Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the teaching of Martin Luther, a 16th century German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation. The reaction of the government and church authorities to the international spread of his writings, beginning with the 95 Theses, divided Western Christianity.
The split between the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics arose mainly over the doctrine of Justification. Lutheranism advocates a doctrine of justification "by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone" which went against the Roman view of "faith formed by love", or "faith and works". Unlike the Reformed Churches, Lutherans retain many of the liturgical practices and sacramental teachings of the pre-reformation Church. Lutheran theology significantly differs from Reformed theology in Christology, the purpose of God's Law, divine grace, the concept of "once saved always saved", and predestination.
Since 1520, regular Lutheran services were held in Copenhagen. Under the reign of Frederick I (1523–33), Denmark-Norway remained officially Catholic. Although Frederick initially pledged to persecute Lutherans, he soon adopted a policy of protecting Lutheran preachers and reformers, the most significant being Hans Tausen. During his reign, Lutheranism made significant inroads among the Danish population. At an open meeting in Copenhagen attended by the king in 1536, the people shouted; "We will stand by the holy Gospel, and do not want such bishops any more". Frederick's son, Christian, was openly Lutheran, which prevented his election to the throne upon his father's death. However, following his victory in the civil war that followed, in 1537 he became Christian III and advanced the Reformation in Denmark-Norway. The constitution upon which the Danish-Norwegian Church, according to the Church Ordinance should rest was "The pure word of God, which is the Law and the Evangelium", i.e. the Ten Commandments and the message of the four Canonical Gospels. It does not even mention the Augsburg Confession. The priests at least had to understand the Holy Script well enough to preach and explain the Gospel and the Epistles for their congregations. The youths were taught from the Small Catechism, available in Danish since 1532. They may in the end expect: "forgiving of their sins", "to be counted as just", and "the eternal life". Regulation is still similar. The first Bible in Danish was Martin Luther's. It was translated by 1550 and made available in 3000 copies. It was sold out 30 years later. Important differences relative to today's Roman Catholicism are the Lutherans' refutation of; that the 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".
The Reformation in Sweden began with Olaus and Laurentius Petri, brothers who took the Reformation to Sweden after studying in Germany. They led Gustav Vasa, elected king in 1523, to Lutheranism. The pope's refusal to allow the replacement of an archbishop that supported the invading forces opposing Gustav Vasa during the Stockholm Bloodbath led to the discontinuance of any official connection between Sweden and the papacy in 1523. Four years later, at the Diet of Västerås, the king succeeded in forcing the diet to accept his dominion over the national church. The king was given possession of all church properties such as the church appointments and the clergy. While this effectively granted official sanction to Lutheran ideas, Lutheranism did not become official until 1593, when the Uppsala Synod declared Holy Scripture the sole guideline for faith, with four documents accepted as faithful and authoritative explanations of it: the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the unaltered Augsburg Confession of 1530.
After the death of Luther in 1546, the Schmalkaldic War started out as a conflict between two German Lutheran rulers in 1547. Soon, Holy Roman Imperial forces joined the battle and conquered the members of the Schmalkaldic League, oppressing and exiling many German Lutherans as they enforced the terms of the Augsburg Interim. Religious freedom was secured for Lutherans through the Peace of Passau in 1552 and under the Cuius regio, eius religio and Declaratio Ferdinandei clauses of the Peace of Augsburg in 1555.
Religious disputes between the Crypto-Calvinists, Philippists, Sacramentarians, Ubiquitarians, and Gnesio-Lutherans raged within Lutheranism during the middle of the 16th century. This finally ended with the resolution of the issues in the Formula of Concord. Large numbers of politically and religiously influential leaders met together, debated, and resolved these topics on the basis of Scripture, resulting in the Formula, which over 8,000 leaders signed. The Book of Concord replaced earlier, incomplete collections of doctrine, unifying all German Lutherans with identical doctrine and beginning the period of Lutheran orthodoxy.
The historical period of Lutheran Orthodoxy is divided into three sections: Early Orthodoxy (1580-1600), High Orthodoxy (1600-1685), and Late Orthodoxy (1685-1730). Lutheran scholasticism developed gradually, especially for the purpose of arguing with the Jesuits, and it was finally established by Johann Gerhard. Abraham Calovius represents the climax of the scholastic paradigm in orthodox Lutheranism. Other orthodox Lutheran theologians include Martin Chemnitz, Aegidius Hunnius, Leonhard Hutter, Nicolaus Hunnius, Jesper Rasmussen Brochmand, Salomo Glassius, Johann Hülsemann, Johann Conrad Dannhauer, Johannes Andreas Quenstedt, Johann Friedrich König, and Johann Wilhelm Baier.
Near the end of the Thirty Years' War, the compromising spirit seen in Philip Melanchthon rose up again in Helmstedt School and especially in theology of Georgius Calixtus, causing the Syncretistic Controversy. Another theological issue that arose was the Crypto-Kenotic Controversy.
Late orthodoxy was torn by influences from rationalism, philosophy based on reason, and Pietism, a revival movement in Lutheranism. After a century of vitality, the Pietist theologians Philipp Jakob Spener and August Hermann Francke warned that orthodoxy had degenerated into meaningless intellectualism and Formalism, while orthodox theologians found the emotional and subjective focuses of Pietism to be vulnerable to Rationalist propaganda. The last famous orthodox Lutheran theologian before the rationalist Aufklärung, or Enlightenment, was David Hollatz. Late orthodox theologian Valentin Ernst Löscher took part in the controversy against Pietism. Medieval mystical traditions continued in works of Martin Moller, Johann Arndt, and Joachim Lütkemann. Pietism became a rival of orthodoxy but adopted some orthodox devotional literature; for example, Arndt's, Scriver's and Prätorius' which were combined Pietistic literature.
Rationalist philosophers from France and England had an enormous impact during the 18th century, along with the German Rationalists Christian Wolff, Gottfried Leibniz, and Immanuel Kant. Their work led to an increase in rationalist beliefs, at the expense of faith in God and agreement with the Bible. Dissenting Lutheran pastors were often reprimanded by the government bureaucracy overseeing them, for example, when they tried to correct Rationalist influences in the parish school. As a result of the impact of a local form of rationalism, termed Neology, by the latter half of the 18th century, genuine piety was found almost solely in small Pietist conventicles. However, some of the laity preserved Lutheran orthodoxy from both Pietism and rationalism through reusing old catechisms, hymnbooks, postils, and devotional writings, including those written by Johann Gerhard, Heinrich Müller, and Christian Scriver. However, Lutheranism was extinguished during the course of the 18th century.
Napoleon's invasion of Germany promoted Rationalism and angered German Lutherans, stirring up a desire among the people to preserve Luther's theology from the Rationalist threat. A revival began, termed the Erweckung, or Awakening. Those associated with this Awakening held that reason was insufficient and pointed out the importance of emotional religious experience. Small groups sprang up, often in universities, which devoted themselves to Bible study, reading devotional writings, and revival meetings. Although the beginning of this Awakening tended heavily toward Romanticism, nationalism, and experience, the emphasis of the Awakening shifted around 1830 to restoring the traditional liturgy, doctrine, and confessions of the Lutheran church in the Neo-Lutheran movement. A layman, Luther scholar Johann Georg Hamann, became famous for countering Rationalism and advancing the Awakening.
This Awakening also swept through Scandinavia, influenced by both German Neo-Lutheranism and Pietism. Danish pastor and philosopher Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig reshaped church life throughout Denmark through a reform movement beginning in 1830. He also wrote about 1,500 hymns, including God's Word Is Our Great Heritage. In Norway, Hans Nielsen Hauge, a lay street preacher, emphasized spiritual discipline and sparked the Haugean movement. In Sweden, Lars Levi Læstadius began the Laestadian movement that emphasized moral reform. In Finland, a farmer, Paavo Ruotsalainen, started a reform movement when he took to preaching about repentance and prayer.
In 1817, Frederick William III of Prussia ordered the Lutheran and Reformed churches in his territory to unite, forming the Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union. The unification of the two branches of German Protestantism sparked the Schism of the Old Lutherans. Many Lutherans, called "Old Lutherans", despite imprisonment and military force, chose to leave the established churches and form independent church bodies, or "free churches" while others left for the United States and Australia. A similar legislated merger in Silesia prompted thousands to join the Old Lutheran movement. The dispute over ecumenism overshadowed other controversies within German Lutheranism.
Despite political meddling in church life, local leaders sought to restore and renew Christianity. Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg began to study the Bible for his work as a professor, and in doing so became convinced of its reliability and the usefulness of the Augsburg Confession as a summary of faith. High school teacher August Friedrich Christian Vilmar turned from rationalism to faith, and in doing so, realized the importance of the unaltered Augsburg Confession and the other Lutheran Confessions of faith. An advocate of the Neo-Lutheran movement (which was allied with the Old Lutherans against rationalism), he worked to renew the church through the use of the Lutheran Confessions.  Neo-Lutheran Johann Konrad Wilhelm Löhe and Old Lutheran free church leader Friedrich August Brünn both sent young men overseas to serve as Pastors to German Americans, while the Inner Mission focused on renewing the situation home. Johann Gottfried Herder, superintendent at Weimar and part of the Inner Mission movement, joined with the Romantic movement with his quest to preserve human emotion and experience from Rationalism.
The Neo-Lutheran movement managed to slow secularism and counter atheistic Marxist Socialism, but it did not fully succeed in Europe. It partly succeeded in continuing the Pietist movement's drive to right social wrongs and focus on individual conversion. The Neo-Lutheran call to renewal failed to achieve widespread popular acceptance because it both began and continued with a lofty, idealistic Romanticism that did not connect with an increasingly industrialized and secularized Europe. At best, the work of local leaders resulted in specific areas with vibrant spiritual renewal, but people in Lutheran areas overall continued to become increasingly distant from church life.
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 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. This belief was accepted during the orthodox Lutheranism of the 17th century. During the 18th century, Rationalism advocated reason rather than the authority of the Bible as the final source of knowledge, but most of the laity did not accept this Rationalist position. In the nineteenth century, a confessional revival reemphasized the authority of the Bible and agreement with the Lutheran Confessions.
Today, Lutherans disagree about the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Theological conservatives use the historical-grammatical method of Biblical interpretation, while 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 be taken literally word for word. 40% held that the Bible was the Word of God, but was not literally true word for word or was 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.
Historically, Lutheranism affirms that the Bible does not merely contain the Word of God, but every word of it is, because of verbal inspiration, the direct, immediate word of God. As Lutherans confess in the Nicene Creed, the Holy Spirit "spoke through the prophets". The Apology of the Augsburg Confession identifies Holy Scripture with the Word of God and calls the Holy Spirit the author of the Bible. Because of this, Lutherans confess in the Formula of Concord, "we receive and embrace with our whole heart the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the pure, clear fountain of Israel." The apocryphal books were not written by the prophets, by inspiration; they contain errors were never included in the Judean Canon that Jesus used, and therefore are not a part of Holy Scripture. The prophetic and apostolic Scriptures are authentic as written by the prophets and apostles. A correct translation of their writings is God's Word because it has the same meaning as the original Hebrew and Greek. A mistranslation is not God's word, and no human authority can invest it with divine authority.
Historically, Lutherans maintain that Holy Scripture, the Word of God, carries the full authority of God. Every single statement of the Bible calls for instant and unqualified acceptance. Every doctrine of the Bible is the teaching of God and therefore requires full agreement. Every promise of the Bible calls for unshakable trust in its fulfillment. Every command of the Bible is the directive of God himself and therefore demands willing observance.
Historically, Lutherans understand the Bible to present all doctrines and commands of the Christian faith clearly. God's Word is freely accessible to every reader or hearer of ordinary intelligence, without requiring any special education. Of course, one must understand the language God's Word is presented in, and not be so preoccupied by contrary thoughts so as to prevent understanding. As a result of this, no one needs to wait for any clergy, and pope, scholar, or ecumenical council to explain the real meaning of any part of the Bible.
Lutherans confess that Scripture is united with the power of the Holy Spirit and with it, not only demands, but also creates the acceptance of its teaching. This teaching produces faith and obedience. Holy Scripture is not a dead letter, but rather, the power of the Holy Spirit is inherent in it. Scripture does not compel a mere intellectual assent to its doctrine, resting on logical argumentation, but rather it creates the living agreement of faith. As the Smalcald Articles affirm, "in those things which concern the spoken, outward Word, we must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one, except through or with the preceding outward Word."
Lutherans are confident that the Bible contains everything that one needs to know in order to obtain salvation and to live a Christian life. There are no deficiencies in Scripture that need to be filled with by tradition, pronouncements of the Pope, new revelations, or present-day development of doctrine.
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 Gospel teaching of justification by grace through faith alone from being obscured.
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 credal documents articulating Lutheran theology in the Reformation era.
The doctrinal positions of Lutheran churches are not uniform because the Book of Concord does not hold the same position in all Lutheran churches. For example, the state churches in Scandinavia consider only the Augsburg Confession as a "summary of the faith" in addition to the three ecumenical Creeds. Lutheran pastors, congregations, and church bodies in Germany and the Americas usually agree to teach in harmony with the entire Lutheran Confessions. Some Lutheran church bodies require this pledge to be unconditional because they believe the confessions correctly state what the Bible teaches. Others allow their congregations to do so "insofar as" the Confessions are in agreement with the Bible.
The key doctrine, or material principle, of Lutheranism is the doctrine of justification. Lutherans believe that humans are saved from their sins by God's grace alone (Sola Gratia), through faith alone (Sola Fide). Lutherans believe that this grace is granted for the sake of Christ's merit alone (Solus Christus). Orthodox Lutheran theology holds that God made the world, including humanity, perfect, holy and sinless. However, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, trusting in their own strength, knowledge, and wisdom. Consequently, people are saddled with original sin, born sinful and unable to avoid committing sinful acts. For Lutherans, original sin is the "chief sin, a root and fountainhead of all actual sins."
Lutherans teach that sinners, while capable of doing works that are outwardly "good," are not capable of doing works that satisfy God's justice. Every human thought and deed is infected with sin and sinful motives. Because of this, all humanity deserves eternal damnation in hell. God in eternity has turned His Fatherly heart to this world and planned for its redemption because he loves all people and does not want anyone to be eternally damned.
By God's grace, made known and effective in the person and work of Jesus Christ, a person is forgiven, adopted as a child and heir of God, and given eternal salvation. For this reason, Lutherans teach that salvation is possible only because of the grace of God made manifest in the birth, life, suffering, death, and resurrection, and continuing presence by the power of the Holy Spirit, of Jesus Christ.
Lutherans believe that individuals receive this gift of salvation through faith alone. Saving faith is the knowledge of, acceptance of , and trust in the promise of the Gospel. Even faith itself is seen as a gift of God, created in the hearts of Christians by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word and Baptism. Faith is seen as an instrument that receives the gift of salvation, not something that causes salvation. Thus, Lutherans reject the "decision theology" which is common among modern evangelicals.
Lutherans are Trinitarian; they confess in the Athanasian Creed, "we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal". Lutherans reject the idea that the Father and the Son are merely faces of the same person, stating that both the Old Testament and the New Testament show them to be two distinct persons. Lutherans believe the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.
Lutherans believe Jesus Christ is both by nature God and by nature man in one person, as they confess in Luther's Small Catechism that he is "true God begotten of the Father from eternity and also true man born of the Virgin Mary".
Lutherans hold that sacraments are sacred acts of divine institution. Whenever they are properly administered by the use of the physical component commanded by God along with the divine words of institution, God is, in a way specific to each sacrament, present with the Word and physical component. He earnestly offers to all who receive the sacrament forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. He also works in the recipients to get them to accept these blessings and to increase the assurance of their possession.
Lutherans are not dogmatic about the number of the sacraments. In line with Luther's initial statement in his Large Catechism some speak of only two sacraments, Baptism and Holy Communion, although later in the same work he calls Confession and Absolution "the third sacrament." The definition of sacrament in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession lists Absolution as one of them. Since Absolution is a return to the forgiveness given in baptism, strictly speaking there are only two sacraments. Private confession is not practiced among many Lutherans, although some churches allow for individual absolution before the Holy Communion service or on Saturdays. A general absolution is proclaimed in the Holy Communion liturgy. Lutherans do not emphasize "penance" as a retribution of sin but rather the proclamation of God's forgiveness by the "called and ordained" minister of the Holy Gospel.
Lutherans hold that Baptism is a saving work of God, mandated and instituted by Jesus Christ. Baptism is a "means of grace" through which God creates and strengthens "saving faith" as the "washing of regeneration" in which infants and adults are reborn. Since the creation of faith is exclusively God's work, it does not depend on the actions of the one baptized, whether infant or adult. Even though baptized infants cannot articulate that faith, Lutherans believe that it is present all the same. Because it is faith alone that receives these divine gifts, Lutherans confess that baptism "works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare." Therefore, Lutherans administer Baptism to both infants and adults. In the special section on infant baptism in his Large Catechism, Luther argues that infant baptism is God-pleasing because persons so baptized were reborn and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Lutherans hold that within Holy Communion, also referred to as the Sacrament of the Altar, the Mass, or the Lord's Supper, the true body and blood of Christ are "in, with, and under the form" of bread and wine for all those who eat and drink it, a doctrine that the Formula of Concord calls the sacramental union. Some Lutherans use the term Eucharist to refer to Communion, noting its use in the Book of Concord; however, others reject the term on the basis that the word Eucharist ("thanksgiving") puts the emphasis on the human response to the sacrament, which is contrary to the Lutheran emphasis on God's omnipotence and human powerlessness. They note that in almost every case, the use of the term in the Book of Concord refers to doctrinal statements that are part of the Roman Catholic tradition.
In Lutheranism, conversion or regeneration in the strict sense of the term is the work of divine grace and power by which man, born of the flesh, and void of all power to think, to will, or to do any good thing, and dead in sin is, through the gospel and holy baptism, taken from a state of sin and spiritual death under God's wrath into a state of spiritual life of faith and grace, rendered able to will and to do what is spiritually good and, especially, made to trust in the benefits of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. During conversion, one is moved from impenitence to repentance. The Augsburg Confession divides repentance into two parts: "One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ's sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors."
Lutherans adhere to divine monergism, the teaching that salvation is by God's act alone, and therefore reject the idea that humans in their fallen state have a free will concerning spiritual matters. Lutherans believe that although humans have free will concerning civil righteousness, they cannot work spiritual righteousness without the Holy Spirit, since righteousness in the heart cannot be wrought in the absence of the Holy Spirit. Lutherans believe that the elect are predestined to salvation. Lutherans believe Christians should be assured that they are among the predestined. Lutherans believe that all who trust in Jesus alone can be certain of their salvation, for it is in Christ's work and his promises in which their certainty lies. According to Lutheranism, the central final hope of the Christian is "the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting" as confessed in the Apostles' Creed rather than predestination. Lutherans disagree with those that make predestination the source of salvation rather than Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection. Unlike Calvinists, Lutherans do not believe in a predestination to damnation. Instead, Lutherans teach eternal damnation is a result of the unbeliever's sins, rejection of the forgiveness of sins, and unbelief.
According to Lutherans, God preserves his creation, cooperates with everything that happens, and guides the universe. While God cooperates with both good and evil deeds, with evil deeds he does so only inasmuch as they are deeds, but not with the evil in them. God concurs with an act's effect, but he does not cooperate in the corruption of an act or the evil of its effect. Lutherans believe everything exists for the sake of the Christian Church, and that God guides everything for its welfare and growth.
The explanation of the Apostles' Creed given in the Small Catechism declares that everything good that people have is given and preserved by God, either directly or through other people or things. Of the services others provide us through family, government, and work, "we receive these blessings not from them, but, through them, from God." Since God uses everyone's useful tasks for good, people should look not down upon some useful vocations as being less worthy than others. Instead people should honor others, no matter how lowly, as being the means God uses to work in the world.
Good works are the fruit of saving faith, and always and in every instance spring spontaneously from true faith. Any true good works have their true origin in God, not in the fallen human heart or in human striving; their absence would demonstrate that faith, too, is absent. Although Christians are no longer compelled to keep God's law, they freely and willingly serve God and their neighbors.
Lutherans do not believe in any sort of earthly millennial kingdom of Christ either before or after his second coming on the last day. Lutherans teach that, at death, the souls of Christians are immediately taken into the presence of Jesus, where they await the second coming of Jesus on the last day. On the last day, all the dead will be resurrected. Their souls will then be reunited with the same bodies they had before dying. The bodies will then be changed, those of the wicked to a state of everlasting shame and torment, those of the righteous to an everlasting state of celestial glory. After the resurrection of all the dead, and the change of those still living, all nations shall be gathered before Christ, and he will separate the righteous from the wicked. Christ will publicly judge all people by the testimony of their deeds, the good works of the righteous in evidence of their faith, and the evil works of the wicked in evidence of their unbelief. He will judge in righteousness in the presence of all people and angels, and his final judgment will be just damnation to everlasting punishment for the wicked and a gracious gift of life everlasting to the righteous.
This table summarizes the classical views of three different Protestant beliefs.
|Human will||Total Depravity without free will||Total Depravity without free will||Depravity does not preclude free will|
|Election||Unconditional election to salvation only||Unconditional election to salvation and damnation||Conditional election in view of foreseen faith or unbelief|
|Justification||Justification of all people completed at Christ's death.||Justification is limited to those elected to salvation, completed at Christ's death.||Justification possible for all, but only completed when one chooses faith.|
|Conversion||Through the means of grace, resistible||Without means, irresistible||Involves free will and is resistible|
|Preservation and apostasy||Falling away is possible, but God gives assurance of preservation.||Perseverance of the saints, once saved, always saved||Preservation upon the condition of persevering faith with the possibility of a total and final apostasy.|
Most Lutherans place great emphasis on a liturgical approach to worship services; although there have always been substantial non-liturgical minorities, for example, the Haugean Lutherans from Norway. Music forms a large part of Lutheran services. Lutheran hymns are sometimes known as chorales. Lutheran hymnody is well known for its doctrinal, didactic, and musical richness. Many Lutheran churches are active musically with choirs, handbell choirs, children's choirs, and occasionally carillon groups that ring bells in a bell tower. Johann Sebastian Bach, a devout Lutheran, composed music for the Lutheran church.
Many Lutherans also preserve a liturgical approach to the celebration of the Holy Communion (or the Holy Eucharist/Lord's Supper), emphasizing the sacrament as the central act of Christian worship. Lutherans believe that the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ are present in, with and under the bread and the wine. This belief is called Real Presence or Sacramental Union and is different from consubstantiation and transubstantiation. Additionally Lutherans reject the idea that communion is a mere symbol or memorial. They confess in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession:
Besides the Holy Communion [Divine Service], congregations also hold offices, which are worship services without communion. They may include Matins, Vespers, Compline, and Easter Vigil. Private or family offices include the Morning and Evening Prayers from Luther's Small Catechism. Meals are blessed with the Common Table Prayer, Psalm 145:15-16, or other prayers, and after eating the Lord is thanked, for example, with Psalm 136:1. In addition, Lutherans use devotional books, from small daily devotionals, for example, Portals of Prayer, to large breviaries, including the Breviarium Lipsiensae and Treasury of Daily Prayer.
In the 1970s, many Lutheran churches began holding contemporary worship services for the purpose of evangelical outreach. These services were in a variety of styles, depending on the preferences of the congregation. Often they were held alongside a traditional service in order to cater to those who preferred contemporary worship music. Today, some Lutheran congregations have contemporary worship as their sole form of worship. Outreach is no longer given as the primary motivation; rather this form of worship is seen as more in keeping with the desires of individual congregations. In Finland, Lutherans have experimented with the St Thomas Mass or Metal Mass in which traditional hymns are adapted to heavy metal. The Lutheran World Federation, in its Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture, recommended every effort be made to bring church services into a more sensitive position with regard to cultural context.
Lutheran churches use hymnals as well as electronic projection media. In 2006, both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, in cooperation with certain foreign English speaking church bodies within their respective fellowships, released new hymnals: Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELCA) and Lutheran Service Book (LCMS). Along with these, the most widely used among English speaking congregations include: Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (1996, ELS), The Lutheran Book of Worship (1978, LC-USA), Lutheran Worship (1982, LCMS), Christian Worship (1993, WELS), and The Lutheran Hymnal (1941, Synodical Conference). In the Lutheran Church of Australia, the official hymnal is the 'Lutheran Hymnal with Supplement' of 1986, which includes a supplement to the 'Lutheran Hymnal' of 1973, itself a replacement for the 'Australian Lutheran Hymn Book' of 1921. Prior to this time, the two Lutheran church bodies in Australia (which merged in 1966) used a bewildering variety of hymnals, usually in the German language.
Catechism, especially children's, is considered fundamental in most Lutheran churches. Almost all maintain Sunday Schools, and some host or maintain Lutheran schools, at the preschool, elementary, middle, high school or university level. Life-long study of the catechism is intended for all ages so that the abuses of the pre-Reformation Church will not recur. With the emphasis on proper life-long catechesis, Lutherans have a heritage of not only learned theologians, but also theologically adept laypeople.
Pastors almost always have substantial theological educations, including Greek and Hebrew so that they can refer directly to the canonical Christian scriptures in the original language. All Lutheran pastors may marry and have families. Some Lutheran synods allow women pastors. Pastors usually teach in the common language of the parish. In the U.S., some congregations and synods historically taught in German, Finnish, or Norwegian, but this custom, which attracted unfavorable attention during World War I, has been in significant decline since the early/middle 20th century.
Lutherans were divided about the issue of church-fellowship for the first thirty years after Luther's death. Philipp Melanchthon and his Philippist party felt that Christians of many different beliefs should join in union with each other without completely agreeing on doctrine. Against them stood the Gnesio-Lutherans, led by Matthias Flacius and the faculty at Jena. They condemned the Philippist position for indifferentism, describing it as a "unionistic compromise" of precious Reformation theology. Instead, they held that genuine unity between Christians and real theological peace was only possible with an honest agreement about every subject of doctrinal controversy.
Complete agreement finally came about in 1577, after the death of both Melanchthon and Flacius, when a new generation of theologians resolved the doctrinal controversies on the basis of Scripture in the Formula of Concord of 1577. Although they decried the visible division of Christians on earth, orthodox Lutherans avoided ecumenical fellowship with other churches, believing that Christians should not join together for the Lord's Supper or exchange pastors if they do not completely agree about what the Bible teaches. In the 17th century, Georgius Calixtus began a rebellion against this practice, sparking the Syncretistic Controversy.
In the 18th century, there was some ecumenical interest between the Church of Sweden and the Church of England. John Robinson, Bishop of London, planned for a union of the English and Swedish churches in 1718. The plan failed because most Swedish bishops rejected the Calvinism of the Church of England, although Svedberg of Skara and Gezelius, Bishop of Turku (Finland) were in favor.
In the 19th century, Samuel Simon Schmucker attempted to lead the Evangelical Lutheran General Synod of the United States toward unification with other American Protestants. His attempt to get the synod to reject the Augsburg Confession in favor of his compromising Definite Platform failed. Instead, it sparked a Neo-Lutheran revival, prompting many to form the General Council, including Charles Porterfield Krauth. Their alternative approach was “Lutheran pulpits are for Lutheran ministers only, and Lutheran altars are for Lutheran communicants only.”
Beginning in 1867, confessional and liberal minded Lutherans in Germany joined together to form the Common Evangelical Lutheran Conference against the ever looming prospect of a state-mandated union with the Reformed. However, they failed to reach a consensus among themselves on how much agreement in doctrine is necessary for church union. Eventually, the fascist German Christians movement forced the final national merger of Lutheran, Union, and Reformed state churches into a single Reich Church, now the Evangelical Church in Germany, in 1933.
Presently, Lutherans are divided over how to interact with other Christian denominations. Some Lutherans assert that everyone must share the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27) in complete unity (1 Cor. 1:10) before pastors can share each others' pulpits, and before communicants commune at each others' altars, a practice termed closed (or close) communion. On the other hand, other Lutherans are practice varying degrees of open communion and allow preachers from other Christian denominations in their pulpits.
While not an issue in the majority of Lutheran church bodies, some of them forbid membership in Freemasonry. Partly, this is because the lodge is viewed as spreading Unitarianism, as the Brief Statement of the Missouri Synod reads, "Hence we warn against Unitarianism, which in our country has to a great extent impenetrated the sects and is being spread particularly also through the influence of the lodges." A 1958 report from the publishing house of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod states that, "Masonry is guilty of idolatry. Its worship and prayers are idol worship. The Masons may not with their hands have made an idol out of gold, silver, wood or stone, but they created one with their own mind and reason out of purely human thoughts and ideas. The latter is an idol no less than the former."
The Lutheran World Federation and the Missouri Synod have been in official dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church since shortly after the Second Vatican Council. In 1999 the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church when they jointly issued a statement, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification ("JDDJ"), that stated that the LWF and the Roman Catholic churches agreed about the basics of Justification and lifted certain Roman Catholic anathemas formerly applying to the LWF member churches.. The Missouri Synod has participated in every series of talks, except that which produced the Joint Declaration and to which they were not invited. While some Lutheran theologians saw the Joint Declaration as a sign that the Roman Catholic Church was essentially adopting the Lutheran position, other Lutheran theologians disagreed, claiming that, considering the public documentation of the Roman Catholic Church's position, this assertion does not hold up.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has been actively involved in ecumenical dialogues with several denominations (the ELCA is one of the members of the LWF that signed the JDDJ). Recently, the ELCA has declared full communion with several American Churches: the Moravian Church, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Reformed Church in America, the United Methodist Church, and the United Church of Christ.
Although not an "ecumenical" movement in the formal sense, in the 1990s influences from the megachurches of American evangelicalism have become somewhat common. Many of the largest Lutheran congregations in the United States have been heavily influenced by these "progressive Evangelicals." These influences are sharply criticized by some Lutherans as being foreign to orthodox Lutheran beliefs.
The Porvoo Communion is a communion of episcopally led Lutheran and Anglican churches in Europe. Beside its membership in the Porvoo Communion, Church of Sweden also has declared full communion with the Philippine Independent Church and the United Methodist Church.
Today, millions belong to Lutheran churches, which are present on all populated continents. Lutheranism is the largest religious group in Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Namibia, and the Dakotas. Lutheranism is also the dominant form of Christianity in the White Mountain and San Carlos Apache nations. In addition, Lutheranism is the dominant Protestant denomination but not the largest religious group in Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Papua New Guinea, and Tanzania.
Although Namibia is the only country outside Europe to have a Lutheran majority, there are sizable Lutheran communities in many other countries; including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia (notably among the Orang Batak), Madagascar, and the United States, especially in the heavily Germanic Upper Midwest. Lutheran missions have also been established in many African countries like Sierra Leone.
The largest organizations of Lutheran churches around the world are the Lutheran World Federation, the International Lutheran Council, and the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference. These organizations together include the great majority of Lutheran denominations around the globe. The Lutheran World Federation supports the activities of Lutheran World Relief, a relief and development agency active in more than 50 countries. The LCMS and the LCC are members of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The WELS and ELS are members of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.
Many Lutheran churches exist throughout the world which are not affiliated with the LWF, the ILC or the CELC, such as those affiliated with Augsburg Lutheran Churches or Church of the Lutheran Confession which are especially active in Africa and India; and those affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (UAC)or Church of the Lutheran Brethren, which are especially active elsewhere in Asia.
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF)-aligned churches do not believe that one church is singularly true in its teachings. According to this belief, Lutheranism is a reform movement rather than a movement into doctrinal correctness. For that reason, a number of doctrinally diverse LWF denominations, now largely separated from state control, are declaring fellowship and joint statements of agreement with other Lutheran and non-Lutheran Christian denominations.
By contrast, the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference and International Lutheran Council as well as many unaffiliated denominations such as the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) maintain that the orthodox confessional Lutheran churches are the only churches with completely correct doctrine. They teach that while other Christian churches teach partially orthodox doctrine and have true Christians as members, the doctrines of those churches contain significant errors. More conservative Lutherans strive to maintain historical distinctiveness while emphasizing doctrinal purity alongside Gospel-motivated outreach. They claim that LWF Lutherans are practicing "fake ecumenism" by desiring church fellowship outside of actual unity of teaching.
Lutheran (plural Lutherans)
The religious belief held by the oldest and in Europe the most numerous of the Protestant sects, founded by the Wittenberg reformer, Martin Luther. The term Lutheran was first used by his opponents during the Leipzig Disputation in 1519, and afterwards became universally prevalent. Luther preferred the designation "Evangelical", and today the usual title of the sect is "Evangelical Lutheran Church". In Germany, where the Lutherans and the Reformed have united (since 1817), the name Lutheran has been abandoned, and the state Church is styled the Evangelical or the Evangelical United.
In doctrine official Lutheranism is part of what is called orthodox Protestantism, since it agrees with the Catholic and the Greek Churches in accepting the authority of the Scriptures and of the three most ancient creeds (the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed). Besides these formulæ of belief, Lutheranism acknowledges six specific confessions which distinguish it from other churches:
These nine symbolical books (including the three Creeds) constitute what is known as the "Book of Concord", which was first published at Dresden in 1580 by order of Elector Augustus of Saxony (see FAITH, PROTESTANT CONFESSIONS OF). In these confessions the Scriptures are declared to be the only rule of faith. The extent of the Canon is not defined, but the bibles in common use among Lutherans have been generally the same as those of other Protestant denominations (see CANON OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES). The symbols and the other writings not contained in Scripture do not possess decisive authority, but merely show how the Scriptures were understood and explained at particular times by the leading theologians (Form of Concord).
The chief tenet of the Lutheran creed, that which Luther called "the article of the standing and falling Church", has reference to the justification of sinful man. Original sin is explained as a positive and total depravity of human nature, which renders all the acts of the unjustified, even those of civil righteousness, sinful and displeasing to God. Justification, which is not an internal change, but an external, forensic declaration by which God imputes to the creature the righteousness of Christ, comes only by faith, which is the confidence that one is reconciled to God through Christ. Good works are necessary as an exercise of faith, and are rewarded, not by justification (which they presuppose), but by the fulfilment of the Divine promises (Apology Aug. Conf.).
Other distinctive doctrines of the Lutheran Church are:
Since the official formulæ of faith claim no decisive authority for themselves, and on many points are far from harmonious, the utmost diversity of opinion prevails among Lutherans. Every shade of belief may be found among them, from the orthodox, who hold fast to the confessions, to the semi-infidel theologians, who deny the authority of the Scriptures.
Lutheranism dates from 31 October, 1517, when Luther affixed his theses to the church door of the castle of Wittenberg. Although he did not break with the Catholic Church until three years later, he had already come substantially to his later views on the plan of salvation. The new teachings, however underwent a great change after Luther's return from Wartburg (1521). Before he died (18 Feb., 1546), his teachings had been propagated in many states of Germany in Poland, in the Baltic Provinces, in Hungary, transylvania, the Netherlands, Denmark and Scandinavia. From these European countries Lutheranism has been carried by emigration to the New World, and in the United States it ranks among the leading Protestant denominations.
(1) The Lutherans in Germany
(a) First Period: From the appearance of Luther's Theses to the adoption of the Formula of Concord (1517-80)
Favoured by the civil rulers, Lutheranism spread rapidly in Northern Germany. After the Diet of Speyer (1526) the Elector of Saxony and other princes established Lutheran state Churches. An alliance between these princes was concluded at Torgau in 1526, and again at Smalkald in 1531. The Protestant League was continually increased by the accession of other states, and a religious war broke out in 1546, which resulted in the Peace of Augsburg (1555). This treaty provided that the Lutherans should retain permanently what they then possessed, but that all officials of ecclesiastical estates, who from that time forth should go over to Protestantism would be deposed and replaced by Catholics. This latter provision, known as the "Reservatum Ecclesiasticum", was very unsatisfactory to the Protestants, and its constant violation was one of the causes that lead up to the Thirty Years War (1618-48). At the time of the Peace of Augsburg Lutherans predominated in the north of Germany, while the Zwinglians or Reformed were very numerous in the south. Austria, Bavaria, and the territories subject to spiritual lords were Catholic, although many of these afterwards became Protestant. Several attempts were made to effect a reunion. In 1534 Pope Paul III invited the Protestants to a general council. Emperor Charles V arranged conferences between Catholic and Lutheran theologians in 1541, 1546, and 1547. His successor, Ferdinand I (1556-64), and many private individuals such as the Lutheran Frederick Staphylus and Father Contzen, laboured much for the same end. All these efforts, however, proved fruitless. Melanchthon, Crusius, and other Lutheran theologians made formal proposals of union to the Greek Church (1559, 1574, 1578), but nothing came of their overtures. From the beginning bitter hostility existed between the Lutherans and the Reformed. This first appeared in the Sacramentarian controversy between Luther and Zwingli (1524). They met in conference at Marburg in 1529, but came to no agreement. The hopes of union created by the compromise formula of 1536, known as the Concordia Wittenbergensis, proved delusive. Luther continued to make war on the Zwinglians until his death. The Sacramentarian strife was renewed in 1549 when the Zwinglians accepted Calvin's view of the Real Presence. The followers of Melanchthon, who favoured Calvin's doctrine (Philippists, Crypto-Calvinists), were also furiously denounced by the orthodox Lutherans. During these controversies the State Church of the Palatinate, where Philippism predominated, changed from the Lutheran to the Reformed faith (1560). From the beginning Lutheranism was torn by doctrinal disputes, carried on with the utmost violence and passion. They had reference to the questions of sin and grace, justification by faith, the use of good works, the Lord's Supper, and the Person and work of Christ. The bitterest controversy was the Crypto-Calvinistic. To effect harmony the Form of Concord, the last of the Lutheran symbols, was drawn up in 1577, and accepted by the majority of the state Churches. The document was written in a conciliatory spirit, but it secured the triumph of the orthodox party.
(b) Second Period: From the Adoption of the Form of Concord to the Beginning of the Pietistic Movement (1580-1689)
During this period Lutheranism was engaged in bitter polemics with its neighbours in Germany. Out of these religious discords grew the horrors of the Thirty Years War, which led many persons to desire better relations between the churches. A "charitable colloquy" was held at Thorn in 1645 by Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinist theologians, but nothing was accomplished. The proposal of the Lutheran professor, George Calixtus, that the confessions organize into one church with the consensus of the first five centuries as a common basis (Syncretism), aroused a storm of indignation, and, by way of protest, a creed was accepted by the Saxon universities which expressed the views of the most radical school of Lutheran orthodoxy (1655). The Lutheran theologians of this period imitated the disorderly arrangement of Melanchthon's "Loci Theologici", but in spirit they were with few exceptions loyal supporters of the Form of Concord. Although the writings of Luther abound with diatribes against the speculative sciences, his followers early perceived the necessity of philosophy for controversial purposes. Melanchthon developed a system of Aristoteleanism, and it was not long before the Scholastic method, which Luther had so cordially detested, was used by the Evangelical theologians, although the new Scholasticism was utterly different from the genuine system. Lutheran dogmatics became a maze of refined subtleties, and mere logomachy was considered the chief duty of the theologian. The result was a fanatical orthodoxy, whose only activity was heresy-hunting and barren controversy. New attempts were made to unite the Evangelical Churches. Conferences were held in 1586, 1631, and 1661; a plan of union was proposed by the Heidelberg professor Pareus (1615); the Reformed Synod of Charenton (1631) voted to admit Lutheran sponsors in baptism. But again the doctrine of the Lord's Supper proved an obstacle, as the Lutherans would agree to no union that was not based upon perfect dogmatic consensus. By the Peace of Westphalia (1648) the concessions which had been made to the Lutherans in 1555 were extended to the Reformed.
(c) Third Period: From the Beginning of the Pietistic Movement to the Evangelical Union (1689-1817)
Pietism, which was a reaction against the cold and dreary formalism of Lutheran orthodoxy, originated with Philip Spener (1635-1705). In sermons and writings he asserted the claims of personal holiness, and in 1670, while dean at Frankfort-on-the-Main, he began to hold little reunions called collegia pietatis (whence the name Pietist), in which devotional passages of the Scriptures were explained and pious conversation carried on by those present. His follower, August Francke, founded in 1694 the University of Halle, which became a stronghold of Pietism. The strict Lutherans accused the Pietists of heresy, a charge which was vigorously denied, although in fact the new school differed from the orthodox not only in practice, but also in doctrine. The first enthusiasm of the Pietists soon degenerated into fanaticism, and they rapidly lost favour. Pietism had exercised a beneficial influence, but it was followed by the Rationalistic movement, a more radical reaction against orthodoxy, which effected within the Lutheran, as in other Protestant communions, many apostasies from Christian belief. The philosophy of the day and the national literature, then ardently cultivated, had gradually undermined the faith of all classes of the people. The leaders in the Church adjusted themselves to the new conditions, and soon theological chairs and the pulpits were filled by men who rejected not only the dogmatic teaching of the Symbolical Books, but every supernatural element of religion. A notable exception to this growing infidelity was the sect of Herrnhuters or United Brethren, founded in 1722 by Count von Zinzendorf, a follower of the Pietistic school (see BOHEMIAN BRETHREN). The critical state of their churches caused many Protestants to long for a union between the Lutherans and the Reformed. The royal house of Prussia laboured to accomplish a union, but all plans were frustrated by the opposition of the theologians. There were for a time prospects of a reconciliation of the Hanoverian Lutherans with the Catholic Church. Negotiations were carried on between the Catholic Bishop Spinola and the Lutheran representative Molanus (1691). A controversy on the points at issue followed between Bossuet and Leibniz (1692-1701), but no agreement was reached.
(d) Fourth Period: From the Evangelical Union (1817) to the Present
The chief events in the Lutheran Churches in Germany during the nineteenth century were the Evangelical Union and the revival of orthodoxy. During the celebration of the tercentenary of the Reformation in 1817, efforts were made in Prussia to unite Lutherans and Reformed. Frederick William III recommended the use of a common liturgy by the two churches, and this proposal gradually won acceptance. There was much opposition, however, to the service-book published by royal authority in 1822. John Scheibel, deacon in Breslau, refused to accept it, and, being deposed from office, founded a separatist sect known as the "Old Lutherans" (1830). The Government used very oppressive measures against these nonconformists, but in 1845 the new king, Frederick William IV, recognized them as an independent Lutheran sect. In 1860 the Old Lutherans were greatly reduced in numbers by the defection of Pastor Diedrich, who organized the independent Immanuel Synod. There were also separatist movements outside of Silesia. Free Lutheran Churches were established by dissenters in Hesse, Hanover, Baden, and Saxony. A supernaturalist movement, which defended the Divinely inspired character of the Bible, started a reaction against the principle of rationalism in theology. The centenary jubilees of 1817 and the following years, which recalled the early days of Lutheranism, brought with them a revival of former orthodoxy. The theological faculties of several universities became strictly Lutheran in their teachings. Since then there has been a persistent and bitter struggle between rationalistic and Evangelical tendencies in the United and Free Churches.
(2) The Lutherans in Denmark and Scandinavia.
By the Union of Calmar (1397), Sweden, Norway, and Denmark became a united kingdom under the King of Denmark. The despotic Christian II (1513-23) endeavoured to introduce the Reformation, but was overthrown by his barons. Frederick I of Schleswig-Holstein, his successor, openly professed Lutheranism in 1526. At the Diet of Odense (1527) he obtained a measure which guaranteed equal rights to his coreligionists, and two years later he proclaimed Lutheranism the only true religion. Under his successor, Christian III (1533-59), the Catholic bishops were deprived of their sees, and the Lutheran Church of Denmark was organized with the king as supreme bishop. The Diet of Copenhagen (1546) enacted penal laws, which deprived Catholics of civil rights and forbade priests to remain in Denmark under pain of death. The opposition of Iceland to the new religion was put down by force (1550). German rationalism was propagated in Denmark by Clausen. Among its opponents was Grundtvig, leader of the Grundtvigian movement (1824), which advocated the acceptance of the Apostles' Creed as the sole rule of faith. Freedom of religious worship was granted in 1849.
Norway, which was united with Denmark, became Lutheran during the reigns of Frederick I and Christian III. Rationalism, introduced from Denmark, made great progress in Norway. It was opposed by Hauge and by Norwegian followers of Grundtvig. A Free Apostolic Church was founded by Adolph Lammers about 1850, but later reunited with the state church. Norway passed laws of toleration in 1845, but still excludes the Jesuits.
Sweden was freed from the Danish yoke by Gustavus Vasa in 1521, and two years later the liberator was chosen king. Almost from the outset of his reign he showed himself favourable to Lutherans, and by cunning and violence succeeded in introducing the new religion into his kingdom. In 1529 the Reformation was formally established by the Assembly of Orebro, and in 1544 the ancient Faith was put under the ban of the law. The reign of Eric XIV (1560-8) was marked by violent conflicts between the Lutherans and the Calvinists. The latter party was favoured by the king, and their defeat in 1568 was followed by Eric's dethronement. His successor, John III (1568-92), conferred with Gregory XIII on a reunion of Sweden with the Catholic Church, but, as the pope could not grant all the concessions demanded by the king, the negotiations were unsuccessful. The next king, Sigismund (1592-1604), was a Catholic, but, as he lived in Poland (of which he was king from 1587), the Government of Sweden was administered by his uncle Duke Charles of Sudermanland, a zealous Lutheran, who used the power at his command to secure his proclamation as King Charles IX in the Assembly of Nordkoeping (1604). The successor of Charles was the famous general and statesman, Gustavus Adolphus (1611-32). For the part he took in the Thirty Years War, he is venerated by Lutherans as the religious hero of their Church, but it is now admitted that reasons of state led Gustavus into that conflict. He was succeeded by his only daughter Christina, who became a Catholic and abdicated in 1654. By a law of 1686 all persons in the kingdom were required under severe penalties to conform to the state Church. A law passed in 1726 against religious conventicles was rigidly enforced against the Swedish Pietists (Läsare) from 1803 till its repeal in 1853. The law against religious dissidents was not removed from the statute books till 1873. The Swedish Church is entirely controlled by the state, and the strict orthodoxy which was enforced prevented at first any serious inroads of Rationalism. But since 1866 there has formed within the state Church a "progressive party", whose purpose is to abandon all symbols and to laicize the church. The two universities of Upsala and Lund are orthodox. The Grand Duchy of Finland, formerly united to Sweden, but now (since 1809) a Province of Russia, maintains Lutheranism as the national Church.
(3) Lutheranism in Other Countries of Europe
Lutheranism was introduced into Poland during the reign of Sigismund I (1501-48) by young men who had made their studies at Wittenberg. The new teachings were opposed by the king, but had the powerful support of the nobility. From Danzig they spread to the cities of Thorn and Elbing, and, during the reign of Sigismund II (1548-72), steadily gained ground. A union symbol was drawn up and signed by the Protestants at Sandomir in 1570, and three years later they concluded a religious peace with the Catholics, in which it was agreed that all parties should enjoy equal civil rights. The peace was not lasting, and during two centuries there was almost continual religious strife which finally led to the downfall of the kingdom. With the connivance of Poland, Lutheranism was established in the territories of the Teutonic Order, East Prussia (1525), Livonia (1539), and Courland (1561).
(b)Hungary, Transylvania and Silesia
The teachings of Luther were first propagated in these countries during the reign of King Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia (1516-26). The king was strongly opposed to religious innovation, but after his death civil discords enabled the new doctrine to gain headway. In Silesia Lutheranism was protected by the dukes, and in 1524 it was established in Breslau, the capital, by the municipal council. Freedom of worship was granted in Transylvania in 1545, and in Hungary in 1606. The Lutherans were soon involved in quarrels with the Calvinists. The German element among the Protestants favoured the Augsburg Confession, but the Reformed faith had more adherents among the Hungarians and Czechs. In Silesia the Lutherans themselves were divided on the doctrine of justification and the Eucharist. Gaspar Schwenkfeld (died 1561), one of the earliest disciples of Luther, assailed his master's doctrine on these points, and as early as 1528 Schwenkfeldianism had many adherents among Lutherans. The memory of Schwenkfeld is still held in veneration in Silesia and in some Lutheran communities of Pennsylvania. Lutheranism made some gains in the hereditary states of Austria and in Bohemia during the reigns of Ferdinand 1 (1556-64) and Maximilian II (1564-76). The Lutherans of Bohemia rebelled against the imperial authority in 1618, but were defeated, and the Catholic Faith was preserved in the Hapsburg dominions. (See AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN MONARCHY; HUNGARY.)
Holland was one of the first countries to receive the doctrines of Luther. Emperor Charles V, anxious to avert the disorders which followed the Reformation in Germany, used great severity against those who propagated Lutheranism in the Netherlands. His son, Philip II of Spain (1556-98), was still more rigorous. The measures he employed were often despotic and unjust, and the people rose in a rebellion (1568), by which Holland was lost to Spain. Meanwhile the relations between the Lutherans and Calvinists were anything but cordial. The Reformed party gradually gained the ascendancy, and, when the republic was established, their political supremacy enabled them to subject the Lutherans to many annoying restrictions. The Dutch Lutherans fell a prey to Rationalism in the eighteenth century. A number of the churches and pastors separated from the main body to adhere more closely to the Augsburg Confession. The liberal party has a theological seminary (founded in 1816) at Amsterdam, while the orthodox provide for theological training by lectures in the university of the same city.
(4) Lutherans in America
(a) Period of Foundation (1624-1742)
Lutherans were among the earliest European settlers on this continent. Their first representatives came from Holland to the Dutch colony of New Netherlands about 1624. Under Governor Stuyvesant they were obliged to conform to the Reformed services, but freedom of worship was obtained when New Amsterdam (New York) was captured by the English in 1664. The second distinct body of Lutherans in America arrived from Sweden in 1637. Two years later they had a minister and organized at Fort Christina (now Wilmington, Delaware), the first Lutheran congregation in the New World. After 1771 the Swedes of Delaware and Pennsylvania dissolved their union with the Mother Church of Sweden. As they had no English-speaking ministers, they chose their pastors from the Episcopalian Church. Since 1846 these congregations have declared full communion with the Episcopalians. The first colony of German Lutherans was from the Palatinate. They arrived in 1693 and founded Germantown, now a part of Philadelphia. During the eighteenth century large numbers of Lutheran emigrants from Alsace, the Palatinate, and Würtemberg settled along the Hudson River. On the Atlantic coast, in New Jersey, Virginia, North and South Carolina, were many isolated groups of German Lutherans. A colony of Lutherans from Salzburg founded the settlement of Ebenezer, Georgia, in 1734. In Eastern Pennsylvania about 30,000 German Lutherans had settled before the middle of the eighteenth century. Three of their congregations applied to Europe for ministers, and Count Zinzendorf became pastor in Philadelphia in 1741.
(b) Period of Organization (1742-87)
In 1742 Rev. Henry Muhlenberg, a Hanoverian who is regarded as the patriarch of American Lutheranism, arrived in Philadelphia and succeeded Zinzendorf in the pastorate. During the forty-five years of his ministry in America, Muhlenberg presided over widely separated congregations and erected many churches. He began the work of organization among the Lutherans of America by the foundation of the Synod of Pennsylvania in 1748. He also prepared the congregational constitution of St. Michael's Church, Philadelphia, which became the model of similar constitutions throughout the country. His son, Rev. Frederick Muhlenberg, afterwards speaker in the first House of Representatives, was the originator of the Ministerium of New York, the second synod in America (1773).
(c) Period of Deterioration (1787-1817)
Muhlenherg and the other German pastors of his time were graduates of the University of Halle. The generation that succeeded them had made their studies in the same institution. But the Pietism of the founders of Halle had now made way for the destructive criticism of Semler. The result was soon manifest in the indifferentism of the American Churches. The Pennsylvania Ministerium eliminated all confessional tests in its constitution of 1792. The New York ministerium, led by Dr. Frederick Quitman, a decided Rationalist, substituted for the older Lutheran catechisms and hymn-books works that were more conformable to the prevailing theology. The agenda, or service-book adopted by the Pennsylvania Lutherans in 1818, was a departure from the old type of service and the expression of new doctrinal standards. The transition from the use of German to English caused splits in many congregations, the German party bitterly opposing the introduction of English in the church services. They even felt that they had more in common with the German-speaking Reformed than with the English-speaking Lutherans, and some of them advocated an Evangelical Union such as was then proposed in Prussia.
(d) Period of Revival and Expansion (1817-60)
To prevent the threatened disintegration, a union of all the Lutheran synods in America was proposed. In 1820 the General Synod was organized at Hagerstown, Pennsylvania, but a few of the district synods stood aloof. The new organization was regarded with suspicion by many, and in 1823 the mother synod of Pennsylvania itself withdrew from the general body. From the beginning there was a considerable element within the General Synod which favoured doctrinal compromise with the Reformed Church. To strengthen the conservative party, the Pennsylvania Synod returned to the General Synod in 1853. Meanwhile the General Synod had established the theological seminary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (1825), and societies for home and foreign missions. In the West several ecclesiastical organizations were formed by Lutheran emigrants from Saxony, Prussia, Bavaria, and the Scandinavian countries. The Missouri Synod was founded by Rev. Carl Walther in 1847, and the same year opened a theological seminary at St. Louis. A band of Old Lutherans, who resisted the Prussian union, emigrated from Saxony in 1839, and two years later founded the Buffalo Synod. At first a union between the Missouri and the Buffalo synods was expected, but instead their leaders were soon engaged in doctrinal controversies which extended over many years. In 1854 a party within the Missouri Synod, dissatisfied with what it regarded as the extreme congregationalism of that body and its denial of open questions in theology, seceded and formed the Iowa Synod with its theological seminary at Dubuque. Ever since there has been conflict between these two synods. Travelling preachers of the Pennsylvania Ministerium founded in Ohio a conference in connexion with the mother synod in 1805. This conference was reorganized in 1818 into a synod which since 1833 has been known as the Joint Synod of Ohio. The earliest synods formed by Scandinavian emigrants were:
all in the states of the Middle West.
(e) Period of Reorganization (since 1860)
At the beginning of the Civil War the General Synod numbered two-thirds of the Lutherans in the United States, and hopes were entertained that soon all the organizations would be united in one body. These anticipations, however, were doomed to disappointment. In 1863 the General Synod lost the five southern district synods, which withdrew and formed the "General Synod of the Confederate States". A more serious break in the General Synod occurred three years later. The disagreements between the liberal and the conservative elements in that body had not abated with time. In 1864 the Ministerium of Pennsylvania established in Philadelphia a new seminary, thereby greatly reducing the attendance at the Gettysburg seminary of the General Synod. At the next convention (1866) it was declared that the Pennsylvania Synod was no longer in practical union with the General Synod. The Pennsylvania Ministerium at once sent out an invitation to all American and Canadian synods to join with it in forming a new general body. In response to this invitation a convention assembled at Reading the same year, and thirteen synods were consolidated into the "General Council". With the close of the Civil War the Southern Lutherans might have returned to fellowship with their Northern brethren, but the controversy between the Northern synods determined them to perpetuate their own organization. In 1886 they reorganized their general body, taking the name of the "United Synod in the South", and stating their doctrinal position, which is essentially the same as that of the General Council. A fourth general body was formed in 1872, the "Synodical Conference", at present the strongest organization among the Lutheran Churches of America. It takes as its basis the Formula of Concord of 1580, and comprises the Missouri and other Western synods. A controversy on predestination led to the withdrawal of the Ohio Synod in 1881, and of the Norwegian Synod in 1884. There are still many independent synods not affiliated with any of the general organizations. Thus the Lutherans of the United States are divided into various conflicting bodies, each claiming to be a truer exponent of Lutheranism than the others. The membership of the four principal organizations is almost exclusively of German descent. The main cause of separation is diversity of opinion regarding the importance or the interpretation of the official confessions.
In the early days of the Reformation the prevalent form of government was that known as the episcopal, which transferred the jurisdiction of the bishops to the civil ruler. It was followed by the territorial system, which recognized the sovereign as head of the church, in virtue of his office, both in administrative and doctrinal matters. The collegial system of Pfaff (1719) asserts the sovereignty and independence of the congregation, which may, however, delegate its authority to the State. In the Lutheran state Churches the secular power is in fact the supreme authority. The practical determination of religious questions rests with the national legislature, or with a consistorium whose members are appointed by the government. No Divinely constituted hierarchy is recognized, and in orders all the clergy are considered as equals. The Lutheran bishops of Sweden and Denmark, like the "general superintendents" of Germany, are government officials entrusted with the oversight of the pastors and congregations. In Holland and the United States, as among the Free Churches of Germany, the form of organization is synodical, a system of church polity which in its main features has been derived from the Reformed Church. According to this plan, purely congregational matters are decided by the vote of the congregation, either directly or through the church council. In the United States the church council consists of the pastor and his lay assistants, the elders and deacons, all chosen by the congregation. Affairs of more general importance and disputed questions are settled by the district synod, composed of lay and clerical delegates representing such congregations as have accepted a mutual congregational compact. The congregations composing a district synod may unite with other district synods to form a more general body. The powers of a general organization of this kind, in relation to the bodies of which it is composed, are not, however, in all cases the same. The constitution of the Old Lutheran Church in Germany makes its General Synod the last court of appeal and its decisions binding. In the United States a different conception prevails, and in most instances the general assemblies are regarded simply as advisory conferences whose decisions require the ratification of the particular organizations represented.
Lutheran public worship is based on the service-book which Luther published in 1523 and 1526. He retained the first part of the Mass, but abolished the Offertory, Canon, and all the forms of sacrifice. The main Lutheran service is still known as "the Mass" in Scandinavian countries. The singing of hymns became a prominent part of the new service. Many Catholic sequences were retained, and other sacred songs were borrowed from the old German poets. Luther himself wrote hymns, but it is doubtful whether he is really the author of any of the melodies that are usually ascribed to him. Luther wished to retain the Elevation and the use of the Latin language, but these have been abandoned. The Collect, Epistle, and Gospel vary according to the Sundays of the year. The Creed is followed by a sermon on the Scripture lesson of the day, which is the principal part of the service. Ordinarily the Lord's Supper is administered only a few times during the year. It is preceded, sometimes the day before, by the service of public confession and absolution, which consists in the promise of amendment made by the intending communicants, and the declaration of the minister that such as are truly penitent are forgiven. Only two sacraments are recognized by Lutherans, Baptism and the Lord's Supper; but Confirmation, Ordination, and Confession as just described are regarded as sacred rites. There are also ceremonies prescribed for marriage and burial. Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, the feast of the Twelve Apostles, the Commemoration of the Reformation (31 Oct.) are observed with religious services. Pictures are permitted in the churches, and in Denmark vestments and lighted candles are used at the communion service. The first complete ritual or agenda was that prepared for the Duchy of Prussia in 1525. There is no uniform liturgy for the churches. In the United Evangelical Church of Germany the agenda of Frederick William III (1817) is the official form. The services of the American Lutherans were for many years chiefly extemporaneous, but since 1888 a common service based on the liturgies of the sixteenth century has been used by almost all English-speaking Lutherans in this country. It includes, besides the main service, matins and vespers.
(1) Foreign Missions and Benevolent Organizations
Foreign missionary activity has never been a very prominent characteristic of the Lutheran Church. Its pioneer missionaries went from the University of Halle to the East Indies (Tanquebar) at the invitation of Frederick IV of Denmark in 1705. During the eighteenth century Halle sent about sixty missionaries to Tanquebar. In later years the mission was supplied by the Leipzig Lutheran Mission. Another Danish mission was that of Pastor Hans Egede among the Greenlanders in 1721. During the nineteenth century several societies for foreign missions were founded: the Berlin Mission Society (1824), the Evangelical Lutheran Missionary Association of Leipzig (1836), the Hermansburg Society (1854), and a number of similar organizations in the Scandinavian countries. In the United States a German Foreign Missionary Society was founded in 1837. The first Lutheran missionary from the United States was Dr. Heyer, who was sent to India in 1841. At present missions to the heathen in Oceania, India, and East Africa, are maintained under the auspices of various American synods. The sisterhood, known as the Lutheran Deaconesses, was founded by Pastor Fliedner at Kaiserwerth in 1833, its objects being the care of the sick, instruction, etc. They are now very numerous in some parts of Germany. They were introduced in the United States in 1849.
(2) Sacred Learning and Education
The study of exegetics, church history, and theology has been much cultivated by Lutheran scholars. Among the exegetes the following are well known: Solomon Glassius (Philologia Sacra, 1623); Sebastian Schmid (died 1696), translator and commentator; John H. Michaelis (Biblia Hebraica, 1720); John A. Bengel (Gnomon Novi Testamenti, 1752); Havernick (died 1845), Hegstenberg (died 1869), and Delitzsch (died 1890), commentators. Among the more important church historians may be mentioned: Mosheim (died 1755), sometimes called the "Father of Modern Church History", Schrockle (died 1808), Neander (died 1850), Kurtz (died 1890), Hase (died 1890). The "Magdeburg Centuries" (1559) of Flacius Illyricus and his associates, the first church history written by Protestants, is very biased and has no historical value. Numerous dogmatic works have been written by Lutheran theologians. Among the dogmaticians most esteemed by Lutherans are: Melanchthon, whose "Loci Theologici" (1521) was the first Lutheran theology; Martin Chemnitz (died 1586) and John Gerhard (died 1637), the two ablest Lutheran theologians; Calovius (died 1686), champion of the strictest Lutheran orthodoxy; Quenstedt (died 1688); Hollaz (died 1713); Luthardt (died 1902); Henry Schmid, whose dogmatic theology (1st ed., 1843) in its English translation has been much used in the United States. The Lutheran Church still produces many dogmatic works, but very few of the modern divines hold strictly to the old formulæ of faith.
The Lutheran Churches deserve great credit for the importance they have always attached to religious instruction, not only in their many universities, but also and especially in the schools of elementary instruction. In Lutheran countries the education of the children is supervised by the religious authorities, since Lutherans act on the principle that religious training is the most important part of education. The catechism, Biblical study, and church music have a prominent part in the everyday instruction. In the United States the parochial school has been developed with great success among the congregations that still use the German and Scandinavian languages. The Lutherans of Wisconsin and Illinois co-operated with the Catholics in 1890 in an organized resistance against legislation which would have proved injurious to the parochial schools.
The popular faith had been overthrown in the eighteenth century by the philosophy of Wolff (died 1754) and the criticism of Semler (died 1791). The principle of the supremacy of reason was used to tear down belief in the inspired character of Holy Writ. The literature and philosophy of the time show how great a blow was dealt to orthodox Lutheranism. Theology, now become the handmaid of philosophy, eagerly accepted amid the prevailing doubt and negation the system of Kant (died 1804), which made the essence of religion and the whole value of Scripture consist in the teaching of the morality of reason or natural ethics. Against this rationalistic theology there arose about the beginning of the nineteenth century two reactionary movements — Supernaturalism, which declared in favour of the undivided supremacy of faith, and the system of Schleiermacher (died 1834), which made sentiment or the feelings of the heart the criterion of religious truth. The teachings of Schleiermacher recast the existing theology, and gave it the bent which it afterwards followed. A still more thoroughgoing rationalism appeared in the writings of the Hegelian Strauss (died 1874) and of the Tübingen school, which aimed at the utter destruction of the Divine basis of Christian faith by explaining all that is supernatural in Scripture as merely natural or mythical. These bold attacks were met by many able scholars, and they have long since been discredited. Since the days of Strauss and Bauer (died 1860), the method known as Higher Criticism (see CRITICISM, BIBLICAL) has found favour in Germany, both with the rationalistic and the orthodox Protestant. Much that is of permanent value as an aid to the scientific study of the Bible has been accomplished, but at the same time Rationalism has been making constant gains, not only in the universities, but also amongst the masses. The strictly confessional theology of the orthodox revival (1817), the neo-Lutheran movement, whose leanings toward the Catholic Faith gave it the name of German Puseyism, the Compromise Theology, which endeavoured to reconcile believers and Rationalists — all these more or less conservative systems are now to a great extent superseded by the modern or free theology, represented by Pfieiderer (died 1906), Wilhelm Hermann, Tröltsch, Harnack, Weinel, and others, which teaches a religion without creed or dogma. In Germany, especially in the cities, the Evangelical faith has lost its influence not only with the people, but in great part with the preachers themselves. The same is true to some extent in the Scandinavian countries, where Rationalism is making inroads on Lutheran orthodoxy. In the United States the Lutherans have been more conservative, and thus far have preserved more of their confessional spirit.
The number of Lutherans in the world is about fifty millions, a membership which far exceeds that of any other Protestant denomination. The chief Lutheran country to-day, as from the beginning, is Germany. In 1905 the Evangelicals (Lutherans and Reformed) in the German Empire numbered 37,646,852. The membership of the Lutheran churches in other European countries is as follows: Sweden (1900), 5,972,792; Russia, chiefly in Finland and the Baltic Provinces (1905), 3,572,653; Denmark (1901), 2,400,000; Norway (1900) 2,197,318; Hungary (1906), 1,288,942. Austria and Holland have about 494,000 and 110,000 Lutherans respectively. According to a bulletin of the Bureau of the U.S. Census the total membership of the 24 Lutheran bodies in the United States in 1906 was 2,112,494, with 7841 ministers, 11,194 church edifices, and church property valued at $74,826 389 Dr. H. K. Carroll's statistics of the Churches of the United States for 1909 credits the Lutherans with 2,173,047 communicants.