The Lutheran Denomination

Our continued look at various denominations.

By MARIE H. SCHMIDT, Minister's Wife, College Place, Washington

The Name.—The name "Lutheran" was first used by Luther's opponent, Dr. John Eck, on July 4, 1519. Luther preferred to have his followers called simply Christians or Evangelicals. But up *to 1580 the Catholics had used the term "Luth­eran" as_a nickname for the heresy of Luther and his followers. Shortly after 1580 the name was adopted as a name of honor.

Founding.—Luther's open break with the Catholic Church came with the posting of- his ninety-five theses on Wittenberg's castle-church door, October 31, 1517. Luther's beliefs became established by the Augsburg Confession in 1530, when the Protestants of Germany were invited by imperial diet to present their views in writing. The document consisted of twenty-eight articles, of which twenty-one clearly defined the tenets of the teaching, while seven pointed out the errors and abuses which had been abolished by the Luth­erans. The document was written by Melanchthon and approved by Luther.

Teachings Which Led to Organization.—From Luther's study of the Bible he found Christ and justification by faith through imputed right­eousness. Luther urged a living faith in God as taught by Christ and the apostles. This primacy of forgiveness of sins was emphasized by the Reformers. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper formed an important part of belief, and the Reformer's views on Bible doctrines and prophecy led to a complete separation from the Roman Catholic Church. Luther's study of Daniel 7 and 8 led him to discover the antichrist. All Christians were urged to obey the command, "Come out of her, My people." To these early Christians it was clear that separation from the Papacy was separation not from Christ but from antichrist. Luther maintained that both the law and the gospel should be preached. He believed in salvation by faith, justification, conversion, and the Lord's supper.

Progress In Early Period.—Following 1530 Luther wrote two catechisms and started univer­sities and colleges under the dominant leadership of Melanchthon. In 1535 Luther introduced the rite or order of evangelical ordination at Witten­berg. The Formula of Concord in 1577 gave fur­ther strength to the movement by uniting three territorial states. The Book of Concord published in 158o, the fiftieth anniversary day of the presen­tation of the Augsburg Confession to the diet, further stabilized the church. This collection was signed by fifty-one princes, thirty-five cities, and about nine thousand theologians.

Influence On Christianity.—Luther's teach­ings aroused a wide interest in spiritual matters throughout Europe. He gave the Word of God to the people in their own tongue. His translation of the Bible into the German gave great impetus to the Reformation.

Present Standing.—The Lutheran Church is among the leading denominations of this coun­try. Its influence is strongly felt in modern Christianity. Its followers are widely scattered in America and Europe, and the church maintains missions in other lands.

Present Size.—The membership of the major synods is over 2,000,000 in the United States. The Lutherans have been much divided due, at least in part, to language difficulties. Their institutions and churches are scattered through the land, but are strong-est in the Midwestern States. St. Louis is headquarters for the Eden Publishing House, and many leaders live at this center.

Present Doctrines.—Luther's catechisms and Formula remain the Same as originally. Beliefs of American Lutheran Churches as contained in the Augsburg Confession are:

1. The cardinal doctrine that of justification by faith alone.

2. The ordinances of baptism and the Lord's sup­per, not mere signs or memorials, but chan­nels of grace.

3. Belief that "in the holy supper there are present with the elements and are received sacramentally and supernaturally the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ."

4. Observance of various festivals of the Chris­tian year.

5. Acceptance as fact the inspiration of the Bible.

"The Lutheran Church is a firm believer in thorough Christian indoctrination and education; hence insists upon cateehetical instruction preparatory to confirma­tion. The Lutheran faith centers in Christ as the only Saviour of sinful man."—Religious Bodies (1936), Vol. II, part 2, Lutheran Section—Doctrine, p. 852.

Organization.—Arnong Lutherans the distinc­tion between the laity and the clergy, or ministry, rests solely upon the orderly exercise of a function which is necessary to the being and continuing life of the church, namely, the preaching of the gos­pel and the administration of sacraments. The congregation is composed of the people and the pastor.

The pastor is elected and-called by the voting mem­bers of the congregation, usually without any time limit. The congregation has the power, however, to terminate the relationship, but it may not depose the pastor from the ministry of the church. Ordi­nation to the ministry is, as a rule, an act of the synod at its annual meeting.

Consolidation. Church Federation.—All the major Lutheran bodies have appointed com­missions to meet and consider a more complete consolidation of Lutheran forces in this continent. With this in mind they have formed a Lutheran World Convention. The National Lutheran Council during and after the first World War aided the needy in Europe, and this developed a unity in this country. The years 1918-1933 are considered the age of solidarity. Many of the synods united during this period, including the larger bodies. On October 12, 1940, the American Lutheran Church and the United Lutheran Church of America in convention voted to unite. Their attitude toward Lutheran solidarity is recorded in the following words:

"So far, so good. God grant that Lutherans every­where in this critical period of history, may have the humility, the unselfishness, the love and spirit of Christ, to put first things first in the kingdom of God, and to pool their spiritual and material resources for the furtherance of the gospel and a ministry of service to a war-torn, sin-sick world."

This effort to unite within the church is an initial step toward federation, or uniting with other Protestant churches.

Education For Youth.—Lutherans maintain thirty-seven theological seminaries, thirty-three senior colleges, and eighty-seven junior colleges and academies, and much attention is given to ele­mentary Christian education. They have youth's organizations—Walther League Societies, with headquarters in Chicago. In this country Luth­erans operate 25,310 congregational, or church, schools with 199,150 teachers employed, and 1,938,548 youth in attendance.

Foreign Missions.—Lutheran mission stations are established in Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, China, and India. There are 162 schools, 206 teachers, and 7,067 pupils attending. There are also home and inner missions.

Noncombatancy.—The fact that in the recent World War about six per cent of the membership of Lutheran congregations enlisted, as against only four per cent of the total population, is evi­dence that they do not believe in noncombatancy.


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By MARIE H. SCHMIDT, Minister's Wife, College Place, Washington

May 1945

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