(Editor’s Note: The Brothers of John the Steadfast are honored to have the privilege to bring this Lutheran Manifesto to the world. We ask our readers to take a serious look at it, offer your expert commentary – there are no more discerning Lutherans than the readers of this site – consider signing the petition in support of it, and most importantly share it with as many Lutherans as you can. This will not be an easy read. It will take time. You may not understand every detail of the document. If not, we hope it will move you to study and grow. We also hope you will invite your friends and relatives and fellow church members into this adventure of understanding how unity can be brought to the Lutheran church. In the next few weeks we will be providing support materials that will help folks better understand the Manifesto. This Manifesto has the potential to bring great unity to Lutheranism. Some would pen certain parts of the Manifesto in different ways and might emphasize certain themes to a greater or lesser extent but we believe that all in all, this is a well reasoned, measured treatment of the issues facing Lutheransim at the advent of the 21st century. We hope it moves you to express your support. To sign the petition click here.)
A LUTHERAN MANIFESTO
Greetings to you and blessings through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
You have before you a document entitled, “A Lutheran Manifesto.” Let me say a word about it by way of introduction.
I the undersigned am the sole author. I take complete responsibility for its contents. I have called it a “manifesto” in that its purpose is to exhort the reader to action. The manifesto contains twelve theses, each derived from the Articles of the Augsburg Confession. There are twenty-eight articles in the Augsburg Confession, but as a number of these address the same subject, I have combined them thematically.
What I am trying to achieve here is to view the current confessional crisis in the Lutheran church through the lenses of the Augsburg Confession.
The crisis is this: many Lutheran pastors, teachers, laymen, and congregations have not fulfilled their vow to be faithful to the Lutheran Confessions. They uphold the Bible, but waver on the Confessions.
I want to show that the Augsburg Confession, written in 1530, is still relevant. It still is valid. It still speaks to the issues and conflicts we are faced with today.
Let me be perfectly clear about one thing. This is not a new confession. I am not seeking to create division in the church, but unity. I am not seeking subscribers in the confessional sense. However, if readers wish to indicate by the website petition form that they agree with what I have said, they are certainly free to do so.
Most of all I want the manifesto to stimulate evangelical conversation. I want it to influence thinking. And I want it to move us back toward concord.
It is painfully obvious that we do not have concordâ€”complete unity in doctrine and practiceâ€”in the LCMS today. At the 2007 Convention of Synod, an amendment that said that the Missouri Synod was divided lost by a 51-49% margin!
I have tried to make this manifesto irenic and not polemical in tone. But in defining the issues, the manifesto will I think show that not everyone who claims to be Lutheran truly is Lutheran. The manifesto is worded so as to call back to the fold those who have strayed. However, it does seem clear that at some point in the future hard decisions will have to be made. This would entail a decision on the part of those who have strayed, either to repent or to leave. Or it would entail action on the part of church leaders who must call them to account.
About the writing: for rhetorical purposes I am using the word “men” in its correct, historic, and inclusive sense. I am using “we” in the sense that I am articulating a generally-held climate of opinion among authentic Lutherans. By “authentic Lutheran” or a “man of Wittenberg” I mean someone who not only accepts the Bible as divinely inspired and inerrant, but who also fully, firmly and unreservedly accepts and applies the teachings of the Book of Concord in doctrine and practice. This as opposed to those who, while outwardly Lutheran, assimilate to the doctrine and practice other religious bodies.
While I am a pastor of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I am writing also on behalf of teachers, laymen, and congregations who still hold to the Confessions, as well as brothers and sisters in other American Lutheran church bodies. Also, while I am a citizen of the United States of America, I am aware that our Lutheran brothers in other lands, who are facing problems similar to ours, will perhaps be aided by this document. Therefore I have minimized specific references to the American context and to the LCMS.
Jesus is for everyone.
So is Luther.
I wish to thank the laymenâ€”especially those of my own congregationâ€”pastors, and theologians who have critiqued this manifesto during its development and given helpful suggestions for revision. Permission is hereby granted to all who wish to reproduce these materials, provided the source is indicated.
Again, my prayer is that it may help draw us together as true Lutherans, united in doctrine and practice as we seek to save the lost with the comforting message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Thank you very much.
Your servant in Christ,
Dr. Frederic W. Baue, STS
Pastor, Bethany Lutheran Church, UAC
Fairview Heights, Illinois
A Lutheran Manifesto[i]
Frederic W. Baue
We are in the church militant. We live in a time of war. The forces of Satan with his lies and deception are arrayed against us. Only by standing as one can we gain the victory, with the help of God. We must not only take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. We must also take up the shield of faith, that is, our public confession of doctrine. Therefore as Lutheransâ€”as true men of Wittenbergâ€”we stand with pastor Luther, with teacher Melanchthon, with layman John the Steadfast, and with our fathers in the faith in holding fast to the sacred vow we made upon our ordination as pastors, our commission as teachers, or upon taking membership in a Lutheran congregation as laymen. That is, we accept the entire prophetic and apostolic books of the Old and New Testaments as the sole source and norm of doctrine and life, and we subscribe wholeheartedly and unreservedly to the three Ecumenical Creeds and the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, as contained in the Book of Concord of 1580, as a right exposition of Christian dogma. We accept all the truths that Scripture and the Confessions teach, and we reject all the errors that they condemn.
At the root of our current crisis is a problem in the area of confessional subscription. Traditionally we have recognized two bases for confessional subscription: quiaâ€””because” the Confessions agree with Scripture; and quatenusâ€””insofar as” the Confessions agree with Scripture. The quia basis of confessional subscription has normally been found in the more conservative, or confessional, Lutheran church bodies which retain the traditional doctrine of Scripture, and also fully accept and apply the doctrine and practice enjoined in the Lutheran Confessions. Quatenus subscription is found in the more liberal bodies, among whom, we say with tears, it usually accompanies a compromised view of Holy Scripture, along with a weakened commitment to the Confessions.
To these however may be added a third basis: quasi, or “partial” subscription. This view is found among erstwhile conservative men who accept the Bible, but see the Confessions as an historical document that is not central to determining church dogma and practice today. They disregard some articles, especially those which, if followed, would make them distinctly Lutheran and forbid them from assimilating to other faiths. As a result, some of our pastors have become attracted to Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox communions. A few have even left. Others, while remaining among us outwardly, no longer truly walk with us. They have adopted the doctrine and practice of Evangelicalism.[ii] Both groups have the same flaw: a quasi basis for confessional subscription. To them we extend the hand of Christian love: dear brothers, we beseech you, do not forsake your vows. Walk with us in concord.
We men of Wittenberg hold that both Scripture and the Confessions are relevant to our current situation, and we look to them for guidance in doctrine, ministry, and life, especially as we face new challenges to our faith from within and without in this hour of crisis. Specifically:
Thesis One. Unity.
With the Preface of the Augsburg Confession we affirm our commitment to Christian unity. We pledge ourselves to co-operation in externals with our fellow Christians wherever and whenever possible, especially in humanitarian acts of mercy. We gladly work with our fellow Christians for good ends in the civil realm in areas that benefit the whole body politic such as traditional marriage, the sanctity of life, and natural law. We seek opportunity for cordial yet honest ecumenical dialog in hope that theological differences may be resolved and true concord achieved on the one and only basis possibleâ€”complete agreement in all articles of faith. We regard it as positive wherever creedal Christianity arises from the ashes of modern Protestantism.
Accordingly, we reject unionism and syncretism of every description, whether at the local level in seemingly innocuous community services, or at the national level where Christian ministers join in prayer with ministers of other religions that deny the divinity of Christ, or of other church bodies with whom we are not in full doctrinal agreement. These activities give the false impression that it does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. We also reject factionalism in the church, especially the politicization of the Lutheran churches by theological liberals, as well as the divisive spirit that fragments the confessional movement.
Dear brothers who waver on these matters, we implore you to walk together with us in unity of doctrine and practice.
Thesis Two. God.
We affirm with Article 1 of the Augsburg Confession that there is one Godâ€”Father, Son, and Holy Spiritâ€”who is the Creator and Preserver of all things. We affirm a six-day creation ex nihilo, the dominion of man upon earth, and the headship of the male in marriage, family, and church, as well as the responsible Christian vocation of man and woman. We also affirm responsible stewardship of the earth’s resources, as well as the sanctity of human life, beginning at conception.
Accordingly, we reject all the heresies that Article I rejects, as well as more recent errors such as Feminism, especially in its promotion of abortion on demand, advocacy of women’s ordination, and “inclusive” language,[iii] which undermines the doctrine of the Trinity. We reject Darwinism as an assault upon the biblical account of Creation. And we condemn sexual deviancy of every kind, especially homosexuality and pornography, in which the creature is worshipped over the Creator. Also rejected are Process theology and the newly-devised Theology of Evolution, which teach that God is not omnipotent or omniscient.
Dear brothers who waver on these matters, we implore you to walk together with us in unity of doctrine and practice.
Thesis Three. Sin.
We affirm with Article 2 of the Augsburg Confession the doctrine of original sin, holding that all of man’s faculties have been ruined by the Fall. With Article 18 we hold that in the civil realm man’s reason may help, but true knowledge of God comes only by divine revelation. With Article 19 we affirm that there exists an evil angel known as Satan, who, with his demons, is the originator and perpetuator of all evil, and continues to afflict men with lies and temptations.
Accordingly we reject the teaching, sadly found in both Catholic and Protestant churches, that human reason was not, or was only partially, impaired by the Fall. We reject all attempts to conflate theology and philosophy, as in Augustine and Eastern Orthodoxy with Plato, or in Thomas Aquinas and Roman Catholicism with Aristotle. We also reject Calvinist[iv] theology, in which logic ignores mystery and paradox, and Arminianism,[v] which accords free will in spiritual matters to unregenerate man. Moreover we reject on the one hand the continued influence of Rationalism, which rejects divine revelation altogether, and on the other hand Pietism, which trusts in feelings and supposedly direct religious experience.
Dear brothers who waver on these matters, we implore you to walk together with us in unity of doctrine and practice.
Thesis Four. Christ.
We affirm with Article 3 of the Augsburg Confession the entire teaching of Scripture on the person and work of Jesus Christâ€”His divine and human natures, and his saving work on the cross. With Article 17 we affirm His visible return in glory to judge all men. While upholding the centrality of the Resurrection, we affirm that the sins of the world were taken away the moment Christ on the cross said, “It is finished” and gave up the ghost. Accordingly, the use of the crucifix in church art and furnishings is to be encouraged.
Accordingly we reject all heresies in regard to Christ, specifically: the explicit denial of the humanity of Christ in Hinduism and all its branches (Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation, etc.); also the denial of the divinity of Christ in Modernism, Islam, New Age theosophy, and Wicca. Also rejected is the relativizing of Christ’s dual natures in Evangelicalism, where Jesus is presented as therapist or life skills coach. Also all false teaching on the Second Coming of Christ as seen in Millennialism of every kind. We reject Mariolatry, and solemnly warn the pope that if he proclaims Mary co-redemptrix, he will have stepped outside the bounds of the apostolic, creedal Christian faith. “For there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Thesis Five. Justification.
We affirm with Article 4 of the Augsburg Confession that justification by faith alone is the article upon which the Church stands or falls. We commit ourselves wholly to fighting for the preservation of this truth and to opposing all error which corrodes it.
Accordingly we reject all teaching of salvation by works, either wholly or partially, as found in both Catholic and Protestant churches, and is also found in the TV preachers and megachurch pastors who exhort men to moral living without reference to Christ. Also rejected is the recent innovation of Liberation Theology, which supplants the Holy Gospel with political activism.
Thesis Six. The Office of the Ministry.
We affirm with Article 5 of the Augsburg Confession the centrality of the Means of Grace, that is, the Word and Sacraments, in establishing the Office of the Ministry. Moreover we hold that preaching the Gospel in the public worship service is Evangelism. With Article 14 we hold that this office is to be held by trained, qualified, examined and ordained persons of the male sex, who have been rightly called. With Article 23 we affirm that pastors may marry. With Article 27 we likewise affirm the right of pastors to remain celibate if they have the gift, meanwhile thanking God that since the time of the Reformation legalistic monasticism has fallen into decline. With Article 28 we affirm that our bishops[vi] occupy not a political but a teaching office, and are called to be a pastor to pastors and teachers and congregations, leading by example and not by force.
Accordingly we reject the false teaching that marketing techniques are needed to supplement the preaching of the Gospel in the public service to bring men to faith in Christ. Also the trend among us to separate the office of the ministry from the means of grace, thereby developing a personality cult around the man who occupies the office. We reject the pragmatism by which a congregation presumes to hire and fire pastors and make them subservient to the congregation or its lay leaders. Also the synodical policy that treats called church workers as at-will employees who can be fired for cause or for no cause. By the same token we condemn the arrogance by which a pastor presumes to be a dictator, lording it over his congregation even in matters of adiaphora (matters in which Scripture neither commands nor forbids). In the same way we reject the tendency seen in some church leaders to lord it over their charges, functioning as career politicians who have lost their shepherd’s heart. Bishops should consistently visit pastors and congregations, teaching and working to re-establish uniformity in doctrine and practice. We observe with sadness that the neglect of pastoral visitation has brought about the division and dissent we are experiencing today in church doctrine and practice. We also reject the proliferation of “ministry” offices and the assigning of laymen to do word-and-sacrament ministry.
Thesis Seven. Good Works.
We affirm with Article 6 of the Augsburg Confession that Christians should be taught to do good works. We affirm with Article 20 that we should not trust in such works alone or in part for salvation, and with Article 21 that we should venerate the saints who went before us and follow their example of faith-inspired deeds. For as Scripture plainly teaches in Ephesians 2:8-10, we are saved by grace and also sanctified by grace. The Gospel must predominate in the pulpit, so that the Christian is filled with the power of the Spirit to enable him to do good works. But the many Scripture lessons, particularly in the Trinity or Pentecost Season, that contain definite instruction in good works according to the Third Use of the Law should be expounded. If this results in longer sermons, so be it.
The true good works which God accepts are those which He commands. These include not only active obedience to God’s law, but also Christ-like passive obedience to the suffering caused by those crosses which God in His wisdom permits us to bear. You cannot nail yourself to a cross.
Accordingly we again reject the teaching of works righteousness. Likewise the moralistic, “felt-need” sermons preached in many Evangelical, and sadly even Lutheran pulpits, where Christ crucified is in the background or referred to not at all. We reject the teaching that there is no Third Use of the Law. Rejected also is the teaching that a state of sinless perfection can be achieved in this life, as found in the Eastern Orthodox churches, with their doctrine of theosis, and the Pentecostal Holiness churches, with their doctrine of a “second blessing,” or “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” unto sanctification.
Thesis Eight. The Church
We affirm with Article 7 of the Augsburg Confession that the Church is to be found wherever the Gospel is preached in its truth and purity and the Sacraments administered according to Christ’s command. With Article 8 we affirm that the church contains both saints and sinners. We reaffirm that complete agreement in all articles of Christian dogma is the only basis for ecclesiastical unity and the only right interpretation of the satis est.[vii] Regarding traditions, we affirm with Article 15 the proper use of festivals and holy days as long as these are not relied upon for merit before God. Likewise fasting with prayer is to be encouraged. With Article 26 we affirm the sanctity of human vocation as laymen serve both God and man in their chosen field of endeavor. At the same time we commend those who have been truly called to a life of study and prayer.
With Article 24 we solemnly pledge ourselves “not to abolish the Mass,” but to observe it with devotion and earnestness. (By “the Mass” the Reformers, and we, mean the complete liturgical worship service according to the Western Rite, including the celebration of Holy Communion.) Yet we hold with Article 7 that is it not necessary that ceremonies instituted by men should be observed uniformly in all places. By this we understand such things as using two candles or seven, the wearing of a cassock and surplice or an alb, genuflecting after the Words of Institution, and such. We stress however the underlying assumption of the Reformersâ€”that the external form of worship is not adiaphora. The use of the Order of the Mass in Sunday worship is presumed in the Lutheran Confessions. Therefore with the Reformers we commit ourselves anew to “introduce no novelty which did not exist from ancient times, and to make no conspicuous change in the public ceremonies of the Mass” (Article 24), and to “introduce nothing, either in doctrine or ceremonies, that is contrary to Holy Scripture or the universal Christian Church” (Conclusion of the Augsburg Confession). At the same time we encourage all to follow the example of the Reformers in creating new worship music that is consistent with sound theological and artistic principles and with the accepted traditions of the church universal.
Accordingly we reject all the abuses and errors which these articles condemn, and apply them to our current crisis in the following ways: we oppose those false Lutheran churches that can be justly accused of abolishing the Mass. In the name of Missions they oppose the Gospel by introducing novelties such as the revivalistic techniques of the heretic Finney. In this regard we also reject the use of ungodly, secular music styles in church, along with the use of “praise songs” whose subjective lyrics are devoid of theological content. By “inventing new ceremonies and new orders” (Article 26), these false practices have caused scandal and offended consciences. Lex orandi, lex credendi.[viii] You cannot combine Lutheran substance with Evangelical style.
Thesis Nine. Baptism.
We affirm with Article 9 of the Augsburg Confession that the Sacrament of Holy Baptism is a Means of Grace. By it manâ€”including infantsâ€”are translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s glorious light. Therefore Holy Baptism is the missionary sacrament of the Church. Holy Baptism must in some way be connected with catechesis, that the convert to the faith be taught “all the things Christ has commanded” (Matt. 28:20). With Luther we encourage the use of the sign of the cross in remembrance of our Baptism.
Accordingly we reject the false teaching that Baptism is not Means of Grace and not to be offered to little children.
Thesis Ten. The Lord’s Supper.
We affirm with Article 10 of the Augsburg Confession that Christ’s body and blood are really and truly present in the Holy Eucharist, and are a valid Means of Grace whether one believes it or not. We affirm with Article 13 that faith is required for the blessings of Holy Communion to be made one’s own, for the Sacrament does not work ex opere operato.[ix] We affirm with Article 22 that both elements are to be distributed to the laity, and we commend the pope for making this concession in Vatican II, urging him to go on and adopt the other reforms enjoined in the Augsburg Confession. As we pledge ourselves to celebrate Holy Communion according to the institution of our Lord Jesus Christ, we encourage all to follow His example in using the chalice, or common cup.
Accordingly we reject the false teaching, found in many Protestant churches, that the body and blood of Christ are only a symbolic presence in the Sacrament. Also rejected is the false teaching that Holy Communion should be offered to infants (“Paedo-communion”) who cannot examine themselves. Also the tendency, seen in many of our congregations, to practice open communion.
Thesis Eleven. Civil Government.
We affirm with Article 16 of the Augsburg Confession the legitimacy, under the left-hand kingdom of God, of civil government, and that Christians may honorably serve as magistrates, legislators, soldiers, and so on.
Accordingly we reject the false teaching that forbids Christians to engage in the secular realm, or to make use of the civil courts even when no other recourse is available. At the same time we reject the false teaching that would have the church rule the state, either with a right-wing political agenda, as with Evangelicalism, or with a left-wing political agenda, as with mainline Protestantism.
Thesis Twelve. Confession.
We affirm with Article 11 of the Augsburg Confession that private confession, which blessed Doctor Luther called “the third sacrament,” should be diligently restored to common use among us. With Article 12 we hold that those who sin after Baptism should be encouraged to go to confession, that they may be forgiven and restored to a state of grace in the church. For we are all sinners and should restore those who err in a spirit of meekness. With Article 25 we affirm that no one should be compelled to enumerate all his sins.
Accordingly we condemn ourselves. We all must make confession. For under Protestant influence we Lutherans have “allowed confession to fall into disuse,” as indeed we have with many other marks of the true Lutheran church. Therefore we beg God’s forgiveness and beseech Him to restore this most worthy institution among us, and at the same time to take us by the hand and show us how to be true men of Wittenberg, that is, genuine, orthodox, confessional Lutherans, in the contemporary linguistic and cultural context. Moreover, we pray that as we confess to one another, we may grow in love and trust toward one another, and that the Lord use this salutary medicine to heal the mistrust and political antagonism that has plagued us far too long.
Men of Wittenberg, we live in perilous times. If we do not preserve the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, who will? If the Gospel is lost, what will men do? Where will they go to find balm for burnt consciences? And yet… if we do preserve the Gospel, will anyone care? Will anyone want it? Already in our time there is a great falling away. Men’s hearts grow cold. Faithful pastors soldier on, bringing good bread to small, struggling congregations, while down the street the megachurch preacher attracts thousands with a message of straw.
We must fight for the Gospel if only for the sake of Christ who died to give it to us. For as Lutherans we have solemnly sworn to uphold both Scripture and the Confessions. And it is the Confessions that squarely and solidly proclaim justification by faith in Christ alone as the central teaching of Scripture. The Confessions were written for the sake of the Gospel.
Most of our pastors, teachers, laymen, and congregations are firmly committed to Sacred Scripture. In this they have fulfilled their vow. For this we thank God.
But for many the Book of Concord is just another book on the shelf, to be accorded mere lip service. In this they have forsaken their vow. This is what has eroded concord among us. For this lapse we ask God’s forgiveness.
Let every true man of Wittenberg renew his vow to be faithful both to Scripture and the Confessions. Let every man then live up to that vow in thought, word, and deed.
St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, 2008
Men of Wittenberg, arise!
To arms! To arms!
Sound the trumpet.
Raise the standard.
Grip your sword.
Take up your shield.
The battle is upon usâ€”
Vultures and crows,
Serpents and scorpions,
Legion upon legion,
How shall we meet them?
Shoulder to shoulder,
Rank upon rank,
Of one mind,
Of one heart,
Of one spirit,
Men of Wittenberg, arise!
To arms! To arms!Furious in combat.
[i] © Copyright 2008 Frederic W. Baue. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute this article at no charge. If reprinted or distributed electronically, kindly acknowledge the source.
[ii] “Evangelicalism,” while having worldwide influence, in America indicates a broad cross-section of biblically and socially conservative Protestant denominations and independent churches characterized by moralistic preaching and revival-style worship. Evangelicalism would include denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA); institutions of higher learning such as Wheaton College and Dallas Theological Seminary; leaders such as Billy Graham and James Dobson.
[iii] Some Feminists have insisted on changing the traditional “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” to “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.”
[iv] Calvinist denominations include Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and some Baptist churches.
[v] Arminian denominations include Methodist, Pentecostal, and many Baptist churches.
[vi] The Augsburg Confession uses the term “bishop” to describe a pastor who has pastoral oversight of the pastors and schools and congregations in a given area. Most Lutheran church bodies retain use of this term, although the LCMS (with the exception of the English District) uses the term “district president” to describe the same office.
[vii] Satis est= Latin for “it is sufficient” in Article VII: “For it is sufficient for the true unit of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered.”
[viii] Latin: literally, “the rule of prayer is the rule of faith.” In other words, worship and doctrine are inextricably bound together. If you change one, you change the other.