What Lutherans Believe

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America provides a brief description of both Christianity and Lutheranism. The essence of what Lutherans believe is set forth in Chapter 2, Confession of Faith, in the Constitution of the ELCA.

Among the many elaborations of the subject, the following are particularly recommended:

  • Martin E. Marty, Lutheranism: A Restatement in Question and Answer Form. Rev. ed. Madison Heights, Michigan: Cathedral Directories, 1989. [answers frequently posed questions about Lutheran faith and practice]
  • Daniel Erlander. Baptized, We Live: Lutheranism as a Way of Life. Chelan, Washington: Holden Village, 1981. [describes Lutheran Christianity as a wayof seeing, a way of hearing, a way of teaching, and a way of following]
  • Bradley Hanson. A Graceful Life: Lutheran Spirituality for Today. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2000. [Employing the currently popular term, "spirituality," Hanson notes that spirituality "is not just a set of ideas, but rather a lived reality." He writes for "the average person, Lutheran or non-Lutheran, who might look to the Lutheran tradition for instruction and spiritual nurture."]
  • Eric W. Gritsch. Fortress Introduction to Lutheranism. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994. [a helpful and accessible guide to Lutheranism's history and central tenets]
  • Mark Gardner and Douglas Schmitz, eds. Honoring Our Neighbor’s Faith. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999. [includes a brief comparison of Lutheran beliefs with those of selected denominations and faiths]

Those who want to read all of the Lutheran confessional writings may find them in:

  • Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000.

For an introduction to the Lutheran confessions that has been written for general readers, see:

  • Guenther Gassmann and Scott Hendrix. Fortress Introduction to the Lutheran Confessions. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999.

Two of the best and most readable biographies of Martin Luther in English are:

  • Roland H. Bainton. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1950. [since the 1950s, the standard biography of Luther, written by one who was called the dean of Luther scholars in this country]
  • James M. Kittelson. Luther the Reformer: the Story of the Man and His Career. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1986. [Like Bainton's book, this one also is written for readers who are not specialists in the field of Luther studies. Kittelson incorporates research completed since Bainton wrote to "trace the genesis of Luther the reformer with greater precision."]

A copy of each of these books is available in the library of the Lutheran Center at Northwestern. Annually, the pastor offers an introduction to the Lutheran way of being Christian.

For a whimsically appreciative description of being Lutheran, see Garrison Keillor’s “Singing with the Lutherans.”