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Augsburg Confession: Article VII Discussion

Discussion in 'LCMS / WELS / ELS / LCC' started by BelindaP, Aug 31, 2009.

  1. PreachersWife2004

    PreachersWife2004 by his wounds we are healed Supporter

    This is from my husband:

    The simplest way to explain is thus: The word rightly taught is a mark of the Holy Christian Church. The sacraments rightly administered is a mark of the Holy Christian Church. Where the word is taught incorrectly, unChristian things are being taught, things that do not come from Christ or build up the body of Christ. Where the sacraments are not rightly administered, unChristian things are being done, things that do not come from Christ or build up the body of Christ.

    So the Holy Christian Church on earth is recognized by these traits: the word is rightly taught and the sacraments are rightly dministered. Any contradicting traits to not identify a church as true, but a place that teaches falsely. Often one and the same congregation displays both types of traits.

    Just as an individual Christian who trusts in Jesus is surely a Christian, despite his incompatible belief (for example) that baptism is a rite the human performs rather than a miracle that God performs; so also the Christian congregation is Christian so long as it teaches Christ crucified, even if it teaches other things that are not true. Such an individual or congregation or denomination is weakened by every falsehood, and may loose the faith completely in time; but where Christ is trusted for forgiveness, salvation remains.

    The Christian congregation or denomination or individual that fails to rightly teach many things, but at least teaches Christ crucified and risen for our forgiveness, has the gospel. But it also has many barriers to the gospel, and is not as useful to God in this world. It teaches unChristian things along with its Christian things. It is part of the Holy Christian Church, and it wars against the Holy Christian Church.

    To answer the two example questions, a denomination that does not believe in the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper has replaced a Christian belief with an unChristian belief. That mark of the Holy Christian Church is not present in them. But if they still believe that Jesus died to wash away all their sins, they are Christians. They are Christians who are weakened by false teachings.

    What about those who teach the gospel incorrectly? The answer depends on what you mean. First I answer your example of the Reformed, then I answer your question directly.

    The Reformed (a broad category) do have the gospel, and they teach correctly that Jesus died on the cross to pay for their sins, and he rose again to assure them that he is God and Savior. Where they teach contrary to the Christian faith is in regards to personal, subjective justification--how Jesus' merits become mine. Their answer to why some are saved, but not all, tends to depend on self righteousness in one way or another. That is an unChristian belief that does not come from Christ, nor does it build up the body of Christ, rather it is a barrier to the gospel. Yet the "happy inconsistency" often present in the individual heart is that such self-righteous false teachings do not erase the Reformed Christian person's trust in Jesus to pay for all of his sins. If on his death-bed his dependence is on only Jesus, he will see Jesus in heaven. If on his death-bed his dependence is on personal strength or feeling or decision or works, he will see his just punishment in hell for not relying on his only Savior.

    What about those who teach the gospel incorrectly? The gospel is the good news that Jesus, God and Savior, died and rose again to take all my sins away. Those who disagree with this are not Christians, no matter how much they insist that they are. They don't even know what a Christian is.
  2. BigNorsk

    BigNorsk Contributor

    It's not just the bare literal words. It's the meaning.

    For instance the Mormons use the words but words like "Son" don't mean the same, so a Mormon baptism is not recognized.

    A Baptist baptism is valid. Thing is, the person does not receive God's grace except through faith, no faith no reception of grace. So a Baptist is correct that his baptism does not save him. That would be works salvation.

    But the baptism is valid, if the person later comes to faith, he would receive grace. The meaning of the words is correct, what is lacking is faith.

    In communion though, the meaning is changed. This is my body means this is not my body, just some bread, my body is so far away removed from that bread that the one place you can be absolutely certain that my body is not is right there. The meaning is changed so there is no grace to be received for it is not a sacrament, but simply a rite they perform.

    Let's look at another source of grace to help understand, it would be like the unbeliever sitting and listening to sermons. He isn't saved by them even though salvation is right there if he believes. If later, he comes to faith it is not where all those sermons are worthless, indeed they were likely used by the Spirit to save him. But if he sat for years and listened to a different gospel, let's say he listened to the gospel of prosperity and how God is just there so that when we have faith we get riches and health rained down upon us with the glittering gold tinsel. Well, those sermons are not a source of grace no matter what one believes. False gospels do not save us.

    A lot of your difficulty Belinda seems to be that you want to simultaneously use two definitions of church and combine them in a way where you think it says that people are not Christians because they are not in a church that does everything correctly.

    That hasn't ever been the teaching that I can think of. Never. People are members of the invisible church because they believe, they have faith. That occurs in a wide variety of situations. However, that does not mean every place that true believers are should be called a Christian Church.

    How much error can one have and not be a Christian Church? Well, I would say most Lutherans would allow that a place could have an error in the secondary fundamental doctrines and still be a Christian Church. If you aren't familiar, the secondary fundamentals are the sacraments. Fundamental because they save, but secondary because they are not absolutely necessary. Any form of the gospel saves, it's not that you must have all forms, though having all will strengthen you.

    But if the church denies the fundamentals. Things like the resurrection, or the Trinity for instance, then it clearly is not a Christian Church.

    So for instance oneness pentacostals are not a Christian Church. There may be some true believers among them but that would be despite the teachings. Oneness Pentacostals are not members of a Christian Church, even though they talk of Jesus, they say they have faith in Jesus, they have changed God into someone different than the God of the Bible.

    Now back to the Augsburg Confession for a moment. When you look at Article VII you need to keep in mind that what is being claimed is not that all these other people are not the church. The case that is really being made to the emporer is that the Lutherans are the church. They are saying that they are teaching the Gospel of Jesus and they are properly administering the sacraments and so they are truly the church. Unlike the accusation against them that they are dangerous heretics who are leading people astray.

    It's back to that the focus is on the positive and really is not on the negative.

    The argument then turned into the Catholics saying the unbelievers were part of the church and about rites and whether they needed to be the same.

    And so if you read the Defense it goes in detail into unbelievers being in the church but not truly a part of the church. (See, two different meanings of church in one sentence) First is the local congregation, second is the one congregation made up of all believers.

    Remember the context of the Augsburg Confession. The Lutherans were being attacked. Eck's 404 Theses had just come out, and there was the very real possibility the Lutherans would literally lose their heads at Augsburg.

    The Augsburg Confession was not really an attack but a defense. They were hoping to retain their right to the Gospel and hopefully their lives.

    The Augsburg Confession was not the only confession given at Augsburg. Some reformed people gave a confession that agreed with the Lutherans on many points, and then there was one given by Zwingli. There had been a serious hope and attempt to reach agreement and so be able to join together in confessing but it was not possible.

  3. BelindaP

    BelindaP Senior Contributor

    Thanks for the explanation, PW. That's pretty close to my views with regard to who is Christian and who isn't. I agree that there are many false teachings, but I was disturbed at the possibility of cutting people out of the body based soley on those false teachings. It resolves fairly well my dispute with Article VII. :hug:

    Marv, thanks for the context, too. It does help to fill in some gaps.
  4. wildboar

    wildboar Newbie

    There's a paper on the Oneness Pentecostals at the LCMS site that reads:

    So apparently there is some disagreement among Lutherans. I agree that the Trinitarian formula should be used.​
  5. BelindaP

    BelindaP Senior Contributor

    I think they are probably going off of Jesus' command to baptize people in his name and recognizing that some churches baptize in Jesus' name but also fully recognized the trinity. I think the first Lutheran church I joined required baptism with the trinitarian formula, though. It probably varies a bit from congregation to congregation in the LCMS.
  6. Jim47

    Jim47 Heaven Bound Supporter

    My first advice would be to sit down face to face with a Pastor who you trust and ask these questions. On the net you get good and bad answers and its not always easy to sort them out.