Article VII of the Augsburg Confession begins like this: “Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.”
Many people tend to think that Lutherans are the theological bad boys, a group of radical reformers who broke with Rome, and founded their own church just to spite the Pope in Rome. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Martin Luther never wanted to leave the Roman Catholic Church, he just wanted to reform it. This became impossible though, when the pope, excommunicated Luther unjustly.
Lutheranism’s foundational document, the Augsburg Confession, is not a protest document like many people believe it to be. Instead, it’s helpful to think of it as a catholic statement of faith that is rooted in the Scriptures, and the patristic fathers of the church. Lutheranism is both evangelical, and catholic.
We are evangelical, because we believe in the good news of the gospel, and we are catholic because everything we receive from the Apostles, and church fathers that is found in the Scriptures, we have maintained. That quote at the top of the page, shows that Luther, and his fellow reformers did not see themselves as starting a new church, but continuing the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith.
We Lutherans are catholics of the Augsburg Confession. We have maintained many catholic elements in our churches. We have kept the Mass (albeit with a few justifiable reforms), the traditional sacraments such as baptism, and Eucharist, and private confession, and absolution has been maintained in our churches. We still celebrate many of the traditional festivals of the church year. We also maintain good order, and discipline by only letting those with a valid call, preach, or administer the sacraments.
Our book of confessions, the Book of Concord, acknowledges that we believe in the three creeds of the church, the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. Our confessions are also saturated with references to fathers, such as Saints Ambrose, and Augustine. The World Lutheran Federation has also acknowledged that we believe in the 7 ecumenical councils of the church.
I write this to emphasize Lutheranism isn’t so much a radical movement of Protestants, but instead, is in fact a catholic revival in the Evangelical tradition. Everything we find in the Scriptures, that has been taught by the fathers, in the creeds, and councils, we have kept. We Lutherans are not so much Protestants, as we are Catholics, Evangelical Catholics, or simply Catholics of the Augsburg Confession.