The religious belief of the oldest of the Protestant sects, founded by Martin Luther.
The name was at first used derisively by his opponents and Luther himself preferred the designation "Evangelical," which is quite generally used with the word "Lutheran" in Church titles.
Lutherans keep the date of their founding as 31 October 1517, when Luther posted his 95 theses for discussion on the church door in Wittenberg.
The chief doctrines of Lutheranism, which are summarized in six "Confessions" are:
Following Luther's teaching on private judgment, their formularies are variously interpreted, and wide divergence is found, ranging from strict orthodoxy to the extremes of rationalism.
Lutheranism is the prevailing religion of Germany and Scandinavian countries.
Its Church government varies from the episcopal to congregational forms.
A form of worship is used, based on the Mass but eliminating all idea of sacrifice.
Though it has shown great tendencies towards subdivision on minor points of doctrine, of late many prominent Lutheran bodies have become united.
There are Lutheran congregations in many parts of the world, the first independent Lutheran colony in the United States having been established by Swedes, 1638, on the Delaware.
The National Lutheran Council was organized, 1918, as an agency whose regular work consisted of: external representation of the Lutheran Church, especially in relation to the national government; statistics; reference library; and publicity.
It also does emergency relief work.
Affiliated with the council are: United Lutheran Church, Joint Ohio Synod, Buffalo Synod, Augustana Synod, Norwegian Lutheran Church, Lutheran Free Church, Eielsen Synod, Church of the Lutheran Brethren, United Danish Church, Icelandic Synod, Suomi Synod, Finnish National Church, and Finnish Apostolic Church.
Among the larger Lutheran bodies in the United States are:
- acceptance of the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds
- the authority of the Scriptures as the rule of faith
- justification by faith alone
- "consubstantiation" or the real, corporeal presence of Christ in and with the substance of the bread and wine at the time of the celebration of the Lord's Supper
New Catholic Dictionary