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28 May 2017
  The Formula of Concord
28 May AD 1577

Jakob Andreae After Martin Luther's death, political changes altered the face of the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church. Emperor Charles V exercised control over all of southern Germany and most of the north. The Augsburg Interim, a capitulation disguised as a compromise, denied justification by grace through faith alone. It also officially recognized seven sacraments, confessed transubstantiation, and re-instituted the Mass as a sacrificial thank offering. Most of the defeated Lutheran princes went along with the Interim.

Although Philipp Melanchthon initially opposed the Augsburg Interim, some combination of fear and his conciliatory nature led him to accept its demands. The damage continued with the Leipzig Interim, which continued to compromise justification by faith while also restoring Catholic rites to Baptism, reintroducing Corpus Christi processions, and otherwise granting favor to Roman practice.

During the same period, a number of doctrinal controversies intruded among the Lutherans. Some grew out of Melanchthon's ongoing compromises with either Rome or the Reformed. Others sprang from the reactionary excesses of his opponents, including Matthias Flacius. Almost two dozen confessions ranging widely across the doctrinal spectrum were composed between 1546 and 1577, variously appealing to the Augsburg Confession for support of often contradictory positions.

Book of Concord In the early 1570s, Jakob Andreae published Six Christian Sermons against the Philippist party and other Crypto-Calvinists. Meanwhile, Elector Augustus of Saxony, a staunch Lutheran who had been deceived by the Crypto-Calvinists and had actively opposed Lutheran theologians, came to his senses when confronted with Joachim Cureus's refutation of the Evangelical understanding of the Lord's Supper. He imprisoned many of those who'd misled him and began active support and encouragement of a uniting Lutheran confession.

Martin Chemnitz urged Andreae to revise and edit his Six Sermons into a formal statement of harmony. Andreae responded with the eleven articles of the Swabian Concord. Chemnitz and David Chytraeus added further revisions, producing the Swabian-Saxon Concord. Meanwhile Balthasar Bidembach and Lukas Osiander the elder had also composed a proposed uniting document, the Maulbronn Formula. Andreae, Chemnitz, David Chytraeus, Nikolaus Selnecker, and others met in Torgau from 28 May-7 June 1576 and drew the Swabian-Saxon Concord and the Maulbronn Formula together into the Torgau Book.

Elector Augustus received and passed along suggestions and criticisms of the Torgau Book to its authors, hoping that one more round of work would complete the task. Chemnitz, Andreae, Selnecker, Chytraeus, Andreas Musculus, and Christophorus Cornerus joined to complete the Bergen Book, which became known as the Solid Declaration or the Thorough Declaration. As this was being done, Andreae also worked on an Epitome or summation of the same doctrinal articles. The six men's work was completed by 28 May 1577.

These two works were included together as the Formula of Concord in the Book of Concord of 1580, along with the three Creeds and the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Apology to the Augsburg Confession, the Small and Large Catechisms, the Smalcald Articles, and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope. The Epitome briefly summarizes each controversy, confesses true doctrine, and rejects and condemns false teaching. The Solid Declaration is less rigid in structure, instead delving into each topic in much greater length.

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From the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Rule and Norm, 9-11:

"In the pure churches and schools these public common writings [the Creeds and Lutheran Symbols previously noted] have been always regarded as the sum and model of the doctrine which Dr. Luther, of blessed memory, has admirably deduced from God's Word, and firmly established against the Papacy and other sects; and to his full explanations in his doctrinal and polemical writings we wish to appeal, in the manner and as far as Dr. Luther himself in the Latin preface to his published works has given necessary and Christian admonition concerning his writings, and has expressly drawn this distinction namely, that the Word of God alone should be and remain the only standard and rule of doctrine, to which the writings of no man should be regarded as equal, but to which everything should be subjected....

"But what has thus far been said concerning the summary of our Christian doctrine is intended to mean only this, that we should have a unanimously accepted, definite, common form of doctrine, which all our evangelical churches together and in common confess, from and according to which, because it has been derived from God's Word, all other writings should be judged and adjusted as to how far they are to be approved and accepted.

"For that we embodied the above-mentioned writing, namely, the Augsburg Confession, Apology, Smalcald Articles, Luther's Large and Small Catechisms, in the oft-mentioned Sum of our Christian doctrine, was done for the reason that these have always and everywhere been regarded as the common, unanimously accepted meaning of our churches, and, moreover, have been subscribed at that time by the chief and most enlightened theologians, and have held sway in all evangelical churches and schools."
From FC SD, XII, 40:

"Since now, in the sight of God and of all Christendom [the entire Church of Christ], we wish to testify to those now living and those who shall come after us that this declaration [Formula of Concord] herewith presented concerning all the controverted articles aforementioned and explained, and no other, is our faith, doctrine, and confession, in which we are also willing, by God's grace, to appear with intrepid hearts before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, and give an account of it; and that we will neither privately nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it, but, by the help of God's grace, intend to abide thereby: therefore, after mature deliberation, we have, in God's fear and with the invocation of His name, attached our signatures with our own hands."

Catechumens should be taught that the Lutheran vow they will make as confirmands subscribing to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures and exposited in the Book of Concord of 1580, is essentially the same as the signers of the Formula of Concord made in the excerpts above.

Anything less is just... well, Lufauxran.
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