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Philipp-Melanchthon-1532One of the joys of this blog has always been that we can come together here from our various traditions and discuss calmly and rationally both the things that bring us together and those that keep us apart. As Chalcedon said yesterday, our Anglican contingent (all three of them) are missed greatly–not least because they, more than most of us, tend to be a uniting faith. Indeed that was one of the reasons Jessica founded this blog, to foster that very discussion. And I think we have done well (so far) with the mission she gave us.

That does not mean, nor has it ever, that we compromise our core beliefs, or expect others to do so.

In  a few weeks we, like so many others will confess our faith, on Trinity Sunday, in the words of the Athanasian Creed, instead of the more commonly used Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed. In doing so we will say this:

This is the catholic faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.”

We like our Anglican brothers and sisters have been doing this for five hundred years. But, I hear often, you are Lutheran,  not Catholic. But if you think that, you are wrong,we are although we are not Roman, we are Catholic, believing in the Real Presence, and Baptismal Regeneration, amongst others. In fact, in the Augsburg Confession, Melanchthon declares:

“The churches among us do not dissent from the catholic church in any article of faith.There is nothing here that departs from the Scriptures or the catholic church, or from the Roman Church, insofar as we can tell from its writers.”

True then, true now, true always. In the twentieth century Herman Sasse would write: “It was no mere ecclesiastico-political diplomacy which dictated the emphatic assertion in the Augsburg Confession that the teachings of the Evangelicals were identical with those of the orthodox Catholic Church of all ages,” he writes. “The Lutheran theologian acknowledges that he belongs to the same visible church to which Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux, Augustine and Tertullian, Athanasius and Ireneaus once belonged.”

But how do we get there? Mathew Block writing in First Things had some thoughts.

Lutherans have long confessed faith in the “invisible” Church—that is to say, we confess that the Church is “properly speaking, the assembly of saints and those who truly believe,” as Philip Melanchthon puts it in the Augsburg Confession. Belief then is what makes one a member of the Church, not denominational affiliation—contra Roman Catholic doctrine which equates the invisible Church with a visible churchly institution. (This distinction, by the by, is why I’ve written elsewhere that I’m too catholic to be Catholic.)

Belief in the invisible Church does not, however, mean that denominational affiliation is unimportant […]

The universality of the Church is, through God’s grace, a reality despite doctrinal disagreements; but it is not a license for the downplaying of these doctrinal differences. The Church catholic is also the Church apostolic—which is to say, it is the Church which “stands firm and holds to the traditions” which have been taught through the words of the Apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:15). And this teaching—which is truly the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:19-21)—has been passed on to us today in its fullness through the Scriptures.

To be catholic, then, is to be heirs of the apostolic faith. It is to be rooted firmly in the Apostle’s teaching as recorded for us in Scripture, the unchanging Word of God. But while this Word is unchanging, it does not follow that it is static. The history of the Church in the world is the history of Christians meditating upon Scripture. We must look to this history as our own guide in understanding Scripture. To be sure, the Church’s tradition of interpretation has erred from time to time—we find, for example, that the Fathers and Councils sometimes disagree with one another—but it is dangerous to discount those interpretations of Scripture which have been held unanimously from the very beginning of the Church.

For me, at least that sums it up pretty well, and from what I have seen, it likely does for most Anglicans as well, and should for Rome as well.

The lectionary tells us that the lesson for today comes from:

1 John 3:16-24 King James Version (KJV)

16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.

22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

And the Hymnody gives us this as well: