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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Luther to the confessors at Augsburg: what not to do

In the 1930 issue of Concordia Theological Monthly (CTM), volume 1, pages 310-311, is an article by Franz Pieper about Luther's counsel to the Lutheran confessors at Augsburg in the year 1530.  The history of this is basically a history of the founding of the Lutheran Church. Pieper's article:
To what purpose have not “the Lutherans” come to Augsburg.  Luther was not at Augsburg during the Diet of Augsburg but at the castle Coburg.  But from the Coburg he directed an "admonition" to the papal clergy gathered at Augsburg.  He asked them if they want not to miss the time of grace that is offered to them by God through the Diet [of Augsburg].  Literally, Luther says: “For God gives you grace, opportunity, time, and cause through our most gracious Emperor Charles to do and accomplish much and great good through this diet, if you only want to.”  If several among the priests said: “Who needs you? Who ever demanded your exhortation or writing? There are so many learned and pious people here [in Augsburg] who can give better advice than a fool like you.”  So Luther answers:  "All right! That I will gladly believe and may God grant that it all be true. . . . .  But still it is also true that one cannot do too much of a good thing and one fool has often given better advice than many wise men. On the other hand, wise people have generally done the greatest harm on earth, especially when they depended on their own wisdom and did not act in the fear of God and with humble hearts pray for divine help and grace.” Luther deemed it in 1530 – just nine years after Worms – according to the state of affairs to point out emphatically that the "Lutherans" did not come to Augsburg to learn from the papists the Christian doctrine, but to confess the divine truth before the Papists and bear with them for their instruction.  Luther's admonition begins at this point: “First of all, you need not deal with me or my kind, for the true Helper and Counselor has brought us and our cause so far and has established it where it should remain and where we also wish to leave it. In this matter we for our part need no diet, no counsel, no control; nor do we want any of these things from you, for we know that you are unable to do any better, no, not so well as we. Whether we fall prey to Turks or Tartars, pope or devil, no matter, our cause stands secure. Thus we know how we should believe and live, how we should teach and act, how we should suffer and pray, how we should recover and die, where we should look for, get, and find everything, and where we are finally to remain, according to the word of St. Paul, Romans 8[:28], “In everything the Spirit works things out for the best of those who are elect.” God has richly bestowed this upon us through Christ Jesus our Lord and it has already been proclaimed and established through the blood and martyrdom of many pious people put to death by your party. Not that we are perfect or have attained all things. But we have the right rules, as St. Paul [Phil. 3:16] puts it, the right way, the right beginning in our favor. Indeed our teaching is lacking in nothing at all no matter how things are in life.  We are concerned about you, however, and the poor people still under you who are entirely uninstructed or always uncertain. We would always gladly help in this respect at any time with prayer and exhortation, the best we can.” (St. L. XVI, 946 ff.; Luther's Works, vol. 34, pg 9 ff.)  Luther's view of the situation at Augsburg suffers to this day an application of mutatis mutandis (change keeps changing).  Also those that are called Lutherans propose to make bonds with the papacy and in particular with the reformed sects to thereby enrich the Lutheran church in doctrine and life.  Those who are of this opinion know neither the Church of the Reformation nor even the papacy or the sects. 
We see by this that Pieper viewed Luther's counsel as still applying to today's church.  The "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" between "Lutherans" and Roman Catholics back in 1999 shows the continuing slide of much of the world's external "Lutheran" church bodies towards the errors of the papal church, the same "Lutherans" that Paul McCain says can be "helpful", "shed light" and offer "necessary course corrections" to today's church.

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