The Augsburg Confession

teacon7 (Keaton) wrote the following in a comment, and I think that it is indeed postworthy:

I think Sem. Heschmeyer (Joe? Can I call you Joe?) made an excellent point in suggesting that we are all experiencing something of “jaded battle weariness.” He’s right on that count.

Lutherans and Roman Catholics have been going at this for centuries now, enough time to build up sizeable axes to grind. Probably, we’ve heard since youth how awful the other church body is… and we’re full of preconceived misconceptions about what that church believes, teaches, and confesses. Maybe a few are more informed than others, but the point stands. My proof of this? Everyone so far seems to be saying that their doctrine and practice are being misrepresented. Hence the cries of “that’s a straw man!” and “This isn’t the right discussion!” and eventually, when patience wanes and charity fades, the cry arises: “you’re being rude!” This isn’t ideal.

I’m doing a project on conflict resolution for some of the people in this area. The model they use is not new, but rooted in how the confessions and creeds were composed. I believe that this method very well might work as a form for how to proceed with this discussion, so that it might be mutually edifying for all. I attempted to explain this in my first post, but I believe my attempts at brevity undermined my proposal. Rather than simply diving headlong into a discussion of Ecclesiology/Miracles/Justification (the pas de deux du jour), perhaps the first discussion we ought to have is “what discussion ought to be had.” And even before that, perhaps a FAQ section where we clarify misconceptions concerning

The model goes …something… like this:

1. Read a common text.
2. Discuss until points of agreement or disagreement come up. Be perfectly clear on the position of both sides.
3. Compose a “point of discussion” for later discussion, and then move on in the common text. Rinse, repeat.
4. When the points of discussion are finally composed, put them in order of importance. (For example, if “intercessory prayer of the saints” is contingent on “justification,” then the question concerning “intercessory prayer of the saints” is prudently shelved until “justification” is discussed.)
4.5 During this process, there may be a disagreement as to what order (e.g., should we talk about justification or ecclesiology) is best. This question itself can be a point of discussion.
5. Discuss the points in the order agreed upon. THIS is where to do the extensive research, extended argument, etc….

This model isn’t perfect for this setting, but it’s a start. We have the ability to discuss many things at once, and no real regulatory authority besides zoolander-badmin over there. I wonder whether a call to order will focus the vigor of the esteemed gathered here. I don’t know if everyone will play ball with my plan, but if the key bloggers do, then everyone else may happily comment away while we stay on topic.

Thus, I’d like to propose two things:

1) A “clearing up misconceptions” FAQ thread, in which we can clear up things like “do Catholics worship the pope” or “do Lutherans think Luther was infallible” or other nonsense I’ve heard thrown around. This, if carried out in the spirit of inquiry, could be very useful for both parties, so as to avoid straw men, accusations, and straight up name calling. Instead of making an argument for the position of your church, this would be a place to state the position of your own church body on any given issue. Especially when you’ve seen it misrepresented often.

Then, perhaps other threads of argument can spin off from these stated positions, rather than the preconceived notions we have about one another. That seems to be fairly necessary for both sides.

2) As an order for discussion, such a thing already exists in history. The Augsburg Confession was presented to Emperor Charles V in 1530 as a confession of what our churches believe. Rome responded with a Confutation of our confession, and we responded with an Apology (defense) of our confession, because we felt we were misunderstood on a few accounts.

I’d like to find out if the Roman Catholics I know stand by what was “confuted” to the Lutherans in 1530. Are the “abuses” it identifies a correct assessment of your current theology and practice?

Joe, Tom, Ray, and (anyone else from the Roman Party whose names I am afraid I have forgotten) would you accept the Augsburg Confession, Confutation, and Apology, as a guide for the theological topics of discussion? It may be no big deal to you, as you have the Council of Trent and Vatican’s I & II, but it was a very important deal to us. This would also give us a common text to look at the various theological differences between us. And if you are for some reason unwilling or uncomfortable using this document, would you please indulge my curiosity as to why not?

Such a discussion proceeds in this order:

0. Preface to Emperor Charles V (for us, a discussion of the lamentable political pressures that led to such an uncharitable exchange between these parties)
1. God.
2. Original Sin.
3. The Son of God.
4. Justification.
5. The Ministry
6. New Obedience
7. The Church
8. What the Church Is
9. Baptism
10 The Lord’s Supper
11 Confession
12 Repentance
13 The Use of the Sacraments
14 Ecclesiastical Order
15 Ecclesiastical Usages
16 Civil Affairs
17 Christ’s Return to Judgment
18 Free Will
19 The Cause of Sin
20 Good Works
21 The Worship of the Saints
22 Both Kinds in the Sacrament
23 The Marriage of Priests
24 The Mass
25 Confession
26 Distinction of Foods
27 Monastic Vows
28 Ecclesiastical Power
– Conclusion

If you’re curious, the text of this document is available here. There are more scholarly translations of the text from the original, but this free version will suffice, should you be gracious enough to walk through it with me.

Thank you for your time.



  1. OK. I’m going to post the articles one at a time. This comment feed is not for debate of individual articles; it’s just for parliamentary suggestions, etc.

  2. The Preface has been posted. I’ll post one a night.

  3. Thank you Trent, for posting this. I had a hard time figuring out formatting and WordPress and the comment feed. Initially, I had intended this to be a comment on the post with the crazy zoolander picture.

    For what it’s worth, I was hoping to have the assent of the Roman Catholics, or some representative portion of their party, before embarking on the Augsburg Confession as an outline for discussion. They may wish to discuss the ordering of the topics (i.e., why we discuss the article on Justification prior to the articles on the Church). We may also have to continue the existing discussion Joe started on the interpretation of scripture and Luther’s ordering of the deuterocanonical books). Either way, i don’t want to start the AC until such time as they consent, in comments, to that list of topics.

  4. I feel that their assent is neccesary, lest there be a feeling that the (lutheran) badmin steered the topics of discussion in a way that he deemed beneficial. Trent, I’m not accusing you of doing this, but let’s make every effort to be gentlemen, so we have an excellent, thorough discussion. I’m noticing right away that it seems Ecclesiology holds some degree of priority over Justification in RC systematics, or at least in their contra lutheran pas de deux. That’s interesting to me. Perhaps someone could explain in Roman Catholic words why this seems to be the case.

  5. If Wikipedia and Book of Concord dot org are to be believed, the history of the Confutation part of the confession (lots of censorship, drafts rejected, unhappy result, etc) makes it seem like any discussion of the Augsburg Confession as a text should be compared with relevant texts from Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II rather than the Roman Confutation.

    • I don’t think any of the Lutherans are suggesting that you must follow the arguments of the early Confutation, but that you “confute” the Augustana through the lense of the totality of your faith as you know it.

      The Council of Trent would be good, since it is directly related, but isn’t it also responding to things like Calvinism? One would need to be careful of losing relevance, but Trent (the council) seems like a fine place for your party to go. Or maybe we could decide, as a group, that after we argue through the Augustana, we could go through Trent the same way?

    • The site we’re working with will display the Augsburg Confession, the Papal Confutation, and the Apology to the Augsburg Confession in triplicate, more or less. It’s a lot of reading, but it would focus the discussion to read all three. Both of our traditions (Lutheran and Roman) affirm a hermeneutic of continuity with the writings of our churches from this period, so we’d be on similar standing. No one will object, Kevin, if you quote from other RC councils, magisterial pronouncements, etc., but I think it would help to constrain the scope the the Confession and Confutation, at least for the time being.

      Yes, no? Maybe?

      As far as the back-and-forth went, historically speaking, Rome dogmatized much of the Confutation with the Canons and Decrees of Trent. The Lutheran rejoinder to this was made by Martin Chemnitz, whose 4000 page Examination of the Council of Trent is probably the most exhaustive and comprehensive work of Lutheran dogmatic theology. It comports entirely with the Lutherans Confessions, and is essentially a further defense of them from the Scriptures, the Fathers, and Catholic tradition.

  6. Trent might make sense, but V1 and V2 weren’t written as a response to the Reformation. It would be hard to match things up.

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