Contradiction between Confessio Augustana and the Formula of Concord

This is a spin off from this thread, were we have, amongst other things, been discussing what makes you a ‘confessional’ Lutheran, especially from comment #31 onwards. I have made the point that there are only five confessions that is binding on Lutherans as such: the three ‘western’ ecumenical creeds (the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed), Confessio Augustana, and Luther’s Small Catechism (and the latter as a catechism more than a confession). And I have also pointed out that there was a mistake in Melanchthon’s Apology of Confessio Augustana, a mistake that I deemed, and still deem, to be a mistake on faith. But today I discovered an even more important mistake; a direct contradiction between Confessio Augustana and the Solid Declaration of the Book of Concord. I didn’t see this mistake because I looked for it, but because I am currently writing an essay.

As I was studying for this essay, I was reading up on Justification, and on what is called ‘the new Finnish Interpretation of Luther.’ In an article called “The Contemporary Reception of Luther and Calvin’s Doctrine of Union with Christ: Mapping a Biblical, Catholic, and Reformational Motif”,** J. Todd Billings makes the point that the Finnish school, led particularly by Tuomo Mannermaa, has a problem, since they state that justification comes by God’s indwelling in us. Mannermaa states: “Christ himself is life, righteousness, and blessing, because God is all this in nature and in substance (naturaliter et substantialiter). Therefore, justifying faith mean participation if God’s essence in Christ.” (Quoted in Billings’s article, p.167) Now Billings makes the point that “the third article [of the Solid Declaration] of the Formula of Concord is particularly problematic for the Finnish school, as it explicitly claims that divine indwelling is not the basis of the declaration of righteousness.” (p.167) The article in question states, in the translation from (emphasis added):

Likewise also the disputation concerning the indwelling in us of the essential righteousness of God must be correctly explained. For although in the elect, who are justified by Christ and reconciled with God, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who is the eternal and essential righteousness, dwells by faith (for all Christians are temples of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who also impels them to do right), yet this indwelling of God is not the righteousness of faith of which St. Paul treats and which he calls iustitiam Dei, that is, the righteousness of God, for the sake of which we are declared righteous before God; but it follows the preceding righteousness of faith, which is nothing else than the forgiveness of sins and the gracious adoption of the poor sinner, for the sake of Christ’s obedience and merit alone.

So the Formula of Concord teaches that the indewlling of God in us follows from us being justified. Now, compare this to Confessio Augustana. In article 4, it states that “men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.”

Now, in article 5, it states that to obtain this (justifying) faith, “the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted,” since “through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith.” Confessio Augustana thus states that the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, of God, produce faith, which then justifies us. Thus we see two clear contradictions between Confessio Augustana and the Formula of Concord: (1) justification comes by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, of God, in us, “who works faith,” and (2) the justification consequently follows the preceding indwelling of God in us, in direct contradiction to the claims made in the Book of Concord.

** This article is found in Calvin and Luther: The Continuing Relationship, ed. R. Ward Holder (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2013): 165-182.

First off the Holy Spirit does not live in you before justification , nor does the Holy Spirit save you , but he does give us faith , we trust Christ , we are declared righteous by the Son , however the Holy Spirit lives in us the instant that we are justified.

But that is precisely what Confessio Augustana doesn’t say. It says, in article 5, that to obtain the faith which justifies, “the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted,” since “through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith." Thus Confessio Augustana states that our justification comes to us because the Spirit comes to us and works in us the faith which justifies. So the Spirit comes to us before justification (logically, not necessarily temporally), since he is given to us “through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments,” and because he is the one who works in us the faith which justifies.

There is a difference in the Holy Spirit coming TO us creating faith in us using the word and sacraments and coming IN us , what I’m saying is that He in dwells us after receiving Christ , he comes to us to give the faith needed to trust Christ .

What your effectively suggesting is that the Spirit can indwell unbelievers.

( Btw , I don’t accept the Foc either)

Confessio Augustana states that the Spirit is given to us “through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments,” and that he works in us the faith which justifies. You can disagree with that if you want, but I don’t see how you can say that this isn’t what the confession is teaching.

My point, anyway, is that this shows us that there is a contradiction - and a very serious one - between Confessio Augustana and the Formula of Concord. What we see is that the Formula errs on a point of faith, and a very central one.

My gut reaction if that the the CA would trump any ambiguity in any of the verbose declarations or apologies, just as any of the creeds would trump the CA with the very word of God above all.

That said, feel free to call yourself confessional - anybody who resists modernity in favor of the God’s given truth is welcome to it as far as I’m concerned.

You’ll probably need to permit us Americans to be overly clingy to the FoC - given that we were kicked out of our own German churches without our Bishops, we tend to grasp at whatever lifelines we can find.

But the problem here is that we aren’t just faced with an ambiguity, we are faced with a direct and clear contradiction in what is often called the center of Lutheran theology, although I would say that the Gospel is the center, while justification is an application of that.

If indeed it is a contradiction, I see no problem with following the Gospel as center and putting a footnote in the ancillary documents.

Sorry for not responding sooner. Our newest was baptized this weekend, and we traveled out of state so Grandpa could administer the sacrament at his parish. It was a good weekend. :slight_smile:

If it’ll be in the English portion of your blog, I look forward to reading it.

I appreciate you doing the work for us. :smiley: Since most of us are just laymen, we don’t have the same depth of study as you when it comes to obscure schools of quasi-Lutheran thought. Fittingly, my response won’t be as deeply theological. For better or worse I’ll rely on simpler logic.

So… it’s a problem for the Finns, because they’re trying make the text say what it doesn’t. Ok. Well, theosis/works righteousness can’t be wrung out of the Lutheran confessions no matter how many twists we give the towel. So it’s kein problem for the traditional, orthodox, confessional, authentic Gnesio-Lutheran.

The argument here is built on semantics and only applies if you wrongly conflate objective and subjective justification and create a definition that is foreign to Lutheranism. The Reformers were not simple men; they would not make such a silly error. What we’re seeing in Augustana and the Formula is an explanation of objective justification and subjective justification. Lutherans have always held that Christ died for all, and all were objectively justified when He rose. Then, believers experience subjective justification - a person accepts (or, rather, doesn’t deny) what Christ has already done. A wise friend once explained it this way; Faith cannot exist as a “thing” on its own, it must always have an object. We are justified by/through faith but it is not faith that saves us but that in which we have faith - namely, that in Jesus Christ, because of His death for us, our sins are forgiven. Word and Sacrament are the means whereby that which Christ achieved for us is delivered to us individually. Justification that is not obtained is completely useless.

I know Norwegians have had a historical dislike for those Imperial Swedes :D, but Bishop Bo Giertz wrote a novel titled Hammer of God, which is required reading for Lutheran seminarians here in the states. I wonder if you also read it during your call-formation? In it, Giertz tells a touching story, in simple words, about a man who finally acknowledges subjectively that he’s been justified, after wrestling with the “I-didn’t-do-enough-works!” doubts that come from holding to not-quite-orthodox “Lutheran” views, which I’d caution could be encouraged by this Finnish School.

I haven’t written about works at all. My point is that Confessio Augustana teaches that when we are justified - through faith - it is because the Spirit has been given to us through the means of grace, and because he works faith in us. Thus we are justified - through faith - by God dwelling in us. The Formula of Concord, on the other hand, states that God doesn’t dwell within us until after we have been justified - through faith.

So , your trying to argue for something like this :


Forensic and union ?

Did I understand you correctly ?

Look, we talk about the Holy Spirit being “in” a person in different ways, and meaning different things. On one level, nothing can exist, at all, if God takes away His Spirit – life itself is dependent on the Great Sustainer. But then we also talk about the vocation of the Holy Spirit, that is, being called into faith (Third Article of Luther’s Small Catechism, which your communion recognizes, at least officially, as authoratative), and then we also talk about people “receiving” the Holy Spirit a la Pentecost, or in prayers at Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, and other rites (;)) of the church. So throughout Christian history, it turns out the Holy Spirit is kind of resistant to easy categorization. Context is so very important.

And context is why we need to properly understand the distinction between OJ and SJ – and the failure of these strange, novel schools of thought to understand what all the early Lutheran Reformers already articulated. Billings is reading more in the text than what’s written here, but I don’t fault him; he only does so because the Mannermaanists seem to demand the text be read in such a sophomoric way. To the meat of the issue, do you really think that the same Reformers who wrote and ratified these documents would make such a silly error, and that it wouldn’t be known for centuries until it was revealed to us by a bunch of Finns? There’s got to be an ethnic joke in there, somewhere. Forgive me if I’m not convinced.

What those ‘bunch of Finns’ point out is that there is a very real difference between Luther (and the early Lutherans, in Confessio Augustana) - who taught union with Christ through the Spirit as our justification - and Melanchthon and his successors, who taught a purely forensic justification. We see the result in 1580. I know that Melanchthon was the primary author of Confessio Augustana. But as we also know, he later became a blasphemous heretic.

There is a reason the the new Finnish school is new , and in the minority , the reason is that they fail to recognize a simple fact , there is no disconnect between Luther and Melanchthon as is claimed , it has been shown that he indeed taught forensic justification, did he teach a mystical Union as well , yes , but the two are not the same .

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