By Dr Jonathan Trigg
Here is an Anglican student of Luther seeking a clearer understanding of the dimensions of a truly Lutheran (in the broadest sense of that word) ecclesiology:
One pressing issue is to understand what Luther means, and does not mean, by the ‘pure’ Word which marks the presence of the Church.
“Thou art our dwelling place … from generation to generation” … Therefore when you are minded to pass judgement on the church, you must not look for a church in which there are no blemishes and flagrant faults, but for one where the pure Word of God is present, where there is the right administration of the Sacraments, and where there are people who love the Word and confess it before men. Where you discover these earmarks, there you may be sure the church exists, whether the number of those who have and observe these earmarks is small or whether the number is large.
The seventh article of the “Augsburg Confession” explicitly makes room for disagreements on adiaphora. But what space can Luther’s complete and uncompromising insistence on the purity of doctrine leave for dealing with other individuals and churches who claim the name of Christ, but who disagree to a greater or lesser extent on points of doctrine? If doctrine must be completely “pure”, with what confidence may we assert the presence of the true Church in this place or in that?
In the Lutheran tradition there have been a variety of stances on the satis est of the Confession. Luther’s express requirement for “pure doctrine”, when set against the background of the Lutheran divisions which followed hard upon his death, was almost inevitably the springboard for a continuing quest to establish and categorise the articles of that pure doctrine. Some confessional Lutherans continue to require full assent to the formularies as a condition of communion, on the basis of their unique, definitive and enduring status as an expression of scriptural Christian truth. But Forde argues that the satis est must be used in a very different way; to limit and circumscribe the requirement for agreement and uniformity so severely that it consists only in the gospel itself: “What the satis est calls for is agreement not on a whole list of things or doctrines, but on the specific activity of teaching (preaching) the gospel and administering the sacraments according to that gospel.” At stake, it seems, for both Forde and Gritsch, is whether the ultimate contribution of Lutheranism to Christendom is to protect the gospel and the Church of God from deviation and untruth, or to release the Church in the freedom of that gospel. The same question could be posed of the Reformer himself.
LW 13,88 on Ps 90:2.
 See for instance, Gerhard O Forde, “The Meaning of Satis Est”, in A More Radical Gospel, Cambridge 2004, pp.159-170.
 Eric W Gritsch, A History of Lutheranism, Minneapolis, 2002, pp. 118-122 and passim.
 Gritsch, p. 255.
 Forde, p. 169.