It is an unfortunate and common mistake when browsing the Book of Concord to assume that the article titles indicate limited topical scopes of discussion. Though there are numerous examples—one need only think of how frequently the cardinal truths concerning justification sola fide are reiterated—one in particular stands out in light of recent discussions regarding the proper Lutheran understanding of faith and politics. One of the most interesting statements on this topic is located near the very end of Article XXI of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, “Of the Invocation of Saints.” Melanchthon writes:
Therefore, most excellent Emperor Charles, for the sake of the glory of Christ, which we have no doubt that you desire to praise and magnify, we beseech you not to assent to the violent counsels of our adversaries, but to seek other honorable ways of so establishing harmony that godly consciences are not burdened, that no cruelty is exercised against innocent men, as we have hitherto seen, and that sound doctrine is not suppressed in the Church. To God most of all you owe the duty [as far as this is possible to man] to maintain sound doctrine and hand it down to posterity, and to defend those who teach what is right. For God demands this when He honors kings with His own name and calls them gods, saying, Ps. 82:6: I have said, “Ye are gods,” namely, that they should attend to the preservation and propagation of divine things, i.e., the Gospel of Christ, on the earth, and, as the vicars of God, should defend the life and safety of the innocent [true Christian teachers and preachers].
Brackets are in the original and contain Justas Jonas’s elaborations from the German edition.
When is the last time you heard a Lutheran pastor or theologian of any sort teach that it is the duty of the state—specifically of the ruler—“to maintain sound doctrine and hand it down to posterity, and to defend those who teach what is right”? When have you heard a Lutheran teach that “[kings] should attend to the preservation and propagation of divine things, i.e., the Gospel of Christ, on the earth,” distinguish between true and false teachers, and defend the latter?
I’m not going to run a poll, but I’m going to guess that the answer is either “never” or “it was mentioned once in a Confessions study that ‘they used to think that way back then.’”
This is what our Lutheran fathers believed, because it’s what the Bible teaches. “Freedom of religion” is a modern notion. It is not derived from Scripture. If the prince will not support the Church in his realm, if he will not suppress heresy, he is failing to do his duty as a prince, not just failing to “do his Christian duty.” This is not descriptive; it’s prescriptive. This is not just what rulers did once upon a time; this is what all rulers are supposed to do. In every age. For the sake of the glory of Christ.
Be of good cheer, Lutheran man. More and more people are waking up to the truth. You’re not alone. There are many like you out there. Our numbers are growing every day. Those who are married and blessed with children are teaching their children these good things, these forgotten truths, this true spiritual meat. “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”
Let’s pray for Christ to hasten his return. And until he comes again, let’s pray that God would send us a ruler who will defend the Faith. Saying that we can’t Christianize America is like saying that you can’t Christianize your home. Speak for yourself, naysayer! I Christianize my home every day, by God’s grace, and I, and people like me, intend to Christianize America. Because it’s our home.
Thanks for reading Old Lutherans.