Confessio Augustana

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Christian Beyer reads out the "Confessio Augustana" to Emperor Charles V
Church window in the Speyer Memorial Church

The Confessio Augustana ( CA ), also Augsburg Confession (AB) or Augsburg Confession , is a fundamental commitment of the Lutheran imperial estates to their faith. It was presented to Emperor Charles V of the imperial estates of the Lutheran Reformation on June 25, 1530 at the Reichstag in Augsburg . It was the basic text of the religious talks , the basis of the Schmalkaldic Confederation , the basis of tolerance for the Augsburg religious peace and is still one of the binding confessions of the Lutheran churches , in the version from 1540 (Variata) also of the Reformed churches .


Title page of the first Latin edition of the Augsburg Confession with preliminary pieces and appendices, Wittenberg 1531


Luther's 95 theses of October 31, 1517 set the Reformation movement in motion in Germany , which quickly spread despite the Edict of Worms . While more and more imperial estates confessed to Luther, Emperor Charles V tried to save the unity of church and empire.

The invitation to the Diet in Augsburg was conciliatory, and the Lutherans hoped to reach an amicable settlement. At the previous Diet in Speyer in 1529, the Edict of Worms was confirmed, and so the Reformation found itself on legally uncertain ground. For this reason, Elector Johann von Sachsen commissioned Philipp Melanchthon to write a defensive pamphlet (Greek apology) for the Reformation.

After the "404 Articles" written by Johannes Eck became known , Melanchthon's brief apology was no longer sufficient, and so Melanchthon began to reformulate his writing with the help of Johannes Brenz : The result was the "Confessio Augustana". The emphasis on agreement with the Catholic Church on many points was also in the foreground.

The Confessio Augustana 1530

Memorial coin 1630, for the celebration of the handover of the Augsburg denomination. Vs. Elector Johann Georg I , reverse Elector Johann the Constant , Dresden Mint .

The Schwabach articles , a confession of the Lutheran Reformation against Ulrich Zwingli , and the Torgau articles served as the basis of the “Confessio Augustana” . The script was written in both Latin and German at the same time , although there are differences between the two versions. Melanchthon worked on the Latin version stylistically up to the last minute and adapted the 10th article on the Lord's Supper to suit him .

The German version of the "Confessio Augustana" was presented to Emperor Charles V and the Elector of the Empire by the Saxon Chancellor and legal scholar Christian Beyer in the chapter room of the episcopal palace on June 25, 1530 and then given to the Emperor in Latin by Chancellor Gregor Brück .

The signatories of the Latin version were the imperial estates :

In the course of the Reichstag, the imperial cities of Weißenburg , Heilbronn , Kempten (Allgäu) and Windsheim joined the confession.

Due to differences of opinion on the Lord's Supper, the four Upper German cities of Strasbourg , Konstanz , Memmingen and Lindau , some of which were attached to Zwingli's teaching, were not involved in the "Confessio Augustana": They wrote their own confession, the Confessio Tetrapolitana (the "Four-City Confession "), which, however, was not read publicly. For this reason, only the followers of the "Confessio Augustana" were later protected under imperial law and were tolerated as equal to the Catholics by the provisions of the Augsburg Religious Peace in 1555.

Martin Luther, who excommunicated since 1521 and with the imperial ban was occupied, held during the Reichstag in Coburg on, stand with Melanchthon but in constant correspondence. With the script written in Latin and German, an understanding with the Catholics should be achieved. The Catholic theologians Johannes Eck and Johannes Fabri wrote the Confutatio on Karl's instructions , which refuted the “Confessio Augustana” from the perspective of the Catholics and the Emperor. The " Apology of the Confessio Augustana " was no longer accepted, and Emperor Charles V confirmed the Worms Edict in its effectiveness.

The Lutheran imperial estates therefore merged in 1531 to form the Schmalkaldic League .

The Confessio Augustana Variata 1540

In 1540 Melanchthon, who throughout his life also regarded the “Confessio Augustana” as his private work, to which he felt entitled to make changes at any time, edited a significantly changed version of the “Confessio Augustana”: the “Confessio Augustana Variata”. Already in the print editions after 1533 he had successively added extensions, for example, text passages from the "Apology" were taken over into the text of the "Confessio". After the new edition of his “Loci theologici” in 1535, the first Protestant dogmatics , the Wittenberg Agreement of 1536, the founding of the Schmalkaldic Confederation and the Schmalkaldic Articles in 1537, as well as the upcoming religious discussions of 1540/41, numerous reasons arose for the “update or adaptation of the 'Confessio Augustana' as a fundamental document of faith of the covenant ”. That is why the “Confessio Augustana Variata” can not only be regarded as a private work by Melanchthon, but at least for the period between 1540 and 1561 as an official, officially used new edition on behalf of the federal government. In 1541 Calvin also signed this version of the "Confessio Augustana".

Disputes within the Lutheran camp did not arise over the changes until after Luther's death (1546) in the course of the emerging conflict between the various Melanchthon students and the Gnesio Lutherans . At the Naumburg Princely Congress in 1561, it was therefore decided to insist on the unchanged version, the "Confessio Augustana invariata". This was included in the Book of Concords in 1580 and is still a binding commitment of Lutheran churches and parishes to this day. The “Confessio Augustana variata”, on the other hand, is the basis of the creed in some United Churches .

Content and structure

The Confessio Augustana was to be written on behalf of the emperor, who demanded written account of their beliefs from Protestants as well as Catholics. The Confessio Augustana consists of two parts:

  • In Articles 1 to 21, the Reformers try to prove that their faith and teaching are in harmony with Scripture and tradition;
  • Articles 22 to 28, on the other hand, show what grievances there are in their opinion in the Catholic Church and what changes are intended to remedy them.

Article 1: From God

First of all, it is stated that the signatories of the Augsburg Confession stand on the resolution of the ecumenical confession of Nicaea-Constantinople from the year 325/381 AD. According to this, the Lutheran Reformation confesses to the "one divine being (...), who is called and truly is God, and yet there are three persons in the same one divine being." All heresies against this 1st article and the confession of Nicaea -Constantinople are assigned the anathema (damnation): This includes the early church Manichaeans , Valentians , Arians , Eunomians , Islam (as deniers of the Trinity ), the followers of Paul Samosata , anti-Trinitarian spiritualists.

Article 2: Of Original Sin

Since Adam's disobedience to God (Genesis 3), all people have been conceived and born in sin. No hostility towards the body is assumed here, but rather that they are all full of evil lust and affection from the womb and have no true fear of God, no true faith in God out of themselves (originally by nature). This innate sin (original sin = passed on from generation to generation. Luther later prefers to speak of main sin) is really sin, and therefore all people are subject to the eternal wrath of God who are not born again through baptism and the Holy Spirit. The Pelagians (followers of Pelagius - Pelagius and Augustine argued over original sin) and those who deny that original sin is really sin are occupied with the anathema .

Article 3: From the Son of God

Christ became man as the Son of God , born of the pure Virgin Mary, and unites a divine and human nature in one person. He was really born, suffered, crucified, died, and was buried. Through the sacrifice on the cross, Jesus paid for original sin and all other sins and atoned God's wrath. Continuing along the apostolic creed , the Confessors profess Christ's descent into hell , his resurrection from the dead, his ascension and his reign over the earth and his second coming to judge the living and the dead. There is no condemnation of other religious groups there.

Article 4: Of justification

Man does not deserve forgiveness of sins and righteousness before God through good works, leading a "decent" life and satisfaction. Rather, the forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God are obtained by grace on the basis of Christ's sacrifice through faith. Justifying faith is defined as belief in the atonement sacrifice of Christ, who through it gives eternal life. This belief is attributed to righteousness. RomansLUT and 4 LUT are given as biblical references .

Article 5: From the ministry

God instituted the ministry and gave the gospel (that is, the Bible) and the sacraments. Only in this way can the justifying belief described in CA 4 be conveyed.

The Anabaptists are condemned, who assume that the Holy Spirit speaks in them without the mediation mentioned above (meaning the so-called spiritualists ).

See also : CA 7 , CA 8 , CA 14 and CA 28 .

Article 6: of the new obedience

Faith is said to produce good works. However, man can never count as righteous before God only through his own works, but God makes man righteous through the redemptive act of Jesus Christ. This is justified with Lk 17.10  LUT and with a quote from the church father Ambrose of Milan : “So it is decided by God that whoever believes in Christ will be saved and not through work, but solely through faith, without merit, forgiveness of the Have sins. "

Article 7: From the Church

CA 7 makes a commitment to the one holy Christian Church that will always remain. The church is more specifically defined as the gathering of saints in which purity is taught and the sacraments are administered according to the institution of Christ. Pure teaching and proper administration of the sacraments are characteristics of the church. These are then also the criteria for the true unity of the church. It is enough that unity is reached in doctrine and administration of the sacraments. Traditions, rites, or ceremonies that are introduced by humans, on the other hand, do not necessarily have to be uniform.

Article 8: What is the Church?

The church is the gathering of saints and true believers. Nevertheless, the church is a corpus permixtum , a “mixed body”, because hypocrites and the bad can also be found in it.

The sacraments remain effective, even if the priests are not pious. It does not depend on the faith of the priests, but on the words of Christ. That is why the early church Donatists are condemned as heretics who make the effectiveness of the sacraments dependent on the faith of the priests.

Article 9: From Baptism

The baptism is necessary for salvation because God's grace is presented by baptism. Consequently, the children must also be baptized, because they are received into the grace of God through baptism. The Anabaptists who reject infant baptism are rejected here.

Article 10: Of Holy Communion

CA 10 advocates the real presence in Holy Communion : the true body and blood of Christ are truly and truly present in bread and wine and are received by the guests of the Lord's Supper. A spiritualized view is rejected (reformed and crypto-calvinist position).

Article 11: Of Confession

The confession is retained, but an enumeration of particular sins is not necessary. This is justified with Ps 19:13  LUT .

See also : Article 25: Of Confession

Article 12: Of repentance

Those who have sinned after being baptized receive forgiveness of sins when they repent . The absolution is then not to deny them from the church. True, right repentance is defined as repentance, suffering, and horror at sin. At the same time, however, one must also believe in the gospel and absolution, that sin is forgiven by the grace of Christ. After absolution there should also be improvement by letting go of sins.

The opinion that Christians are incapable of sin is rejected. The Novatians of the early Church , who refused absolution to Christians in general, are also condemned . With the anathema (condemnation), the Roman Catholic position is also proven that through satisfaction the forgiveness of sins is obtained.

Article 13: On the use of the sacraments

According to the CA, sacraments are not just external signs by which a Christian is recognized (defense against the Reformed position). Rather, the sacraments are effective signs and testimonies of the divine will, which are intended to awaken and strengthen faith. At the same time, the sacraments require faith, since only through faith are the sacraments properly used.

Article 14: From the Church Regiment

Without a proper vocation ( rite vocatus ) nobody is allowed to preach (see CA 5 ) or pass the sacraments.

Article 15: Of church ordinances

Church ordinances, made by humans, are taught to keep those that can be kept without sin and serve for peace and good order in the church, such as certain celebrations, feasts and the like. But these are not necessary for bliss. It also teaches that all statutes and traditions man-made to be atonement to God and deserve grace are contrary to the gospel and doctrine of faith in Christ. Thus, monastery vows and the distinction between meals and days through which one can earn grace are contrary to the gospel.

Article 16: From the police (state order) and the secular regiment

Article 16 states that legitimate public government is part of God's good order. Christians are therefore allowed to exercise public offices such as judges and soldiers. According to current laws, the right to speak, to pass judgments or to punish evildoers with the sword. The state is also entitled to wage so-called just wars and bring criminals to justice. Christians are allowed to own property, enter into marriage, take legal action, take oaths, participate in the economic cycle, etc. However, for Christians both privately and professionally, according to Acts 5.29  LUT , they have to obey God more than men.

The Anabaptists are condemned who , in the opinion of the authors of the Confessio Augustana, did not recognize and reject the above-mentioned facts, as was the case with the later Anabaptists in Munster . Also condemned are those who claim that Christian perfection can only be attained through renunciation of home and yard and those who claim that the above activities are unchristian.

Article 17: From the Second Coming of Christ to Judgment

Jesus Christ is coming again and all people will be resurrected so that He can judge them. The believers receive eternal life , the wicked in hell receive eternal torment.

The universal reconciliation is condemned as the heresy of the Anabaptists, as is the idea of ​​an earthly kingdom of believers before the return of Christ.

Article 18: Of Free Will

Man does not have absolutely free will . Although he is able to make free decisions in worldly matters and to lead an honorable life in front of people (iustitia civilis) , he is not able to fulfill God's commandments and to be justified before him (iustitia spiritualis) . Man becomes righteous not by his own will, but by the Holy Spirit. This is justified with 1 Cor 2.14  LUT and a quote from the Hypognosticon , which at that time was still attributed to the church father Augustine .

This formally rejects Pelagianism , in accordance with church tradition .

Article 19: About the cause of sin

The accusations of the theologian Johannes Eck that the Reformation teachings explain God as the cause of evil are countered by saying that the cause of sin is not God, but the devil (according to Jn 8:44  EU ).

Article 20: Of Faith and Good Works

In order to counter the accusations of Catholics that one rejects good works completely, it is emphasized that a Christian should do good works (see  CA 6 ). Only unnecessary works such as rosary , veneration of saints , pilgrimages , fasting regulations (see  CA 26 ), becoming a monk (see CA 27 ) are rejected .

The idea that a Christian is justified by faith and works, but not by faith alone , is also rejected (see  CA 4 ). According to Eph 2,8 LUT and Rom 5,1 LUT and what the church father Augustine wrote in De spiritu et litera , faith alone is sufficient because justification through works would denigrate God's act of atonement and downplay man's sinfulness.

According to Jak 2,19  LUT and Hebr 11,1 LUT , faith is not exhausted in mere confession, which is possible even for the devil and the wicked, but rather it only develops in a personal confidence (fiducia) that God believes sin actually forgave. The good works that the believer is supposed to do, he does not work out of his own strength, but only through Christ, who works in him.

Article 21: Of the service of the saints

One should remember the saint in order to strengthen one's own faith. However, it is against Scripture to call on them alongside Jesus Christ as mediator and reconciler, because this would call into question his act of reconciliation through his death on the cross ( 1 Tim 2,5  EU , Rom 8,34  LUT , 1 Joh 2,1  EU ).

Article 22: Of the two figures of the sacrament

Scripture ( Mt 26,27  LUT , 1.Cor 11,20ff. LUT ) and church tradition testify that the Lord's Supper in both forms, i.e. H. to be celebrated with body and blood. The refusal of the lay chalice, on the other hand, could not refer to scripture and tradition. The usufruct under one figure, namely the body of Christ, was not decided until the Council of Constance (1414-1418).

Article 23: On the marital status of priests

The priest is allowed to marry because God's order of creation provides for marriage (Genesis 1:27 LUT ). Furthermore, it is even his duty to marry if he would otherwise fall into fornication (1 Cor 7,2 LUT. 9 LUT ). The celibacy let neither the Scriptures nor from the tradition derived. It was only made compulsory for all priests in 1075 by Pope Gregory VII at the Lent Synod . According to 1. Tim 4,1-3 LUT , a doctrine that forbids marriage is of diabolical origin and therefore to be rejected.

Article 24: Of the Mass

The mass is supposed to awaken faith and comfort the conscience. It is celebrated collectively by the believing community. The idea that besides Christ's atoning death, further sacrifices, so-called mass sacrifices , are required is rejected . The angular and shopping masses, which are held by the priest alone without the congregation, are also rejected.

Article 25: Of confession

The article builds on what was said in CA 11 . Prior confession is mandatory for receiving the Lord's Supper (see CA 10 , CA 13 ), but the confession of sins before God and the absolution from it takes place through God. This means that the person who confesses does not have to list all his sins before man, and that divine absolution should not be tied to a man-made satisfaction.

In addition to the psalm words, Jer 17,9  LUT and a quote from the church father John Chrysostom are given as a reason . With reference to the Decretum Gratiani , the then applicable canon law, it is emphasized that confession was not commanded by scripture, but was instituted by the church.

Article 26: On the distinction of dishes

Contrary to its heading, the article deals not only with dietary regulations and fasting rules, but also with asceticism and self-discipline in general. Fasting and other forms of asceticism are basically affirmed according to Lk 21,34  LUT , Mt 17:21  LUT and 1 Cor 9:27  LUT , but it is rejected that one can acquire salvation through this or that they are necessary for salvation.

Article 27: Of monastic vows

Monastery vows are fundamentally to be rejected because they contradict God's order, which created man for the conjugal community (Genesis 2:18 LUT ), and because they contradict his commandment, which calls on people to marry, thus fornication and fornication to avoid ( 1 Cor 7,2  LUT ). In addition, a number of monastery vows are not binding for reasons of church law if they were made by minors, which was still often the case in the 16th century.

The fact that monastery vows are of particular importance is to be rejected for theological reasons. Forgiveness of sins cannot be received through them, nor is one elevated to a special status (the so-called status perfectionis ) through them . Forgiveness is only experienced through Jesus Christ; the special sign of this truth of faith is baptism .

The monastery vows are therefore declared null and void, which is why it is also open to all members of the order to marry.

Article 28: Of the power (authority) of the bishops

Bishops, as leaders of the church, should take care of spiritual matters, whereas public order is the responsibility of the state. The tasks of the bishops are to proclaim the word, to teach, to administer the sacraments, and to ensure the correct proclamation of the word. The church should not interfere in the field of politics, in that it itself draws up the laws concerning the secular sphere or tries to regulate public life. The bishops are endowed with the power to pronounce the ban (i.e. exclusion from the Lord's Supper, not exclusion from the Church!) - but only with words! The bishop may in no way exercise external coercion, that is, worldly power. He is also not allowed to intervene in the powers of the secular offices. In addition, they are not allowed to preach against the gospel (= against the message of justification). So they are not allowed to set up laws that are “binding on conscience” or “relevant to salvation” (e.g. fasting, keeping holidays). However, they are allowed to set rules “for the sake of good order in the church”.

Commemoration day of the Confessio Augustana

The Protestant church year knows the commemoration day of the Confessio Augustana on June 25th. The liturgical color is red. The readings from the Old Testament are Nehemiah 8: 1–3.5–6.8–12  LUT , the epistle 1. Timothy 6 : 11–16  LUT and the Gospel Matthew 10 : 26–30  LUT . The proprium is supplemented by the key word Psalm 119,46  LUT , the daily psalm Psalm 46  LUT as well as the daily songs "Come here, the king's command" (EG 259) and " Salvation is coming to us " (EG 342).

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy composed his 5th Symphony op. 107 on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the Confessio Augustana , which is why it is nicknamed the “Reformation Symphony”.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Confessio Augustana, a three-day jubilee was held in 1630 on the orders of Elector Johann Georg I. For this purpose, various anniversary coins were minted in silver and gold as eighth thalers , quarter thalers , half thalers , thalers as well as ducats and multiple ducats in the Dresden mint .

Validity and reception

The Confessio Augustana, together with other confessions, is a valid basis for the confession of the Lutheran regional churches in Germany. The old confessional independent Evangelical Lutheran Church is committed to the unchanged Augsburg Confession. The Lutheran World Federation also sees the “unchanged Augsburg Confession” as an “appropriate interpretation of the Word of God”. By signing the Europe-wide Leuenberg Agreement in 1973, the Lutheran regional churches in Germany, on the other hand, withdrew the rejections contained in the Confessio against the Reformed churches with regard to the Lord's Supper, Christology and predestination. The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church has not signed the Leuenberg Agreement because the Lutheran doctrine of Holy Communion, Christology and predestination are not adhered to. The Evangelical Church in Austria , which is made up of a Lutheran and a Reformed church, emphasizes that the rejections of the Confessio are not directed against the personal faith of certain people. The Lutheran Church in Austria is also named after the Augsburg Confession ( Evangelical Church AB in Austria ).

On the part of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (i.e. the Lutheran regional churches within the EKD), following the Lutheran-Mennonite dialogue from 1989 to 1992, a statement on the rejections of the Confessio directed against the Anabaptists was formulated. It is stated here that the rejection of the Anabaptists with regard to spiritualism, baptism and penance no longer affects the Mennonites of the present. The rejection and condemnation of the pacifist Anabaptists mentioned in Article 16 remains, however, no longer affects the Mennonites of the present "to the same extent" as the Anabaptists of the Reformation period. However, the early Anabaptists are still considered doomed.

From a pacifist point of view, the handling of the Lutheran churches with Article 16 of the Confessio Augustana is particularly criticized, because it expressly portrays war as a legitimate means (see also just war ). Also in the statement of the Lutheran regional churches of 1992 the criticism of the pacifism of the Anabaptists of that time is not withdrawn. Later wars were justified by Lutheran denominational churches as an indisputable state law for the protection of a divine order. a. appealed to the Confessio Augustana.

In the meantime, the International Federation of Reconciliation has called for a revision of the controversial Article 16 of the Confessio Augustana.

Roman Catholic response

At the Reichstag in Augsburg, about twenty Catholic theologians worked out an answer in three attempts, the last of which, the Confutatio Confessionis Augustanae , found the approval of the imperial court. This emphasized the commonality of belief in Articles 1–3, 5, 8–14, 16–18 and 20 and attempted to criticize the other articles.

See also



  • Menno Aden: The Reformation and the Augsburg Confession of 1530 commented on today s sermons . Nordhausen, 2017, ISBN 978-3-95948-057-4
  • Holger Bauer: Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf and the Lutheran Confession. Zinzendorf and the Augsburg Confession of 1530 (= supplement of the Unitas Fratrum No. 12. Herrnhuter Verlag, Herrnhut 2004, ISBN 3-931956-19-9 , Diss. Münster 2002)
  • The Franconian Confessions. A preliminary stage of the Augsburg Confession - published by the regional church council of the Evangelical-Lutheran. Church in Bavaria rdRhs, edited by WFSchmidt and K. Schornbaum . Munich 1930.
  • Leif Grane : The Confessio Augustana, introduction to the main ideas of the Lutheran Reformation. UTB, Göttingen 1996, ISBN 978-3-8252-1400-5 .
  • Thomas Kaufmann: History of the Reformation. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-458-71024-0 .
  • Johannes Lorentzen : The Confession of Augsburg. The struggle for the source of life of the Evangelical Lutheran Church 1530–1930 , Neumünster: Sehrohr o. J. [1930]
  • Johannes Lorentzen: The Confession - Life Testimony of the Church , Breklum undated [1936]; reprinted in: Karl Ludwig Kohlwage , Manfred Kamper, Jens-Hinrich Pörksen (eds.): “You will be my witnesses!” Voices for the preservation of a denominational church in urgent times. The Breklumer Hefte of the ev.-luth. Confessional community in Schleswig-Holstein from 1935 to 1941. Sources on the history of the church struggle in Schleswig-Holstein. Compiled and edited by Peter Godzik , Husum: Matthiesen Verlag 2018, ISBN 978-3-7868-5308-4 , pp. 237-259.
  • Vinzenz Pfnür : Are you united in the doctrine of justification? The doctrine of justification of the Confessio Augustana (1530) and the position of the Catholic controversial theology between 1530 and 1535 (= publications of the Institute for European History. Department of Western Religious History; 60). Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden 1970 (Diss. Theol. Münster 1969/70).
  • Gunther Wenz : Theology of the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church , 2 volumes. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1996, ISBN 3-11-015239-8 .

Web links

Commons : Confessio Augustana  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


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