FROM THE PASTOR
by Pastor Daniel A. Hinton
As mentioned in my previous article, the public reading of the Augsburg Confession took place on June 25th, 1530. On August 3rd, the reply from the Papists – which would become known as the Pontifical Confutation of the Augsburg Confession – was read to the Reformers. While this document was read to them, they were not allowed a copy of it for their own study. As subtle as the language was, the overall message of the reply was clear: It demanded that the Reformers back down and submit to the papacy, or else.
Further meetings were called for between the Reformers, the theologians representing the Papacy, and the Emperor. During these meetings, Philip Melanchthon was tempted to waver, but others among the Reformers (particularly other laymen) persisted and the Reformers as a whole remained steadfast in defense of their clear, Gospel-centered, confession of faith. In private, Emperor Charles continued to pressure the Lutheran princes to back down; this included threats to expel the offending princes from their realms. Through all of this, Martin Luther wrote to them, encouraging one and all to stay the course and stand firm on the truth of God’s Word, on which the Augsburg Confession was founded. This all went on over the course of another 45 or so days, and on September 22nd, the Emperor declared the Diet of Augsburg to be adjourned. He declared that the Confutation had given adequate response to the Augsburg Confession. He gave The Reformers until April 15, 1531, to concede to the Confutation and abandon their confession. They refused.
Although the Reformers were never given a copy of the Pontifical Confutation, they were ordered to accept all the conditions it imposed and the conclusions it drew. They were forbidden from making any reply to it, neither were they allowed to have it published. Given that such demands were absurd, they ignored them. Fortunately, while the Confutation was being read, professional stenographers were writing down, word for word, every word that was read. This gave the
Reformers an accurate transcript of its contents.
Despite the Emperors admonition to make no reply to The Confutation, the princes from among the Reformers asked Philip Melanchthon, along with Chancellor Gregor Brück (counselor to Prince/Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony) to work on a reply. By September 22nd (the date the Emperor drew the Diet of Augsburg to a close) a first draft was ready. It would be known as the Apology (meaning: "Defense") of the Augsburg Confession. It took the arguments and concerns expressed by the Papacy in the Confutation and then expanded upon the articles in the original Augsburg Confession to express more clearly and thoroughly their argu-ments. It also served to clarify their desire to maintain Christian traditions and teachings which the papacy was accusing them of abandoning.
Attempts to deliver a copy of the first draft of the Apology to Emperor Charles were rejected and ultimately the Reformers left Augsburg. Melanchthon then began to revise the document. It was not until 1573 (43 years later) that the Confutation was formally published by the papists. This was long after the Council of Trent (1546– 1563, called mostly for the purpose of refuting the theology of the Reformation) had formally adopted the Confutation’s conclusions.
Melanchthon worked tirelessly on the revision of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession from the end of September 1530 until April 15, 1531. The strong stand taken by the Reformers as a whole had emboldened him to be firm and confident in the language he used in reply to the Confutation given by the papists.
The longest and most detailed document in the Book of Concord, the
Apology of the Augsburg Confession meticulously responds to every aspect of the response to the Augsburg Confession contained in the Confutation. The common thread throughout The Apology is the relentless assertion of "justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone."
While most of the original draft of the Apology, and all of its revision, were authored by Melanchthon, it was not long before it was adopted by the Reformers as a whole. After a mutual colleague and friend of Luther and Melanchthon, Justas Jonas, translated it into German (Melanchthon wrote it in Latin) it became quite popular throughout the German territories. In 1531, a year after Augsburg, the "Smalcaldic League" was formed. This was an organization of German territories and cities, all of whom had made both the Augsburg Confession and the Apology of the Augsburg Confession their confession of the Christian Faith. In 1577, when the Book of Concord was beginning to be formed, it was clear that The Apology would be a critical part of that assembly of doctrinal statements which would be formalized in 1580.
Any reading of the Augsburg Confession can only be made clearer through reading the Apology, as the latter expands upon and gives further defense and explanation of the former. As with the Augsburg Confession, The Apology goes to great lengths to establish that the Reformation was not about creating a new church or veering from the traditions and teachings established by Christ and His Apostles, but in fact returning to those very things, from which the Church had departed in the centuries which preceded the Reformation. The very things given to the Church by Christ Himself.