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Augsburg Confession, Article II: “Original Sin”

From The Lutheran Confessions

Augsburg Confession, Article II: “Original Sin”

1 Our churches teach that since the fall of Adam, all who are naturally born are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with the inclination to sin, called concupiscence. 2 Concupiscence is a disease and original vice that is truly sin. It damns and brings eternal death on those who are not born anew through Baptism and the Holy Spirit.
3 Our churches condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, thus obscuring the glory of Christ’s merit and benefits. Pelagians argue that a person can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.

[Reprinted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, CPH, St. Louis]

After confessing the Scriptural truth about the one, true God being the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as confessed by the Nicene Creed, the Lutheran reformers move on through the beginning of Scripture’s story. They’ve actually already been there in Genesis 1 and 2, confessing that God is the creator of all things. Now they progress to the fall of man.

“In Adam, we have all been one, one huge rebellious man. We all have fled that evening voice that sought us as we ran.” (M. Franzmann, LSB #569; stanza 1) This original sin, or the “root sin” (Luther, Smalcald Articles) inherited from Adam through every human father, makes us by nature unable to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. It gives us the inclination to sin, called “natural concupiscence.”

This bad “root” produces bad fruit: “…All the subsequent evil deeds which are forbidden in the Ten Commandments, such as unbelief, false belief, idolatry, being without the fear of God, presumption, despair, blindness – in short, ignorance or disregard of God – and then also lying, swearing by God’s name, failure to pray and call upon God, neglect of God’s Word, disobedience to parents, murder, unchastity, theft, deceit, etc.” (Luther, Smalcald Articles)

So sin is much more than thinking, saying, and doing things that are wrong. It is a terminal disease. We are by nature sinful and unclean. One should say it is sinful to even exist as we are born. From conception, we are in dire need of forgiveness and rescue from sin, in need of being “born anew.”

Note that the Augsburg Confession twice subtly refers to the Roman view of sin. The Roman Church taught and still teaches that concupiscence (the inborn inclination to sin) is not actually sin. By this misdiagnosis of the illness of original sin, Rome leads people to believe they are able to cooperate with God’s grace to earn one’s salvation. But we confess, “Concupiscence is a disease and original vice that is truly sin. It damns…”

Secondly, without accusing Rome openly, Article II rejects all teachings that imply we are responsible for or contribute to our salvation. This is the reference to “Pelagians” – an ancient heresy of a teacher named Pelagius, who taught man had it in him by his nature to make it on his own to the Divine. The Roman Church is a “Semi-Pelagian” heterodox church body: they teach that God meets the person half-way, making it possible for a person to cooperate with His grace and earn one’s own salvation.

The Bible teaches otherwise – we humans are helpless to please God on our own strength or merits. This leads us to the next article, the answer for Original Sin: the Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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