Augsburg Confession – Article 19 – The Cause of Sin

Articles 19 & 20 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 18, click here.)

Regarding the cause of sin, we teach that, although God the Almighty has created and still preserves all of the natural world, sin is brought about by the perverted will in all those who are wicked and despise God, such as the will of the devil and all the godless.1 As soon as God withdraws his hand, their will inclines away from God toward evil, as Christ says in John 8, “The devil speaks lies on his own.”2

(To continue to Article 20, click here.)

Notes

1 For proof passages, see Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Psalm 33:6-19; 25:7,8; 34:8; 53:1-3; 65:9-13; 100:1-5; 136:1; 145:9; Isaiah 45:7 (perhaps more shocking in the Hebrew, where it says that the LORD is the בורא רע (one who creates [same word used of God’s activity in bringing about the universe during the first week of its history!] evil or disaster; nevertheless we must keep in mind the poetic context and the broader context of Scripture as a whole, which leads us to understand Isaiah as describing the LORD’S preservation of the universe, active role in human history, and ultimate control over and directing of all things good and evil for his own good purposes); Jeremiah 7:24; Ezekiel 8:25,29; John 8:42-47; Romans 8:28.

2 John 8:44. The German aus seinem Eigen could also be translated, “by his own doing,” or the entire sentence could be translated more paraphrastically, “When the devil lies, he is doing what comes natural to him.” Melanchthon’s point in the context is that the devil’s lies and their accompanying evils originate with himself, not with God.

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Augsburg Confession – Article 18 – Free Will

Articles 17 & 18 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 17, click here.)

Regarding free will, this is what we teach: Humans have a free will to a certain extent. They have the ability to live an outwardly honorable life and can make choices among those things that pertain to reason.1 But without the grace, help, and working of the Holy Spirit they are not capable of becoming pleasing to God, of fearing or believing God from the heart, or of expelling the innate, evil inclinations from their hearts. This rather takes place through the Holy Spirit, who is given through God’s word. For Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2, “The natural man understands nothing from the Spirit of God.”2

And so that it may be recognized that we are not teaching anything new and strange, we include here the clear words of Augustine on free will, from the third book of his Hypognosticon:3

We concede that there is a free will in all people, for all of them have natural, innate understanding and reason. We are not saying that they are capable of dealing with God in some respect, such as loving and fearing God from the heart; only in the outward works of this life do they have freedom to choose good or evil. By “good” I mean what their nature is capable of, such as working in the field or not, eating or drinking, going to see a friend or not, putting on or taking off a piece of clothing, taking a wife, pursuing a trade, and doing something useful and good of that sort. Of course without God none of these exists or continues; everything is from him and through him. On the other hand, man can also undertake something evil by his own choice, such as bowing down to an idol, committing a murder, etc.

(To continue to Article 19, click here.)

Notes

1 Some examples of such choices are provided in the quote at the end of the article. Cf. also Wade Johnston, An Uncompromising Gospel (Irvine, CA: New Reformation Publications, 2016), pp. 13-14: “[In his Heidelberg Disputation] Luther…addressed the problem of free will—the existence, or lack of existence, of free will in matters of salvation. Here Americans bristle, but we must remember that Luther isn’t talking about whether or not we can choose Big Macs or Whoppers, vanilla or chocolate custard, but whether or not we can decide to be saved, whether we can choose to do what is necessary for us to be righteous.”

2 For more proof passages, see Genesis 6:5 (before the Flood); 8:21 (after the Flood); John 3:5,6; 8:31-36; 15:16; Romans 8:6-8.

3 Like the quote from Ambrose in Article 6 (see Note 2 there), this quote from Augustine is not actually from Augustine. It is usually attributed to Pseudo-Augustine, a title that can apply to a number of as-yet unidentified authors. However, the work is ancient; it was already being falsely attributed to Augustine in the 800s AD, and it was obviously preserved because it was thought to be of value. The work is usually called Hypognosticon or Hypomnesticon contra Pelagianos et Coelestianos, which means An Instructive Letter Against the Pelagians and Coelestians. The original Latin quote can be found in col. 1623 (Book 3, Chapter 4, par. 5) here.

Here is a supporting quote actually taken from Augustine: “A man’s free-will, indeed, avails for nothing except to sin, if he knows not the way of truth… God’s ‘love is shed abroad in our hearts,’ not through the free-will which arises from ourselves, but ‘through the Holy Ghost, which is given to us’” (On the Spirit and the Letter, Chapter 3, par. 5; original Latin quote in col. 203 here).

Augsburg Confession – Article 2 – Original Sin

Articles 1 & 2 of the Augsburg Confession in the Book of Concord of 1580

(To read Article 1, click here.)

We further teach that after Adam’s fall, all humans born in the natural way1 are conceived and born in sin, that is, that all of them, starting from the time they are in their mother’s womb, are full of evil desire and inclination and by nature are unable to have any true fear of God or any true faith in God. We also teach that this inborn disease and inherited sin is truly sin2 and condemns all those who are not reborn through baptism and the Holy Spirit to God’s eternal wrath.

In addition, we condemn the Pelagians3 and others who do not regard inherited sin as sin, so that they make human nature pious through its own natural powers, which is an insult to the suffering and merit of Christ.

(To continue to Article 3, click here.)

Notes

1 This qualification is meant to exempt Jesus (Luke 1:26-38; John 8:46; Hebrews 4:15).

2 Cp. the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997): “Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the dominion of death; and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called ‘concupiscence.’ Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back toward God…” (par. 405).

3 The Pelagians were followers of Pelagius (c. 360-c. 418 AD), a British or Irish monk who wrote commentaries on 13 Epistles of Paul; a book on faith; treatises on Christian life, virginity, and the divine Law; and letters. Pelagius and his followers held that a person’s nature is not corrupt since the fall but is still in its original state of moral indifference and depends on the individual will to develop the moral germ of his nature and be saved. According to Pelagius, grace and salvation from Christ were not necessary. One of the most outspoken opponents of Pelagianism was Augustine.