Thursday, July 19, 2012

Not All the Confessions are Used the Same

Often we will speak of the Confessions as this wonderful massive whole - the Confessions.  I'm thinking that sometimes that is less than helpful - it would be like a woodworker simply speaking of "The Tools".  Well, yes, they are the tools, but even I, mechanically inept as I am, know that there is a difference between a drill and a plane, being a saw and a hammer.  Different tools, different jobs.

While the Confessions all confess the Scriptures they do so under differing circumstances.  Those circumstances shed light on how those particular confessions are to be used.  Let's consider:

The Apostles' Creed - this is a Baptismal Creed - it is a basic overview confessing who God is and what He does.  You can see this in Luther's explanation of it in the Small Catechism -- totally focused on what God does.

The Nicene and Athanasian Creeds are slightly different.  They are much more focused on condemning error and safegaurding truth.  The Nicene Creed says, "God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God" precisely to cut off errorists.  Likewise the Athanasian.  These creeds highlight dangerous errors with which Satan would attack Christians.

Then then is the Small Catechism - simple, basics - meant to be flexible and applied -- sort of a lens through which to understand faith and life.

Then there is the Large Catechism - these were sermons to preach, to teach the Small Catechism.  These are more didactic, more applied.  These end up being great examples of how to apply.

Then there is the Augsburg Confession.  The purpose of the Confession was to demonstrate that the Lutherans were not creating new doctrines but were confessing what the Church had taught.  The AC's point is "We are not crazy Anabaptists."  Now, the Apology to the Augsburg Confession was written in response to Rome's refutation -- so it's theme is different.  It has become, "Here's how you crazy Papists have gone off track."

Smalcald serves as a blueprint for theological discussion between us and Rome.  The Treatise shows why Papal authority as it had been exercised is problematic.

And finally the Formula of Concord.  The FC deals with problems that arise after Luther's demise -- problems within Lutheranism, problems we acquired from discussions in other denominations around us and interacting with them.  It's not a document meant to expound profound truths but rather show when Lutherans have gone too far and abandoned peace.

These are different tools.  Remember this when citing them.


William Weedon said...

Did someone forget?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Often I think most people do -- but then again, I've got a youngin' to take care of at home and a sinus infection - so the proprium of this blog is that I'm tired and cranky =o)

Anonymous said...

Umm... yeah, I 'forgot'. I am an adult confirmand reading the Confessions for the first time this Summer. It is quite helpful to have this information all in one article so I can reference it as I move from one document to another.
Thank you Pastor.