The Three Universal Christian Creeds and the Lutheran Confessions
We believe, teach and confess in harmony with the three Universal Christian Creeds: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, as well as the Confessional Documents in the Lutheran Book of Concord of 1580. These creeds and confessions are a correct explanation of what the Bible teaches. Therefore, they are the standard of teaching and practice in our churches.
We subscribe unconditionally to the writings contained in the Lutheran Book of Concord of 1580: the three Creeds, the Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism, and the Formula of Concord (both the Epitome and the Solid Declaration). We do not believe that these documents add anything to the Holy Scriptures. Rather, we accept them because they are a correct explanation and exposition of the Scripture.
In ancient times the true Christian doctrine, in a pure, sound sense, was collected from God’s Word into brief articles or chapters against the corruption of heretics. Therefore, we confess, in the second place, the three Ecumenical Creeds: the Apostles’, and Nicene, and the Athanasian. They are glorious confessions of faith, brief, devout, and founded on God’s Word. All the heresies that had at that time arisen in the Christian Church are clearly and irrefutably answered by these creeds. (Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration, par. 4)
In this work of Concord, we have not at all wished to create something new or to depart from the truth of the heavenly doctrine, which our ancestors (renowned for their piety) as well as we ourselves, have acknowledged and professed. We mean the doctrine that, having been taken from the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, is contained (a) in the three ancient Creeds; (b) in the Augsburg Confession, presented in the year 1530 to Emperor Charles V (of excellent memory); (c) in the Apology, which was added to this; (d) in the Smalcald Articles; and lastly (e) in both the Catechisms of that excellent man, Dr. Luther. Therefore, we also determined not to depart even a finger’s breadth either from the subjects themselves or from the phrases that are found in them. But, the Spirit of the Lord aiding us, we intend to persevere constantly, with the greatest harmony, in this godly agreement. And we intend to examine all controversies according to this true norm and declaration of the pure doctrine. (Preface to the Book of Concord: paragraph 23)
The Holy Scriptures alone remain the judge, rule, and norm. According to them – as the only touchstone – all teachings shall and must be discerned and judged to see whether they are good or evil. The other symbols and writings mentioned above [i.e., the creeds and confessions] are not judges like the Holy Scriptures. They are only testimony and declaration of the faith. They show how the Holy Scriptures have been understood and explained in regard to controversial articles in God’s Church by those living at the time. Also, they show by what arguments the dogmas conflicting with the Holy Scriptures were rejected and condemned. (Epitome of the Formula of Concord, Preface: paragraphs 7-8)