The Lutheran Church

By Gary Meredith

There is no question that the Lutheran denomination has, from its beginnings in the early 1500s, embraced biblical doctrines and practices. They are not a cult or heresy-derived church.

Two of Luther's original doctrines especially define evangelical Christianity: 1) The Bible is the only source and authority of Christian doctrine (Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 8:20; John 10:35); and 2) eternal salvation is a free gift available to all people through faith in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:16; Romans 1:16-17), not a combination of good works plus faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), nor any human effort to become righteous before God by our own good deeds (Galatians 2:16). This second doctrine has been described as "the one article by which the Lutheran church stands or falls."

Lutherans also subscribe to the Bible's view of God as a Trinity, Christ's second coming, heaven and hell, man's original sin and need for redemption (rescue, reconciliation) by God, free will, etc. Many Lutherans hold positions about which reasonable, Bible-believing Christians strongly disagree (e.g., transubstantiation where the communion elements become the actual body and blood of Jesus, and water baptism being necessary for salvation). But officially, nothing heretical.

However, in its nearly 500-year history, schisms, anti-biblical stands, and even heresies have arisen from within. Hundreds of sub-denominations have formed, some divided by nation, others by differences in certain doctrines or, especially, social issues. Hundreds of churches have left one or another Lutheran synod to join or form another, especially since the 1970s.

One of the most recent schisms was caused by a huge percentage of Lutheran churches worldwide, especially in Europe and the United States, embracing the sin of homosexuality, not only conducting same-sex marriages, but also ordaining practicing homosexuals as clergy. Yet the Bible could not be more clear in both Old and New Testaments — homosexuality is a sin, to be resisted and forgiven, not condoned and celebrated:
If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. Leviticus 20:13
Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:26-28
Lutheran doctrines were published in 1580 as the Book of Concord. Traditional and conservative Lutheran churches require their pastors and other church officials to pledge themselves unconditionally to it (these are called "confessional Lutherans"). The Book of Concord includes the Three Ecumenical Creeds agreed upon by virtually all the world's Christians (Apostle's, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds), as well as Luther's catechism — an excellent exposition of the Bible and many key Christian doctrines which this writer completed as a young convert to Christianity. The Book of Concord includes all fundamental understanding of what the church believes God's word to say. So it is not equal to the Bible, but rather is held as a faithful exposition of the Scriptures. Some Lutheran churches regard the Book of Concord as an historical guide to the teachings of the Lutheran Church, not doctrinally binding.

Bottom line: If you are looking for a Bible-believing church, do not rule out the Lutherans. But check the preaching and practices of the individual church carefully before joining (Acts 17:11).

Image Credit: Nick Thompson; "Luther rose"; Creative Commons

TagsChurch-Issues  | Ministry-Church  | Theological-Beliefs

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Published 7-27-15