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Lutheranism and its Evolution

In the beginning the preaching of Luther and Calvin centered on the person of Jesus Christ: "There is no other way; Christ is the only Way and Truth. Without Him it is impossible to find God . . . Only in the incarnation of Christ can God be known, since by sending His Son to earth God disclosed to us His will and His heart."

In the Lutheran Small Catechism it is written, "Luther is a dear and blessed teacher of the Holy Scriptures, reforming Godís Church through restoration of Christian purity and proper presentation of the sacraments."

But this battle for purification of the Church combined non-religious elements, embattled with papal political, economic and personal events. But in rejecting Rome, Luther also rejected the need for apostolic connection and succession. Luther failed to unite with Orthodoxy, though he was at least partially aware of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Placing before him the project of restoring church teaching to its apostolic purity, Luther and his followers were unable to resolve their dilemma; many centuries divided them from the first century Christians, and they did not have the living spiritual experiences nor the wisdom and creativity of the fathers and ancient teachers of the Church. Medieval scholastic education presented Christianity in a slanted light. The single source of discourse for them was the individual, personal point of view, and thus, distortion set in from the beginning.

The Orthodox Church rejected the tradition of traitors as well as the arrogant papal bulls of Rome, which were alien to the Word of God. In failing to return to the true Church, Protestants completely fell away from the apostolic Tradition, rejected the spiritual experiences of the holy fathers of the Church, and ignored the Ecumenical Councils. This left them the Holy Scriptures as their only guidance in the faith; and they interpreted these scriptures arbitrarily.

Lacking the foundation of living Church Tradition and lacking the Grace of the Sacraments became the main sources of straying from the true for the Protestants. In the Orthodox understanding, the Word of God is revealed in the Bible, the Gospels and Holy Tradition, revealed to the Church by the Holy Spirit. "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle," instructed the Apostle Paul (2 Thes. 2:15). And the Apostle John writes, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." (John 21:25) "Not all was revealed by the apostles through their letters and much was not written, but both are worthy of the Faith. That is why we consider Tradition and Faith worthy," wrote St. John Chrysostom. Likewise, many Church fathers taught about Tradition: St. Basil the Great, St. Ireneus of Lyon, Blessed Augustine and other saints of the first century.

In principle, the legacy of Protestantism is a rejection of the apostolic tradition. They accepted as tradition "the canon of the Holy Scripture," confessing primary Christian dogmas: the Trinity, the nativity of Godís Son, and the three ancient symbols of faith (Creeds) in which these dogmas are recorded. Rejecting the authority of the ancient teachers of the Church, they reinforced the authority of the new German theologians; Luther, Calvin and others.

Lutherans believe that salvation and forgiveness of sin were accomplished by the Son of God on Calvary, and not by our works, but through faith alone. The gift of Godís Grace is dependent completely on God and His will. Godís Grace affects the person, influencing him to faith in Christ, and this becomes the single condition for salvation, since only through Christ can man become righteous. The significance of this faith is that the person never doubts in receiving the Grace of God. Through faith, the person becomes righteous in the sight of God, and a justified child of God because of Christ.

This is, in short, the teaching of justification through faith, which is the basis and source of all the Protestant dogmas. The Holy Scripture does not give us reason to accept the teaching of Lutherans; this concept has elements of deviation from the Christian origin. This dogma contradicts the Word of God and is the source of misinterpretation of the words of the holy apostles. Luther accepted in a literal sense the words of the Apostle Paul, "Man is justified by faith alone, not by works," and again, "Man is not justified by works but by faith in Jesus Christ," (Epistle to the Galatians). The Apostle Paul, through these words, did not reject good deeds, but was against the deceitful self-confidence of the Jewish teachers, who believed that salvation was earned by outward deeds in keeping the law of Moses: circumcision, observing the Sabbath, the washing of hands, and other Judaic laws. The Apostle Paul also writes in his letter to the Romans that at the Last Judgment, God will judge man by his works: "You call Father Him who impartially judges each according to his work." The Apostle John writes, "My children, let us love one another, not with words but with deeds." And the Apostle James writes, "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and hath not works? Can faith save him? . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:14, 26) Christ Himself said that even the infidel can believe, but this belief is insufficient for salvation, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)

Rejecting the deviation of the Roman Catholic church teaching, Luther himself fell into deviation, since he rejected not only the theology of the clergy and Sacraments, but also the apostolic teaching of the Church. Luther said that the true faith is found in the Church where the Word of God is pure and the sacraments are administered correctly. But where are the criteria for purity of Godís Word and rightful administration of the Sacraments, when Luther himself rejected the spiritual experiences of the ancient Church and rejected Tradition and the decrees of the seven Ecumenical Councils, replacing them with his own independent thoughts?

"Spiritual calling is the right of all Christians," said Luther, "we are all priests, that is, all are children of Christ who is our High Priest. We have no need for any other priest but only Christ, because each of us was selected by God Himself . . . all of us at baptism became priests." According to Luther, anyone in church can preach the Word of God and administer the Sacraments. Pastors and administrators are responsible for organization. They are selected by the congregation from the members who are willing to learn the process. From the selected elders, the laying of hands is performed by the clergy. Here, there is no apostolic continuity and spiritual clergy, but only the administrative assignment for the duties of the preacher. This affirmation deviates from the method and understanding of the role of the clergy in the traditional Church and is incorrect, since Jesus Christ and the apostles never assigned any church organization.

In reality, during the forty days after Christís resurrection, the Lord spoke with the apostles about the "Kingdom of God" (Acts of the Apostles), that is, the organized Church, which is the congregation of the believers. Only to the apostles did he give the commission to administer the Sacraments and teach the Faith: "And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matt. 28:18-20) Likewise, concerning the right to lead people towards salvation, it is written, "as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit." (John 20:21-22) The apostles themselves witness that not the congregation of believers, but the Lord Himself called them to apostolic ministry for Him, "not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father. (Gal. 1:1)

The apostles flourished and by succession passed on the gift and structure of the Church, which was established by the Lord Himself, themselves performed the laying on of hands, consecrating their successors, the bishops and clergy.

The teaching of Luther on justification through faith influenced changes as regards the Sacraments, which the Lutherans hold only as symbolic in meaning, considering their power as originating in the personal faith of those who worship and claiming that in oneís faith one is justified. The Lutherans retained only two Sacraments, and even those two only in outward form, namely, Baptism and Holy Communion. However, their teaching regarding these Sacraments is original and alien to the ancient Church Tradition.

The result is incorrect worship and a kind of arrogance in communication with God during their church services and, in particular, during the presentation of the Sacraments.

Protestants became alienated from a living brotherhood in communion with God and from the life of the world to come through their rejection of prayers to the saints for help and protection and of prayers for the dead. The reason for this rejection is strictly rational: why bother to pray for the dead if Godís judgment of them cannot be changed, especially since Christ redeemed them in the sight of God? This teaching leads to moral passivism.

Protestantism, in its widespread liberal forms, rejected the value of church experience in favor of oneís own personal suffering and self-righteous experience. If that is correct, then why is Godís mercy and power needed? If "my salvation is complete and accomplished" where is the need to pick up oneís cross daily and follow Christ, and what need to we have even of His Resurrection?

In its early years, Protestantism suffered in the flaw in Lutherís teaching on the Son of God and our salvation through Him. Where has this led? In our time, 80 percent of pastors in Hamburg reject the Godhead of Jesus Christ, so far has their "church" strayed. In recent times, they have also embraced all manner of immorality as permissible.

In fairness, it must be noted that the Lutheran church has evolved, and now sometimes a voice is heard saying among them saying, "we have no Church!" A growing interest in Orthodoxy is noted among many Lutherans who continue to thirst for the Truth.

Thus, from the its inception, the Lutheran movement rejected the values of the living Churchís experience: Holy Tradition, devotion to the Virgin Mary and the saints, prayers for the dead, the administrative structure of the Church, the Sacraments, icons, and the Sign of the Cross. Rather, they have considered faith alone adequate to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. This Lutheran deviation from Christianity creates a chasm between themselves and the true Faith, the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

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