Lutherans and Scripture

A cradle that holds the infant Jesus. Baby blankets that clothe the newborn Christ. Lutherans often use these well-known metaphors from Martin Luther (1483-1586) to describe the Christian Scriptures and their importance. These simple metaphors clearly and profoundly describe both what the Scriptures (Bible) are and what is their purpose.

Simply stated, the Scriptures tell about Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit uses the Scriptures to present Jesus to all who listen to or read them. That is why Lutheran Christians say that the Scriptures are the “source and norm” of their teaching and practice. As the Gospel writer John wrote, “these things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

Obviously, the Scriptures that are collected into a book or Bible describe and speak about many other things — everything from the creation of the world to the world’s end. Because these writings originate from a time period that spans about a thousand years and come to us in a variety of handwritten manuscripts and fragments, they have been studied carefully with all the tools of research that are available. This research continues to enrich understanding of the Scriptures and their message including that God intended the scriptures to illuminate the relationship between God and humans but not to be a history or science text. Asking the wrong question of the Scriptures will result in incorrect understanding.

In other words, despite the diversity of viewpoints and the complexity of the many narratives contained in the Scriptures, Lutheran Christians believe that the story of God’s steadfast love and mercy in Jesus is the heart and center of what the Scriptures have to say.