Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reading the Book of Concord...

Sometimes when I am reading the Christian Book of Concord, I find myself noticing patterns in the writing as much as I am taking in the content of the writing itself.  A good example of this is in Article XXVI of the Augsburg Confession, the article regarding the distinction of meats.

In this article are found some of the strongest, simplest statements about the Gospel being preserved/prominent in our Churches:

"The Gospel should stand out as the most prominent teaching in the Church, in order that Christ's merit may be well known and faith, which believes that sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, be exalted far above works" (4).

"The Gospel compels us to insist on the doctrine of grace and the righteousness of faith in the churches.  This cannot be understood if people think that they merit grace by observances of their own choice" (20).

I find this a bit...unexpected...with meat as a subject matter.  However, the pattern here is interesting to me.

The overarching theme is the Gospel, with three main points in how obstacles are made in believers receiving the Gospel:  1) this type of tradition obscures the chief part of the Gospel; 2) this type of tradition hinder the Commandments, rendering less important; and 3) this type of tradition brings danger to consciences (despair and even death).

Of course, it is vital to point out that we were not just discussing meat, but also ceremonies, orders, holy days, fasting, and other similar human traditions that can  ultimately rise to the level of earning merit somehow...even if the original intention was not so.  The type of human traditions discussed in Article XVI are not new to the church, to the practice of faith.  Nor have we escaped them.  I have had, in fact, some of those traditions pressed upon myself.  I will say that, for me, some of them very much have obscured, hindered, and brought danger.  And recently, in fact, I have spotted the term "personal holiness" in discussions of faith, as if there is a type of holiness that we can achieve, add to, the holiness of Christ we receive in our Baptism.  The very notion, in light of our Confessions, both here and as a whole is frankly absurd.

It is also equally vital to point out that we do not condemn all traditions, valuing ones that bring order, such as the reading of Scriptures that dates back even to services of the Old Testament, and those that help with personal discipline.  The litmus test is not to place obstacles in receiving the Gospel and to allow the freedom of the Gospel in believers choosing to omit or refrain from traditions such as those of personal discipline.

So, I believe part of the wonder...and the value...of our pure doctrine is not merely the words themselves contained in this book, but also the patterns of teachings, such as the one noted here, that always, always, always point to the cross, point to the promise and the fruition of the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In this case, His is all the merit and holiness we will ever need.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

1 comment:

ftwayne96 said...

I'm reading through the AC now. Haven't read it for a few days, but my ribbon marker is placed at the Article on the Distinction of Meats. Pretty cool serendipity, huh? G'night from NC.