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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Luther's counsel – 4 against 10 –Justification (Part 3 of 5)

This continues from Part 2 (Table of Contents – Part 1) where I expanded on one of the highlights found in Pastor Hermann Fick's Life and Deeds of Dr. Martin Luther book – The Article of Justification at the Diet of Regensburg.  As Pastor Hermann Fick relates, this is an extremely important series of events in the life of Luther and the Lutheran Church.  It has application for today!

What were the "first four articles" and the "other ten articles" that Luther speaks of in his letter?
The first Four Articles dealt with:
  1. Man Before the Fall;  2. Free Will;  3. Cause of Sin;  4. Original Sin;  (and included 5th–Justification)
Lutherans who have been taught from Luther's Small Catechism and the Lutheran Confessions will understand these "Four Articles".  (Have you?)

The last Ten Articles are covered in an English translation of 23 "Articles of the Colloquy of Regensburg" from Melanchthon's documentation produced by Prof. Suzanne Hequet (Concordia University-St. Paul, LC-MS).  She transcribed and translated these in her book The 1541 Colloquy at Regensburg: In Pursuit of Church Unity, pages 78 - 155.  Here are the titles of the last 18 articles that are summed up in Luther's understanding of the Ten Articles:
The church and its signs and authority · The mark of the Word · Penance after having lapsed · Authority of the Church in discerning and interpreting Scripture · The Sacraments · Sacrament of Ordination · Sacrament of Baptism · Sacrament of Confirmation · Sacrament of Eucharist  (Transsubstantiation· Sacrament of Penance or absolution · Sacrament of Marriage · Sacrament of Unction · The bond of love, which is a third mark of the church · Ecclesiastical hierarchical order, and in clear authority having to be established · Certain dogmas which have been confirmed, having been made clear by the authority of the Church · The use and administration of the sacraments, and certain kinds of ceremonies · Discipline in the Church · Discipline of the people.
It was the Four Articles that were supposedly agreed on, but especially the 5th article on justification that Luther said were sufficiently foundational to neutralize the poison in the balance of 10 articles (or 18 articles) that dealt with lesser matters.  There are many scholars today who want to argue about Article 5 on Justification. Some even go so far as to say that the agreement on Article 5 of the Diet of Regensburg gave the "Lutherans" reason enough to agree to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with Rome.  But Luther did not argue so much about any ambiguities of Article 5, but rather the power of the pure Gospel over all error!

I believe that Luther knew the essentials of what was going on at Regensburg even if he was not fully informed on the details happening there. He knew the Article of Justification (the Fifth Article) had been discussed.  And he apparently grouped Article 5 on Justification with the first Four Articles.  Some history on this Diet is presented in the following histories of Luther (free, in English):
  • The Life of Martin Luther, vol. 2, Henry Worsley, 1856,  pgs 330-336 (extensive, almost Lutheran!)
  • Martin Luther, The Man and His Work, A.C. McGiffert, 1911, pgs 357-360 (decent review)
  • Life of Luther, Julius Köstlin, 1883, pgs 514-516 (sympathizes with moderates)
  • Martin Luther, the Hero of the Reformation, Henry Jacobs, 1898, pgs 338-340 (only fair)
  • Martin Luther : his life and his labor..., Wm. Dallmann, 1917, pg 247 (low spiritual content)
  • Martin Bucer, Hastings Eells, 1931, pgs 288-301 (Not free; raves over Bucer, Amazon)
Most of these histories are unsatisfactory for Lutherans.  For a current Reformed view of the Diet of Regensburg, one can read Dr. R. Scott Clark's synopsis here on the Internet.  He shows where the Reformed are not true Protestants, because the Reformed ask the question:
...but neither he [Luther] nor Melanchthon had found a stable place in their theology for their doctrine of sanctification.
True Reformed teachers essentially are what I would call "Bucer-ists and Calvinists" who, while speaking of a "Law-Gospel dichotomy",  constantly go back to the Law.  (Sounds curiously like Prof. David P. Scaer of CTS-FW and his "Law-Gospel paradigm".)  The Reformed fancy themselves as "Protestants" and "Evangelicals", when the reality is that only true Lutherans can claim these labels.  The Reformed separated themselves from true Protestants/Evangelicals by taking a step back to Rome.

Getting a true spiritual account of the doctrines involved at the Diet of Regensburg (1541) is difficult with today's modern scholar/theologians or on the Internet... except now from Pastor Fick's wonderful summation of the essentials with Luther.  And so I will present the balance of Luther's written response to the princes regarding the theological matters at the Diet of Regensburg in the next Part 4.

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