RPM, Volume 16, Number 16, April 13 to April 19, 2014

The Reformed and Post-Reformation
Creeds and Councils

By Charles R. Biggs

Many Thanks to William Barker, Daryl Hart, and Clair Davis for their lectures in Church History. Also to John Gerstner, Philip Schaff, and Williston Walker who have taught me from their writings

Table of Contents

Class I: The Council of Trent: Sola Scriptura - material taken from the series Important Creeds and Councils of the Christian Church (Class XI) by C.R. Biggs.

Class II: The Council of Trent: Sola Fide- The Ecclesiastical Fall of Rome

Class III: The Reformers and the Lutheran and Reformed Creeds: Martin Luther

Class IV: Martin Luther and the Augsburg Confession, 1530

Class V: An Historical Overview of the Synod of Dort and the Westminster Assembly

Class IV: The Reformers and the Lutheran and Reformed Creeds:
Martin Luther (1483-1546) and the Augsburg Confession

Romans 4:2-8, 4:20-25; Galatians 3:2-10

Martin Luther's Life After the Posting of the 95 Theses in 1517

Luther at the Diet of Worms

Luther at the Colloquy of Marburg

The Augsburg Confession, 1530

B.B. Warfield says concerning Luther and his salvation: "Luther had been taught another doctrine [apart from Justification by faith alone], a doctrine which had been embodied in a popular maxim current in his day: Do the best you can, and God will see you through. He had tried to live that doctrine, and could not do it; he could not believe it. He has told us his despair. He has told us how this despair grew deeper and deeper, until he was raised out of it precisely by his discovery of his new doctrine— that it is God and God alone who in His infinite grace saves us, that He does it all, and that we supply nothing but the sinners to be saved and the subsequent praises which our grateful hearts lift to Him, our sole and only Savior…So he came forward as a teacher, as a dogmatic teacher, as a dogmatic teacher who gloried in his dogmatism. He was not merely seeking truth; he had the truth. He did not make tentative suggestions to the world for its consideration; what he dealt in was—so he liked to call them, were 'assertions'…Christian doctrines are not to be put on a level with human opinions. They are divinely given to us in Holy Scripture to form the molds in which Christian lives are to run."

Martin Luther's Life - 1483-1546

Spring 1518: Luther is called to give an account at the Augustinian Cloister at Heidelberg.

Fall 1518: In Augsburg, Luther has a conference with Cardinal Cajetan. Luther realizes he will break with the papacy if necessary over the gospel.

July 1519: A most crucial meeting at Leipzig. Luther debated with Johannes Eck and declared: "Believing what is evangelical truth, I will defy Pope, Council, and die if necessary."

June 15, 1520: The Papal Bull - 'Exsurge Domine' is written that will eventually excommunicate Luther - "Arise, O Lord, and judge thy cause. A wild boar has invaded thy vineyard...We can no longer suffer the serpent to creep through the field of the Lord. The books of Martin Luther which contain these errors are to be examined and burned. As for Martin himself, good God, what office of paternal love have we omitted in order to recall him from his errors...Anyone who presumes to infringe our excommunication and anathema will stand under the wrath of Almighty God and the apostles Peter and Paul." Luther burned this Papal Bull publicly. Luther writes: "Address to the German Nobility," "The Babylonian Captivity of the Church," and "On the Freedom of the Christian Man."

Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms

On April 17, 1521 the Augustinian monk Martin Luther, under the condemnation of the papal bull Exsurge Domine, stood before the imperial Diet of Worms. Luther made the journey bearing letters of safe conduct issued by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and various German princes.

Luther historian Gordon Rupp describes that day:

"On the morning of April 16th, a trumpet sounded and the crowd pressed toward the gates...as a proud cavalcade of nobles and knights clattered by; at the end the little covered wagon swaying round the bend. The crowd stared and murmured their fill at the Black monk who stared back with quick, shining eyes...This was the climax of inner struggle. For Luther was no loud-mouthed fanatic with a hide like a rhinoceros. The taunts flung at him by his enemies found an echo in his own tormented self-questioning. "How often has my trembling heart palpitated—are you alone the wise one? Are all the others in error? Have so many centuries walked in ignorance? What if it should be you who err, and drag so many with you into error, to be eternally damned."

The first hearings at Worms took place on April 17, the day after Luther's arrival. Luther was asked two questions in the presence of his imperial majesty, the electors and princes--all the estates of the empire. "Do you, Martin Luther, recognize the books published under your name as your own? Are you prepared to recant what you have written in these books?" Luther had thought he came to Worms for a debate, but realized quickly it was to be a hearing. Luther acknowledged his writings, and very timidly said that since this involved faith, salvation and the Word of God, he needed time to consider. The next day after much questioning Luther responded to their questions:

"Since your majesty and your Lordships ask for a plain answer, I will give you one without either horns or teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture or by right reason (for I trust neither in popes nor in councils, since they have often erred and contradicted themselves)--unless I am thus convinced, I am bound by the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience. God help me. Amen.

Consequently, on May 8 Charles V drafted an edict, and on May 26 he signed it. In this edict he referred to Luther's doctrine as a "cesspool of heresies." He declared: "A single monk, led astray by private judgment, has set himself against the faith held by all Christians for more than a thousand years. He believes that all Christians up to now have erred. Therefore, I have resolved to stake upon this cause all my dominions, my friends, my body and blood, my life and soul."

Luther did not set out to be a radical reformer. Roland Bainton, in his biography of Luther says borrowing from Karl Barth: "{Luther} was like a man climbing in the darkness a winding staircase in the steeple of an ancient cathedral. In the blackness he reached out to steady himself, and his hand laid hold of a rope. He was startled to hear the clanging of a bell."

Luther returns to Wittenburg. In September, Luther's German New Testament is published.

1525: Luther writes his most important book to Erasmus: "Bondage of the Will." "Martin Luther was a Calvinist; John Calvin was a Lutheran."

1529 - COLLOQUY OF MARBURG: Called together by Philip of Hesse. He believed that the Protestants needed a common confession and confederation against the Roman Catholics. The saddest episode and the split of the Reformers in Reformation history. Huldrych Zwingli, a contemporary reformer of Luther in Zurich, Switzerland met at Marburg to discuss Reformation doctrines. Present were Martin Luther, Oecalampadius, Huldrych Zwingli, and Philip Melanchthon. They agreed upon everything but the doctrine of the Lord's Supper.

"HOC EST CORPUS MEUM": "This is my Body." Luther insisted on being a literalist. He said, "If Jesus said 'This is,' then it is his body." Oecalampadius responds, "Martin, 'Est' doesn't always mean and identification of something with something else. It frequently means representation. For example Christ says, 'I am the Vine,' but we would not pick grapes from him." Luther could not come to an agreement on this doctrine with the other Reformers. Luther said in his disagreement (to his discredit), "Zwingli is of another spirit." Zwingli changed his view from a mere "memorial view" to the "dynamic view" of Christ's spiritual presence in the supper.

CONSUBSTANTIATION: Lutheran doctrine that in the Lord's Supper, Christ's body was "in, of, and under" the bread. Oecalampadius asks, "Martin, what more would you have if Christ's body was actually present, inasmuch as his Divine Spirit is there?" Luther responded, "I don't know. But if Christ asked me to eat dung, I would eat it."

TRANSUBSTANTIATION: Roman Catholic doctrine, affirmed at the Fourth Lateran Council 1215. In the Lord's Supper, Christ's body is actually transferred to the bread and what you see and taste is just the "accidens." Thomas Aquinas used Aristotelian categories to explain the Lord's Supper, explaining that the substance of the bread, through the miracle of the Mass, literally become the substance of Christ's body, but the "accidens" remain unchanged.

The Augsburg Confession — 1530

Emperor Charles V was to come to Augsburg to hear the differences between the Roman Catholics and Lutherans.

"On the following day came one of the most colorful processions in the history of medieval pageantry…in robes of crimson and the colors appropriate to each house, came the electors of the empire followed by the most exalted of their number: John of Saxony, Albert, Archbishop of Mainz, Bishop of Cologne, King Ferdinand of Austria…they marched to the Cathedral and knelt before the high altar. But Elector John of Saxony and the Philip of Hesse remained standing. On the morrow, the emperor took the Lutheran princes aside (John of Saxon, Philip of Hesse, and George of Brandenburg…the emperor told them that their ministers must not preach in Augsburg. The princes refused. The emperor insisted that at any rate the ministers must not preach polemical sermons. The princes again refused…The emperor continued to insist, when George of Brandenburg said: 'Before I let anyone take from me the Word of God and ask me to deny my God, I will kneel and let him strike off my head." - Roland Bainton, 'Here I Stand'

The Emperor was willing to allow the Protestants to state their case. Philip Melanchthon wrote the Augsburg Confession to give Lutheranism it's first Confession (although they had a systematic theology called 'Loci Communes' which Melancthon wrote in 1522-23). Luther approved of the Confession, but could not come to Augsburg because he was under imperial ban. Philip of Hesse Elector John of Saxony, John Frederick, and others princes also signed it. The main purpose of the Confession was to show that the Lutherans had departed in no vital and essential respect from the Roman Catholic Church, or even the Roman Church, as revealed in the early fathers of the Church.

"The Catholic theologians prepared a confutation and the court decided that the Lutherans had been duly confuted and they would be given until April 15, 1531 to conform. The Lutherans protested, declared their confession not refuted, and called attention to Melanthon's Apology, or defense of the confession, which he prepared when the vanity of confessions was at last becoming apparent to him." - History of the Christian Church, Williston Walker

"Despite differences, the Augsburg Confession did much to consolidate Protestantism and set it over against Catholicism. One might take the date June 25, 1530, the day when the Augsburg Confession was publicly read, as the death day of the Holy Roman Empire. From this day forward the two confessions stood over against each other, poised for conflict. Charles V allowed the Evangelicals until April 1531 to make their submission." - Roland Bainton, 'Here I Stand'

At Christmas, the Lutheran princes assembled in Schmalkalden and laid the foundations of a league to protect the Biblical teachings against the Roman Catholics. On Feb. 27, 1531, the Schmalkaldic league was completed: Electoral Saxony, Hesse, Brunswick, Anhalt, Mansfield stood in agreement with Strassburg, Constance, Ulm, Reutlingen, Memmingen, Magdeburg, Bremen and other parts of the Swiss Confederation. Due to invasion by the Turks in the empire, on July 23, 1532, the Emperor and the Schmalkaldic league agreed to a truce at Nuremburg, by which all existing lawsuits over secularizations should be dropped and peace was assured to the Protestants until a general council should assemble.

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