Dear Saints of Grace,
As a reminder, I am presenting to you the different sections that make up the Book of Concord of 1580. The second section of Lutheran Confessions deals with The Three Universal or Ecumenical Creeds. These are the Apostles, Nicene, & Athanasian Creeds. The Book of Concord viewed itself in light of the creeds of the ancient church. Each of the Lutheran confessional documents contained within the Book of Concord quotes from or mentions at least one of the three ecumenical creeds. By utilizing these creeds the authors of the confessional documents knew that they were united with the faith of the whole Christian church.
This last statement is important because some may view Lutheranism as a new faith that came about at the time of the Reformation, it is not. Inclusion of the creeds in 16th century books of doctrine dates as far back as 1530 through one of Martin Luther’s comrades Phillip Melanchthon. This practice would continue in later Lutheran writings as well. The inclusion of the creeds reveals the deep conviction that the creators of the Book of Concord had during the Reformation; not wanting to break from the ancient church, and in fact holding to and recovering the chief teachings of the universal (or ‘catholic’) faith. It is a continuation of the historic, Christian faith of all times and places. The word “catholic” comes from two Greek words that mean “according to the whole.” So in this sense Lutheranism is catholic. We could call ourselves Lutheran Catholics, for we lay hold to our identity through the Lutheran Confessions. While those who try to lay claim to the name ‘Catholic’ (by itself) should properly pronounce themselves as Roman Catholics, for they lay hold to their identity through the Pope who rules from Rome.
The new reader’s edition of the Book of Concord gives a great summary of the importance of staying with the ancient teachings of the Church through the Reformation by stating:
“The Lutherans never wanted to reject and rebel against the Roman Church. They were, however, held captive by the force of the clear truth of God’s Word. They refused to compromise that truth. They denied the claim by Rome that it was in fact the “true Church.” They regarded Romanism to be a deep corruption of the genuine Church catholic (universal) of the New Testament and of the Early Fathers of the Church. The claim of “catholicity” was reserved by the Lutherans only for that which was biblically true, not what was merely a long honored tradition within the Roman Church. Many years after being forced out of fellowship with Rome, Martin Luther finally let his name be associated with his teachings by speaking of “Lutheranism.””
(Introduction to the Ecumenical Creeds, Concordia; The Lutheran Confessions
, pg. 41, emphasis mine)
Throughout the history of the church, people have stood for the truth of the Gospel, and as a result the Creeds themselves bear testimony. The Apostles, Nicene, & Athanasian Creeds are the most ancient of all the Confessions of Faith in the Holy Catholic Church and these truths are proudly carried on in the Book of Concord of 1580. Therefore, by holding to the teachings of the Book of Concord, Confessional Lutheran Churches, and those who confess through their fellowship in such Churches, can rightfully say that they belong to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, just as that same Confession of Faith has been believed and confessed by way of the Creeds throughout the Church’s history.
With you IN Christ!