(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

By 1530 Germany had become divided into Catholic and Lutheran states over which the Holy Roman Emperor exercised an ineffective rule. To promote imperial unity in the face of the Turkish military threat in Eastern Europe, the monarch asked the princes of the empire to meet. Because religious dissension impaired concerted military and political action, Charles V was eager to achieve a resolution. Concerned officials met in Augsburg, Bavaria.

Before receiving the imperial summons to Augsburg, the German Evangelicals had adopted the Schwabach Articles to express their understanding of the Christian faith, and they soon drafted the Torgau Articles, a list of complaints against practices of the papal church that they deemed abusive or corrupt. Philipp Melanchthon, a professor at the University of Wittenberg and close collaborator with Martin Luther, combined the two documents for presentation to the Imperial Diet on June 25, 1530. It thereafter became The Augsburg Confession of Faith.

To combat accusations of heresy, Melanchthon stressed the historical character of Lutheran beliefs by linking them to ancient creeds and writings of the church fathers, especially Saint Augustine. This reformer argued that nothing the Evangelicals affirmed conflicted with the teachings of Scripture and the faith of the ancient church.

The twenty-eight articles that make up The Augsburg Confession of Faith consist of twenty-one statements of doctrine and seven long declarations about abuses, together with demands for reforms. Although Melanchthon and his associates compiled the confession, Luther approved it as an accurate account of his doctrine. Luther could not attend the diet because he was under the ban of the empire and subject to arrest.

Public presentation of the Augsburg confession was the work of Christian Beyer, chancellor of Saxony in the employ of Prince-Elector John. Some time before the convocation, the Protestants had agreed to present a German rather than a Saxon front before the emperor, as the margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach and the landgrave of Hesse joined with the city government of Nuremberg in endorsing the effort. Soon five other princes and municipal officials from Reutlingen also signed the confession.

Aligning the Evangelicals with historic orthodoxy, the confession begins by affirming a trinitarian view of God and scorns all who...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Bergendoff, Conrad. The Church of the Lutheran Reformation. St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia, 1967. This historical survey of Lutheranism is of great value for placing theological disputes within their contexts and showing how and why church leaders found it necessary to draft statements of faith.

Burgess, Joseph A., and George Lindbeck, eds. The Role of the Augsburg Confession: Catholic and Lutheran Views. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980. This collection of essays by distinguished scholars, Lutheran and Catholic, who seek a basis for reconciliation between their churches, contains much valuable historical information.

Junghans, Helmar. “Augsburg Confession.” In Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1996. This succinct yet substantial article presents events leading to adoption of the Augsburg confession in chronological sequence and demonstrates the concern for precise doctrine characteristic of the Evangelical reformers.

Kolb, Robert. Confessing the Faith. St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia, 1991. Written from a confessional point of view, this is a helpful examination of Lutheran beliefs in general and the role of the Augsburg Confession in particular.

Kolb, Robert, and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2000. This contains all historic doctrinal statements of the Lutheran Church in a fresh translation together with insightful introductions that relate each item to its context in history.