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What we believe
Ten important dogmas

Ten important dogmas

1. Creation

The world was created by God and the world was created good. The belief in creation originates from the creation stories in Genesis, the first book in the Bible. In the Apostles' Creed we declare that we believe in God as the "Maker of heaven and earth" and in the Nicene Creed we proclaim our belief in the "Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible". See also Article I of the Augsburg Confession.

2. Trinity

There is only one God. But God is three in one: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity is affirmed at the Council of Nicea in 325 but even before 325 we find numerous examples of Trinitarian baptism formulas. Throughout the history of Christianity the doctrine of the Trinity is part of the basic dynamic of Christian theology. The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed both proclaim the belief in God in three paragraphs on the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit respectively.

3. The two-nature doctrine of Christ

Jesus is at the same time God and man. In the New Testament Jesus is called both the Son of God and Maria’s son who dies and rises again to save all humankind. The doctrine of the two natures is affirmed as a dogma in 325 in what is called the Nicene Creed. See Article III of the Augsburg Confession which says about Jesus that "… two natures, the divine and the human, are so inseparably united in one person that there is one Christ."

4. Sin

Without God, man is an unforgiven sinner. The sinfulness of man is a common theme in both the Old and the New Testament. The notions of sin and sinfulness vary according to different church denominations. In the theology of the Evangelical Lutheran church sin is not first and foremost sinful acts. Rather, it is what – within man – separates man from God, e.g. selfishness and egoism. In that sense all human beings are sinners, even the most devout. See Article II of the Augsburg Confession.

5. Resurrection

The resurrection from the dead. Christianity bases the belief in the resurrection on what the New Testament teaches about the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning. The resurrection brings hope to Christians that lasts beyond this world and a faith in the victory of life over death. The belief in the resurrection is professed in the Apostles' Creed and in the Nicene Creed.

6. Baptism

Being baptised is being connected with the death and resurrection of Christ and being invited into God’s grace. This is an accepted Christian belief that is rooted in the New Testament. Jesus is baptised by John the Baptist (Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-19) and according to the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 18, verse 19) he sends the disciples out in the world to make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The early Christian creeds stem from the confession of the triune God at baptism. When baptised, the person becomes a child of God and is given everything that belongs to Christ. See Article IX of the Augsburg Confession.

7. The Eucharist

In the Eucharist Christ is present in the form of bread and wine and his body and blood are given to the communicants. Through participation in the Eucharist a person is taking part in the fellowship with God by receiving the One who has given his life for all human beings on the cross. The thought of God giving himself is of major importance to the reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) who for that reason stresses the real presence of Christ, i.e. that Christ is present in the bread and the wine. The concept of real presence is something that the Lutheran church shares with the Catholic church (which however has another interpretation), but not with the Reformed church, which sees the Eucharist as a symbolic meal. See Article X of the Augsburg Confession.

8. The doctrine of justification

Man is justified by faith, not by works. The doctrine of justification by faith has been formulated by the reformer Martin Luther and partly anticipated by the church father Augustine (354-430). Justification depends on God’s grace and man cannot deserve it by doing good works. Luther was convinced that man was created to do good works for the good of his neighbour. However, these works are for one’s neighbours and man cannot justify himself by them. Salvation is to be received from God who graciously receives the sinner. See Article VI of the Augsburg Confession.

9. The priesthood of all believers

No one Christian is closer to God than others. Therefore there is in principle no difference between ordinary people and pastors. The ministry of the pastor has been established to ensure the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments: baptism and the Eucharist. The pastor carries out this ministry in the congregation where s/he serves, but s/he is not the mediator between Christians and God. See Article V of the Augsburg Confession.

10. The Church

The church frames the meeting between individual human beings and Christ. In Lutheran theology "the church" does not refer to a specific institution on earth but to the fellowship of all believers. According to the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed there is only one church. In Lutheran theology this one church is not identical to an actual church for the reason that it is the fellowship of all believers. Therefore the church is always more than the actual churches. On the other hand, these can be understood as part of this one church inasmuch as they preach the Gospel, perform baptism and celebrate the Eucharist. This means that the church is always ahead of the individual Christian and can be found wherever God’s word is preached and where baptism is performed and the Eucharist celebrated. See Article VII of the Augsburg Confession.

By Bo Kristian Holm, Associate Professor, Systematic Theology, Aarhus University