Denominations: Lutheran Church (Part 2)

Name

The name Lutheran appears to have first been used by Catholic opposition.  One Lutheran source says, “It is a mistake if it is believed that Lutherans took this name for themselves.  History reports to us instead that they were first given this name by their opponents in order to insult them.  Dr. Eck, who held that well known disputation with Luther in Leipzig, was the first to call those who held to Luther’s teachings by that name” (C.F. W. Walther translated by Mark Nispel concerning the Name Lutheran, lutherguest.org).  Another has written, “The name ‘Lutheran’ was coined as a pejorative by the papal theologian Johann Eck sometime between 1520 and 1522.   It was also used by Pope Hadrian VI, the successor to Leo X” (Larry Beane, on the Name “Lutheran”, gottesdienst.org).

In time the name was adopted.  Kyle Butt writes, “This name, meant originally to castigate and mock the adherents of the new movement, was soon adopted as a badge of honor” (Kyle Butt, What the Bible Says About the Lutheran Church, p. 1). 

It is clear that Martin Luther did not want this.  He wrote Admonition Against Insurrection in 1522.  In it he pleaded, “I ask that my name be left silent and people not call them Lutherans, but rather Christians.  Who is Luther?  The doctrine is not mine.  I have been crucified for no one.  St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:4-5 would not suffer that the Christians should call themselves of Paul or of Peter, but Christians.  How should I, a poor stinking bag of worms, become so that the children of Christ are named with my unholy name?  It should not be dear friends.  Let us extinguish all factious names and be called Christians…” (gottesdienst.org). 

Authority

1.  The Bible

“1.  We believe, teach, and confess that the sole standard according to which all dogmas together with [all] teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament alone… other writings… must not be regarded as equal to the Holy Scriptures…” (Epitome of the Formula of Concord, p. 1).

2.  Three Creeds (ancient)

“2. And because… false teachers and heretics arose, and symbols, i.e. brief, succinct [categorical] confessions, were composed against them in the early church… namely the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, we pledge ourselves to them, and hereby reject all heresies and dogmas which, contrary to them have been introduced into the Church of God” (ibid, p. 2).

3.  Confession (modern)

“3. As to schisms in matters of faith, however, which have occurred in our time, we regard as the unanimous consensus and declaration of our Christian faith and confession… the first, unaltered Augsburg confession, delivered to the Emperor Charles V at Augsburg in the year 1530… together with its Apology and the Articles composed at Smalcald in the year 1537, and subscribed at that time by the chief theologians” (ibid, p. 2). 

4.  Catechisms

“3.  …we also confess the small and large catechism of Dr. Luther, as they are included in Luther’s works, as the Bible of the laity” (ibid, p. 2, oursaviorschadron.com). 

“The Lutheran Church – Missouri: Synod accepts the Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and the LCMS subscribes unconditionally to all the symbolic books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as the true unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.  We accept the Lutheran confessions as articulated in the Book of Concord of 1580 because they are drawn from the word of God, and on that account we regard their doctrinal content as a true and binding exposition of Holy Scripture and as authoritative for all pastors, congregations and other rostered church workers of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod” (The Lutheran Confessions, lcms.org). 

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Original Sin

They believe in original sin.  “This heredity evil is the guilty [by which it comes to pass] that, by reason of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, we are all in God’s displeasure, and by nature children of wrath (Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, p. 7. lcms.org). 

They believe that man lacks free-will until regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  “The pure teachers of the Augsburg confession have taught that by the fall of our first parents man was so corrupted that in divine things pertaining to our conversion and the salvation of the soul he is by nature blind, that, when the Word of God is preached, he either does nor can understand it, but regards it as foolishness; also he does not draw himself nigh to God… until he is converted… is regenerated and renewed, by the power of the Holy Ghost through the word… out of pure grace, without an cooperation of his own” (ibid, p. 15). 

2.  Two Sacraments

Lutherans believe there to be two sacraments.  “The two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are not merely signs or memorials, but channels through which God bestows his forgiving and empowering grace upon humankind” (Frank Mead and Samuel Hill, Handbook of Denominations, p. 140).

3.  Baptism   

a.  Purpose.  Modern Lutherans believe that baptism is important.  “Baptism is one of the miraculous means of grace (another is God’s word as it is written or spoken), through which God creates and/or strengthens the gift of faith in a person’s heart” (Frequently Asked Questions – Doctrine, Baptism FAQ’s, lcms.org).  However, they do not believe that baptism is absolutely essential to salvation.  “The LCMS does not believe that Baptism is ABSOLUTELY necessary for salvation… Still, baptism dare not be despised or willfully neglected, since it is explicitly commanded by God and has His precious promises attached to it.  It is not a mere ‘ritual’ or ‘symbol,’ but a powerful means of grace by which God grants faith and the forgiveness of sins” (ibid). 

Martin Luther seems to have held a different position.  He said in his small catechism, “What gifts or benefits does baptism grant?  It brings about the forgiveness of sins… and gives eternal salvation to all who believe it” (Small Catechism, catechism.cph.org).  The Augsburg Confession which was written in 1530 by Martin Luther’s supporter and close friend Philip Melanchthon reads, “Of baptism they (our churches, see preface of work) teach that it is necessary to salvation… they condemn the Anabaptist who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without baptism” (Article IX, christian.net). 

Kyle Butt has written, “Modern religious people mistakenly identify their version of ‘faith only’ with Luther’s version of ‘faith only.’  The truth of the matter is, “Luther never taught that a person could be saved by believing in God without being baptized in water.  Luther’s teaching focused on the fact that meritorious works could not earn a person’s salvation… He did not, however, teach that a person could be saved without being baptized … unfortunately, the Lutheran Church (both ELCA and LCMS) seems to be changing its beliefs about the necessity of baptism for salvation of sinners” (Kyle Butt, What the Bible Says About the Lutheran Church, pp. 16-17).

b.  Candidate.  Infant baptism is practiced.  “Of the baptism of children we hold that children ought to be baptized” (The Smalcald Article, p. 18, oursaviorschadron.com).  “Infants are included in ‘all nations’ who are to be baptized (Matthew 28:19)” (Baptism FAQ’s lcms.org).  “We believe that when an infant is baptized God creates faith in the heart of that infant… Lutherans do not believe that only these baptized as infants receive faith.  Faith can also be created in a person’s heart by the power of the Holy Spirit working through God’s (written or spoken) word” (ibid). 

c.  Mode.  Lutherans believe “the manner of Baptism (that is, immersion, pouring, sprinkling, etc.) does not determine whether a baptism is valid” (ibid).

However, Luther penned, “Baptism, then signifies two things – death and resurrection… when the minister immerses the child in the water, baptism signifies death.  When he draws the child forth again, baptism signifies life” (Martin Luther, A Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Translated by Albert T.W. Steinhaeuser, pdp.sjsu.edu). 

4.  The Lord’s Supper

Lutheran’s believe in consubstantiation.  It is the idea that the real presence of Christ’s body and blood are present with the bread and wine.  It differs from transubstantiation in that it is not a transformation which comes through the priests.  The Augsburg Confession states, “Of the supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and distributed to those who eat of the Supper of the Lord and they reject those who teach otherwise” (Article X).  Philip of Hesse tried to unite protestant. A meeting occurred at Marburg in October 1529.  The Marburg Colloquy failed to produce the desired unity.  “Luther would not budge from his position that the plain meaning of Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:26 was that His body is somehow literally present with the bread of communion.  Zwingli and his followers remained convinced that communion is a memorial of Christ’s death and His actual body is not present (What Was the Marburg Colloquy?, gotquestions.org).  The ELCA no longer binds this.

5.  The Five Solas

(1) Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone).  The Bible alone is the ultimate source of authority.  (2) Sola Fide (Faith alone) man is saved through faith alone.  (3) Sola Gratia (grace alone) Man is saved by the grace of God alone, through faith.  (4) Sola Christus (Christ alone) Jesus Christ alone is Savior.  (5) Soli De Gloria (to the glory of God alone).  Man is to live for the glory of God alone (Exploring the Five “Solas” of the Reformation, (bethesdalutheranchurch.com). 

6.  Falling From Faith

“The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, teaches that it is possible for a believer to fall from faith… A person may be restored to faith… by repenting of his or her sin and unbelief and trusting in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation (Frequently Asked Questions – Doctrine, lcms.org).

7.  Amillennial

“Lutherans understand the 1,000 years of Revelation 20:11-15 to be a figurative reference to Christ’s reign here and now in the hearts and lives of believers” (ibid).

Organization

“Congregations are united in synods composed of pastors and lay representatives elected by the congregations and have authority as granted by the synod constitution.  In some instances there are territorial districts or conferences instead of synods, operating in the same manner… Synods (conferences or districts) are united in a general body that may be national, or even international.  Some of these general bodies are legislative in nature, some consultive…” (Mead, p. 140). 

Types of Lutherans

1.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the largest branch of Lutheranism in America.  It is based in Chicago, IL. 

2.  The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) is the second largest branch of Lutheranism in America.  It is based in Kirkwood, MO.  Unlike the ECLA, the LCMS do not ordain women as pastors; they take a stronger stand on homosexuality; they take a stronger stand on the inerrancy of the scriptures; they hold closed communion (Frequently Asked Questions-Denominations, lcms.org).

3.  The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) is the third largest branch of Lutheranism in America.  It is based in Waukesha, WI.  Unlike the LCMS, the WELS do not allow women suffrage in the church; they deny pastoral ministry is specifically instituted by the Lord in contrast to other forms of public ministry; they hold to a stricter understanding of fellowship (ibid).

4.  There are other groups (See Frank Mead, Handbook of Denominations).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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