What Does it Mean to Be Lutheran

Understanding the Lutheran Church

The Lutheran church was founded in 1517 CE.

There are 64 million members of the Lutheran church.


Catholic or Protestant:

Sacred Text:
The Bible is considered to be the Word of God.  There is currently some division over inspiration, the Bible contains the immediate Word of God and carries the full authority of God.  

Means of Salvation:
Salvation is achieved by God's grace and faith alone.

  They believe good works are a fruit of salvation, but not the means by which it is achieved.

The Lutheran church worships through a more traditional style and through liturgy.  However some more liberal Lutheran churches do allow for contemporary worship.

Creeds & Confessions:
There are many creeds and affirmations that are recited and utilized by the Lutheran church.  They include the Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, Augsburg Confession, and the Formula of Concord.  The Formula of Concord states, "We receive and embrace with our whole heart the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the pure, clear fountain of Israel."

Some Lutherans speak of only Baptism and the Holy Communion (also known as the Lord's Supper or Eucharist) as the only two sacraments, but here is nothing that specifically limits the number of sacraments in the Lutheran faith.

  In some later works by Martin Luther, he did discuss the other sacrament of Confession and Absolution, and before one can receive their first Holy Communion, they must have a private confession.

The Lutheran church adheres to a congregational, Presbyterian and Episcopal mixture.  They are divided into Synods, or councils, the largest of which (and most conservative) is the Missouri Synod.

Both infants and professing Christians can be baptized in the Lutheran church.  Baptism is considered mandatory and a means of grace.  Through baptism, both children and adults are considered reborn, and they believe faith even exists in infants - though they cannot articulate it.  

Women in the Church:
Some Synods allow it.  Even among liberal synods it is being debated, but the Missouri Synod remains conservative and does not allow women to take on leadership roles.

Heaven and Hell:
Lutherans do believe in a Heaven and Hell.  However, where you go depends on whether or not you are saved, meaning you have by God's grace been forgiven for your sins.  Where Martin Luther broke off from the Catholic church was when he denounced the concept of purgatory, a level of Hell where one could work off his or her sins prior to entering Heaven.  While Lutherans do believe in a Heaven and Hell, they do not believe in a millennial kingdom of Christ after the second coming.  When one dies, they are immediately brought into the presence of Jesus Christ where they wait to be resurrected on the last day.  

Founded by the monk, Martin Luther, he did not mean to start an entirely new denomination.

  Instead he just meant to renew the Catholic Church by reforming some of their practices.  Martin Luther was a trained biblical scholar and theologian.  He questioned the teaching of the Catholic Church that one must work off their sins in order to get to Heaven, especially the concepts of purgatory and the seven sacraments.  He also split with the church over what was considered indulgences.  For instance, to work off sin one could fast, say a Hail Mary, or give a financial contribution to the church, etc..  Luther saw that financial contribution as an indulgence.  Luther felt many were putting their salvation at risk for a financial deal.  He famously posted his arguments on the door of the Wittenberg castle church.  These arguments are known as the 95 theses, and they were quickly translated into German and widely distributed around the country.

Luther was excommunicated in 1521 and condemned as a criminal.  Thus if one followed Luther, they would no longer be a Roman Catholic.  This movement ushered in the Protestant Reformation.