II: The Confessions
Q: Do Lutherans follow the teachings of Martin Luther?
A: Sorry, but the answer to this question is both "yes" and "no." Lutheran Clergy and congregations do not consider everything Luther ever wrote or said to be authoritative but are obligated to subscribe to only those of his writings which appear in the Confessional Books of the Lutheran Church.
To call the Lutheran Church a "confessional Church" does not mean (as many undoubtedly suppose) that we are a Church in which congregations use the rite for confession of sins every Sunday morning. Rather, the term "confessional Church" means that we are a Church which has a number of writings which set forth and describe with authority certain beliefs and some standard practices for the life of the Church. A "Confession" Is a statement of faith or belief.
The Confessional documents of the Lutheran Church are contained in a single volume called The Book of Concord (June 25, 1580). These documents were, and are, intended to be used as a summary of our doctrine, a basis for unity, as safeguards against heresy or errors, and the basis for teaching and instruction.
The Confessional documents of the Lutheran Church are the three Chief Symbols of the Catholic Faith: The Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. Following these are the Augsburg Confession and the Apology to the Augsburg Confession (written by Melanchthon in 1530 and 1531 respectively) . Then follow the Smalcald Articles (Luther, 1537) and the Small and Large Catechisms (Luther, 1529). The Book of Concord concludes with the Formula of Concord (1577).
Although Martin Luther wrote a great deal, Lutherans accept only his Large and Small Catechisms and his Smalcald Articles as authoritative interpretations of the Scriptures and the Creeds. Our Faith and our Confessions are centered not on Luther but on Christ!
To be a "confessional Church" means that we do not follow the teachings or interpretations of a single person, even if that person is Luther or Melanchthon. To be a "confessional Church" means that our faith is grounded on Christ alone and that we seek to live out and explain that faith within the doctrines and traditions of the Catholic Church, of which we are a part.
If you are interested in reading or learning more about the Lutheran Confessions, you can view them online at https://bookofconcord.org/. Pastor Brown will be happy to show or get you a copy of The Book of Concord, as well as direct you to supplemental resource material. By reading these you will learn more ABOUT BEING LUTHERAN.
Adapted from About Being Lutheran © Lutheran Liturgical Renewal 1991. Used by permission.