Formula of Concord (Lutheran Church)
The Formula of Concord (Formula Concordiae) is one of the symbolic books of the Lutheran Church, the purpose of which was to heal the schisms that had arisen in the church since Luther's death and to restore pure Lutheran doctrine. The formula of unity worked out in 1576 at a convention of theologians at Torgau by Jacob Andreae of Tübingen, Martin Chemnitz of Brunswick, David Chyträus of Rostock, Andreas Musculus of Frankfurt a.d. Oder, and several theologians of Saxony, was not found satisfactory, and was therefore revised in March 1577, at the Bergen monastery near Magdeburg. But this new version called the Formula Concordiae was not approved by all the Lutheran churches either.
The Formula of Concord comprises 12 articles. The last chapter deals with "other gangs and sects, who have never confessed themselves to the Augsburg Confession." This chapter is included to prevent the suspicion that such groups were tolerated. Among them were the Anabaptists, Schwenckfelders, Arians, and Antitrinitarians.
Concerning the Anabaptists the Concordia states: "The Anabaptists are divided into many groups, of which one defends much error, another little; on the whole, however, they teach such doctrine as cannot be tolerated in the churches, by the police, or in temporal government," and the suspicion is aroused that all branches without distinction hold the enumerated tenets.
The articles are divided into three groups. In addition to several doctrinal points, the Anabaptist views on government and economics are condemned, in agreement with article 16 of the Augsburg Confession.
The erroneous tenets of the Anabaptists are listed as follows in the Formula of Concord:
Intolerable Articles on the Church
- That Christ did not receive His body and blood from the Virgin Mary, but brought it with Him from heaven.
- That Christ is not true God, but merely has more gifts of the Holy Spirit than other holy persons.
- That our justification before God does not rest alone on the merit of Christ, but on the renewal, and thus on our own piety, in which we walk. Which is in large part on one's own, peculiar, self-chosen spirituality, and is fundamentally nothing but a new monasticism.
- That unbaptized children are before God not sinners, but righteous and innocent, which are saved in their innocence, because they have not yet reached accountability, without baptism (which, according to their assumption, they do not need). They thus reject the entire doctrine of original sin and what is attached to it.
- That children should not be baptized until they come to understanding and can confess their faith themselves.
- That the children of Christians are holy and children of God even without baptism, for the reason that they are born of Christian parents; and for this reason they do not regard nor promote infant baptism, contrary to the express word of God's promise, which includes only those who keep His covenant and do not despise it, Genesis 17.
- That the church in which sinners are still found is not a true church.
- That one should hear no sermon or attend any temple in which Papist Mass has been held or read.
- That one should have nothing to do with preachers who preach the Gospel in accord with the Augsburg Confession and reprove the preaching and error of the Anabaptists; one should neither serve them nor work for them, but flee and avoid them as perverters of God's Word.
Intolerable Articles Concerning the Police
- That the government is not a God-pleasing position in the New Testament.
- That a Christian cannot with a good conscience fill or officiate in a government office.
- That a Christian cannot with a good conscience use a function of government in occasional matters against the wicked, nor may its subjects call upon its power received from God, for safety and protection.
- That a Christian cannot with good conscience swear an oath nor offer allegiance to the ruling prince by means of an oath.
Intolerable Articles on Economics
- That a Christian with good conscience cannot keep or own any property, but is obliged to give it to the brotherhood.
- That a Christian cannot with a good conscience be an innkeeper, merchant, or knifesmith.
- That married persons must for the sake of their faith separate from one another, and one leave the other and marry another who is of the same faith.
These articles were compiled by the provost Jacob Andreae, who preached 33 sermons in Esslingen in 1566-1567 against "Papists, Schwenckfelders, and Anabaptists," which included eight against the Anabaptists. For the most part they refer to the Hutterian Brethren, who had no brotherhoods in Germany, but were doing successful missionary work there. From their confession of faith, Peter Riedemann's Rechenschaft unserer Religion, Lehre und Glaubens, he quotes entire passages and tries to refute them: infant baptism (p. 28), community of goods (p. 160), oath (p. 141), church officials (p. 75), hearing sermons in the temples (p. 51), Christian and government (p. 101), magistracy (p. 129), merchants (p. 157), knife-smiths or armorsmiths (p. 156), and inns (p. 159). These sermons were printed in 1568, in a second edition in 1575, and enlarged with six additional sermons in 1753.
The views expressed by Andreae in these sermons were concentrated in the Swabian Concordia of 1574, from which they were put almost verbatim into the Formula of Concord. Only a few sentences were added. One on Calvin at the request of the theologians of Brunswick and Wolfenbüttel in session at Riddagshausen read: "The error of Calvin, that the children of baptized Christian believers; are in the covenant of grace and are saved even before they receive baptism, and that they are baptized only because baptism in them signifies and seals the salvation they have beforehand, for such error minimizes the doctrine of original sin." The others were those on the Incarnation.
The Formula of Concord was widely used. It was adopted in Saxony, Brandenburg, the Palatinate, in 20 duchies, 24 counties, and 35 imperial cities. It was rejected by Anhalt, Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Denmark, Hesse, Holstein, Pfalz-Zweibrücken, Pomerania, Sweden, and a number of cities and counties (Bremen, Frankfurt, Magdeburg, Nürnberg, etc.). Though it failed to become a unifying formula for the Lutheran church, it formed the foundation for church doctrine from that time on in the sections that accepted it.
Andreae, Jacob. Dreyunddreissig Predigen, Von den filrnembsten Spaltungen in der Christlichen Religion: IV.
Frank, Fr. H. R. Die Theologie der Concordienformel. Erlangen, 1865. IV, 345-391
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 543 ff.
Heppe, F. H. Geschichte des deutschen Protestantismus. 1857: III.
Loserth, Johann. Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der oberdeutschen Taufgesinnten im 16. Jahrhundert. Vienna, 1929.
Müller, J. T. Die symbolischen Bücher der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche. Gütersloh, 1890: 558-560, 727 f.
Riedemann, Peter. Rechenschaft unserer Religion, Lehre und Glaubens (ca. 1545).
Wider die Lehr der Widerteuffer. Tübingen, 1568: 1-172.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 354-356. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Hege, Christian. "Formula of Concord (Lutheran Church)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 19 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/formula_of_concord_lutheran_church.
APA style: Hege, Christian. (1956). Formula of Concord (Lutheran Church). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/formula_of_concord_lutheran_church.