Sunday, August 31, 2008

Roundtable 37: Articles for Reasonable Discussion with Reasonable People

The third part of the Smalcald Articles begins, in light the circumstances, with a rather droll assertion: "We may be able to discuss the following articles with learned and reasonable people, or among ourselves. The pope and his government do not care much about these. With them conscience is nothing, but money, honors, and power are everything." The picture here, by the way, is the Council of Trent in session. Luther regarded these people as neither learned nor reasonable. Fair, or unfair, the Council of Trent was not interested in listening to any Lutherans either, in spite of many promises that it would.

What are these articles that Luther says are possibly able to be discussed with "learned and reasonable people"?

Article I: Sin
Article II: The Law
Article III: Repentance
Article IV: The Gospel
Article V: Baptism
Article VI: The Sacrament of the Altar
Article VII: The Keys
Article VIII: Confession
Article IX: Excommunication
Article X: Ordination and the Call
Article XI: The Marriage of Priests
Artice XII: The Church
Article XIII: How One is Justified before God and Does Good Works
Article IV: Monastic Vows
Article XV: Human Traditions

What we have here, therefore, in the third part of the Smalcald Articles, is a confession-within-a-confession of, quite similar to what would be developed between 1537-1577 throughout all the Lutheran territories, a corpus doctrinae [Latin: body of doctrine], which was the statement of faith for the particular German territory, found as one of the first documents in the territory's "Church Order" or the organizing and governing documents for a particular territory, commissioned by the ruler, and composed by the leading theologians in the territory; or, with the earliest Orders, written for a territory by theologians from Wittenberg. So, this portion of the Smalcald Article roughly mirrors what is found in the Augsburg Confession, but Luther customizes it for the Smalcald Articles to be a precise assertion of the Lutheran "non-negotiables" as the Lutherans were anticipating attending a general council of the Church, which they had been promised repeatedly by both Emperor and even Popes, a council that finally did start meeting only eight years after the Smalcald Articles was written.