Difference between Protestant and Lutheran

Updated on March 27, 2017

Regardless of your stand on religion and alliance to a certain religious group, knowing a little something about different religions and denominations is never a bad idea. For example, do you know how many Christian denominations there are? And do you know what the differences between them are? Let’s take Protestants and Lutherans for example.

Definitions

Protestant
The First Methodist Protestant Church in Seattle

A Protestant is a person belonging to the Protestant denomination of the Christian Church. Protestantism is one of its three major divisions, along with Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

Protestantism originated with the Reformation in 16th century in Germany and it represented a stand against the errors of the Catholic Church. It became a movement in itself in 1529 and became a separate Church when German princes signed a protesting letter to the Catholic Church and how they declared the writings of Martin Luther as heretical.

In breaking away from the Catholic Church, Protestants rejected the idea of the supremacy of the Pope, as well as that of transubstantiation (the concept of the bread and wine of communion actually becoming the body and blood of Jesus Christ). Also, Protestants believe that, through prayer, every believer has access to God himself, without the intervention of a priest. Another issue that separates Protestants from Catholics consists of the sola fide concept. It states that redemption from sins is achieved through faith alone, without works being necessary.

Since Protestants recognize no form of human authority, numerous theoretical disputes among the members have been registered. These have led to the creation of different Churches within this Christian division. These are Adventism, Baptism, Anglicanism, Calvinism, Lutheranism, Pentecostalism, and Methodism, to name some of the larger branches.

There are over 900 million Protestants all over the world, which means they make up 40% of all Christians.

Lutheran
The Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Highland Park, Michigan

A Lutheran is a person belonging to the Lutheran Church. This is a Protestant denomination that best identifies with the teachings of friar Martin Luther. This theologian is the one responsible for the Reformation and for the breaking away from the Catholic Church. In 1517, he published the Ninety-five Theses. Within this document, Luther advocated for a doctrine of justification “by faith alone,” based on the words of the Scripture, instead of by Scripture and tradition. Lutheranism has spread mainly in the Nordic countries of Europe in the 16th century.

The key principle in Lutheranism is that a person is saved from his own sins through faith alone. They also believe in the Trinity (formed of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), in the two natures of Christ (human and divine) and in the sacrament of Eucharist (communion).

There are around 80 million Lutherans in the world.

Protestant vs Lutheran

So what is the difference between Protestant and Lutheran?

Lutheranism is a denomination of the Protestant division of the Christian Church. In numbers, 80 million of the 900 million Protestants in the world are Lutherans.

Lutheranism was born from the principles presented by Luther. Protestantism is the movement started by Luther. With the separation from the Catholic Church, other denominations were created, based on various differences of opinions. Out of all the Protestant denominations, Lutheranism is the one closest to Catholicism in symbols and liturgical structure.

Comparison Chart

ProtestantLutheran
Is a major division from the Catholic ChurchIs a denomination of the Protestant faith
Has 900 million followersHas 80 million followers
Was a movement founded in support of Luther, against some of the practices of the Catholic ChurchWas founded by Luther
Each denomination has a different approach and is significantly different from the Catholic ChurchIs the Protestant denomination closest to the Catholic tradition