Luther's Theology

A detailed and accurate description of Luther's theology compared to the Catholic beliefs, where they agreed and where they contrasted, etc.

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  • Created by: Tiula
  • Created on: 13-04-11 09:18

Main Aspects of Lutheran Theology:

  • Sola Scriptura
    • everything should be done according to the scriptures
  • Sola Fide
    • justification by faith alone
  • Priesthood of All Believers
    • everyone who believes in Christ has the responsibilities and privileges of a priest
  • Denegration of the Sacraments
    • Luther cut them down from seven to three, later two
  • Theology of the Cross
    • The sacrifice of the Cross should be shared with everyone
  • Denial of Transubstantiation
    • the transubstantiation was the act of the bread and wine turning into Christ's body and blood during the sacrifice of the Mass
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Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura literally means "the scriptures alone".

Luther believed that anything that did not have scriptural warranty (e.g. were not present in the scriptures) should be cut from the faith, as it was a human invention and not God's.

Consequently, many of the Sacraments (e.g. Extreme Unction) were cut from Luther's theology.

Luther also said, at the Diet of Worms, that he would recant his works if he were proved by scripture or by common sense that he were wrong. This shows the emphasis he placed on scriptural warranty.

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Sola Fide

One of Luther's main beliefs was Sola Fide, or Justification by Faith Alone. He came to this conclusion during his "Turmerlebnis" or "Tower Experience", although we do not know exactly when this was.

The origins of this came from St. Paul, who stated "the just shall live by faith".

Luther believed that one did not need to do good works, go on pilgrimages, worship relics or even go to Church if they had faith, because faith and faith alone would save them. However, if one truly believed, then one would naturally do good works, because "a good tree brings forth good fruit".

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Priesthood of All Believers

Catholics believed that priests were set apart from the laity, that they were a mediator between the common people and God. This enabled them to make the sacrifice of the Mass.

However, Luther believed that the priesthood was just a job, and priests were no different from ordinary people. Every Christian was just as much a priest as each other, hence the term "Priesthood of All Believers".

Because priests were no different from men, they did not have to remain celibate, and so were allowed to marry. Luther himself ended up marrying an ex-nun called Katherina.

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Denegration of the Sacraments

Catholics respected seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, marriage, ordination (being made a priest), extreme unction (anointing with oil when on the point of death), penance and the eucharist.

Luther discarded four of these:

  • confirmation had no scriptural warranty
  • marriage was valid among non-Christians as well as Christians
  • ordination had no scriptural warranty
  • extreme unction had no scriptural warranty

He kept the following three:

  • baptism (in the scriptures)
  • eucharist (in the scriptures)
  • penance (Christ said "be penitent") --  however this was later discarded

Furthermore, whilst Catholics believed that receiving a sacrament was a good work and aided salvation, Luther did not (sola fide).

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Theology of the Cross

Luther believed that Christ's suffering on the Cross was not just something that Jesus endured, but was something that all his followers were invited to share with him as penitence for their sins.

"It is in the crucified Jesus that we behold God" -- Rupp and Drewery, Martin Luther

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Denial of Transubstantiation

As Luther did not believe that the priest had any special powers, he could not believe, as Catholics did, that during the sacrifice of the Mass te bread and wine turned into Jesus' body and blood.

However, his belief in sola scriptura left him torn, as Christ would not have said "This is my Body" at the last supper if he had not meant it.

So Luther arrived at a compromise. Although the priest did nothing to instigate the process, if the bread and wine were taken by a believer, Christ co-existed in them, with neither substance being changed.

This idea is called consubstantiation.

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