe or wheedle a person into subscribing them would be an awful sin and a denial of what our Confessions are, namely symbols, standards around which Christians rally willingly and joyfully in all their Christian freedom. Confessions Are the Voice of the Church

When I was a boy my father told me a curious story about an occurrence in the 19th century. During the controversy among Lutherans concerning predestination, the old Norwegian Synod sided with the Missouri Synod. One member of the Norwegian Synod demurred vehemently and in his consternation said, “I am the Norwegian Synod.” That, of course, was an absurdity, just as it would be absurd for me to claim, “I am the church.” The church, as we shall see, 16 according to our Confessions is the total of all believers in Christ.

So it is, in a similar sense, with the Confessions. They do not belong to Luther or Melanchthon or those who, sometimes after great struggles, wrote them. They belong to those for whom they were written, the church. Princes subscribed the Augsburg Confession on behalf of their churches. Luther’s catechisms were finally subscribed because the lay people had already accepted them. Thousands of clergy subscribed the entire Book of Concord, and the only reason the laity did not do so was the length of the book. All this suggests two things.

First, that every Lutheran ought to be concerned with what is rightfully his and ought to agree with the doctrine of the Confessions. But it suggests also that, if the Confessions really belong to the entire church, then everyone in the church ought to be united in the evangelical doctrine of the Confessions. That was the case when the Book of Concord was compiled in 1580, and it ought to be the case today. Doctrinal Unanimity, a Blessing to the Church

The Church of the Reformation after the death of Luther in one respect resembled the congregation at Corinth in the first century: It was a church highly endowed with the gifts of the Spirit, but at the same time tragically confused and divided. To the Corinthian congregation Paul wrote: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). Paul had no quarrel with the diversity of spiritual gifts he found in that congregation; he rejoiced in all that, provided it did not polarize the church. But there is only one Christ, he says, who is undivided; one Gospel; and all Christians are to be of the same mind and judgment, united in their faith and doctrine.

The Church of the Reformation took Paul’s admonition seriously when after Luther’s death doctrinal controversies arose and threatened to destroy its unity in the Gospel. The Lutheran churches recognized that the unity of the Spirit which Paul stressed could only be manifested when there was unanimity “in doctrine and in all its articles and … the right use of the holy sacraments” (FC SD, X, 31). Their program for 17 unity and concord in a troubled church went as follows: “The primary requirement for basic and permanent concord within the church is a summary formula and pattern, unanimously approved, in which the summarized doctrine commonly confessed by the churches of the pure Christian religion is drawn together out of the Word of God” (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 1).

What a remarkable statement! Here is not the cynical despairing of the possibility of doctrinal unity, so common to our relativistic age! not the sneering rejection of doctrinal unanimity as something inimical to man’s freedom and autonomy. No, here is a statement of confidence in the unifying power of the Word and Spirit of God. These old Lutherans were convinced that doctrinal controversies were an offense and doctrinal aberrations pernicious to believers and unbelievers alike. “The opinions of the erring party cannot be tolerated in the church of God,” they said, “much less be excused and defended” (FC SD, Intro., 9). But at the same time they maintained with Paul-like optimism that unity in doctrine and all its articles was not a remote possibility, not an impossible goal at the end of a rainbow, but a wonderful blessing that could be achieved by the church which would bow to the Word of God and allow the Spirit to rule in all its life.

And so the Lutheran confessors dare to produce a confession which all are asked to sign and which represents the unanimous declaration of all. They pledge themselves to the Book of Concord and confess: “We have from our hearts and with our mouths declared in mutual agreement that we shall neither prepare nor accept a different or a new confession of our faith. Rather, we pledge ourselves again to those public and well-known symbols or common confessions which have at all times and in all places been accepted in all the churches of the Augsburg Confession” (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 2). And they dare to maintain: “All doctrines should conform to the standards [the Lutheran Confessions] set forth above. Whatever is contrary to them should be rejected and condemned as opposed to the unanimous declaration of our faith” (FC Ep, Rule and Norm, 6). Do such statements reveal pride, cocksureness, narrowness? Not at all! But Pauline, Spirit-led confidence and optimism.

If only we could recapture this spirit today! Openness is an in-word today. And a “wholesome latitude” in doctrine is 18 considered by many Lutherans to be a positive blessing to the church. Not many years ago a Lutheran synod actually stated (but later modified, thank goodness): “We are firmly convinced that it is neither necessary nor possible to agree in all non-fundamental doctrines.” But where do the Scriptures or our Confessions say such a thing? Where are we ever told that we Christians need not agree on what Scripture affirms? Yes, let us be open to people’s desires and needs, to their diversity of gifts and opinions. But not to error. Let us rather give heed to Paul’s words and speak the same thing and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgment. Let us face up to doctrinal differences wherever they arise and impinge upon our unity. And let us seek and treasure the doctrinal unanimity of which our Confessions speak. Then we may call ourselves Lutherans.

Source: Getting into The Theology of Concord by Robert D. Preus (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1977), pgs. 7-29. Order a copy of this book

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Melanchthon Always In the Light of Luther, Not the Other Way Around

January 22nd, 2011 14 comments

In recent years there have been some who have attempted to suggest that Chemnitz was not really so much on the side of Luther, or Melanchthon, but walked a middle road of his own. This is simply not true. And here is just a bit of proof. Oh, yes, in addition, this material nicely demonstrates that the second edition of the Apology, the Octavo, had been rejected for use in corpus doctrinae already in Melanchthon’s lifetime by Chemnitz and other Lutheran theologians. The “new thing” apparently in some circles is to extol Melanchthon’s talk about two kinds of righteousness. It has even been asserted, in a rather hamfisted manner, that this is a “better” way of explaining things than the distinction between Law and Gospel. Chemnitz and his fellow confessional theologians would have been appalled at such an assertion, for they knew who was the “chief teacher of the churches of the Augsburg Confession” and that was not Master Philipp!

One of the predecessor documents that led to the Book of Concord were the various “body of doctrine” or Corpus Doctrinae that were prepared and adopted by various German territories. They were prepared, in several cases, in response to Philip Melanchthon’s own personal collection of confessions, which came to be known as the Corpus Doctrinae Philippicum. The Philippicum was received quite negatively, and this started the ball rolling toward formulating alternative collections. One of those documents was prepared by Moerlin and Chemnitz, in 1563. Writing later about the development of the Braunschweig Corpus Doctrinae, Chemnitz notes, “In 1561, because of the need and opportunity of their churches, the honorable cities of Saxony sent their political delegates and their leading theologians to Lueneburg where they prepared a number of Articles. And in order to preserve Christian tranquility and abiding unity in their churches, the honorable council of the noble city of Braunschweig gave orders to print its Church Order in a Corpus including the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, which was first sent to Charles V in 1530, and again in 1531 after its first printing.” So, already in 1561 the second edition of the Apology had been set aside for use in Corpus Doctrinae being prepared. And why is this? The Braunschweig City Council notes in its preface, which was written for the council by Chemnitz, “In recent years the proper and true sense of the Augsburg Confession was occasionally subjected to unusual and unforeseen disagreements. . . . The copies of that Confession (CA) and its subsequent Apology did not always remain precise in every detail, but were altered somewhat as new editions were published.” Chemnitz is highly critical of Melanchthon’s practice of treating church confession as his own private documents and wrote, “Such a Corpus Doctrinae dare not consist of private documents.” He stresses the fact that, “. . . the first CA edition of 1530 must be considered the most reliable and authentic version.” Chemnitz, who was a student of Melanchthon and respected the professional value of his writings, nonetheless regarded Luther as more important and established this principle: “Luther’s works dare not be understood or interpreted in the light of Philipp’s writings, but Philipp’s writings must be understood and interpreted in the light of Luther’s works.”

Inge Mager, The Doctrinal Confession (Corpus Doctrinae) of the City of Braunschweig in Relationship to Other Collections of Lower Saxon Doctrinal Documents
The Reformation in the City of Braunschweig
450th Anniversary Document

Published by the Braunschweig City-Church Association
Unpublished translation by Everette W. Meier
May 1989

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Want to See the First German/Latin Edition of the Book of Concord?

October 16th, 2010 4 comments

In the history of the printing of the Book of Concord, there is a unique edition which appeared in Leipzig in 1735, edited by Christian Reineccius. It provides the texts of the Book of Concord in both their official German edition (from 1580) and the official Latin edition (from 1584) set in two columns. You can see the whole book, digitally, from the State Library in Dresden, which continues to add titles to their fantastic online digital reproductions. It includes the Catalog of Testimonies and the Saxon Visitation Articles.

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

How Can You Help Folks Read the Book of Concord?

October 13th, 2010 7 comments

I can’t tell you how many times pastors and laypersons have told me how they have been reading the Book of Concord, often for the first time, in a long time, or just for the first time, period. It happened again just the other day. And, to a person, they express joy and even a bit of amazement about how relevant, timely, practical, personal and devotional the Book of Concord is. Here are some resources to help you read the Book of Concord, and to bring it to the attention of your congregation in a more intentional way.

Daily Readings from the Book of Concord is available on the Book of Concord website; it uses the table at the beginning of the Concordia edition to break the confessions up into daily reading segments. It will send you a link to the start of the reading for each day (M-F). You can pull out your Concordia Edition and read it there, or click on the link to read it online. To help promote reading the Book of Concord to your Facebook friends, go to periodically and click on the “recommend” button.

Weekly Readings for the 3-year series is a bulletin insert tied to the readings of the day for your church to insert into their bulletins. This will provide a method to acquaint more church members with our confessions. These are prepared by Pastor Doug May each week.

Weekly Readings for the 1-year series is a similar bulletin insert for those churches that use the 1-year historic readings, prepared by Pastor Kurt Hering.

Categories: Lutheran Confessions