So, What Is A Lutheran Then?

Is a Lutheran...

1) ... a Protestant?
Are Lutherans Protestants?  Yes, Lutherans are Protestant, for they were among the first to 'protest' the Roman Catholic abuses in the sixteenth-century.  However, not all Protestants are Lutherans.  There are some very drastic theological and practical differences between the 800 million Protestants in the world.  For example, one cannot theologically and practically lump the Reformed, Baptists, and Methodists together with the Lutherans, for the Lutherans are still very catholic.  And so, Lutherans are indeed the original Protestants, but not all Protestants are Lutheran, and certainly, not all Lutherans prefer being categorized with the Reformed, Baptists, Methodists, and so forth.  

2) ... a follower of Luther?
Are Lutherans followers of the sixteenth-century Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther?  Yes, they are, for Dr. Luther began the Reformation through his drafting of the 95 Theses posted in Wittenberg, 1517.  However, not all of what was written by Martin Luther is accepted by Lutherans.  While Dr. Luther was a great theologian who wrote a portion of the Book of Concord (i.e., the Large and Small Catechism, as well as the Smalcald Articles), not all of Luther's Works are accepted as official confessions of Lutherans.  And so, Lutherans follow Dr. Luther, but not all of what Dr. Luther wrote is followed by Lutherans.  

3) ... a German or Norweigan?  
Are Lutherans German or Norweigan?  There are indeed 11 million Germans in Germany and 4 million Norwegians in Norway that bear the name Lutheran.  However, not all Lutherans are German or Norweigan.  For example, in Ethiopia, there are 8 million Lutherans and over 6 million more Lutherans in Tanzania.  And so, not all Germans and Norwegians are Lutherans, and not all Lutherans are German or Norweigan.  

4) ... a supporter of the Solas?
Are Lutherans supporters of the Solas - the Word alone, Faith Alone, and Grace Alone?  Lutherans indeed support the Word, Faith, and Grace alone!  However, Lutherans are not the only ones that uphold the Solas.  Many Reformed Baptists, Calvinists, Episcopalians, and Anglicans uphold the Word, Faith, and Grace alone as well.  And so, Lutherans support the Solas, but they are not the only ones who support the Solas.   

5) ... a member of a Synod?  
Are Lutherans members of a Synod?  There are indeed many Lutheran Synods such as the Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Synod, Evangelicals Lutheran Church in America, Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Church of the Lutheran Brethren, and so forth.  However, not all members attending these synods are Lutheran.  Many members (and some pastors) of these synods are Lutheran in name only.  That is to say, they do not subscribe to the tenets of their Lutheran denomination, or perhaps their denomination does not subscribe to all the tenets of Lutheranism.   And so, Lutherans are a part of a Synod, but not all members of Synods are Lutherans.  

So, what is a Lutheran then?  

In the '58th Regular Convention of the North Dakota District of the LCMS,' a wonderful description of what is a Lutheran was adopted in Resolution 1-01A.  It consists of 8 DNA characteristics of what makes up a Lutheran and Lutheran Church.  The 8 wonderful characteristics of a Lutheran and Lutheran Church are: Christological, Scriptural, Sacramental, Confessional, Homiletical, Liturgical, Synodical, and Missional.  Here is a closer look at each of the characteristics:    
  1. Christological – Lutherans center on Christ-crucified for Justification.
  2. Scriptural – Lutherans are captive to the Word of God.
  3. Sacramental – Lutherans cherish the gifts of Baptism, Communion, and Absolution.
  4. Confessional – Lutherans have a quia subscription to the Book of Concord.
  5. Homiletical – Lutherans preach God’s Word of Law and Gospel.
  6. Liturgical – Lutherans gather around the gift of the ancient liturgy.
  7. Synodical - Lutherans walk together with other Lutherans of the 'same' confession (see point 4 above).
  8. Missional – Lutherans are directed and influenced by all the preceding points (Missional does not define Christ; Christ defines missional. Missional does not define our Confessions; our Confessions define missional, and so on).  Being a Missional Church places us in the second table of the law. This is our love toward our neighbor. This is our mercy care at home, in our community, and all around the world.  
So, is a Lutheran a Protestant, a follower of Luther, a German, a member of Synod, etc.?  Yes, and no - kind of - maybe?  But is a Lutheran Christological, Scriptural, Sacramental, Confessional, Homiletical, Liturgical, Synodical, and Missional?  Absolutely!


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