Q:        What is a Lutheran?

A:        Lutherans are followers of Jesus Christ, and members of the Christian Church.  They would be defined as evangelical Christians.  The term evangelical refers to a term followers of Jesus use to point out that their faith centers in the good news of what God has done for people in Jesus Christ.  Lutherans make up the oldest of the groups that are heirs to the Reformation of the Western church five centuries ago.  There are about ten million “Lutherans” in the United States (named after the Reformer, Martin Luther).

Q:        Who was Martin Luther?

A:        He was a fallible, energetic, robust, occasionally crude, never dull German monk who had tried to please God by living the disciplines of a monastery.  But he felt burdened by God, not loved, for these efforts.  A reading of the Bible, particularly the letters of Paul, led him to an experience of God’s grace (undeserved love and favor).  He became a preacher, reformer, church leader, author of scores of books, family man, and proclaimed the fact that God forgives people out of love, through Jesus Christ.

Q:        Does Lutheranism have distinctive teachings?

A:        Lutherans teach three basic understandings: “Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone.” Grace alone means that God does the work of saving; we have nothing to do with it (we cannot earn it). Faith alone means that we receive this gift when we accept that it’s true; we have faith. Scripture alone means that this gift comes to us through the Word of God in the bible; Faith comes by hearing the Word of God’s good news. These are expressed in different ways through the bible, the Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, and through Luther’s writings in the Book of Concord.

Q:        What do these central teachings have to do with being a Christian?

A:        A Swedish churchman put it well when he said, “Lutheran teachings are not strung together like pearls on a thread.  Instead, they all radiate out from the glowing core of justification by grace through faith.” God forgives sin, gives new life, and calls people to be God’s instruments of justice and peace in the world.  God is then seen fundamentally as the agent of love in the world.

Q:      You make so much of Jesus Christ.  What about him?

A:      Lutherans share with most Christians everywhere the belief that Jesus of Nazareth, two thousand years ago, was uniquely the Son of God, and indeed actually God.  Jesus lived and ministered in and around Judea, died, and was raised from the dead, all to reconcile our relationship with God. In fact, they believe that he is the Son of God today, because he lives among them, even if not as a physical presence.  Lutherans devote themselves to his teachings as they are recorded in the bible; they like to study his words and works and ways; to follow his example; to explore what his death on a cross of execution and his being raised to new life by God the Father, mean for their own daily life.  They welcome no confession that takes away from Jesus Christ anything of his fully divine or his fully human character.

Q:     If you make so much of Jesus, what happens to God?

A:     Lutherans believe in God as Trinity.  “The Trinity” is not a biblical word; but this word, which was coined by early Christians, is based on biblical realities.  Through this formula believers try to hold in perfect unity three ‘persons’ of God and, for them, three ways of experiencing or knowing God.  God is their “Father” or creator; God comes in the form of the risen Lord Jesus Christ; and God is present as the Holy Spirit who shapes creation and the church and makes them holy.  Lutherans do not believe that they have any special angle of belief on this way of speaking of God.

The Lutheran Church Teaches:

(Adapted from “Core Beliefs” article from Celebration Lutheran Church)