13 October, 2009

1. The Lutheran Church Confesses the Catholic Creeds

The Lutheran Church confesses the 'three catholic or ecumenical symbols' of the Christian faith according to the Western tradition: the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed.
This is the first piece of evidence for the catholicity of Lutheran doctrine that I wish to set forth. It is so obvious that it would seem not to need stating, but it cannot afford to be overlooked, as it is from this fundamental standpoint of creedal orthodoxy and catholicity that the Lutheran Church struggled to maintain her existence in the 16th Century in both the political and religious spheres. The Lutherans did not seek to found a new church, but to reform the Catholic Church of which they were members. New congregations were only formed, along with provisional measures for church government, when the Lutheran proposals for reform were rejected by the church authorities of the time.
Formal subscription to the Creeds at the beginning of the Book of Concord is a declaration that Lutherans accept and adhere to the ancient dogmas concerning the Holy Trinity, while their continued use in the Divine Service to this day, along with Trinitarian doxologies and hymns, reflects the reality of the life of the Trinity in the Lutheran church, which is the dogmatic basis for its catholicity, and bears witness to the reality of the life of Christ subsisting in, with and under the life of the Lutheran Church.
The confession of the ecumenical or catholic Creeds also shows that the Lutheran Church regards herself not as a sect but as a communion that subsists within the catholic church, in so far as she is visible in this world.

Scripture references
"...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:9-13, ESV)
"...no-one can say, 'Jesus is Lord', except in the Holy Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:3 ESV)
"By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God..." (1 John 4:2,3 ESV)
"And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." (Matt 16:17, ESV)
"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me." (John 15:26, ESV)

Confessional references
The Three Universal or Ecumenical Creeds (Concordia, 42-44; Tappert, 17-21; Kolb, 19-25).

From Luther's writings
“ A seven year-old-child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd” Smalcald Articles (III.12).
"God's Word cannot be without God's people..." On the Councils & the Churches (WA 50:629.34).

Patristic references
“...wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church.” Ignatius of Antioch (+ c. 110), Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 81.
“The Word of God speaks to those who believe in him as being one soul, and one synagogue, and one church.” Justin Martyr (c.100-165), Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, 63.
“The catholic church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world.” Irenaeus (c. 125-202), Against Heresies, 1.10.3.
“Where the church is, there the Spirit of God is; and where the Spirit of God is , there is the church." Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.24.1
“We have one faith, one God, the same Christ, the same hope, the same baptismal sacrament; let me say it once and for all, we are one church.” Tertullian (c.160-220), On the veiling of virgins, 2.
“The churches, though they are so many and so great, comprise but one original church, founded by the Apostles, from which they all came forth.” Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics
“There is one God, and Christ is one, and there is one church.” Cyprian (200-258), The Epistles of Cyprian, 39.5.
“There is one body of the catholic church.” Athanasius (c. 293-373), Deposition of Arius, 1.
“The church among you is a part of the church existing everywhere and of the body which is made up of all the churches.” John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), Homilies (more accurate reference needed)
“Though the church be seven-fold, she is but one.” Jerome (c.340-420) Treatise Against Jovinianus 2.19.
"The church, which is scattered throughout the whole world, is called catholic."
Augustine, Epistle 170, 52, (MPL 33.194).
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