Lutheran vs. Orthodox

by Katharine Viola

Lutheranism and Eastern Orthodox are two Christian denominations with many similarities and differences. Each has an elaborate history with specific events that led to the creation of these factions.

Lutheranism

Lutheranism’s founding figure was Martin Luther. Luther began the Protestant Reformation in 1517 when he attacked the many abuses of the medieval church. He had no intention of forming his own denomination, but his philosophies became popular and eventually a new sect emerged. Luther was afraid of God’s judgment, not of fire and brimstone, and he wanted people to be free from attempts to justify themselves to God: He wanted them to realize they will be saved by God.

Eastern Orthodox

Eastern Orthodox Christianity was founded in the 11th century during the Great Schism--the separation of the Eastern and Western churches. The use of icons, the concept and role of the Holy Spirit and the date of Easter were three major issues presented during the Great Schism. Eastern Orthodox principles and philosophies tend to be more abstract and mystical rather than the pragmatic, legal-minded nature of the West.

Differences

One major difference between Lutheranism and Eastern Orthodox is the idea of spirituality. Lutherans are opponents of spirituality, while the Orthodox are very spiritual. Lutherans follow the literal sense of the Gospel. Orthodox Christians incorporate spirituality into their everyday lives and stay in communion with God on a daily basis. They believe the whole of man’s life is inspired by the spirit of God.

Similarities

However different Lutheranism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity may seem, they have their similarities, especially in regard to the papacy. Martin Luther questioned the papacy and its legitimacy as a ruling office and was labeled a heretic for questioning the pope’s actions. Medieval thought concluded that the papacy was infallible even if certain actions went against the Bible. Luther concluded that the papacy was the Antichrist. Eastern Orthodox had similar issues with the papacy. When the church split, Constantinople became the Christian capital in the East. The pope did not recognize the split and excommunicated the leader of the Eastern Church, who then condemned the pope. Neither denomination recognizes the papacy as a supreme and infallible institution.

About the Author

Katharine Viola lives just north of Philadelphia and has been writing cultural articles and papers since her time at Penn State University. Additionally she has completed a Masters thesis at New York University, where she recieved a degree in visual culture with a concentration on historical fashion.

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