Lutheranism as a movement traces its origin to the work of Martin Luther, a German religious scholar who sought to reform the practices of the Roman Catholic Church in the early 16th century. Between 1517 and 1520, Luther preached and published his scathing criticisms of the Roman Church in books and pamphlets. His ideas were supported by many other Christian theologians, and they also had a certain populist appeal. As a result, Luther gained many supporters and followers from all levels of society, from peasants who considered him a folk hero, to knights who swore to protect him. Luther also gained some powerful enemies, including the Pope in Rome and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
While there are several Lutheran denominations worldwide, all Lutheran churches base their doctrine on the confessional writings contained in the Book of Concord (1580), of which the Augsburg Confession (1530) is its most important confessional document. (For this reason, Lutherans who follow the Book of Concord closely, especially conservative Lutherans, may refer to themselves as Confessional Lutherans, even though the Book of Concord can be widely interpreted.)
Lutheran religious beliefs are typically summarized by the motto "Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura" (see also five solas):
Sola gratia: "Grace Alone" - Lutherans believe that salvation occurs only by the grace of God, not by actions that we may take.
Sola fide: "Faith Alone" - Lutherans believe that justification is through faith alone, that is, having faith makes sinners just and righteous.
Sola scriptura: "Scripture Alone" - Lutherans believe that the Bible is the only standard by which teachings and doctrines can be judged.
Sola gratia and Sola fide are usually opposed with works salvation. Works salvation states that by doing good works, men repay the debt of sin that they have incurred before God. To the contrary, Lutherans believe that sinners cannot be saved by good works, since they are bound to their sinful and evil nature. Lutherans believe that only through grace, and faith in Christ as their one true savior can one be saved.
Some Lutheran denominations take Sola scriptura as a statement of Biblical inerrancy – a topic that has been a matter of contention for hundreds of years. Luther himself could be critical of the writings contained in the Bible: For example, Luther once referred to the Book of James as an "epistle of straw", as it contains ideas about salvation that Luther felt may contradict some of the writings of the Apostle Paul.
The Lutheran view of salvation can be summarized by saying:
1. All humanity is sinful. 2. Humanity is incapable of rising out of its sinful state on its own. 3. All who sin are under the wrath of God and are subject to His just and righteous punishment. 4. God's gift of grace is the establishment of faith in Jesus Christ. 5. God elects the faithful, declaring them just and righteous and forgiving their sins.
For an overview of Lutheran theology, see Braaten, Carl E., Principles of Lutheran Theology, Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1983, ISBN
(The above is borrowed with much thanks from http://en.wikipedia.org .)
A few major Lutheran churches *there* are:
- Holy Roman Episcopal Lutheran Church - Lutherans who returned to the fold as a Uniate church within Latin Rite Catholicism
- Federated Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America - Primarily based in the North American League and Louisianne, they also have a few congregations in other North American nations
- L'Eglise Lutheran, le Synode de Saint-Louis - Originally based in the Saint-Louis prefecture of Louisianne, has now spread to other parts of Louisianne and the North American League. The ELSSL tends to be more conservative than the FELCA, largely due to the FELCA's origin in the unification of several churches, a process conducive to compromise. There are a number of congregations that are in a sort of condominium between the FELCA and the ELSSL. [note: The same was true *here* about the ELCA and the Missouri Synod until several years ago when the Missouri Synod forced those congregations to choose a church]
- Slavic Federation of Churches of the Augsburg Confession in North America - primarily caters to immigrants from Eastern Europe
- Folkekirken - The state church of the Scandinavian Realm.