Saturday, September 03, 2005

"The Augsburg Confession and its Apology are LEGAL documents inasmuch as they are theological ones." In his blog entry: Suing the Synod, Part 4, the Rev'd Headmaster Joel Brondos offers some thought-provoking comments about the legal intent of the Confessions and the context out of which they arose.

The Augustana and its Apology are certainly not the only symbols to arise out of a legal context. Emperor Charles V convened the Diet at Augsburg as a legal effort to resolve theological tensions in his empire. However, it was twelve hundred years earlier that Constantine invoked his authority as ruler of the empire to assemble the Bishops and convene the Council of Nicea, a similar "legal" effort to resolve theological differences.

As I think about these things, I am curious about those in the early church who confessed the Nicene Creed in the liturgy. Did they see this practice as a "legal" sort of confession? Taking a quick glance at Frank Senn's Christian Liturgy, the liturgical use of the Creed doesn't appear until the late fifth century (by the Monophysites) and the early sixth century (in the rite of Constantinople). According to Senn, the Monophysites in 476 were attempting "to emphasize their loyalty to the Council of Nicea" by their practice of confessing the Nicene Creed in the liturgy (127).

Giving this issue further thought, I wonder how much consideration the Lutheran confessors gave to the legal similarities between the Nicene Creed and their Augsburg Confession. If the opening words of the very first article of their Confession are any indication, it could be said that Nicea was in their foremost thoughts as they made their Confession at Augsburg.

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