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Friday, July 30, 2010
The Smalcald Articles by Martin Luther (Kindle version)
A 1921 translation of an important piece of Reformation theology
The Smalcald Articles were designed to be be a presentation of the basics of Lutheran theology that was to be presented at a Council of the Church in Mantua in 1537 - a Lutheran/Catholic discussion about what Lutherans and Catholics believed. As Luther notes in his brief introduction these articles laid out "what we could accept or yield, and what we could not." (location 2) They are named for the Smalcald (Schmalkaldic) League - a union of Lutheran cities and territories that opposed the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor.
The Council never happened and the league never adopted the Smalcald Articles as an official statement of faith because of Luther's strident, I would even say enthusiastic, attacks on some core matters of Catholic faith, especially the office of the Pope.
The Smalcald Articles were incorporated into the Book of Concord and are considered traditional standard Lutheran doctrine.
The Smalcald Articles are a lively presentation of the basics of Lutheranism. In reality, one would get the same information if you read Martin Luther's Small Catechism but it would not be presented in Luther's best argumentative style. Luther often knew no restraint when it came to arguing the points of Christian faith. He follows his arguments to their logical conclusions and is quite ruthless, devestatingly effective and fantastically politically incorrect in passages that condemn the office of the Pope, ultimately concluding that the position of Pope is that of Antichrist (locations 225-268). One can see why the Smalcald League wanted to tone down the rhetoric for the purposes of discussion.
However, Luther's rawboned, no-holds-barred, street fighter style of argument is really the star here. Luther had precious little patience for those that were, in his view, perverting the teachings of Christianity in order to follow the traditions and practices of human institutions. While Luther's Small Catechism patiently lays out the teachings of Lutheranism in an easy to digest format, the Smalcald Articles are a whirlwind, alternately attacking and defending (even his defenses are mostly attacks) highlighting Luther's early training as a lawyer (and what a great modern-day criminal lawyer he would have been!) with elaborate arguments that show little mercy to any that would interfere with the work of God amongst his people.
I rate this book 5 stars out of 5 and it can be found on Amazon.com here: The Smalcald Articles.
Reviewed on April 30, 2010.