Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why am I a Lutheran?

I had these big plans to do a post every month for all of 2017 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg church.  And then I kept letting those plans slide, and now here we are in October, and the Big Day is just a few weeks away (it's October 31st, if you don't know), and I've done one post.

Time to change that.  Over on my book blog, I've started reviewing some Reformation-related books for different ages.  And I have some things I want to write about over here too, starting with... what are Lutherans, and why am I one?

I'll start with the second question.  When I was a kid, the answer would have been easy.  My dad is a Lutheran pastor, so of course, that's where I went to church.  Obvious.

As I grew up and learned more about the Bible, about various different Christian denominations and what they taught, and specifically what different Lutheran synods taught, that answer started to change.  When I was in my teens and knew that I wanted to be a wife and mom some day, I realized that I might possibly meet my future husband in college.  And if being a Lutheran, marrying a Lutheran, and raising my kids to be Lutherans was important to me, it might be a really good idea to go to a Lutheran college.  So I did.  I went to college hundreds and hundreds of miles away from home because I found a college that fit me personally but that I also was pretty sure would attract the sort of guy I might want to marry.

Which, as you probably know, it totally did.  Cowboy and I met in college, got married a month after I graduated with my BA, and so on.

But why was I so focused on finding a Lutheran husband?  And not just any brand of Lutheran (there are several), but what is called a "confessional" Lutheran husband?  What is a Lutheran, anyway?

Well, I'll tell you what a Lutheran isn't.  It's not somebody who worships Martin Luther.

Martin Luther was just a human being.  A sinner like you and me.  A brilliant, brave, flawed, stubborn, weird, angst-ridden, unhealthy, outspoken, generous, angry, loud German who loved beer and sausage and probably told fart jokes.

Martin Luther does not save sinners.  Only God does that.  Martin Luther did not die for my sins.  Only God did that.  Martin Luther did not create faith in my heart.  Only God did that.

In fact, Martin Luther did NOT want people to call themselves Lutherans.  He wanted them to call themselves Christians.  But a lot of their detractors would call them Lutherans, and eventually, those who followed his ideas adopted the name.

So anyway.  Lutherans are Protestant Christians who follow the ideas of Martin Luther and his cohorts.  Confessional Lutherans are a particular branch of conservative ones who are kind of... I don't want to say militant, so maybe I'll just say stubborn... they're stubborn about adhering to these things called the Lutheran Confessions that are basically statements of belief about various doctrines that were drawn up by Martin Luther and his fellow reformers -- they're collected in something called The Book of Concord, which is not about tasty grapes (Concord grapes are my fave, just so you know), but about agreement -- "concord" can mean "agreement," you see.  If you want to learn more about it, this website has lots of amazing information as well as the full text.

And basically, the Lutheran Confessions are just all about how the Bible is the basis of our faith, not people's ideas.  If someone has an idea about God and it doesn't agree with what the Bible says, then it's a wrong idea.  That's kind of a simplistic explanation, I know, but this is a blog post, not a thesis or something.

So, yeah.  I'm a Confessional Lutheran because I believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God; that I (like all people) was born a sinner and cannot save myself from my sins; that the only thing that can save me from my sins is the loving grace of God; and that the Bible is the only place I can learn about God and his forgiveness.

Okay, that's enough for today.  More about the Reformation and Luther later.


  1. I love this post, even though I'm not a Lutheran. :)

  2. Wow. I didn't really know there were different types of Lutherans; I guess I kind of lumped all you guys together in one big category? I'm glad you explained it, so now I know! :)

    1. Jessica, I didn't even get into synods in this. Broadly speaking, there are conservative Lutherans and liberal Lutherans. There are 4 big synods, and a lot of smaller ones. The most conservative of the big ones is the WELS (Wisconsin Evangelica Lutheran Synod -- the one I belong to), and the ELS (Evangelical Lutheran Synod -- I went to an ELS college) is also quite conservative. Then comes the LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod -- what I was raised in) which is becoming more conservative now, but was trending pretty liberal for several decades. And then there's the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America), which is so liberal they're basically Lutheran in name only anymore.

      Obviously, within those synods, there's a lot of variance from congregation to congregation, and person to person, so not everyone who is in ELCA believes what the synod professes on a certain subject, etc. Those are just generally what the synod as a whole is like.

      Now you know even more!

    2. *historian brain assimilates and files details in proper folder for future use*


    3. Jessica, now whenever you meet someone who says they're a Lutheran, are you going to fix them with a piercing gaze and say, "What kind?" :-D

  3. I love this! I'm not Lutheran but I'm Presbyterian (PCA) so we definitely adhere to many of Luther's teachings.... though if you look us up you can see we're kind of big fans of John Calvin too.

    1. Thanks, Lois! Yeah, Luther and his contemporaries definitely traded a lot of ideas. IIRC, Calvin had some dealings with Luther's close friend Melancthon at some point.

      My mom was raised in the Dutch Reformed church, which is Calvinist.

  4. I'm not a Christian but was raised in the SBC (over 15 years ago) then the RBC circles the latter which calls itself Calvinistic but borders hyper-Calvinistic sometimes. I got a ton of Luther in school as well as other reformers, but church-wise the RBCers focused more on 17th and 18th century Puritans, and Charles Spurgeon (so much Spurgeon) and the 1689 London Baptist Confession.

    I rarely hear about Lutherans (I tend to think more Michigan although I guess that is Dutch Reformed, is that Lutheran?). Its SBC, PCA (big Knox fans, obviously, I know of two kids named Knox), and Catholics (probably German and Irish)in my area/knowledge (the South, clearly).

    I'm kind of a bit done with the Reformation (I've heard/been taught about it SO many times). I half-heartedly put some things on my reading list. But 500 is a REALLY cool half a millennium anniversary. And like I said, I like your unique (to me) perspective.

    1. Livia, I'm sorry to hear that you've fallen away from the faith.

      Yes, there are a lot more Lutherans in the upper Midwest than in the south. Much of that is because the German and Scandinavian immigrants, who were predominantly Lutheran, were mainly farmers and wanted good farmland, so they gravitated to the newly opened territories and farming states that had good farmland. Whereas a lot of the South was settled by people from England, Scotland, and Ireland, and they brought Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Calvinism with them.

      There are pockets of Lutherans throughout the south, like Winston-Salem, NC, where a band of Moravian Lutherans settled long ago. But today they are very much outnumbered by the Baptists of various persuasions. (I grew up in NC, actually, on one of the little Lutheran islands, so to speak.)

      I'm glad you liked my perspective on things! I'll try not to be too boring in future posts either.

  5. This was interesting to read! I'm happy to be alive for the 500th Reformation anniversary and the reminder to be grateful for the religious liberty I have today.

    I'm a pastor's daughter in the OPC which is a sister denomination to the PCA. So, like Lois, we're Calvin fans. Just out of curiosity, where do you as a Lutheran stand on Calvin's teaching concerning predestination?

    1. Thanks, Meredith! I'm glad you found it interesting.

      Ahhh, predestination. We take the stance that the Bible says that some people are predestined to be saved, but nowhere does it say that some people are predestined to be condemned.


Agree or disagree? That is the question...

Comments on old posts are always welcome!

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)