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Author Topic: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?  (Read 879 times)

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Offline FaustusTopic starter

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Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« on: December 30, 2012, 06:29:19 PM »
So, here's what I'm looking at : Away from Elliquiy I'm writing a piece wherin the lead character is a male, young adult German. The thing is, for his particular location, his religious beliefs would make the most sense to travel into Lutheranism. Considering that religion plays a key factor in this particular piece, I need more information on Lutherans, especially the German sort (North-East German, to be precise. . Wittenberg, Germany to get even more specific. I think I'm revealing myself too much here, haha~).

I would simply visit a Lutheran Church myself, but there isn't one locally (I live in an area dominated by Southern Baptist Churches. They, quite literally, drive every other out of town. .). The closest one is about forty-five minutes away, sadly. I do, however, plan to call them to set an appointment and ask them more direct questions sometime in late January when I have the funds to make that travel again.

I thought I would open this question up to the members of Elliquiy in the meantime. I've found that everyone on this site is both helpful and extremely intelligent, so I'm hoping someone might have some insight. I have a few bookmarked sites regarding the subject, but most of them operate on the assumption that you are a Lutheran and thus should know everything ahead of time.

I guess what I'm getting at could be surmised as : Can anyone share with me either good resources for learning about the belief systems of Lutherans or your own experience with Lutheranism?

(Also, should this stay in the Questions board because it is a question? Or because it is religion, should I gravitate it towards the Politics/Religion Debate Forum? There isn't a debate to be had, simply teaching, so. .)

Online Oreo

Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2012, 06:38:28 PM »
I can't answer the Lutheran part, especially for that time and area, but regarding the placement of the thread, here is fine. The Religion area is for debate, not help in answering questions. :D Hopefully some more learned folks will be able to enlighten you on the subject.

Online Oniya

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Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2012, 06:50:07 PM »
I was able to find a Lutheran church's website with an FAQ section, which could give you a running start on the basics:

http://www.orlutheran.com/html/factluth.html

Offline FaustusTopic starter

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Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2012, 07:07:59 PM »
I can't answer the Lutheran part, especially for that time and area, but regarding the placement of the thread, here is fine. The Religion area is for debate, not help in answering questions. :D Hopefully some more learned folks will be able to enlighten you on the subject.

That is exactly what I thought, so I went with here for location. Glad to see I was right!
I was able to find a Lutheran church's website with an FAQ section, which could give you a running start on the basics:

http://www.orlutheran.com/html/factluth.html

Thank you, Oniya! It's actually pretty good and basic, versus the ones I have previously found..

Offline Lord Mayerling

Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2012, 07:10:05 PM »
Germany has changed so much over the past 300 years that you need to specify a time you want to know about Lutheranism in Germany. Saxon Lutheranism (in Wittenberg especially, because the rest of Saxony is Catholic) is much different than modern German Lutheranism. What period is your piece set in?

Offline FaustusTopic starter

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Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2012, 07:21:52 PM »
Germany has changed so much over the past 300 years that you need to specify a time you want to know about Lutheranism in Germany. Saxon Lutheranism (in Wittenberg especially, because the rest of Saxony is Catholic) is much different than modern German Lutheranism. What period is your piece set in?

Not historical, for all of it. References will be made to Martin Luther's Reformation, but I got that much. The grand majority is current (2005 and on), so I'm looking more at current common practices and beliefs as the central. No doubt in time I will need to reflect harder on the actual beginnings of Lutheranism in Wittenberg, but at current I can breathe a sigh of relief and focus on modern.

Offline alxnjsh

Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2012, 07:31:01 PM »
Lutheranism is very much like Catholicism (though both might deny that). Lutherans fall all along a continuum of conservatism from very conservative (such as Missouri or Wisconsin Synod) to fairly liberal (ELCA). Lutherans are headed by Bishops and are organized by Synods. I was raised Catholic, but Minnesota has one of the highest proportions of Lutherans due to our Scandinavian heritage.

Some differences from Catholics include not believing in transubstantiation (Lutherans do not believe the host and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ, rather they symbolically do), lack of central hierarchy (they do not follow the Vatican, though accept a number of the proclamations pre-reformation, and instead have various organization structures within their Synods), and their clergy are often not celibate and married.

Are there any specific questions you have?

Offline Lord Mayerling

Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2012, 07:31:39 PM »
I was worried you might say that. Modern Germans are pretty ambivalent about religion, so specifics will be really hard to come by. I actually wouldn't be surprised if Lutheran was strictly an American sectarian label at this point, and not even in use in Germany.

Offline Ciosa

Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2012, 07:56:22 PM »
I was raised Lutheran, but I'm no longer practicing.  If you have specific questions about the style and culture of Lutheranism, I was fairly heavily involved until I was sixteen.  If you have some specific questions, shoot me a PM.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2012, 05:51:09 AM »
I might answer a few; I'm from a Lutheran background and have a few Lutheran priests within the extended family, while my father (who was also raised within the Lutheran fold) went from being a doctor to studying theology and being ordained a priest. Still later, when he was not that far from retirement age, he converted to catholicism. So I've both had Lutheran thinking, beliefs and practices fairly close (not of a very doctrinaire kind though) and had some reason to think about what separates and unites the Lutheran tradition with the other branches of the Christian tree, especially Roman catholicism.

Anyway, I think Martin Luther as a man and thinker is someone modern-day Lutherans often have some ambivalence about. He inspires both respect, dread and a need for distancing. You wouldn't find that many believing Lutherans today - not even priests - who fully buy into Luther's idea of human will and aspiration, by itself, being completely debased and unable to rise above the filthy circumstances of a sinful soul and a depraved world. Most would feel shocked at the assertions Luther makes in On the Bondage of the Will and in his Large Catechism - which used to be a staple book in schools and was studied closely if you'd go back to the 19th century. Luther wanted to show that man, you or I, the boy next door or a slave at a cotton farm, doesn't ultimately have to depend on any kind of hierarchy or rituals of a church, though they may have to do so in practice, as a temporary thing (you might say the distinction is useless but it wasn't in the old days and it sometimes still isn't). In the end, one man - or a few people - can be right against the entirety of a church or a nation saying "this is what you have to believe in, this /human leaders, priests and kings and so on/ is whom you'll obey if you want to get saved". And that's really a radical idea, but in making that assertion as part of his vision of what believing in Christ is about, he sort of cut down human ability and the human will for good works to size in such a radical way that many Lutherans (in recent times, and sometimes in the past) are not exactly on good terms with it. I recall hitting upon that problem at age ten, so it's not a very obscure one. 

There's a rift here where the heritage of Lutheran ideas coexists with the ideas we inherited from the enlightenment and from modern political thinking - and those had a broad breakthrough in some of the very same countries that had been imbued with Lutheran and Calvinist tradition, the "protestant heartland" (Calvin was as radical as Luther in his No to the idea that we may rely on our own good works and good will separate from God, though the two slanted it a bit differently). Luther was definitely not a man of political revolt - his resistance to the German peasants' revolt in 1525 is something he has often earned criticism for in modern times, even from his own followers - but his ideas could be used, in time, to further political liberation and human empowerment: it's no coincidence that Martin Luther King was named for him. I'm not saying that other Christian traditions can't, it's obvious they can, Roman Catholic efforts of liberation and self-respect for instance, but there's some kind of Lutheran paradoxes here that I know many of us who come from that direction are more or less aware of. Luther remains a kind of towering, often troubling and sometimes inspiring figure even when some sides of what he did and said are seriously contested or repelled by modern Lutherans.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2012, 06:45:06 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Cecilia

Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2012, 10:42:16 AM »
I was raised the liberal kind of Lutheran.  We didnt use the word priest, but called our ministers "Pastor".  I remember my mom being afraid to go anywhere near a Wisconson or Missouri Synod church, and she called them "more Catholic than Lutheran." I was in the church until I was 23, and I had some German friends who would call themselves Lutheran if anything.  I used to carry the cross down the aisle and be an acolyte on a regular basis when I was younger.  You're welcome to PM me with questions as well.  I'll answer them best I can.  :)

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2012, 12:32:18 PM »
By the way, some of the major Lutheran churches of Germany, esp. up north, have long been of a unified kind - they bring together Lutherans and Calvinists. It was set up that way by the kings and dukes before there was a united Germany; the Prussian evangelic church for instance welded together both branches by a royal decree in the early 18th century. I realized this after a visit to the splendid Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) last summer. It's kind of funny because Germans have been famous for theological bickering and endless discussion of dogmatic fine print, but here right on home ground one of the biggest Lutheran churches of the country holds together a wide range of protestant believers.

Offline NiceTexasGuy

Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2012, 06:03:26 PM »
I believe the key to the enlightenment you seek ... er... to understanding Luther and Lutheranism, is in having an understanding of Christianity, Catholicism, Protestantism, European culture before and during the Reformation Period, etc.

I'm not trying to start any arguments, but when I see a statement like "I live in an area dominated by Southern Baptist Churches. They, quite literally, drive every other out of town." it sends up one of those flags that makes me wonder if all the person knows about Christianity in general, and Fundamentalism in particular, is what they got from the popular media (which for the most part casts Christianity in a negative light, and the more conservative the church, the more negative it's portrayed.)   I mean no offense to you personally, your asking for assistance is evident of a more open mind and a desire to "get it right" -- but I have seen so many people who obviously didn't know their ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to what Christianity is about pontificating on the internet and their pronouncements are ... well ... it looks like all they really know is what they see on television.

Remember that unlike today, the (Catholic) Church was an integral part of life in the Middle Ages and through Renaissance times.  It permeated every element of society in a way that's difficult for modern people like me to understand.  (After all, how could a Prince wage war against the Pope but still be a good Catholic?  It was possible.)  In pretty basic terms (and yeah, people who know their theology and church history, etc, can nit pick this to death) the Church said "these are the things you need to believe and do in order to go to Heaven instead of Hell."  Catholics believed and taught from all sorts of sources in addition to (some would say instead of) the Bible -- most notably what popes past and present said and wrote, and what other theologians and priests wrote that the Church decided was okay.  Luther took his work seriously, and was deathly afraid he would never be good enough to go to Heaven.  In his search for answers, he came across something he believed was counter to the teachings of the Church.  The Bible was the source of this discovery - that nothing anyone does is "good enough" and that salvation is the result of faith alone, and not a laundry list of things a person has to do and hope they're doing them good enough.  Needless to say, this was a great relief to someone who took Hell seriously, and was on the verge of insanity as a result.  (Think about it - the Christian view of Hell - who in their right mind wouldn't go crazy if they thought they might be going there?)

So, he set about attempting to "reform" the Catholic Church (as so many have done before and since) by writing down the stuff he believed should be changed.  And as happens, some in the Church hierarchy took offense and persecuted him.  As stated before, the idea of believing something different wasn't new, and Germany was a place in which many of the nobility weren't in agreement with a lot of Church policy (or politics), and so evolved the development of the "Lutheran" Church in Germany.

How is Luther remembered and portrayed within the Church?  He is held in high regard, but he is not a "cult figure" the way some founders are treated in some churches that are ... well ... cults.  He didn't name the church after himself.  He didn't even want to start a new church, but to fix the Church.  Nobody will deny any "negative" historical facts that come to light - for instance, his antisemitism - but that wasn't an uncommon feeling among Catholics at the time either.  As I said, he was human, and a product of the time and place in which he lived.  At the same time, he was a man of courage and conviction.  After all, he knew he would be put through the wringer by the Church when he was called on to answer for what he had written, he knew he would probably be imprisoned, but he answered the summons.  When pressed for an answer, he followed his convictions instead of taking the easy way out: "Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other.  My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe." According to tradition, Luther is then said to have spoken these words: "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."

Also, a word about calling Lutheran clergy "priests" -- I don't know that there aren't branches of the church where they are called priests, but for the most part they're not -- the basic idea being that a "priest" is required to represent a person before God.  For most Protestants one of the main ideas of protestantism is that a person can go before God on his own without the need for clergy - or to be even more technical, Christ fills the role of the priest, representing the sinner before God.  Yes, another one of those things someone can nitpick me to death on, but I'm talking "in general terms".

I sincerely hope this helps and wish you luck in your endeavours.

These are the three best sources I could find in a hurry, and I doubt I could find much better if I continued looking:

About Luther and the founding of the Lutheran Church:  http://www.theopedia.com/Martin_Luther


Something a bit more involved, but lots of useful information - Lutheran Beliefs and Practices:  http://www.lutheran-resources.org/lutheran_beliefs.htm

And a little something about Lutheranism in modern Germany: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/opinion/sunday/in-euro-crisis-germany-looks-to-martin-luther.html?_r=1&   (It's from the New York Times, not exactly an unbiased source of information, but I read it and it looked okay.)
« Last Edit: December 31, 2012, 06:11:06 PM by NiceTexasGuy »

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2012, 06:38:44 PM »

Also, a word about calling Lutheran clergy "priests" -- I don't know that there aren't branches of the church where they are called priests, but for the most part they're not -- the basic idea being that a "priest" is required to represent a person before God.  For most Protestants one of the main ideas of protestantism is that a person can go before God on his own without the need for clergy - or to be even more technical, Christ fills the role of the priest, representing the sinner before God.  Yes, another one of those things someone can nitpick me to death on, but I'm talking "in general terms".


There are many titles, words and designations of course. I'm aware of how 'priest', when used by theologians, means someone who actually represents or mediates to Christ vs the gathered believers, and that's mostly a Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox concept. But the word priest is used in everyday talk all around Scandinavia - and sometimes in England - the main strain of Anglicanism owes much of its teachings to Luther, at heart. The main formal title of the clergyman leading services and at the head of the parish around Scandinavia could be translated as "church shepherd" (Sw. kyrkoherde) which is essentially the same meaning as pastor (latin for "shepherd"). But the word pastor around here often denotes a free denomination's preacher or clergyman, one of the baptists, the Pentecostalists or some other flock outside of the national church, like the U.S. reverend. So "priest" is informal, but widely used, though "pastor" is more used, I reckon, among Evangelic Germans. I wanted a colloquial and non-technical word.

 Do not use "father" or pater - the are never in use among Lutherans except in circles who really want to underline their closeness to Roman catholicism.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2012, 07:02:13 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline NiceTexasGuy

Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2012, 07:34:06 PM »
... the word priest is used in everyday talk all around Scandinavia ...

... the word pastor around here often denotes a free denomination's preacher or clergyman, one of the baptists, the Pentecostalists or some other flock outside of the national church, like the U.S. reverend. So "priest" is informal, but widely used, though "pastor" is more used, I reckon, among Evangelic Germans.

Interesting, thanks for sharing.

Offline FaustusTopic starter

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Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2012, 09:22:36 PM »
I have a lot of wonderful and insightful people to begin thanking already, plus a slew of questions to come, but I don't quite have the time.

However, looking above I want to clarify my statement about the Southern Baptist Churches. I too mean no offense, and I wish I was making a broad overview, but in an area of less than 20K people and over 300 Southern Baptist (this is their listed denomination) Churches... There was a desire for a Catholic Church to be built by less than 200 people. These 300 got together and boycott at our Town Hall. Not generalizations, but truth.

As for understanding, I actually missed minoring in Theology by two course credits, so.. while my practiced faith is an old polytheistic religion, I do have a much broader grasp of understanding than modern media portrayal. I also attended one of those churches until the pastor struck me with a metal-edged bible when I was nine and scarred the back of my head, but that is neither here nor there.

Er. Long story short, just wanted to clarify that. No offense taken, or anything. I hate broad assumptions too, and recognize I don't have a grand understanding of the Lutheran branch of faith, thus extending a desire to have others who DO teach me. I couldn't forgive myself if I got it wrong! :-)

Offline Ciosa

Re: Lutherans amd Lutheranism Question?
« Reply #16 on: January 01, 2013, 04:17:56 AM »
Just for my own curiosity, what precisely is it you're looking for from this thread?  A sense of the culture of the modern Lutheran church?  History?  Dogma?  Seems you have a number of people with broad experiences and relations to the church, and I suspect the combined experience of a dew decades of involvement  - but I for one am not entirely sure what you're specifically looking for.