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 BookOfConcord.org (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.
- These other confessions are the Melanchthon’s Apology of Confessio Augustana, Luther’s Smalcald Articles, Melanchthon’s Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, Luther’s Large Catechism, and the Epitome and the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord.
** This article is found in Calvin and Luther: The Continuing Relationship, ed. R. Ward Holder (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2013): 165-182.