For all of the rain we had the first half of the trip, now it’s sun and heat. Just in time as we stayed in one of the most beautiful little Bavarian towns, Rothenburg. It may be touristy, but it’s still very cool. We spent the morning and early afternoon enjoys the sites and shops until we departed for Augsburg. Augsburg was very important to the Reformation, yet there’s little noted in the city to distinguish it. The highlight, for our purposes, is St Anna’s – a beautiful church that was formerly an Augustinian Monastery, and where Luther stayed when he was in Augsburg in 1518 appearing before Cardinal Cajetan.
June 25, 1530 (13 years after Luther posted the 95 Theses), Christian Beyer, a Saxon Chancellor and leading lay person, presented 28 Articles/Statements of Faith at the Imperial Diet of Augsburg before Emperor Charles V and emissaries from the Vatican. Written by Philip Melanchthon (Luther’s friend and colleague), these Articles have become the primary document defining Lutheran doctrine. There were two versions written, one in German and one in Latin, both of which are presented in the Lutheran Book of Concord; Beyer presented the Latin version which took two hours, from 3-5pm. Windows in the Chapel of the Episcopal Palace were open on that hot summer day and the crowds gathered outside could hear every word of this momentous presentation.
In March that year, Elector John the Steadfast invited Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, and Johannes Bugenhagen to join him in Torgau to develop a plan for reform to present at the Diet in Augsburg three months later. They developed what became known as the Torgau Articles outlining their desire for reform in Church practices. The primary purpose was not to settle theological differences and disputes, but to offer an outline of reform.
However, before the “Lutherans” arrived in Augsburg in May (without Luther of course, since he had a bounty on his head) Johann Eck had disseminated 404 erroneous Articles denouncing Protestant beliefs – presenting them as representation of Luther’s theology. Eck had not only many false accusations that bore no truth whatsoever, but many of the statements that were true were not necessarily true of Luther. Eck had lumped together all Protestant teachings together including many from Lutheran Enthusiasts and Swiss Reformers whom Luther disputed. Instead of presenting the Torgau Articles Melanchthon rewrote their presentation now addressing these false accusations and defining what Lutherans believe. The first 21 Articles articulate “Lutheran” theology or doctrine, while the last 7 Articles outline proposals for reform.
Article IV of the Augsburg Confession, on Justification by Faith, has been the drumbeat of the Lutheran Church, the heartbeat of the Lutheran witness, the cornerstone of our theology, the foundation of our faith. To borrow a line from George Forell (one of the greatest Lutheran scholars of the last century and professor at the University of Iowa), Justification by Faith is the particular voice Lutherans sing in the Christian Choir. This is the note we are called to sing boldly and beautifully. Without this voice the witness isn’t as rich, or full, or complete. The world needs to hear it; you and I need to hear it!
“It is taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our own merit, work, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness in his sight, as St Paul says in Romans 3 [:21-26] and 4[:5].”
As Luther once said, “We are saved by faith alone; but the faith that saves is never alone.”