The Magdeburg Confession (The Lesser Magistrate Doctrine)

Posted on March 18th, 2013

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Air Date: March 18, 2013

Host: Vic Eliason

Guest: Matt Trewhella

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Matt Trewhella has been a leader in the pro-life movement and directs the ministry, Missionaries to the Preborn. Matt has been involved in hunting down and securing the first English Translation of The Magdeburg Confession dealing with the Lesser Magistrate Doctrine.

The Lesser Magistrate Doctrine states that when a higher or superior authority creates unjust or immoral laws, the lesser ranking civil authority has both the right and the duty before God to not only not obey but to actively resist such unjust laws.

The Magdeburg Confession, which was based upon the Lesser Magistrate Doctrine, was written in 1550 by the nine pastors of Magdeburg, Germany. When Luther died in 1546, Charles V, who had always wanted to crush the reformation, decided to finally take action and he introduced his Augsburg Interim in order to try and bring all the Christian states and Christian princes back under Roman Catholic authority.

Most of the empire went along with the Augsburg Interim except for the city of Magdeburg, Germany.

The confession was written in Latin, then translated into German and distributed as the printing press had been invented approximately 100 years earlier. Unfortunately it was never translated into English, although through the help of a librarian from Concordia University, Matt was able to secure a Latin original from 1550 from the Bavarian State Library in Germany. From there Matt was able to obtain the help of a Cornell University staff member with a PhD in Latin and Greek literature who did the translation work.

As the rule of law continues to deteriorate in America, is it possible that there are instances where the Lesser Magistrate Doctrine should be executed? Would this restore order or would it promote anarchy? Are there examples where we see the principle behind the doctrine already playing out? Find out as Matt and Vic analyze the historic roots and the possible contemporary applications of this little known confession.


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