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Hermann Sasse

Hermann Otto Erich Sasse (17 July 1895 – 9 August 1976) was a Lutheran pastor, theologian, and author. He was considered one of the foremost confessional Lutheran theologians of the 20th century.

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The full text of the Augsburg Confession and Apology, which are referenced often by Sasse.

Contributed by Aidan Netherwyrm Clevinger

Throughout his work, Sasse continuously emphasized the importance of holding to the doctrine of the one, holy, cathlic church as it was set forward in the Apostle's Creed and as it was further described in Article VII of the Augsburg Confession; namely, "I believe in one, holy, catholic church…The congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered". Although there are many "churches" in the world - that is, many denominations which claim the name "Christian" and which subscribe to different confessions of faith - there is only one true Church, which is the whole people of God, indivisible and eternal. For Sasse, the question of the Church is inextricably linked to the question of Christ's presence and activity: Ubi Christus, ibi ecclesia ("Where Christ is, there is the Church"). It is Christ's justifying work - that is, His distribution of the forgiveness of sins - that defines the boundaries of where one ought to seek the Church. Simply put, the Church exists wherever the means of grace (the preaching of the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper) are used according to Christ's command and institution. It is through these means alone that God creates faith, builds His congregation, and gives the gift of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, the Church cannot be identified with any visible denomination, nor even in that sum of the denominations called Christendom - instead, the Church (singular) exists "in, with, and under" the churches (plural). Likewise, the fullness of the Church can be found in any assembly where the Gospel is preached or the Sacraments administered correctly, just as the fullness of the body and blood of Christ can be found in the bread and wine taken by the individual communicant. In addition to delineating the boundaries of what is and is not the Church, Sasse asserts that Article VII also delineates the boundaries of fellowship between the churches. Fellowship, he says, means a common participation in the gifts of God, which must be based on a common confession of faith. Contrary to the views of modern Protestants, fellowship between churches is not something that can be created by man's efforts; it is something which exists through the work of the Holy Spirit and must, instead, be recognized either as present or not present. While all Christians can pray together as a consequence of their Baptism, pulpit fellowship (allowing ministers of other churches to preach in one’s own church) and altar fellowship (participation in the Lord's Supper) are predicated upon a common belief in the essential doctrines of the Gospel - which, for Sasse, are set forth in the Unaltered Augsburg Confession. No confessional Lutheran church ought to participate in either pulpit or altar fellowship with a church that does not confess the beliefs of the Augustana; to do so is to risk the intrusion of false doctrine into the life of the church, which, without the grace of God, can damage or destroy the faith of individual Christians. Above all else, Sasse emphasizes the statement of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession; that the article of the Church was given "that we may not despair". For Sasse, the doctrine of the Church's unity and eternal preservation ought to be a source of comfort to grieving or troubled Christians: since the Christian is promised that the Church will exist forever, he may know and believe that God will graciously defend and protect His people from the devil and from the world, and will allow them to share in His final triumph at the end of days.

Contributed by Aidan Netherwyrm Clevinger

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