Thursday, April 25, 2013


"Keep living as a man, as you certainly do, teaching the students to follow the right path. I will now offer myself as a sacrafice for you and for them, if that is God's will. In fact, I would rather die...than recant what I have said in truth..." Martin Luther, in a letter to Philipp Melanchthon on October 11, 1518.

There are two important events involving Martin Luther that took place in Augsburg. The first was that Luther was called to Augsburg in October 1518 to meet with Cardinal Thomas Cajetan and be interrogated about his teachings. This interview was followed by the 1530 Diet of Augsburg (the parliament of German Princes and Dukes), where the Augsburg Confession was presented to Emperor Charles V.

Inside the sanctuary
of St. Anne's.
When Luther came to Augsburg to meet with Cajetan, he resided at the cloister of St. Anne. The meeting was, in reality, a heresy trial where Luther was expected to recant his teaching before the papal legate. Luther was greeted as a hero in Augsburg and at St. Anne. As it became clear that Luther would not recant, Luther's friends and supporters became more concerned that he would be seized and taken to Rome. To avoid this, Luther's supporters smuggled him out of the city secretly.

Statue of Christ on the altar
raising his hands in blessing.
St Anne was built in 1321 by Carmelite monks. The Goldsmith's Chapel was added in 1420; the Fugger's Chapel in 1509. St. Anne's became an "Evangelical" (Lutheran) church in 1545. The spire was added in 1607 by Elias Holl. St. Anne's Church was intimately involved with the Thirty Years War (1618-48) and general religious turmoil of the 17th century. Evangelicals were twice barred from the church by those trying to restore Catholicism to the area (1629-32 and 1635-49); in the latter period, the congregation worshiped outside in the courtyard of St. Anne's College. The church was restored and redesigned in the Baroque and Rococo styles between 1747 and 1749.

In 1530, at the Diet of Augsburg, the Augsburg Confession - Confessio Augustana in Latin - was presented to Emperor Charles V. It was intentionally written to present a gentle, respectful, and peaceful response to the emperor. While intended to speak only for Saxony, as the various German princes read the document they began to subscribe to it as well. The Augsburg Confession was presented on June 25, 1530 as a statement of biblical truth and a proposal for true unity in the Christian faith. It has never been withdrawn.

The Hodgkins Lutheran
in Rathausplatz, Augsburg
with his Augsburg Confession.
The Augsburg Confession is the primary confession of faith of the Lutheran Church and one of the most important documents of the Lutheran Reformation. The Augsburg Confession was written in both German and Latin and was presented by a number of German rulers and free-cities at the Diet of Augsburg on June 25, 1530. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V had called on the Princes and Free Territories in Germany to explain their religious convictions in an attempt to restore religious and political unity in the Holy Roman Empire and rally support against the Turkish invasion. It is the fourth document contained in the Lutheran Book of Concord.

A chest used to collect
money for indulgences. 
Central to the document and it's subsequent Apology is it's explanation of the Biblical doctrine of Justification. Confessional Lutherans teach forensic, or "legal", justification. This means that God declares the sinner to be "not guilty" (justified) because Christ has taken his place, living a perfect life according to God's law and suffering for his sins. For Confessional Lutherans justification is in no way dependent upon the thoughts, words, and deeds of those justified through faith alone in Christ. The new obedience that the justified sinner renders to God through sanctification follows justification as a consequence, but is not part of justification.

When a penny in the casket rings,
a soul from purgatory springs.
In 1999, St. Anne's Church was the site of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Salvation by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation, an effective rejection of the Augsburg Confession by the so-called Lutherans who signed it. This document states that, "a common understanding of our justification by God's grace through faith in Christ." This is flatly untrue. To the parties involved, this essentially resolves the conflict over the nature of justification which was at the root of the Protestant Reformation. Despite the claims of the Joint Declaration, however, very significant differences remain regarding how Confessional Lutherans (those who subscribe to a historial understanding of the Augsburg Confession and the Book of Concord) and Roman Catholics understand salvation, a fact that the Roman Catholic Church acknowledges.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Religion Questions

Detail from the St. Peter and Paul Altar Painting,
 Weimar, Germany
by Lucas Cranach, the Younger, 1555.
These questions were sent to me by a friend who is taking a world religions class. I thought it would be interesting to present the questions, along with my gut-reaction answers, to the loyal readers of THL. I know I'm a little long-winded, and for that I apologize. - THL

Is Christianity good or bad for social and political life?

I fear this question is too broad to answer. You have to define "Christianity", "good", "bad", "social", and "political". This covers quite a bit of ground. I suspect, however, because of the nature of the second question, that there are some preconceived notions about what Christianity is and how it effects people's interpersonal relationships.

If you mean by Christianity the religion that teaches that the guilt of mankind's sin has been paid for by Christ's sacrificial death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, I would say that it is good for social and political life. The regenerate Christian, according to the Bible, is made into a new creation upon his conversion. All his sins are forgiven, and he is encouraged to lead a life commensurate with the new creation into which he has been made. In fact, the truly regenerate man will seek to flee from the "works of the flesh" (things like sexual immorality etc, which St. Paul says are evident to all people), and do good works, exhibiting the "fruits of the spirit" (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control).

If, however, one means Christianity as defined by its detractors, then it is definitely not "good" for social and political life. This false Christianity - a sexually repressive, morally exclusive, bigoted system meant to brainwash and control the masses - would be a detriment to society. This is "Christianity" as described by the communist and progressive leftist. This is the Christianity against which they compare their socio-political system of atheistic statism. This Christianity has no basis in reality, except in those isolated times and places where sinful men give into their sinful human nature and worship their own rules and traditions rather than God, and it can never last long.
What about Christianity contributed to the decline and fall of the Roman empire?

Nothing, as far as I can tell. Assuming we are talking about the fall of the western Roman Empire in AD 476, I would say that Christianity had little, if nothing at all to do with its demise. (Remember, a perfectly legitimate Latin speaking Roman emperor sat on his throne in Constantinople as ruler of the eastern half of the empire, and would until the city was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1453.)

Liberal scholars may like to draw a correlation between the emperor Constantine declaring Christianity to be legal with the so-called Edict of Milan in AD 313 and the fall of the western empire just over 100 years later, but I believe that correlation to be a false one. The western empire fell due to a combination of many factors: 1) a mass influx of barbarian immigrants who were not assimilated into roman culture, 2) a series of devastating wars against invading barbarian tribes, 3) a lack of capable, educated, and virtuous leaders, 4) economic instability. This list could go on for quite some time; these are just major issues that sprung to mind. In all that I've read about Rome, though, no one seriously ascribes Christianity a significant role in the downfall of the west.

If one was forced to assign Christianity some role in the fall of the west, I suppose one could say that the state sponsored persecutions of Christians caused significant division in Roman society, and consumed manpower and resources that could have been better used shoring up the failing empire. For example, Diocletian persecuted Christians ruthlessly, but the average pagan Roman felt sorry for their Christian neighbors. To them it surely seemed that, as strange as the Christian might have seemed to them because of their beliefs, no one who followed a religion that taught honesty in trade and love for ones neighbor could be too much of a threat to the state. It is for this very reason that some scholars believe the persecution of Christians was unsuccessful in stamping out the religion.

Worshiping the Triune God in the name of the Risen Christ does not bring about the demise of empires. Man's worship of himself and his quest for power, fortune, and glory does.

The Hodgkins Lutheran
+ Jesus Christus Dominus Est +
Sent from my iPhone