The Lutheran Difference, Part 2

In a previous post, I began exploring the question of why I am Lutheran, particularly with all of the choices out there among Christian denominations. While there are differences among Lutherans (a topic which I will explore in a future post), let’s take a look at what makes Lutheranism in general different from other Christian traditions, and why I think that makes Lutheranism the most faithful Christian tradition. But first, I want to restate here that:

Lutherans do not have a monopoly on salvation; I do not believe that Lutheranism is the only faithful Christian denomination, nor do I believe that it is without its flaws, as it is a human tradition within Christ’s Church. I do, however, believe that Lutherans have the most faithful approach to the Bible and the truest teaching as a result – and that’s extremely important to me.

So, it’s complicated. But where do Lutherans stand, and what makes us stand out?

  • First and foremost, we believe in the one true God who reveals Himself in the Bible to be triune – the Holy Trinity. That means He is one God in three persons:
  • We believe, like the 16th century church reformer Martin Luther*, that:
    1. People are saved by grace alone and not by works.
      • By comparison, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that we are saved first by Christ’s sacrifice, and we then maintain our salvation through works.
    2. People receive that grace by faith alone in Jesus Christ.
      • By comparison, some Mainline churches teach that grace is received not by faith in Jesus but by emulating Him in emancipating the oppressed.
    3. God reveals to everyone His plan of salvation through the Bible alone and not by any special revelation to just one person.
      • By comparison, some charismatic Christians believe in special revelation, wherein God reveals special truths only to the individual, which may or may not be contradictory to Scripture.
  • We believe that the Bible is the source and norm of our faith. We believe that reason, tradition and experience are useful insofar as they do not contradict biblical teaching, but they cannot supersede the authority of Scripture.
    • By comparison, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches teach that the Bible must be interpreted within the traditions of the Church; Reformed traditions believe that the Bible may be interpreted according to reason.
      • As Lutherans, our method is to read the Bible, believe the Bible, then seek to understand the Bible. To change that order is to place yourself as authority above the Bible.
    • We hold The Lutheran Confessions to be a faithful exposition of Scripture.
  • We believe congregations should be largely independent, able to own their own property, call their own pastors and set their own budgets. However, all congregations agree to abide by the constitution of their Synod, a word that means “walking together.”
    • By comparison, the Episcopalian Church governs with a “top-down” approach through the Bishops, while many Baptist churches govern with a “bottom-up” approach whereby pastors may be hired or fired by congregational vote.
  • We believe that God offers His very real grace through the combination of ordinary elements and His extraordinary Word in two very special practices which were instituted by Christ, which we call Sacraments. These are Baptism, which brings us into His family, and Communion, which refreshes and renews us. Confession and Absolution collectively are sometimes called the “third” Sacrament, but this is unofficial.
    • By comparison, many Protestant churches see communion and baptism as merely symbolic of God’s saving grace, and not possessive of any miraculous power in themselves. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes seven Sacraments, including marriage and ordination, but since there is no special grace in these excellent offices (nor any ordinary element), Lutherans do not recognize them as being Sacramental.

These are just a few of but also the most important differences between Lutherans and other Christians.

As an aside, so-called nondenominational churches are not governed by any authority outside the congregation, and are therefore far more open to false or misleading teaching than churches which answer to denominational authorities. They also tend to be led entirely by the senior Pastor, who in many cases founded the church and holds unquestioned authority. This does not mean the churches or pastors are unfaithful, but anyone attending must be hyper-vigilant in guarding against error because of the lack of outside accountability on the part of church leadership.

If you’re still interested, I’ll try and wrap things up in a third post about the primary differences between Lutherans themselves in a few weeks. As always, thanks for reading, and find a church you can call home!

~Ever, RevErik


*Lutherans do not worship or venerate Martin Luther as in any way being worthy of the honor due solely to God. We do, however, recognize his significance as a reformer, as a theologian and as a faithful pastor. He was not perfect, and we do not follow him, but only his teachings as they pertain to the Word of God.

4 thoughts on “The Lutheran Difference, Part 2

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