Full Text for Confessions 1- Volume 59 - What is the First Article's role in the Smalcald Articles? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CUE NET CONFESSIONS CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY EDUCATION NETWORK CONFESSION 1 QUESTION 59 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. 3238 Rose Street Franklin Park, IL 60131 800-825-5234 *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >>I can tell Luther's first chief article is important. What exactly is its role in the Smalcald Articles? I'm wondering if it also provides us with a stage for evaluating our contemporary theology and practice. >>DR. CHARLES P. ARAND: Before I say a word about the use of that phrase, first and chief article in the Smalcald Articles, I would like to set it in a larger theological framework or wider outline of the Smalcald Articles themselves. The outline in itself is rather intriguing because if we do consider the Smalcald Articles as Luther's last will and testament, he did write them in the same format or within the same framework he did in 1528 where he used the three articles of the apostles creed. Rather it takes place more in the context or in the line of John Fredrick's commission to him to prepare a list of things on which they might -- about which they might discuss for the sake of peace and those things on which there was no compromise. So Luther divides the Smalcald Articles into three parts. Part 1 deals with those matters about which the Lutherans and Catholics agree. Those matters about which there is no dispute. This is the Trinitarian christological Confession of the early church as laid out in the creeds. So in part 1, he first deals with the Trinity. And then he moves to a discussion of a person of Christ, namely these two nay tours within one person. These all christians had agreed on as they were set forth not only in the creeds but the seven ecumenical councils. But there is one little intriguing item here. At the very end of part 1, Luther basically states that these articles are Catholic and there is no disagreement between us and the Catholics on these because both sides confess them. Now, the intriguing bit of trivia is that in the original handwritten manuscript Luther had both sides believed and confessed these articles and then in his handwriting it crossed out the word believe. Almost as if to suggest or at least to have -- express some doubt in his mind, well, we both confessed them. We have this same creeds -- we have the same creeds. But I don't know whether my opponents believe them entirely or not. That might be -- sound like a harsh thing to say. And certainly Luther can't look into their hearts. But I think the reason for that doubt or skepticism is because in Luther's mind if one hold to the trinity particularly the Dee et tee of God and if Christ is God and Christ is the one who suffered and died for us then God saved us what's left? In other words if his opponents, in fact, agreed on the Confession of Christ and the context of the trinity, they would also accept the cortical that speaks about the forced sufficiency of Christ's work. Well, that's part 1. These are the articles on which both sides agree or both sides confess. Part 2 moves into a discussion of the reformation insight of justification on account of Christ and faith alone. Here Luther opens by summarizing the doctrine that justification. If you wanted to use contemporary language here you might say he immediately sets forth the core value of Lutheran theology when he declares it that Jesus Christ our God and Lord Was handed over for our -- handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. And that's it. Well, in faith he was certainly remarkable about these few perhaps opening part 2 is that Luther provides no extended treatment or explanation or exposition of the doctrine of justification. He simply lays out a few Bible passages and that's it. It's sort of surprising because in other places such as in his work against *Latimus, he expounds the document justification at great length. It may well be that he felt he had written plenty on the subject. His writings were well known. it was enough simply to lay out these Bible passages about Christ being handed over to our trespasses and raised for our justification. It may also be, though, that he felt that on this particular point, there was no compromise and no negotiation. This is what he calls the first chief article. And you can almost use a highlighter when you read the Smalcald Articles and highlight every time he uses that kind of expression especially in part 2 it arises over and over and over again. So immediately after he discusses the -- I should say summarizes the document justification, he then uses it -- how shall I say it? I suppose as a criterion for analyzing and evaluating a number of practices, devotional acts, within the Roman church of that time. And he uses it to reject these practices on the grounds that they come into conflict with this first chief article regarding the work and redemption of Jesus Christ. So for part 2 he deals with that practice that he sees lying at the heart of the Roman church's position justification by works and the authority of the pay pass see. That is the mass. By mass he doesn't mean the celebration of the Lord's supper per se but rather all of the rights and ceremonies that had arisen to accompany it including those practices that he sees flowing from it as from a source such as the private masses sit on behalf of the dead or on behalf of those in purgatory or the pill grim ages or the monasteries and ultimately the papacy itself. I'm kind of intrigued by this language of first and chief article I think in our day and age it says something in part about how we think about doctrine as a whole. In other words, Luther has what you could call an organic approach to doctrine. He doesn't see doctrines as individual isolated teachings like pearls on a strand. They may touch one another. But they really have nothing to do with one another. In fact, I think as a whole, the book of Concord hardly ever uses the word doctrine in the pleural. It always speaks of doctrine in the singular. There's one doctrine. It's organic. In fact, the book of Concord stands within a tradition of volumes in the latter half of the reformation that were known as -- a volume of document collection documents would be known as a corpus *doctrina a body of doctrine. And then the individual what we would call the doctrines would be referred to as articles of faith. Now, article comes from the Latin word articulus and sometimes can refer to the joints that connect the various parts of our limbs -- or connect our limbs together. My colleague, Robert Cobb, likes to play with this analogy of a body of doctrine and has suggested that you might consider a doctrine as like a human body. And using him body as an analogy, the article on justification would be the head article. You might say the head of the body or the heart of the body. All the other articles of faith would be different limbs on the body and the likes. So you might have the leg of baptism. The other leg of the Lord's supper. You might have an arm of original sin and free will. Another arm of eschatology and the like. Well, the value of thinking about theology in this way is that it shows us that what affects one part of the body can ultimately affect the whole body. So suppose someone denies infant baptism. Is it possible for the body to go on living? Well, yes, it is. However, the cutting off the leg of baptism is going to cripple the body or make the body hobble and not function as it was intended. Not fire on all cylinders if you will. At the very least cutting off a limb can introduce an infection to the body that can ultimately affect the head or to induce a major headache if not a fever or another ailment along those lines. So -- and no one would say well, okay. We don't have this leg and we don't have that arm but that's okay. We still have the head. No. Eventually, like I say, an infection or even gangrene would set in that would ultimately kill the whole body but short of that the body is still severely injured and hobbled. You know, I can't imagine for a second you know, in the working or dealing with my wife, if my daughter was ill with 103 fever, you know, and we're fretting over her and sweating over her and suddenly I turn to my wife and said "Well, honey, at least she's alive" well, I would do so at the risk of my own life. Yes, she is alive but we want her to be healthy. Well in analogous fashion when we look at doctrine either ours or those of other churches, yes, the head has to be there, the Gospel in all its purity. But we want the whole body to be healthy. And where there's an infection in one part of the body, it can affect the entire body. This analogy by the way is useful for another purpose. Very often when you look at the tradition of Lutheran dogmatics and for that matter the confessions themselves, you will find that every document doesn't deal with the same topics to the same length as it does in another documents. In other words, the Augsburg Confession deals with 17 articles fairly comprehensive covering the entire Apology's creed when you get to the form of Concord it doesn't deep with the topic of the Trinity per se. It doesn't really deal with the topic of the church per se. It touches things that involve the church in article 10. But instead it picks up something on article 6 about whether sin is part of our creative nature or not something the Augsburg Confession did not deal with. And some dogmatics that deal with a special topic on marriage and others they don't. Well, partly the reason for thu again returning through the analogy of the body, when one part of the body is injured, if I cut my leg or I sever my arm, all of my attention is going to be focused on that injury. And as a result I will not be paying as much attention to other limbs on my body or other parts of my body. I'm focused on that injury. Well, similarly here. So that in the early church, the creeds focused on that part of the body which was most injured mainly who was God? How do we think about father, son, Holy Spirit? that needed attention. That didn't deal at great length -- maybe at least not in the way the reformation did with say the work of Christ or the redemption of Christ or even the doctrine of the church. On the other hand, you get to the reformation they deal with the doctrine of trinity fairly quickly. They confess what has been confessed before. But they don't deal with it at great length at least night on a Confession of rights. Instead they focus on the work of Christ. So it's something to keep in mind in our day and age in terms of identifying where we need to focus our attention. Similarly here in the Smalcald Articles Luther's attention is fastened on those practices that literally are severing the head from the body, there by undermining Christian knit tee itself. Well, following part 2 then, Luther goes on to part 3. And here we have a list of topics that seem a little bit more traditional in the way that the Augsburg Confession does them. Here we get treatment on sin, law, Gospel, repentance, baptism, Lord's supper, church, and so forth. He indicates that these are articles about which we can discuss. Now, that did not mean that Luther believed we could compromise on these articles. I suspect it was more along the lines that we can discuss for the purpose of clarifying what we have said and what we have not said, making sure both sides understand each other correctly, perhaps elaborating and expound ing on what is intended or what are the ramifications and why. So the Smalcald Articles overall are fairly unique both in terms of their structure but I think we could safely say one of the most important contributions is the way in which Luther uses that first chief article as an organizing principle for theology and hence a criterion particularly for what belongs in the center. Now, he never uses it to replace the Bible per se but does use it to say what lies at the center and heart of the Christian faith and what does not. *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***