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The beliefs of Lutherans throughout the world are known as Lutheran theology. Most Lutherans believe in the five solas, or five alones, which are translated Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, and to God alone be the glory. In addition, Lutheran churches typically practice only two sacraments: baptism and Eucharist, otherwise known as communion. The Book of Concord and the Augsburg Confessional are generally considered correct statements of faith.
Among Protestant denominations, the Lutheran church was the first to develop, splitting from the Catholic Church shortly after Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses. Since its beginning in the early 16th century, there have been many disagreements among different congregations, resulting in no central Lutheran theology. Instead, congregations with similar beliefs have banded together in groups such as the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and the Lutheran World Federation and the International Lutheran Council.
One of the primary reasons for the Protestant Reformation, and the cause of the first three solas, was the issue of justification, or how humans as sinners can be made right with God. Lutherans believe that no priest or saint can help save a person, but Christ alone. In addition, no amount of good deeds is enough to redeem a sinner; instead, Christians can be saved by grace alone through faith alone.
The next sola of Lutheran theology, Scripture alone, refers to the belief that the Bible is the only authority. Furthermore, anyone can understand it without help. Traditionally, Lutherans believe that the Bible is the written word of God, and that every portion of it has one meaning, easily understood in light of the rest of the Scriptures.
To God alone be the glory is the final sola. Lutherans believe that all of life, not just time spent in worship or prayer, should be used to give God glory. In addition, this sola emphasizes that all glory belongs to God, not to any person, church leader, or even church.
Lutheran theology demands the practice of two sacraments: baptism and Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper. Both infant baptism and adult baptism are accepted. In addition, most churches have closed communion, requiring people to be baptized and learn the catechism before participating in the Eucharist.
Throughout the years many Lutherans have written statements of faith documenting their Lutheran theology. The Book of Concord is a collection of three ecumenical creeds and seven creedal documents compiled in 1580. A portion, called the Augsburg Confessional, was composed by Luther and others in 1530 and is central to the beliefs of most Lutherans.