Confessing At Augsburg: A Model For Contemporary Evangelistic And Ecumenical Witness -- By: Robert Kolb

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 10:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: Confessing At Augsburg: A Model For Contemporary Evangelistic And Ecumenical Witness
Author: Robert Kolb

Confessing At Augsburg:
A Model For Contemporary Evangelistic
And Ecumenical Witness

Robert Kolb

Confessions and catechisms not only provide a comprehensive view of Christian faith but they also preserve that faith over time. Churches that recite them, even after the members have lost a vital, living faith, can experience revival later as the younger generation raised in the church grasp these truths.1

Three of North America’s leading missiologists recently made this observation in their treatment of bringing the Christian faith to the adherents of “folk religions” at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Their statement reminds us of the enduring significance of these two related genre of Christian witness and instruction. Although the terms “catechism” and “confession of faith” were used in the ancient church, they became terms for written documents for the first time in the early years of the age of printing, that is, in the first third of the sixteenth century. Only since 1536 has the word “confession” been used in English to designsate “a formulary in which a church or body of Christians sets forth the religious doctrines which it considers essential; a creed.”2 What are the origins of the concept, “confession of the faith,” in the form of a document, an extended creed which summarizes biblical teaching? How did the literary form of the confession develop in Christian churches? Why do Christians still find them important and critical for the life of the church today?

The apostle Paul recognized the inevitable connection

between trusting in Jesus Christ and confessing him so that others might hear his Word and come to believe in him (Romans 10:10–17). Christians in all ages have confessed their faith and given witness to Christ. Yet the term “confession” has undergone a significant development in its usage over the centuries. Since the Reformation of the sixteenth century it has been used as a designation for formal statements of the content of the Christian faith, expressions of common Christian belief that summarize the biblical message for public use in the church. In 1530, in the south German city of Augsburg, “confession” became a synonym for “creed.”

In the spring of 1530 Emperor Charles V issued a demand that the followers of Martin Luther among the governing princes and city councils of Germany justify the reform efforts they had undertaken in the previous decade. Luther, who had been excommunicated by Pope Leo X and outlawed by the ...

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