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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






29 July 2005

Unaltered Augsburg Confession


Q: What do the letters “UAC” on the cornerstone of my church mean?

A: U. A. C. stands for “Unaltered Augsburg Confession.” Written in 1530 as a concise statement of belief of the Evangelicals (Gospel people) led by Martin Luther, the Augsburg Confession separated Evangelical (Lutheran) theology from Roman Catholicism. Its theology also divided the Lutherans from other reformers’ teachings — including those of John Calvin — and from heresies condemned by the Church in bygone days. The confession was written by Philipp Melanchthon (with much input from Luther) and signed by various noblemen and city councils. These German secular leaders (not religious spokesmen) presented it to Emperor Charles V on 25 June 1530 as their own confession of faith. It was later incorporated into Concordia, the Lutheran Book of Concord. To this day, even many non-Lutherans herald it as a blow for religious freedom.

“Unaltered” separates the original from any later variation, especially Melanchthon’s Variata of 1540. These later rewrites, by Melanchthon and others, were done to make sections of the confession more palatable to other reformers who disagreed on certain points of doctrine. Thus, while the Lutherans and the Calvinists held significant differences in teaching, John Calvin himself was able to sign the Variata in good conscience.

UAC on a cornerstone means that a particular congregation has declared that the original document is a true exposition of Holy Scripture and that any Variata is incorrect or imprecise and to be rejected. In the U. S., you’ll see UAC especially on churches that grew out of the Lutheran confessional movement of the mid-1800s, including many who left Germany to avoid a government-imposed union with Protestant churches. It was (and remains) a sign of refusal to compromise Scripture and our confession of faith.

Because Melanchthon and like-minded conciliatory theologians made flexible what most of the original signers deemed a solid and unchanging confession, confusion grew as to whom should be considered a Lutheran. This became one of the strong influences upon later Lutheran theologians to draft the Formula of Concord and join it with previous foundational documents — including the UAC — in the Book of Concord.

Addendum: For more on the history of this seminal Lutheran document, please see a later post, The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Bill From PA said...

Why do Lutherans focus on the bible ? Christ never wrote any bible and never told anyone else to do so. If the written word was going to be the cornerstone of his religion surely Christ would have learned to read and write. Where is the proof that the bible is the inspired word of God ? Why is there NO agreement on what the bible means and so much division among Christians ?
Regards, Bill from PA

29 July, 2005 22:38  
Blogger Xrysostom said...

Bill,

First of all, what makes you think that Jesus was illiterate? He quoted both the Bible and various rabbis in a manner suggesting more than passing knowledge.

Secondly, Lutherans focus on the Bible because we focus on Jesus Christ. He identified Himself as the center of the Scriptures written up to His time (John 5:39-40). He spoke directly to the authors of the majority of the books in the New Testament and through His apostles to the others.

The "proof" is only one of faith. If you believe in Jesus, then you believe what He says of Himself and you trust the writings "that bear witness" concerning Him.

The reasons there is no full agreement concerning the meaning of the Bible are many.

Some flat out disbelieve most of it, choosing to cozy up to one or two "comfortable" teachings and ignoring the rest. Some try to place human reason above divine wisdom, making total fools of themselves. Some disagree because they've never fully studied the Scriptures. Some disagree because of inborn arrogance which denies the Biblical message that they, like everyone else, are dirty, rotten sinners who can't do a thing to save themselves. Some disagree because they listen to "false christs and false prophets. (Matthew 24:24)"

How people understand the Bible depends upon how (and if) they hear and read it. Read it through the lens of skepticism and prepare to doubt. Read through the lens of individualism and seek to save yourself. Read through the lens of human philosophy and engage it on each point which makes no sense to your worldview. Or read it through the lens of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, and see yourself as a sinful child of wrath from whom He suffered and died and to whom He calls, "Believe in me and be released from sin's bondage and eternal damnation."

Note that in the snippet from John 5 to which I already referred you, Jesus didn't stop by claiming that everything from Moses to Malachi existed to illuminate His own person. He continued by ripping into those who thought they were good Bible students, yet had completely missed the main message: "You refuse to come to me that you may have life."

And I'm not sorry to tell you this: There is much agreement. I don't know if you randomly chose this particular post, but it's somewhat appropriate, since it speaks of documents which testify to unity among many Christians, since that is what Concordia means.

All the creeds and confessions of Christendom are statements of unity. The problem stems from people's reaction to the Word of God. While the Lord often comforts the afflicted, He even more often afflicts the comfortable.

You appear to be looking for a broad highway where everyone can meander through life in seeming agreement. This only happens when we're not in very close contact with each other. Likewise, God's Word in close contact with sinful humanity rubs raw that in each of us which denies its veracity. It can incite rage and rebellion as well as offer hope and comfort. In the prophets, the Lord several times condemns those who look for the easy way, those who say, "'Peace," when there is no peace. (cf. Jer. 6:14; 8:11; Ez 13:10; 13:6, et al.)"

Among His own followers, Jesus spoke often of crisis and conflict between believers and society, even believers and their own families. He recognizes (as in the John 5 example) that even those who claim affiliation with the Church often misundertand that with which they think they are joined.

You act as if you're amazed that Christians can't agree. I'm amazed that there's any agreement at all! You ask for proof. I believe that there is no proof outside Jesus Himself.

When the leaders of His time asked for signs, He gave them the "sign of Jonah": He died, and on the third day rose again. Believe it or not, that's finally all the proof we get this side of the final judgment. Then, you'll have all the proof you'll ever need. However, if you don't trust Him now, it will be too late then.

Pastor Snyder

29 July, 2005 23:29  
Blogger Orycteropus Afer said...

Bill, why do you ask for "proof" while at the same time challenging the source of the proof? If you wanted a scientific explanation of light refraction, would you ban the use of a physics text or the testimony of a physicist? If you wanted medical explantion of drug interaction, would you deny using the PDR or the statements of a physician or pharmacist?

Part of the proof of Christianity is, sadly, the disunity that results from the confession of Christ and sound, Biblical preaching and teaching. Your challenge is that of "the Greeks" whom Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. He wrote:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
ESV

Unless you receive Christ on His terms, people like you will always ignore, pity, or scoff at people like me, for we will remain fools in the eyes of all who do not believe in Christ crucified and raised, "the power of God and the wisdom of God."

Orycteropus +

30 July, 2005 00:03  
Blogger Webcritter said...

Dear Bill:

Where do you get your information about Jesus?

Lutherans (and other Christians) get their information about Jesus from the Bible. In it, we find answers to questions like yours. The Bible is the record of what God has told us about Himself. We can't reach God by our own efforts, we can't perform experiments to see what He is like. We must rely on what He has told us.

First, Jesus could read; he read the Scriptures in the synagogue: Luke 4:14-21

"Bible" is taken from the Greek word for "book." After Jesus rose from the dead, He explained what the Scriptures had to say about Him to his followers: Luke 24:25-27 And then He told them to instruct others in everything He'd taught them: Matt 28:18-20 He, as God, inspired their writings. 2 Timothy 3:16

The Gospel (Good News) is the same for all Christians. 1 Cor 15:1-6 That Christians disagree on some things does not negate that message.

- Webcritter

30 July, 2005 19:42  
Anonymous gnuguy said...

I'm not so sure I could add anything to what's already been said except to say that I find the argument about the Bible not having any authority to be rather specious in light of the fact that it is the most well attested book of any genre from antiquity. No one questions, for instance, the contents or authorship of Plato's "Republic," yet the manuscript evidence for such a belief occurs somewhere around 2,000 years after the original autograph. There are literally hundreds of manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts of the Biblical text from very early, say within 20 or 30 years. And although it can't be proven, it's possible that we actually do possess some of the original documents in the pen of the original authors. Yet in spite of such strong manuscript evidence people still refuse to accept the fact that the Biblical documents are, in fact, reliable.

Since they are reliable, then the question has to be, "What will you do with the words of this One who rose from the dead and stated so unequivicably that NO ONE can enter into the kingdom of heaven apart from faith in Him?" As C.S. Lewis said, a man who make such a statement must fall into one of three categories: He's a liar who cannot be trusted; He's a lunatic on the order of a man who thinks He's a poached egg; or else He's who He claims to be, the very God of creation Himself come into our world to save us.

Since the evidence for His resurrection seems incontrovertable, the choice - at least to me - is clear. We OUGHT to be listening to what He says at peril of our own eternal soul.

31 July, 2005 06:37  
Blogger DG said...

That's a good question actually. I understand the importance of scripture as a witness to Gods Faithfulness and integrity. The Prophets spoke by the spirit God. The vast number of prophecies fulfilled in the pages of the Bible is "well" supernatural. The question I would have asked is "why the Bible why not the Veda or Qur'an" ? I bring this up to point out That, even though I agree with "Sola scriptura", reading the Bible is not the same as living the Bible. Quoting scripture is not the same as Obeying scripture. Simple agreement dose not constitute possessing the word of God or keeping it. here is a passage that outlines my thoughts succinctly.

12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same
Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13
for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?
And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how
can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written,
"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!
" 16 But not all the Israelite s accepted the good news.
For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?"
17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: "Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." 19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, "I will make you envious by those who are not a nation;
I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding."
20 And Isaiah boldly says, "I was found by those who did not seek me;
I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me."
21 But concerning Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."

The point I want to make is Gods word is a living witness. We bear witness to the truth of Gods word by our very lives. That is what attracts the Lost to salvation.It is Christ in us the hope of Glory. Maybe unbelieving People question the word of God, because the only supposed word they have had much contact with is believers. Conversely the same is true; they believe because They hear, and see the good news in us.

12 October, 2011 15:37  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you study the Bible and believe in it why don't you go to church on the Sabbath?

15 November, 2013 22:21  
Blogger Daniel Stinson said...

We Lutherans don't just stop at "Sola Scripture" though.

The Luther Rose is typically encircled by "Word Alone", "Grace Alone", and "Faith Alone".

For Lutherans the terms "Word" and "Scripture" are interchangeable. We do acknowledge apostolic succession, but we don't tie it to St. Peter only, but the fullness of God's witness through all twelve apostles or even the 72 who were sent by Christ Jesus.

Often where the "Word" is spoken, we likewise see "As it is written", which indicates a written and accepted "Scripture" remains present, to validate the "Word".

"Scripture" is often stressed more than "Word" due to canonization being specified, in many apologetic discussions. Though the German Bible-Luther Edition contains the Deuterocanon in an appendix (Apocrypha), only 66 Books from the Old & New Testaments are viewed as God's divine "Word".

In either instance, whether you read written "Scripture" or hear the spoken "Word", the Holy Spirit must stir in us with his free gift of "Faith" and lead us to understanding. Combined, the "Word/Scripture" and "Faith", act as a means of "Grace" so that we may believe in the Triune God.

The Three Solas of Martin Luther:

Grace: God the Father gave his only Son for sacrifice and sent his Holy Spirit.

Word: Christ Jesus is the "Word" made flesh, the covenant promise.

Faith: the will of the Holy Spirit to stir within us as the Word becomes understood to us, leading to participation in the Sacraments.

Alone: One God, in Trinity, .

Grace Alone, Word Alone, Faith Alone.

Adherents to the Confession of Basel, 1534 may use the Five Solas that are today usually attributed to Calvinist leaning congregations. The Five Solas technically don't add anything beyond our Three Solas, that's not already understood as present, though the Five Solas provide a poor Trinitarian example.

I can't say that the Latin Vetus or Latin Vulgate substantially reveals "Scripture" that contradicts the NASB, Old KJV of 1611, German Bible-Luther Edition, or ESV w/ESV Apocryphal. All of these 70+ Book editions seem to provide an honest attempt at translation into a particular vernacular. The Latin Vetus usually isn't considered a canon though since it was an inconsistent collection among various congregations, in various Latin influence vernaculars. The Alexandrian Vulgate was more prominently known and used than the Latin Vetus (Veta). St. Jerome translated the Alexandrian Vulgate into modern- (late-) Latin for his Latin Vulgate and also used the Koine Septuagint for comparison.

Muhammad was born circa 597 and completed his Quran circa 615, so Christ Jesus' apostles only had seven centuries of a head start to witness the Christian faith. The New Testament often quotes the Old Testament, directly or closely paraphrases the prior. The Quran blatantly misquotes and denies what's revealed in both the Old and New Testaments before it.

05 December, 2013 12:38  
Blogger Daniel Stinson said...

"Anonymous said...
If you study the Bible and believe in it why don't you go to church on the Sabbath?"

Colossians 2
English Standard Version (ESV)

Let No One Disqualify You

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions,[d] puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Anonymous,

Sabbath is the day "we" keep according to God's Ten Commandments, weekly. It's not a literal fixed day of the week persay. Sunday-Saturday are technically pagan in name, none carry the name "Sabbath" on them.

05 December, 2013 13:11  

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