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Catholic Dictionary




Those Protestants who follow the teaching of Martin Luther (1483-1546), as expressed in distinctive confessions of faith that are contained in the Book of Concord, published at Dresden in 1580. In the confessions the Bible is declared to be the only norm of belief, to which even the historic creeds and other traditional statements of faith are to be subordinated. Yet the Bible itself is subordinated to the single basic principle of justification by faith without good works. Since human beings lost their original innocence, which at creation was an essential part of their nature, they are no longer free to do spiritual good but are under the slavery of sin. Redemption means being justified by faith (trust) in Christ, whereby the sinner is considered pleasing to God without any co-operation on a human being's part. Lutherans have remained loyal to this belief, namely confidence that the believer has in fact been saved by the blood of Christ with no merits on a human being's art. To this day it typifies their particular form of Protestantism, which has also been remarkably constant in its allegiance to the person of Luther and to the confessions of personal faith which he inspired.

Besides Germany, where Lutheranism originated, it is the official religion in the Scandinavian countries and has numerous adherents in North America. It is most flourishing where the head of the state is, in effect, also the chief authority in the Church. As such it has contributed substantially to the development of nationalism in the modern world.