01 February, 2010

AC 16 and Lutheran Higher Learning

The Lutheran Confessions do not have a great deal to say directly about higher education; rightly so, since it's something squarely in the category of adiaphora or Mitteldinge, to use the Confessions' language; and higher learning is nothing on which one can stake his salvation. But this doesn't mean that it's impossible to extrapolate some sort of guidance from the Confessions about higher education and to locate it within the horizons of the Confessions.

Key here, then, are two articles in the Augsburg Confession, 16 "On Civic Matters," and 18 "On the Free Will." [I shall return to the latter in another post.] In the first, Melanchthon discusses the Christian's freedom in respect of converse in society:
Concerning civic matters, they [the teachers of the Augsburg Confession/"our churches"] teach that legitimate civic orders [legitimae ordinationes civiles] are good works of God [bona opera Dei], [and] that it is permissible for Christians to function in magistracies, to carry out judgments, to judge matters on the basis of imperial and other applicable laws, to determine punishments on the basis of right, to go to war on the basis of right, to serve in the military, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to swear before magistrates when they require it, to take a wife, to be married.... They also condemn those who do not locate evangelical perfection in the fear of God and faith, but in the desertion of civic offices.
This pronouncement of the confessors at Augsburg stands in stark contrast with that of Müntzer, Karlstadt, and other radical reformers, and is not only a positive confession but also an intentional self-distancing from the extreme measures of Müntzer, Karlstadt, et al., who radicalized the Wittenberg Reformation by overthrowing social structures. This radicalization resulted both in the Peasants' War and, closer to home, in the late 1520s in Wittenberg, in an obscurantism advocated by the university students that rejected not only scholasticism (as did the Wittenberg Reformers) but also the liberal arts. Put another way, the university as a social structure [Uni-Wittenberg belonged to the Elector!] was threatened by the radicalization of the Reformation. AC rejects this radicalization, instead insisting that such social structures are, in fact, "good works of God [bona opera Dei]."

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