Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Augsburg Confession (Part 5)

Article IX—Of Baptism
Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that by Baptism the grace of God is offered, and that children are to be baptized, who by Baptism, being offered to God, are received into God’s favor.

They condemn the Anabaptists who allow not the Baptism of children, and affirm that children are saved without Baptism.

Article X—Of the Lord’s Supper
Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the [true] body and blood of Christ are truly present [under the form of bread and wine], and are [there] communicated to those that eat in the Lord’s Supper [and received]. And they disapprove of those that teach otherwise [wherefore also the opposite doctrine is rejected].

Article XI—Of Confession
Concerning confession, they teach that private absolution be retained in the churches, though enumeration of offenses be not necessary in confession. For it is impossible; according to the Psalm: “Who can understand his errors?”

This section of the confession deals with doctrines which divided the Protestant Reformation into divergent streams. The major reformers Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli differed on the significance of baptism and Lord's Supper. However, they all agreed that infants were to be baptized. The Anabaptists stood alone in contending for believer's baptism. Thankfully, however, the Lord later raised up witnesses to the Scriptural truth of believer's baptism, so that today it is widely accepted in true churches.

The Augsburg Confession is dangerously vague when it declares that baptism is necessary to salvation. When one looks at Luther's teaching on the issue, he declared that baptism itself profits nothing but only faith in the promises of God which are connected with baptism. [Interestingly, Luther taught in 1519 that the practice of baptism by immersion should be restored. We Baptists can give him a hearty round of applause for this aspect of his teaching.] Luther was contending specifically against the Roman Catholic teaching that baptism works ex opere operato, which simply means that baptism is automatically effective as long as one does not put any obstacles in its way. Luther believed that baptism is God's work. He believed that God had bound himself to save through baptism; therefore, those who are baptized must exercise faith in God's promise to save through baptism. Luther once said, "Not the sacrament, but the faith of the sacrament justifies."

It appears, although I could be wrong on this, that the Lutherans were attempting to be as politically concilliatory as possible in the way they stated Article 9. From a human perspective this is certainly understandable, but it is also unfortunate. The Augsburg Confession, in my opinion, only adds to the confusion regarding baptism. In itself, it is indistinguishable from Roman Catholicism. It transmits the idea in most lay peoples' minds of works salvation, even though Luther tried to defend against this error.

Furthermore, Baptists have always contended that Luther's teaching on baptism never sufficiently extricated itself from its Roman Catholic roots. The NT teaches that because baptism is an expression of faith, only those who repent and believe in Christ may be baptized. We do not put our trust in God's promise to save through baptism. We put our trust in Christ alone to save us, and baptism is an expression of that faith in Christ.

In Article 10, the Augsburg Confession continues its vagaries, failing to clearly state the Lutheran position as over against the Roman Catholic position. In any case, Baptists believe that neither Lutheran nor Romanist positions do justice to the Scriptural teaching. Christ is not bodily present in the elements. If he were, it would wreck all the Scriptural teaching on the true humanity of Christ and his bodily presence at the right hand of the Father.

These articles of the Augsburg Confession we strongly reject, both for their internal lack of clarity and for their failure to conform to the Scriptures.

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