By Beth Groh
One by one, they came before the document, picking up a quill and dipping it in the ink well.
As each one signed on that summer day long ago, he knew that his signature marked a turning point of history. Yes, they were signing a declaration of their beliefs.
No doubt a few prayers were uttered as each approached, perhaps asking for courage or protection. But they signed anyway with bold resolve—taking a stand that would reverberate throughout history.
As we remember the signing of our nation’s Declaration of Independence, that story reminds us of our brave Founding Fathers who penned an eloquent assertion of man’s rights endowed by his Creator.
And that’s certainly a fitting description of that famous day in 1776. But it also describes a mid-summer gathering some 246 years earlier.
Just step back deeper into history…back to June 25, 1530 and you’ll find a gathering princes and what were considered “electors” in the Holy Roman Empire, who had gathered in a region that would now be considered Germany.
Standing before the powerful Emperor Charles V, one in their midst read aloud what they called the Augsburg Confession—a bold and clear statement of the Gospel of Salvation by faith and reaffirmation of the Triune God.
That carefully deliberated document was nothing less than a theological assault on the then prevailing beliefs among Catholic rulers, and the competing faiths that came along with Turkish invaders into Europe.
Those who signed it knew they risked their power, their land, and perhaps their lives. But listen to one signer’s words of resolve:
“Rather than deny my God and suffer the Word of God to be taken from me, I will kneel down and have my head struck off,” said George of Brandenburg.
That Augsburg Confession is considered one of the most important “shots across the bow” of the Catholic Church and the birth certificate, if you will, of the Protestant Reformation.
These brave men, inspired in large part by Martin Luther, called out a perversion of the Gospel in their day … an era when people were wrongly encouraged to work (and, yes, even pay) for their Salvation.
They took a stand. They risked it all.
Generations later, our nation’s Founding Fathers also found themselves at a turning point in history. They, too, took a stand—avowing that God, not the king of England, gave each man inalienable rights.
Now fast forward to us in 2011… Will we answer a similar call?
Do we not hear a confusing chorus of Christian teachings in our nation? Are many being led stray by being taught that good works—not the one and only true “good work” of our Savior—offer the ticket to heaven?
Aren’t other well-meaning souls being deceived by a humanist worldview that diminishes the Bible to being an important piece of historical literature, but not the true inerrant Word of God?
And on the national stage, do we not witness an almost daily assault on the very Godly principles on which our nation was founded?
Now this generation must answer: Do we retreat to our homes and churches, either ignoring or condoning the twisting of faith and history?
Or, do we find ways to take our stand, just as brave souls did in the summers of 1776 and 1530?
Let’s all ask ourselves that question as we celebrate our nation’s founding next week…and remember the bold proclamations of God’s truth others have been willing to make in the past.