Lutheranism is a major Protestant denomination which originated as a 16th-century movement. It was led by Martin Luther. Luther was a German Augustinian monk and professor of theology. He originally planned to reform the Western Christian church. Because Luther and his followers were excommunicated by the pop, however, Lutheranism developed in a number of separate national and territorial churches. This indicated the breakup of the organizational unity of Western Christendom. The largest Protestant denomination in the world is Lutheranism, with about 80 million members.
According to the teachings of Lutheranism, a human being is considered a sinner and is unable to contribute to their liberation. Salvation is not dependent of worthiness or merit but is a gift of God s grace. Lutherans believe that faith in God is the only way to salvation. To Lutherans, baptism is the signification of God s unconditional love.
From the beginning, the methods of worship in the Lutheran church diverged from those of the Roman Catholic church. The only two out of the seven sacraments that the Lutherans worshiped were, baptism and Eucharist. The language they worshiped was conducted in the language of the people instead of in Latin. They were really in to congregational participation such as singing and worship. In the Lutheran celebration of Eucharist, the bread and wine were given to everyone, unlike the Roman Catholics who gave it only to the priests. The European Lutheran churches are closely tied to their respective governments as established churches.
Political events greatly influenced the early development of Lutheranism. Because the empire was being threatened by the Turks, emperor Charles V was unable to suppress Lutheranism. The movement continued to spread, despite the Edict of Worms which placed the Lutherans under imperial ban. Intermittent religious wars followed, ending in the Peace of Augsburg, which to a certain extent sanctioned Lutheran churches.
The reform movement called Pietism, which began in the late 17th century, stressed individual conversation and a devout way of life, revitalizing Lutheranism. During the 18th century, Lutheran theology reflected the rationalism of the Enlightenment. The establishment of the Church of the Prussian Union in 1817 united Calvinists and millions of German Lutherans into one church. Some Lutherans, whom broke away to establish a separate church, bitterly opposed that development. In the 20th century Lutheran leaders in Norway and Denmark took major roles in the resistance to Nazi occupation of their countries.
European settlers brought Lutheranism with them to North America. In the 17th century European Lutherans settled in New Amsterdam, which is now New York City, and in Delaware. German Lutherans settled in large numbers in Pennsylvania at the beginning of the 18th century. Lutheranism was divided into numerous German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, and Slovak groups. Lutheranism is the third largest Protestant denomination in the United States.