Excerpts from the Apology

Melanchton Apology

Melanchton writes in his foreword: “I have instead assembled their principal arguments in order to bear witness to the entire world that we hold to the gospel of Christ correctly and faithfully. We take no pleasure in discord, nor are we unaware of our danger, the extent of which is evident from the bitter hatred inflaming the opponents. But we cannot surrender truth that is so clear and necessary for the church. We believe, therefore, that we must endure difficulties and dangers for the glory of Christ and the good of the church. We trust that God approves our dutiful action, and we hope that posterity will judge us more equitably. For neither is it possible to deny that we have brought to light many topics of Christian teaching that the church desperately needs.” (Kolb & Wengert: 110,15-17)

Concerning original righteousness and original sin: “We have said nothing new here. The traditional definition, rightly understood, says precisely the same thing when it states, “Original sin is the absence of original righteousness.” But what is righteousness? … Thus original righteousness was intended to include not only a balanced physical constitution, but these gifts as well: a more certain knowledge of God, fear of God, and confidence in God, or at least the uprightness and power needed to do these things.”  (ebd. 114,15-18)

And a bit further down: “Knowledge of original sin is a necessity. For we cannot know the magnitude of Christ’s grace unless we first recognize our malady. The entire righteousness of the human creature is sheer hypocrisy before God unless we admit that by nature the heart is lacking love, fear, and trust in God. Thus the prophet says [Jer. 31:19], “And after I was discovered, I struck my thigh.” Again [Ps. 116:11], “I said in my consternation, ‘Everyone is a liar,’ ” that is, they do not think rightly about God. The German translation adds, “As Christ says in Matthew 9[:12] and Mark 2[:17]: ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician.’ ” (ebd. 117,33f)

“But if the opponents contend that the “tinder of sin” is a neutral matter, they will contradict not only the many statements of Scripture but clearly the entire church. Even if a perfect consensus is not attainable, no one would dare say that the following things are neutral: doubting the wrath of God, the grace of God, and the Word of God; being angry with the judgment of God; being indignant that God does not rescue us immediately from afflictions; grumbling that the ungodly experience more good fortune than the upright; being stirred up by rage, lust, desire for glory, wealth, and the like. And devout people acknowledge that these things are present in them as the Psalms and the prophets make clear. In the schools, however, they have taken over from philosophy the completely alien notions that our passions make us neither good nor evil, neither praiseworthy nor contemptible.42 Again, they say that nothing is sin unless it is voluntary.43 These statements in the philosophers speak about the judgment of civil courts, not about the judgment of God.44 It is no wiser to say, for example, that “nature is not evil.” In its place, we do not object to this statement; but it is not right to distort it for the purpose of trivializing original sin. And yet these things are said among the scholastics who improperly mingle philosophical or social ethics with the gospel. These things were not simply debated in the schools, but, as often happens, instead of remaining purely in academe these ideas spread among the people where they prevailed and fostered trust in human powers and suppressed the knowledge of the grace of Christ. Therefore, when Luther wanted to expose the magnitude of original sin and human weakness, he taught that the remnants of original sin in the human being are not in their essence neutral, but need both the grace of Christ, so that they might not be held [against us], and also the Holy Spirit, so that they might be put to death.” (ebd.118,42ff Highlight WW)

“The deficiency and concupiscence are both penalty and sin. Death and other bodily ills, together with the tyranny of the devil, are penalties in the proper sense. For human nature is enslaved and held captive by the devil, who deceives it with ungodly opinions and errors and incites it to all sorts of sins. However, just as the devil is not conquered without Christ’s help, so we, by our own powers, are unable to free ourselves from that slavery. World history itself shows how great is the strength of the devil’s rule. Blasphemy and wicked teachings fill the world, and in these bonds the devil holds enthralled those who are wise and righteous in the eyes of the world. In others even greater vices appear. But since Christ was given to us in order to bear both these sins and penalties as well as to destroy the reign of the devil, sin, and death, the benefits of Christ cannot be recognized unless we understand our evil. Therefore our preachers have diligently taught about these matters, and in the process they have said nothing new. Instead they have set forth the Holy Scripture and the statements of the holy Fathers.” (ebd. 119,47-50)

And finally: “For we know that we believe rightly and in agreement with Christ’s church catholic.” (ebd. 120,51)

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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