Lutheranism and Protestantism have a common origin because they both emerged from the protestant reformation movement in the 16th century. Lutheranism is named after Martin Luther, a theologian and German monk, who started a movement aimed at reforming the catholic church. As the name suggests, Lutheranism is based on the teachings of Martin Luther which include justification by faith, the priesthood of all believers, and the authority of scripture, among others.
Protestanitm on the other hand refers to the broader movement that encapsulates several denominations that stem from Martin Luther’s Reformation movement. The term protestant is believed to have originated from the Protestation at Speyer in 1529 which had several German princes and representatives raising their protest against some of the decisions made by the Holy Roman Empire. Eventually, the term protestant was used to represent all the denominations that broke away from the catholic church following the push for reformation by Martin Luther.
Differences between Lutherans and protestants
Even though Lutherans are protestants by definition, they still differ from other protestants in a number of ways. For starters, Lutherans use a synodical system of governance and they also emphasize congregational autonomy. This is unlike most protestants who use a hierarchical structure. Also, Lutehran’s style of worship is highly liturgical and organized unlike most protestants who allow for flexibility and some have even embraced contemporary styles of worship.
Let us look at these difference in greater detail below::
Lutherans observe two main sacraments: Baptism and the Holy Communion, unlike Catholics who observe seven. These two sacraments are viewed as a means of grace by which God releases his blessing as well as communicates his presence with the believers. Through baptism, an individual is initiated into the family of Christians. Holy communion on the other hand is seen as a sacrament that nourishes a person’s spirit.
Just like Lutherans, most protestants also observe two sacraments (baptism and holy communion). The difference however lies in the significance as well as administration of these sacraments. Some protestants (e.g. Baptists) view the sacrament of baptism as a symbol of inward faith. They also generally hold a similar view on the holy communion which is celebrated as a reflection on the redemptive work of the cross. For most protestants, these sacraments are more of symbols, unlike Lutherans who view the holy communion as an important nourishment for their spiritual life and baptism as a rite of passage to introduce people into the faith.
Church Structure and Governance
The Lutheran church structure reflects Lutheran theological convictions that were greatly been influenced by the teachings of Martin Luther. The Lutheran clergy undergo theological training after which they are ordained. The ordained ministers are then responsible for leading their congregations, administering sacraments, and preaching.
The Lutheran church governance system is based on the synodical system. Synods are regional groups that comprise several congregations. The synods are meant to provide support, oversight, and coordination of the local churches. The synods are governed by councils or assemblies that are made of clergy and lay leaders. These councils decide on polity, administration, and doctrinal issues in the church. However, Lutheranism places emphasis on congregation autonomy.
Protestant church structures are as many as there are denominations. For the most part, protestants use some form of hierarchical structure where authority flows from the top. Different organs like Bishops, presbyteries, etc are typically at the top of the decision-making tree and they help to make decisions on administration, doctrine, and other governance issues in the church. However, some protestants use a congregational model that encourages congregational autonomy in decision-making. A good example of this leadership structure is the Baptist church which gives every congregation autonomy.
Style of worship
Lutherans have a liturgical worship style that adheres to a predefined structure. The liturgy typically entails reading the scriptures, singing hymns, prayers, preaching, and administration of sacraments. Lutherans believe that using liturgy is not only a way of fostering reverence and conveying the Gospel effectively but also a way of continuing with the rich Christian tradition of the founders. However, the exact liturgy may vary slightly from one congregation to the next.
Protestants have diverse styles of worship that vary depending on the exact denomination. While some use a liturgical approach (e.g. Anglicans and Methodists), many others use a contemporary and charismatic style of worship that includes contemporary music, spontaneous prayers, spiritual gifts, and different forms of expressive worship. This style of mostly witnessed in non-denominational evangelical churches. Other protestants try to strike an equilibrium between traditional liturgy and contemporary styles. For instance, some include hymns and contemporary music in their worship service.
Lutheran and Protestant Similarities
- Justification by faith alone: this is one of the most important teachings in both Protestantism and Lutheranism. They believe that one can only be justified by faith and that no amount of good deeds can earn salvation. This is based on Martin Luther’s contestation of the Catholic doctrine that teaches how believers can attain the grace of God based on good deeds and observance of sacraments. Lutheranism and Protestantism both teach that salvation is a free gift that cannot be earned through human effort.
- The priesthood of all believers: Lutherans and Protestants believe in the priesthood of all believers as opposed to the traditional catholic view of a distinct priesthood. Even though they have ordained church leaders, they also believe that each believer is a priest and therefore qualifies to approach God individually for prayer and intercession. As such, Lutheranism and Protestantism believe that every believer should actively participate in the life of the church.
- The authority of Scripture: Lutherans and protestants believe that the Bible is God’s inspired word and is therefore their main source of revelation and guidance. Because the Bible is viewed as God’s infallible word, it is regarded as the final authority on issues of faith and practice. As such, any doctrine should be based on the scripture alone and not human wisdom and ideas.
To wrap it up, Lutherans and Protestants are cut from the same cloth in the sense that they are both offshoots of the Reformation movement. However, not all protestant churches followed everything that marting Luther taught and that is why there are many protestant churches that have a different doctrine from the Lutherans. For the most part, Lutherans have tried to follow the teaching of Martin Luther.