What constitutes a tyrannical government? How and when are Christians to respond and act when a government does become tyrannical? Are Christians to have unlimited obedience to the State? These questions and others were addressed and answered by the pastors in their Confession. In defiance of Charles V’s tyranny, they declared “Divine laws necessarily trump human ones.” The Magdeburg Confession is the first document in the history of man to set forth the Lesser Magistrate Doctrine.
If ever America needs to understand the lesser magistrate doctrine, it is now. What used to be considered evil is good and what used to be good is now evil. Unborn babies are murdered in their mother’s womb and homosexuality is proliferated by the established media and educational institutions. Our federal, state and local authorities for the most part applaud it or stand by and do nothing. All authority is delegated and no man or woman holds their office autonomously. This authority received in office is delegated by God and thus, all those in authority stand accountable to God. This is why the practice of the church historically has been – when the State commands that which God forbids or forbids that which God commands, we have a duty to obey God rather than man. The Bible clearly teaches this principle and we now live in the midst of a statist, slave-like people where such thinking has long been forgotten.
The Magdeburg Confession is the first document in the history of man to set forth the Lesser Magistrate Doctrine. The Lesser Magistrate Doctrine teaches that when a superior authority makes immoral or unjust laws or decrees, the lesser magistrate/authority has a God-given right and duty to resist those immoral or unjust laws or decrees. History is rife with many important events that occurred because of the Lesser Magistrate Doctrine. The effects of these events even had a huge impact upon the thinking of our founders and upon our nation’s people regarding government and law. The Magdeburg Confession is one of history’s most important events involving the lesser magistrate doctrine. Men like John Knox, Theodore Beza and Phillip Mornay were deeply impacted by The Magdeburg Confession and the repercussions of this great writing were felt throughout western civilization all the way to the founding of America as a nation. Now, for the first time in over 460 years, English-speaking people can read the Confession for themselves. This is the first English translation of The Magdeburg Confession ever written.
In 1548, Charles V issued his infamous Augsburg Interim – an attempt to smash the Protestant Reformation. While all of Protestant Germany conformed to his decree, one city decided to take a stand and resist his authority – the City of Magdeburg. The pastors of Magdeburg issued their Confession and Defense of the Pastors and Other Ministers of the Church of Magdeburg on April 13, 1550 AD. Five months after issuing their Confession, Charles V’s forces marched on Magdeburg. The people of Magdeburg burned everything outside the city walls and closed the city gates. The siege of Magdeburg had begun.