From Heaven or men; these are the only two options for the source of one’s religion. If our source is from men, then our religion is nothing more than a social group. If it is from Heaven, then we have found the one and only such religion. However, such a claim must be supported by the only Book from Heaven, the Bible.
In this article we’ll address the Lutheran Church. Does it meet the biblically required characteristics that would make it from Heaven?
Most of us are familiar with this group’s founder: Martin Luther, the German monk, professor of theology, and Roman Catholic priest whose Ninety-five Theses in the year 1517 sparked the beginning of the Reformation Movement as well as his excommunication from the Catholic Church. According to ReligionFacts.com, today the Lutheran Church has 72 million adherents, 4 million of which are in North America (http://www.religionfacts.com/lutheranism). The two largest divisions of the Lutheran Church in America are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS).
The first and easiest characteristic we notice in a religious organization is its name. Without any further research we can see that this is not a name we find anywhere in Scripture in any form, certainly not to describe the one church Christ established. We recognize that this group takes this name from its founder, Martin Luther. While we may indeed have many positive things to say about some of his efforts against the apostate Catholic Church, nothing would give any human being the right to call the Lord’s church by any other name, certainly not that of a mere man! Luther agreed.
I ask that men make no reference to my name, and call themselves not Lutherans, but Christians. What is Luther? My doctrine, I am sure, is not mine, nor have I been crucified for any one. St. Paul, in I Corinthians 1, would not allow Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine, but Christian. How then should I, poor, foul carcass that I am, come to have men give to the children of Christ a name derived from my worthless name? No, no, my dear friends: let us abolish all party names, and call ourselves Christians after Him whose doctrine we have.” (A Compend of Luther’s Theology, pg. 135).
So, though Lutherans still persist in going against Martin Luther’s wishes on this topic, we, like Luther himself, can know that the name Lutheran is clearly from men, not Heaven. This point is enough to conclude that this organization is not the one church Christ established. For if they disrespect the authority of the Scripture on such a simple topic as the name of the church, why would their practices be any different?
Lutherans claim to believe in Sola Scriptura (or Scriptures Alone). The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s website says this means that “The Bible is God’s inerrant and infallible Word, in which He reveals His Law and His Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. It is the sole rule and norm for Christian doctrine” (www.lcms.org/about/beliefs). The ECLA website says, “Lutheran Christians say that the Scriptures are the “source and norm” of their teaching and practice” (https://www.elca.org/Faith/ELCA-Teaching/Scripture-Creeds-Confessions). Therefore, their doctrines should match those of Scripture, without adding to or subtracting from. Let’s test some of their doctrines, as the Bible teaches us to do (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1).
They claim to believe in the Bible as the “sole rule” for Christian doctrine (as it truly is 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). However, they also believe in multiple creeds and confessions (e.g., the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, Augsburg Confession, Large Catechism, Small Catechism, etc.), many of which are contained in their Book of Concord (www.religionfacts.com/lutheranism/beliefs). This is a clear contradiction of their “Sola Scriptura” claim. Creeds and confessions are either additions to, subtractions from, or exactly the same as the Bible. Therefore, in no case are they necessary. Adherence to these writings of men is another demonstration that the Lutheran religion is from men, not Heaven.
Necessity of Baptism
Many of the statements of Lutherans on the topic of baptism seem as if they believe it to be essential to salvation. But, as is so often the case, further investigation proves otherwise.
From the LCMS website, under Baptism FAQ’s, we find the following:
The LCMS does not believe that Baptism is ABSOLUTELY necessary for salvation. All true believers in the Old Testament era were saved without baptism. Mark 16:16 implies that it is not the absence of Baptism that condemns a person but the absence of faith, and there are clearly other ways of coming to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit (reading or hearing the Word of God) (https://www.lcms.org/about/beliefs/faqs/doctrine#baptism).
And this is even from the more conservative LCMS rather than the ELCA! The Bible is incredibly clear on the topic of baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27; 1 Pet. 3:21). Yes, even Mark 16:16, contrary to the LCMS claim, teaches that baptism is absolutely required for salvation. It says “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved….” This is very easy to understand. Unfortunately, folks tend to focus on the second part of the verse: “he that believeth not shall be damned.” This says nothing of baptism, positive or negative. The reason why it says nothing is because it’s talking about who will be damned or condemned. If you want to be condemned, don’t believe (it’s irrelevant whether or not your baptized). If you want to be saved, believe and be baptized!
Mode of Baptism
From the LCMS website’s article entitled “The Theology and Practice of Holy Baptism,” under “The Baptismal Commission,” page 18, we find the following on their view of the mode of baptism.
Strictly speaking, the word baptize means to “wash with water,” whether by immersing, pouring, splashing or sprinkling. As an act of washing, the Bible does not say how much water one must use or how one should apply the water. It simply says, “baptize” or “apply water” (https://files.lcms.org/wl/?id=mq85SBLSvAyqKtdSCsmdKSjOG04UrUlk).
Sadly, they choose to define their doctrine by the English word “baptize” rather than the Greek word “baptizo” (the New Testament was written in Greek, not English). According to Thayer, the Greek baptizo means “dip, immerse, submerge, overwhelm.” Therefore, Lutherans are wrong to conclude regarding baptism that, “The Bible simply does not say, which is good and sufficient reason for the church not to insist on a particular mode of Baptism” (ibid.).
The primary reason a religious group chooses sprinkling over immersion is so that infants can be “baptized.” Notice this acknowledgement in their next paragraph.
Ordinarily, we in the Lutheran church have performed Baptisms by sprinkling or pouring water over the head of the person being baptized. Practically, this would seem to be most appropriate for baptizing infants and very young children.
This is another departure from Scripture, which contains no teaching nor example of infant baptism. Yet in their “Baptism FAQ’s” (referenced above) it says “we believe that when an infant is baptized God creates faith in the heart of that infant. We believe this because the Bible says that infants can believe (Matt. 18:6).”
Common sense tells us that infants cannot believe or have faith in God. And, contrary to their claim, nothing in Matthew 18:6 or its context speaks of infants. Rather, it speaks of a “little child” whom Jesus called to Himself (i.e., the child was old enough to hear and come to Jesus) and whose humility He used as an example to teach His disciples not to be concerned with who was the greatest (vv. 1-6).
Infants cannot complete the biblical prerequisites to baptism. They cannot have faith (Heb. 11:6), since the source of faith is the Word of God (Rom. 10:17), which they cannot read or understand. They cannot repent (a “change of mind”) about their sins (Acts 17:30), even if they had any (see Inherited Sin below). Nor can they make a public confession of their supposed belief that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 8:37).
So, here we have another topic on which the Lutheran Church shows itself to be a religion of men, not from Heaven.
Inherited sin, “original sin,” or Total Hereditary Depravity, is a most unholy and absolutely heinous doctrine that charges God with holding innocent children as guilty of the sins of their fathers, even back to Adam and Eve.
Martin Luther said in his Small Catechism that even “the infant is possessed by the devil and a child of sin and wrath” (Book of Concord, 372). So, not only is the infant a sinner, he is even demon-possessed!
A Lutheran congregation in Oklahoma City said this regarding sin: “All people have inherited sin through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23; 5:12; I John 1:8-10” (http://firstlutheranokc.org/site/cs/aboutus.asp).
None of the passages offered say that sin was “inherited.” Romans 5:12 is the passage most often cited for this false doctrine. In reference to Adam, it says “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Paul said that sin entered into the world because of Adam, but that it passed to all men “for that all have sinned”! Every human is guilty of sin because every human has committed sin, not inherited it.
The very definition of sin, “the transgression of God’s law” (1 John 3:4), refutes the concept of original sin. A transgression cannot be inherited; it is an action of disobedience on the part of the sinner who committed it. The meaning of this false doctrine then must be that it is the guilt of the sin that they believe passes on to the next generation. Since only God can assign guilt to one’s account and punish him for it, this doctrine, if it were true, would make God unjust, holding you (even as an infant) accountable for your father’s sins.
But Ezekiel 18 makes it crystal clear that this is false. Great detail is given in this chapter to emphasize and illustrate the truth that Ezekiel sums up in verse 20: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”
The Bible does not teach such a damnable doctrine as inherited sin.
There are other beliefs and doctrines of the Lutheran church that we could discuss (e.g., faith alone, grace alone, the Ten Commandments, sacraments, church organization, etc.). But these we have examnind are sufficient to demonstrate that the Lutheran Church is not the one church Christ died to establish. It is from men, not Heaven.
Luther, Martin.A Compend of Luther’s Theology. Edited by Hugh T. Kerr, Kessinger Publishing, 1943.
Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (2000), Edited by Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, Translated by Charles Arand, Eric Gritsch, Robert Kolb, et. al., Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN.