Reformers Are Not Radicals

The Evangelical Lutheran princes of the Holy Roman Empire presented their confession of faith to Emperor Charles V on June 25, 1530.  This document became known as the Augsburg Confession because the meeting took place in Augsburg (in modern southern Germany).  While Philip Melanchthon wrote the text, he did so in consultation with Martin Luther and other theologians.  This work and Melanchthon’s Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531) represented the first public confessions of Evangelical Lutherans.

In these writings the first Lutherans made it clear that they did not intend to make a new church, but to reform the Christian church.  For example, they did not radically change the liturgy of the Divine Service.  The first Lutherans preserved the liturgical inheritance of the Christian Church because they believed it was proper, good, and right to do so.  In their view they only sought to remove clearly faulty practices based on false doctrines.  For this reason, Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon rejected the sacrifice of the Mass and the private Mass.  However, they did not reject but purposely preserved the liturgy.  Indeed, Melanchthon explained in the Apology,

we do not abolish the Mass, but religiously maintain and defend it. For among us masses are celebrated every Lord’s Day and on the other festivals, in which the Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved. And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other like things.” Apology 24:1

These are not the words of innovative radicals, but of conservative reformers.  While Martin Luther did write new hymns, he often based the tunes on late medieval chant NOT on tavern songs (as some in the past wrongly believed.)  The first Lutherans did not seek to reach the common person by adapting folk love songs for Christian worship.  They understood that the church was a community of saints gathered around the hearing of God’s Word rightly preached and receiving Christ’s sacraments.





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