Lutheran Augsburg Confession & Catholic Replies (Intro)

Lutheran Augsburg Confession & Catholic Replies (Intro) May 1, 2024

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Christian Classics Ethereal Library is a wonderful online source for many historic Christian documents. Laura de Jong, a staff writer there, wrote about this subject matter [my links and bracketed comments added]:

In June of 1530, the leaders of the Protestant Reformation and the principalities of the Holy Roman Empire gathered in Augsburg to discuss religious convictions in an attempt by the Emperor, Charles V, to restore religious and political unity. This, however, was not achieved. The reformers presented what is now titled The Augsburg Confession [principally written by Philip Melanchthon], setting out their beliefs. Charles issued an official response to be written, refuting that which the Vatican did not uphold to be true. This document was the Confutatio Pontificia [aka Confutatio Augustana], primarily written by the theologian Johann Eck. Its composition brought about a response by the reformers called The Apology of the Augsburg Confession [written by Philip Melanchthon]; this, along with the Confession itself, have become two of the primary documents of the Lutheran faith. The Confutatio is thus an important read for two reasons: it outlines much of the Roman Catholic faith, and gives us a clearer understanding of the Protestant Reformation and Lutheran Theology.

The Augsburg Confession is available online as part of the Book of Concord, as is the The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, and the Confutatio [link one (my own source used) / link two]. Wikipedia (“Augsburg Confession”) provides some historical background for these theological disputes:

The Augsburg Confession, also known as the Augustan Confession or the Augustana from its Latin name, Confessio Augustana, is the primary confession of faith of the Lutheran Church and one of the most important documents of the Protestant 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 25 June 1530. . . .

The Augsburg Confession became the primary confessional document for the Lutheran movement, even without the contribution of Martin Luther. Following the public reading of the Augsburg Confession in June 1530, the expected response by Charles V and the Vatican representatives at the Diet of Augsburg was not immediately forthcoming. Following debate between the court of Charles V and the Vatican representatives, the official response known as the Pontifical Confutation of the Augsburg Confession was produced to the Diet, though the document was so poorly prepared that the document was never published for widespread distribution, nor presented to the Lutherans at the Diet.

In September, Charles V declared the response to be sufficient and gave the Lutheran princes until 15 April 1531 to respond to the demands of the Confutation. In response, Philip Melanchthon wrote a lengthy and sustained argument both supporting the Augsburg Confession and refuting the arguments made in the Confutation. This document became known as the Apology of the Augsburg Confession and was soon translated into German and was widely distributed and read throughout Germany.

I thought it would be interesting and instructive to present excerpts of the Augsburg Confession, followed by the Catholic replies in the Confutatio Pontificia, in turn followed by Melanchthon’s counter-replies in The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, with my own further counter-rebuttals (if I have anything else to add). This would allow readers to follow the reasoning back-and-forth and to make up their own minds, as to which viewpoint has more biblical and patristic support. Catholics at the time offered no further rebuttal to Melanchthon’s counter-reply until the Council of Trent.

For a critical Catholic take on these early Lutheran “ecumenical” [?] efforts, see my articles:

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Johann Eck was also the one who debated Martin Luther in the Leipzig Disputation of July 1519, where the latter was essentially pressed — in my opinion, a victim of his own faulty logic and ecclesiological understanding — into adopting something akin to sola Scriptura, and rejecting papal and conciliar infallibility.
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Throughout this series, excerpts from the Augsburg Confession will be identified by Article number and indented, in regular black font. Replies from the Confutation will be in blue, and counter-replies from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession in green. Neither will be indented. My own comments will be in regular black font.
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Photo credit: Confutatio Augustana and Confessio Augustana presented to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1530; Catholic and Lutheran sides presenting documents at the Diet of Augsburg (1 January 1881). [public domain / original source / Wikimedia Commons]

Summary: Catholic-Protestant “dialogue”: based on the Augsburg Confession (Lutheran, 1530), Catholic replies (then and now), & Lutheran Philip Melanchthon’s counter-reply.

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