What We Believe
What Lutherans Believe:
Jesus is God's son, sent by God to become human like us. In his life and being, he broke through the prison of sinfulness and thus restored the relationship of love and trust that God intended to exist between Himself and His children. Though he is eternal, with God at the beginning of time, Jesus was born on earth of a virgin, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was at once truly God and truly human.
For the sake of a sinful world, Jesus was condemned to death on the cross. However, death could not contain him. On the third day after his execution, the day Christians now observe as Easter, Jesus appeared among his followers as the risen, living Lord. By this great victory, God has declared the Good News of Reconciliation. The gap between us and our Creator has been bridged. Thus, Christ lives today wherever there are people who faithfully believe in him and wherever the Good News of Reconciliation is preached and the Sacraments administered.
How Lutheranism Began:
Martin Luther (b. November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, d. February 18, 1546 in Eisleben) is known as the Father of Protestantism. He had studied to become a lawyer before becoming an Augustinian monk in 1505, and was ordained a priest in 1507. While continuing his studies in pursuit of a Doctor of Theology degree, he discovered significant differences between what he read in the Bible and the theology and practices of the (Catholic) church. On October 31, 1517, he posted a challenge on the church door at Wittenberg University to debate 95 theological issues. Luther's hope was that the church would reform its practice and preaching to be more consistent with the Word of God as contained in the Bible.
What started as an academic debate escalated to a religious war, fueled by fiery temperaments and violent language on both sides. As a result, there was not a reformation of the church, but a separation. "Lutheran" was a name applied to Luther and his followers as an insult, but adopted as a badge of honor by them instead.
Lutherans still celebrate the Reformation on October 31 and still hold to the basic principles of theology and practice espoused by Luther, such as Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura:
- We are saved by the grace of God alone—not by anything we do;
- Our salvation is through faith alone—we only need to believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who died to redeem us;
- The Bible is the only norm of doctrine and life—the only true standard by which teachings and doctrines are to be judged.
Another of Luther's principles was that Scriptures and worship need to be in the language of the people so as to be better understood.
Luther's Small Catechism, which contains teachings on the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, Holy Communion and Morning and Evening Prayers, is still used to introduce people to the Lutheran faith, as is the Augsburg Confession.
For further reading see: www.elca.org/communication/brief.htm