at the Reformation
the Protestant Reformation sprang out of two issues, authority
and Catholics agreed in accepting the authority of the Bible as
the word of God. But Catholics believed they had an additional
deposit of faith and that the Church had authority equal to that
of Scripture so long as it did not contradict Scripture.
and Catholics agreed that we are saved by faith in Christ. But
Catholics also believed it was necessary to supplement this initial
faith by the merit of good works and by drawing on the treasury
of good merit won by the saints and held in trust by the Church.
thus asserted the two great sola (a Latin term meaning alone)
Scriptura - the authority of Sc ritpure alone, and
Sola Fide - salvation by grace through faith (fide) alone.
surprisingly these issues surface in the Thirty Nine Articles.
the theological issues the Reformation, was really facilitated
by political and social changes in Europe and also the intellectual
climate. There had been those who had tried to reform the
Catholic Church before and who held to what would later be considered
Protestant principles. But it was it was in part the political
issues that created the climate where reform could really taken
place without the reformers being persecuted and executed.
a consequence of the freedoms many who split from Rome were more
extreme than others and the differences amongst Protestants can
be seen in the Thirty-Nine Articles.
the Articles are not simply a list of differences, they are genuinely
an attempt to cover most of the ground of theology, and therefore
there are many articles which state faith that would have been
shared with radical reformers and Catholics alike.
Thirty-Nine Articles are not unique. Indeed they derive much of
their content from other similar confessions of faith.
There are four families of confessions which were produced around
Roman Catholic Council of Trent.
Thirty-Nine Articles were modelled on some early Lutheran Confessions
but tend to be adapted so as to reflect the concerns of the Reformed
Confessions. In addition, since the declarations of Trent
would have been know to the compilers of the Articles they should
be seen against that background too.
and Lesser Catechism (1527-29)
first work of Martin Luther in this direction was his Greater
and Lesser Catechisms produced between 1527 and 1529. These were
clearly an attempt to set out his stall and show where he differed
from Rome. They were very popular but more was required.
1529 under Elector John of Saxony a set of seventeen articles
were produced in an attempt to forge a political alliance between
the Germans and Swiss on the basis of common acceptance of the
doctrine in the articles. They are known as the Schwabach Articles
and similar articles were discussed at Marburg but were they failed
to gain full approval.
Melancthon was invited to revise the Schwabach articles, which
he did in consultation with Martin Luther. These were accepted
by various German rulers at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 and were
sent to Emperor Charles V in an attempt to provide a basis for
discussion with the Roman Church.
were 21 Articles on matters of doctrine and faith, and a further
7 on various abuses.
Augsburg Confession is important for understanding the Thirty-Nine
was also involved in the 1537 Articles of Schmalcald, which were
produced to help dialogue with Rome. In the end Rome rejected
them and separation was sealed.
declarations of the Council of Trent then began to appear and
as a consequence Philip Melancthon was involved in the 1551 Saxon
Confession and Brentius in the 1552 Confession of Wurtenberg.
This latter is also important for our Articles.
parallel with all this the various Reformed Churches of Switzerland
were also beavering away. Thomas Cranmer, the chief architect
of the Thirty-Nine Articles knew many of the Swiss leaders personally
and corresponded with them. Nevertheless the Reformed Articles
had less direct impact on the Thirty-Nine.
main Reformed confessions were:
Zwingli produced his 67 Articles (this was before Luther).
the First Confession of Basle
the First Helvetic (Swiss) Confession
John Calvin produced the first edition of his Institutes of Christian
Religion - a masterful attempt at a systematic theology.
the Second Helvetic Confession.
Reformed confessions of note are
Irish Articles of 1615
Synod of Dort in 1619
Westminster Confession of 1647.
response to Protestantism the Pope called the 5th Lateran Council
from 1512-17. This did little but reject Protestantism.
followed the Council of Trent from 1545 to 1563, this produced
clear dogmatic theology refuting Protestantism and in many ways
sparking the Counter Reformation. There was no further Council
until Vatican I in 1869.