The core beliefs and practices of Lutheranism can be traced back to a German monk named Martin Luther. He is known as the “Father of Reformation”. Martin Luther was born November tenth 1493, and died February eighteenth 1546 at the age of sixty three. He was a Christian theologian and an Augustinian monk. His teachings inspired the Protestant Reformation. He influenced the belief of Protestant and other Christian religions. He was born to Hans and Margaretha Luder in Eisleben, Germany. He was baptized on the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, after who he was named.
Luther’s call to the church to return to the teachings of the Bible ended in the formation of new traditions within Christianity and the Counter-Reformation in the Roman Catholic Church, culminating at the Council of Trent. His translation of the Bible led to developing a standard version of the German language. His hymns helped the development of congregational singing in Christianity. He married Katrina von Bora, a former nun on June thirteenth 1525. This began the tradition of clerical marriage within several Christian religions.
On Halloween of 1517, Luther changed the course of history. He nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg church. He accused the Roman Catholic Church of heresy upon heresy. Many people believe that this act was the starting point of the Protestant Reformation. Although others had already put their life’s work and their lives at stake for the same cause of truth. John Wycliffe, John Huss, Thomas Linacre, and John Colet had already begun the construction of Reform that Luther built upon.
Luther’s action was in great part a response to the selling of indulgences by Johann Tetzel, a Dominican Priest. Luther’s charges also directly challenged the position of the clergy in regard to individual salvation. Before long, Luther’s 95 Theses of Contention had been copied and published all over Europe (Unknown, 1997-2008). Luther spread his teachings even after being excommunicated and threats to his life. The name Lutheran began as a derogatory term used against Luther by Johann Eck during the Leipzig Debate in July 1519.
Eck and other Roman Catholics followed the traditional practice of naming a heresy after its leader, thus labeling all who identified with the theology of Martin Luther as a Lutherans. The split between Lutherans and the Roman Catholics began with the Edict of Worms in 1521, which officially excommunicated Luther and all of his followers. The divide centered over the doctrine of Justification. This went against the Roman view of faith formed by love or faith and works. The Edict of Worms was a decree issued by The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V banning the writings of Martin Luther and labeling him a heretic and enemy of the state.
The Edict, issued on May 25, 1521, in the city of Worms in southwest Germany, was the culmination of an ongoing struggle between Martin Luther and the Roman Catholic Church over reform, especially in the sale of indulgences. However, there were other deeper issues that revolved around both political and theological concerns. On a political level, Luther had challenged the absolute authority of the pope over the Church by maintaining that the sale of indulgences, authorized and promoted by the pope, was wrong.
On a theological level, Luther maintained that salvation was by faith alone (sola fide) not through the legal mechanisms of the church or by what people did to earn it. He had also challenged the authority of the Church by maintaining that all doctrines and dogmas of the church should be accountable to the teachings of Scripture Luther left the Roman Catholic Church and based his beliefs on the following: * Baptism – He believed that Baptism was necessary for spiritual regeneration. Today the Lutherans practice both infant and adult baptism. Individual Access to God – the belief that every individual can reach God through scripture and with responsibility alone. A priest does not need to mediate. * The Lords Supper – Luther retained the sacrament but rejected the ideology that it represented the body and blood of Christ.
* Sacraments – Luther believed the sacraments were only valid as aids to faith. * Salvation by Grace through Faith – Luther maintained that salvation comes by grace through faith alone – not by works or sacraments. * Salvation for all – Luther believed that salvation is available to all humans through the redeeming work of Christ. Scripture – He believed that the scriptures contained the one necessary guide to truth. * Worship – Luther chose to retain altars and vestments and prepare an order of liturgical service but with the understanding that no church was bond to follow any set order. Today there is no uniform liturgy belonging to all branches of the Lutheran body (Fairchild). However, an important place is given to preaching and congregational singing (Fairchild). Lutheran services have been held in Copenhagen under the reign of Frederick I, while Denmark – Norway remained officially Catholic.
Although Frederick initially pledged to persecute Lutherans, he soon adopted a policy of protecting Lutheran preachers and reformers. During his reign Lutheranism made significant growth among the Danish population. At an open meeting in Copenhagen attended by the King, the people shouted: “We will stand by the holy gospel, and do not want such bishops anymore” (Wiki, 2010). What brought even more support from King Frederick was that his son Christian was openly a Lutheran. This prevented Christian’s election to the throne upon his fathers’ death.
He did however become victorious in the Civil War and became Christian III and advanced the Reformation in Denmark-Norway. Some of the important differences from today’s Roman Catholicism are the Lutheran’s refutation of the idea that tradition is a carrier of the “Word of God”, and that only the communion of the Bishop of Rome had been entrusted to interpret the “Word of God”. In the seventeenth century Lutheran’s from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark began migrating to the United States bringing their language and culture with them.
As the religion grew some began to join together to form “synods” or church bodies. On January first 1988 three American synods, the American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and the Lutheran Church in America, merged to become the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or ELCA. Traditionally, Lutherans hold the Bible of the Old and New Testaments to be the only divinely inspired book, the only source of divinely revealed knowledge, and the only norm for Christian teaching.
Scripture alone is the formal principle of the faith, the final authority for all matters of faith and morals because of its inspiration, authority, clarity, efficacy, and sufficiency. The Book of Concord, published in 1580, contains ten documents which some Lutherans believe are faithful and authoritative explanations of Holy Scripture. Besides the three Ecumenical Creeds, which date to Roman times, the Book of Concord contains seven creedal documents articulating Lutheran theology in the Reformation era. The authority of the scriptures has been challenged during the history of Lutheranism.
Martin Luther taught that the Bible was the written Word of God, and the only reliable guide for faith and practice. He held that every passage of scripture has one straightforward meaning, the literal sense as interpreted by other scripture. In the search for truth and justification Luther’s 95 Theses creates quite a bustle. The following is a summary of the Theses. The first through the tenth of Luther’s Theses talks of Jesus and repentance and how the word repentance can not be properly used when referring to the sacrament of penance as administered by the clergy.
It should be used in the sense of repentance in one’s heart that produces signs of humiliation. It states that as long as hatred of self abides then the penalty of sin abides. The pope can not remit guilt and doesn’t have the power to remit any penalties. God never remits guilt to anyone unless making him humble and submissive to the priest, God’s representative. The next section 11 through 20 states that the priests are committing a wrongful act by retaining canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.
Canonical penalties were used before absolution was pronounced and intended to be tests of true contrition. He felt that the same differences showed between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance. He also felt that the dead should be abated from purgatory and charity increased. He questioned if these souls could still be saved. Sections 21 through 30, he felt that the Pope would only remit penalties that were only created by him. He felt that those that preached indulgences ere wrong when they absolved and saved every penalty by the Pope’s. He thought that if remissions could be granted to anyone it would only be the perfect those that had no sin. That the Priest deceived the peoples by promising relief from penalty. He felt that the Priest and the Pope took money from the people and in return lied to them about praying for souls to come out of purgatory and into heaven. Sections 31 through 40 proclaim that those who thought that they were saved by means of indulgence will be damned along with their teachers.
He felt that man needed to be aware and careful of those that say the papal indulgences are a divine gift and that they could be reconciled to God by this. He thought that any Christian who truly repented would be free from guilt and had no need of letters of indulgence. In sections 41 through 50 this is where Luther talks about the indulgences in which the Pope does not want anyone to understand they are wrong and Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchased indulgences.
In sections 51 through 60 this is where he relates that Christians should not rely on letters of indulgence even if the Pope himself were to pledge his own soul to prove their validity. That the enemies of Christ would forbid the word of God to be preached at all in order for indulgences to be preached. He felt that the word of God suffered injury if in the same sermon if more time was devoted to dispensing indulgences. Sections 61 through 70 portrays the true treasure of the church is the gospel of glory and the grace of God.
The treasures of the indulgences are the nets which in former times were used to fish for men of wealth. He felt that indulgences were just a means for the Church to get money Sections 71 through 80 here he began calling the Priests pardon-merchants and reiterates to the Christians to beware of the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchants words. I think that at this time he knew he would be excommunicated because he states “In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences (Luther, 2011).
He thought it foolish to think that a man could receive forgiveness due to papal intervention of indulgences. Section 81 through 95 he thought it blasphemous to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died. He condemned the thought that an impious man, be allowed to pay money to redeem his soul. He criticizes the income of the Pope as to that of the wealthiest of wealthy men. The last was that Christians should be zealous to follow Christ and they should have the confidence of entering heaven through many tribulations rather that through a false assurance of peace.
Today, Lutherans disagree about the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Theological conservatives use the historical-grammatical method of Biblical interpretation, while the theological liberals use the higher critical method. The 2008 U. S. Religious Landscape Survey conducted by the Pew Research Center surveyed 1,926 adults in the United States that self-identified as Lutheran. The study found that 30% believed that the Bible was the Word of God and was to betaken literally word for word. 0% held that the Bible was the Word of God, but was not literally true word for word or were unsure if it was literally true word for word. 23% said the Bible was written by men and not the Word of God. 7% didn’t know, weren’t sure or had other positions (Wiki, 2010). Lutherans understand the Bible as containing two distinct types of content, termed Law and Gospel (or Law and Promises). Properly distinguishing between Law and Gospel prevents the obscuring of the Gospel teaching of Justification by Grace through faith alone.
Fairchild, M. (Unknown, Unknown Unknown). Lutheran Church Beliefs and Practices. Retrieved February 10, 2011, from About. com: http://christianity. about. com/od/denominations/a/lutheran. htm Luther, M. (2011). The 95 Theses. Retrieved 2 15, 2011, from Spurgeon: http://www. spurgeon. org/-phil/history/95theses. htm Unknown. (1997-2008). English Bible History Martin Luther. Retrieved February 10, 2011, from GreatSite. com: http://www. greatsite. com/timeline-english-bible-history/martin-luther. html Wiki. (2010). Wikipedia. Retrieved 2 16, 2011, from Wilipedia. org: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Lutheranism
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