I was raised in the Lutheran Church of Sweden, the biggest church in my country, formerly state-church, with around seven million members of whom 85 % according to a recent poll don’t believe in Jesus. When I was saved in 2006, Martin Luther was one of my spiritual heroes. As I read the Scriptures and compared it to Catholicism I realized that they had added a lot of stuff that Jesus and the apostles never talked about, and I thought Luther was one of the first to realize that and to resurrect the original Gospel. Arguing that Scripture should be the only source to theology and pointing at Paul’s emphasis on justification by faith and grace, he criticized the unbiblical Catholic indulgence and several unbiblical doctrines. I thought Luther was awesome.
As I learned more about Luther and Lutheranism however, I started to realize that perhaps he wasn’t entirely biblical either. In fact, he changed the order of biblical books according to his personal opinion, placing the letter of James, one of my favourite biblical books, last because it didn’t make sense with his interpretation of sola fide. And he was a quite violent man, justifying wars, capital punishment, persecution against Jews and execution of Anabaptists. In fact, as I discovered the existance of Anabaptists and their radical, pacifist Jesus-centered theology, I realized that Luther was not the only one protesting against Catholic errors, and far from the best.
I hope to return to my criticism of Luther in a future post, but right now I want to turn to the Augsburg Confession, one of the most important Lutheran documents that actually is one of the primary faith documents of the Church of Sweden, in line with the Nicene Creed. It’s a really weird document. It starts like this:
Most Invincible Emperor, Caesar Augustus, Most Clement Lord: Inasmuch as Your Imperial Majesty has summoned a Diet of the Empire here at Augsburg to deliberate concerning measures against the Turk, that most atrocious, hereditary, and ancient enemy of the Christian name and religion, in what way, namely, effectually to withstand his furor and assaults by strong and lasting military provision…
So they basically manage to be idolatrous, violent and islamophobic in less than one sentence. And the hostility towards Turks is evident in other parts of the document as well:
Of the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his country.
Now, Jesus clearly preached pacifism, and so did the early church. And besides that, don’t you think it’s a little bit problematic to repeatedly point out Turks as evil creatures that should be banned from the land of an imperialist dictator?
Turning to the theological part, the claim that Lutheranism is Scripture-based is spoiled by the constant mention of sacraments. It’s mentioned 36 times in the document, compared to the Holy Spirit’s 18 times, or love’s four times. Now, I will write more about sacraments in the future, but I think everyone has to accept that they are never defined in the Bible, and so it is very problematic to say that the church is defined by administrating the sacraments, as the Augsburg Confession claims. Why should baptism and communion be sacraments, and not annointing the sick with healing oil or helping the poor? Because Lutheran’s don’t view that as important.
In fact, the document does not mention signs, wonders, miracles or Spiritual gifts at all. And this is of course totally unbiblical: miracles are very important in the New Testament. So no, the Augsburg type of Lutheranism is not based on Sola Scriptura, it’s possibly based on Sola Luther, and that’s definitely not the same thing or even similar.
The absurdity of the Augsburg Confession shows quite clearly that going to Lutheranism’s root is not the way forward for someone who wants to be Biblical. Now, of course I bless Lutherans and understand that many have no interest in standing for all the principles of Augsburg, but some argues that they want to do so, and I definitely not recommend that. Seek Spiritual inspiration in the charismatic movement, the Anabaptist movement or of course the early church movement, but stay away from original Lutheranism.