Luteranismo: History and Origins

He Lutheranism Is a branch of the Catholic Protestant movement which is based on the teachings of Martin Luther , A German monk born in 1483 and considered the father of the Protestant Reformation.

On October 31, 1517, Luther published his 95 theses as a challenge to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, hoping to reform some practices that he thought were inconsistent with the sacred scriptures.

Luteranismo: History and Origins Extract of the 95 theses of Martin Luther

At first, these teachings were scattered throughout the German-speaking territories, then spread throughout the rest of Europe and the world.

Lutheranism wished to reform the Catholic Church on the basis of the idea of ​​free examination, justification of faith, rejection of the primacy and authority of the papacy, the sale of indulgences and the veneration of saints or virgins, among other ideas.

Today, it is one of the largest denominations of the Protestant church, with approximately 80 million believers around the world.

Martin Luther

Luteranismo: History and Origins 1

Martin Luther was a catholic friar and German professor of theology, born the 10 of November of 1483 in Eisleben, Saxony place that comprised of the Roman Empire.

His parents were Han Luder (Luther in Spanish) and Margarethe Lindemann, who baptized him under the Catholic faith on St. Martin's Day in Tours. His father always wanted a good education for his son and wanted him to become a lawyer, which is why I send him to study several schools in the cities of Mansfeld, Magdeburg and later in Eisenach. Years later, Luther would compare his education with purgatory and hell.

In 1501 he entered to study at the University of Erfurt. There he would have to get up daily at four in the morning in what he would later describe as"memorable learning days and grueling spiritual exercises." In 1505 he would receive his Master's degree.

Wanting to fulfill his father's wishes, he enrolled later that year in law school, but quickly defected, as he thought law represented uncertainty. Shortly afterwards, he would be attracted to theology and philosophy with special interest in Aristotle , William of Ockham Y Gabriel Biel .

Very soon, philosophy proved unsatisfactory, since it offered him assurances about the use of reason, but not of love for God, which for him was the most important. According to Luther, this could be used to question men and institutions, but not to the Creator. He strongly believed that humans could understand God through divine revelation. He was a believer in the scriptures.

An important and definitive event occurred in the life of Luther who changed his destiny forever. On July 2, 1505, he returned in a carriage to the university after a trip home. It was a dark and stormy night when suddenly a great lightning bolt fell very close to him.

Later he would tell his father that this event terrified him and made him think about his death and divine judgment. He cried and shouted"Help me Santa Ana and I will become a monk."Then he left law school, sold all his books and entered an Augustinian cloister in Erfurt on the 17th of that same month.

Martin Luther dedicated his next years to the service of God in the Augustinian cloister, in what later would describe as a period of his life of deep spiritual despair. In 1507 he was ordained a priest and in 1508 Johann von Staupitz, the first Dean of the newly founded University of Wittenberg, sought Luther to teach Theology.

Later that year, he received his bachelor's degree in Bible studies and another in Peter Lombard's Sentences in 1509.

On October 19, 1512, he was awarded his Doctorate in Theology and on the 21st of the same month, he was received in the Senate of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Wittenberg, succeeding Staupitz in his position and passing the rest of his Career in that University. He was named as vicar of Saxony and Thuringia by his religious order in 1515, being in charge of eleven monasteries.

Beginning of the Protestant Reformation

In 1517, the Pope Leo X Announced a new round of indulgences to assist in the construction of St. Peter's Basilica. On 31 October 1517, an angry Martin Luther, nailed a sheet of paper with 95 theses on the door of the chapel of the University of Wittenberg.

Although this was intended as a point of discussion, the theses presented a harsh criticism of the corrupt system of indulgences and how they corrupted people's faith. Luther also sent a copy of the thesis to Archbishop Albert Albrecht of Mainz, calling him to cease their sale.

With the help of the printing press, copies of the 95 theses were spread throughout Germany in just two weeks and after two months for the rest of Europe.

Luther strongly believed that the Bible was the only source of religious authority and did not need a priest to interpret it (free examination). He thought that the salvation of the soul could only be acquired through faith in Jesus Christ without any mediation of the church, much less through the purchase of indulgences that only enriched the papacy.

His thesis speaks clearly about this:"Because the Pope whose wealth is greater than anyone, does not build the Basilica of St. Peter with his own money instead of the money of the poor?"

By 1518, the church moved to stop this challenge and ordered Luther to retract his 95 theses by orders of the Pope. He said he would never do this unless the Scriptures proved that he was wrong. In fact, he said that he did not consider that the papacy had any authority to interpret them. The meeting ended with a threat of excommunication.

In 1519, events quickly accelerated when Luther declared during a public debate in Leipzig that a simple secular man armed with scriptures was superior to the Pope and the Councils. He was again threatened with excommunication for this.

It is during this same debate when the Lutheran term originated, as a contemptuous reference used against Luther and all those who felt identified with his theology. The term was coined by German Scholastic Theologian Johann Maier von Eck.

That same year, Luther continued reading and writing in Wittenberg. In June and July, he publicly stated that the interpretation of the Bible was not exclusive to the Pope, which was considered a direct attack on the authority of the papacy.

On 15 June 1520, the Pope warned Luther through the Papal Bull Exsurge Domine Which recanted within 60 days of 41 of his writings including the 95 theses. That autumn, Johan Eck proclaimed the Bull in Meissen and in other cities and later the papal nuncio Karl von Miltitz tried to obtain a solution, but Luther already had sent to the Pope a copy of In The Freedom of a Christian .

Luteranismo: History and Origins 2 Exsurge Domine

The excommunication

On December 10, 1520, Martin Luther publicly burned the Bull (which would take effect within 120 days) and the Wittenberg Decree, in an act which he defended in his Warum des Papstes und seiner Jünger Bücher verbrannt sind and his Assertio omnium articulorum . Pope Leon X finally decided to excommunicate Luther of the Roman Catholic Church on January 3, 1521 through the Papal Bull Decet Romanum Pontificem .

When Martin Luther was officially excommunicated from the Catholic Church, the prohibition of the 95 theses fell upon the secular authorities. In April, he was summoned before the Diet of Worms (General Assembly of the States of the Roman Empire, which took place in Worms a city on the Rhine) presided over by the Emperor Charles V to retract it. However, Luther defended his famous postulates with more zeal.

Before the Diet finally made a decision, Luther left Worms and during his return to Wittenberg, disappeared and no more was known of him in a while. On May 25, the City Council published the Edict of Worms in which Luther's writings were banned, declaring him a"convicted heretic,"which made him a condemned and sought-after man.

The supposed disappearance was propitiated by his friends, among them the Prince Federico III who helped him hiding it in the Castle of Wartburg. While there, he translated the New Testament into German to give the people of the village the opportunity to read and understand the word of God.


Undoubtedly the most important legacy of Lutheranism was the definitive rupture or break with the Catholic Church. At first, this doctrine relied heavily on universities and academic circles and, over time, was permeating the people of the town, which led to its expansion throughout the European territory.

During the first years, a growing number of people refused to send their riches to Rome and they no longer saw the Pope as the supreme authority in matters of faith. They began to practice the free examination because they knew that they did not need the church as an intermediary to explain or interpret the Bible in what is known as Sola Scriptura .

Traditionally, Lutherans believe that the Old and New Testaments are the only book of divine inspiration, the only source of revealed knowledge and the only standard in Christian teaching. Only writing is the formal principle of faith, the ultimate authority in everything concerning faith and morality by its inspiration, authority, clarity, efficacy and sufficiency.

Other of the basic postulates of Lutheranism are:

  • Solus Christus: tells us that the only foundation of faith is Jesus.
  • Sola Fide: Only faith in God is the only one that can save us
  • Only Gratia: salvation comes only by Divine Grace
  • Soli Deo Glory: Glory is for God
  • Book of Concord

The Book of Concord, published in 1580, contains ten documents which some Lutherans believe to be faithful and authoritative explanations of the Holy Scriptures. In addition to the three ecumenical creeds dating from Roman times, the Book of Concord contains seven creeds articulating Lutheran theology in the era of the Reformation.

The doctrinal position of Lutheran churches is not uniform since the Book of Concord does not hold the same position in all temples. For example, the state of the churches in Scandinavia considers only the Augsburg Confession as a summary of the faith, in addition to the three ecumenical creeds. In contrast, Lutheran pastors, congregations, and church bodies in Germany almost always agree to teach in concordance with the entire Lutheran Confessions.

Expansion of faith

Although Martin Luther did not and did not agree to build churches that will bear his name, today millions of people are members of these congregations that are present in all the continents of the planet. The Lutheran World Federation estimates that its total membership is approximately 72.3 million people.

Today, Lutheranism is one of the greatest denominations of Protestantism, constituting the third force after Anglicanism and Pentecostals.

It is the largest religious group in Denmark, Greenland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Latvia and North Dakota. It is the only form of Protestantism in Germany, Estonia, Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Papua New Guinea, North Sumatra, Tanzania and Namibia, being the only country outside Europe where Lutheranism possesses the majority.


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  8. Peter Lombard. (S.f.). Retrieved on January 9, 2017, from Wikipedia.
  9. Protestant Reformation. (S.f.). Retrieved on January 10, 2017, from Wikipedia.

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