What is keeping Orthodox and Lutherans from unifying?

There have been a few threads about Papal supremecy and jurisdiction. The Lutheran and Orthodox contingents are untied on this issue. So…what is keeping the Orthodox and Lutheran from uniting? Is it because the roots of Lutherism is from Rome? From reading some very good posts, it appears there is VERY little differences?

The Orthodox have an amazing ability to focus on Christ, and ignore the periphery. My hunch is that we would probably be considered as part of that noisy periphery.

Unlike the lutherans we are not sola scripturists or sola fideists, there is a dichotomy of understanding between lutherans and orthodox that isn’t merely this cosmetic thing but goes to the core of understanding. Lutherans believe scripture above all is the final authority, no church tradition can be equal to scripture, orthodox on the otherhand would maintain that the tradition of the church is equal to scripture, that we cannot merely rely on the bible alone. To the lutheran, ultimately the conscience is bound on scripture over and against tradition, if neccessary, though I will say lutherans do accept a good deal of tradition, just not enough.

I cannot speak on sola fide as much as sola scriptura and authority but there a very distinct difference between orthodox and Lutherans in terms of works vs fatih. Perhaps the dialogue between Patriarch jermiah II and the lutherans somewhat early in the history of the reformation is illustrative of our differences.

Out of all protestant groups however, I like lutherans the most, conservative lutherans anyway.


The Lutherans tried at the very beginning, but the Patriarch of Constantinople eventually gave up on them.

Luther Had His Chance

The Three Answers of Patriarch Jeremiah II

Lutherans lack Holy Orders. Lutherans are also fractured into numerous denominations ranging from liberal to ultraconservative. Orthodoxy is only interested in members wishing to join the unchanging ancient Christian faith.

Very interesting! I never knew that any Lutherans wanted to enter into communion with the Orthodox. I bookmarked both pages to read more later. Thank you for the links.

Recent Lutheran / Orthodox dialogue.



It’s the last paragraph of the Letter from Patriarch Jeremiah that tends to make me think that Orthodoxy is focused on it’s truth rather than deal with us bothersome Lutherans.

Even if we never fully unified, I would humbly say that dialog would be good for both churches - we could learn a deeper understanding of the Gospel and a renewed appreciation of authentic tradition, and they could perhaps learn how to build the church in foreign lands or some other virtue that we may hypothetically have.

Got the following from this link in the above post dealing with Orthodox/Lutheran relations on the Eucharist:


In O7 both churches affirm the real presence of Christ in the eucharist. The Orthodox do not say, however, that the body and blood of Christ are “in, with and under” the bread. Instaed, they claim in O7 that after the epiclesis there is no more bread or wine, but the body and blood of Christ. This formulation is not, however, an affirmation of transsubstantiation, but it only emphasizes the reality of the change in elements. In spite of the expressed convergence on the issue of real presence, the eucharistic theology still needs to be developed in the future discussions. The issue of sacrifice needs to be dealt with; the Oslo formulations further allow different interpretation of the real presence in the eucharist.

This confirms what I’ve always understood: that the Eastern Orthodox are on the same page as the Catholics (but, of course, not going with the term transubstantiation, have to keep some flames burning.) Are Lutherans ready and willing to accept the Orthodox view on the Eucharist?

When it comes down to it, I doubt that many denominations are willing to renounce certain doctrines for a different view.

And from what I’ve seen with the saber-rattling of “Holy Orthodoxy”, I’m surprised that the Eastern Orthodox would unify with anyone without total capitulation to Easter Orthodoxy right down to all clergy having to wear beards.

The lack of Apostolic Succession and united belief on justification. Everything else kind of flows from those, especially the lack of valid Holy Orders.

I think that, essentially our views are the same, expressed differently.

  1. Lutherans and Orthodox take the Lord’s words “this is my body; this is my blood” (Mt 26,27f, par.) literally. They believe that in the Eucharist the bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood to be consumed by the communicants. How this happens is regarded by both as a profound and real mystery. In order to approach that mystery, Orthodox and Lutherans have drawn on their respective theological traditions and developed different insights on what takes place.

a. Lutherans speak about Christ’s “real presence” in the Eucharist and describe Christ’s body and blood as being “in, with and under” the bread and wine (Formula of Concord, SD 7). By this they mean that the bread and the wine really become the body and blood of Christ, through the Words of Institution and the action of the Holy Spirit. Drawing on patristic sources, Lutherans understand Christ’s presence in the elements christologically: “Just as in Christ two distinct, unaltered natures are inseparably united, so in the Holy Supper two essences, the natural bread and the true natural body of Christ, are present together here on earth in the action of the sacrament, as it was instituted” (SD 7). Lutherans, however, maintain a distinction between a personal, hypostatic union and a “sacramental union”, favoring the latter in order to describe Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Lutheran theology is able to speak of a transformation (mutatio) of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ (Apology X, 2; XXIV). This is not understood as eliminating the physical character of the bread and wine in the Eucharist. Lutherans emphasize that it is God’s Word which makes the sacrament (Large Catechism, 5: The Sacrament of the Altar).

b. Orthodox profess a real change (metabole) of the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ by the Words of Institution and the act of the Holy Spirit in the eucharistic anaphora. This does not mean a “transsubstantiation” of the substance of the bread and the wine into the substance of the deified humanity of Christ, but a union with it: “The bread of communion isn’t an ordinary bread, but united with divinity” (John of Damascus). This union amounts to a communication of the deifying properties of the humanity of Christ and of the deifying grace of his divinity to the eucharistic gifts: The bread and the wine are no longer understood with respect to their natural properties but with respect to Christ’s deified human body in which they have been assumed through the action of the Holy Spirit. As in Christology the two natures are united hypostatically, so in the Eucharist Christ’s exalted human body and the “antitypes” (St. Basil, Anaphora) of bread and wine are united sacramentally through the act of the Holy Spirit.

c. Orthodox and Lutherans agree, whether they use the language of “metabole” or of “real presence”, that the bread and wine do not lose their essence (physis) when becoming sacramentally Christ’s body and blood. The medieval doctrine of transsubstantiation is rejected by both Orthodox and Lutherans.


I sound like a Lutheran. Hmm.

I’m concerned about this statement, in that it seems to minimize Orthodox belief, implying they only reject Transubstantiation for argument’s sake (unless I misunderstood). If we go down that road, one could say that, since the use of the term Transubstantiation is a later innovation, it is Rome that fans the flames.
I don’t believe either to be the case, as I believe both communions to be sincere in their beliefs.


So you and all Lutherans are ready to accept the Orthodox view right now? Including their terminology, for the sake of unity?

I’ve always understood that the Eucharist is not a stumbling block between Catholics and Orthodox.

I also believe that the main objection Eastern Orthodox have with “transubstantiation” is that the west came up with it as a definition, i.e., it’s associated with “Rome”.

I’ve also read somewhere that the Catholic Church is not necessarily wedded to the term transubstantiation. I might be wrong.

I think he means in terms of the eucharist.

As did I.

Oops, just noticed this from above:

This does not mean a “transsubstantiation” of the substance of the bread and the wine into the substance of the deified humanity of Christ, but a union with it.

This seems to go against what I understood of Eastern Orthodoxy from past readings on their sites. And I believe that that would be a eucharistic stumbling block between Catholics and Orthodox.

I have no problem with their terminology. As I said, I don’t believe our views concerning the Eucharist are dramatically different. In fact, I think all of us westerners would do well to heed John of Damascus’ quote: “… if you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord took on Himself flesh that subsisted in Him and was born of the holy Mother of God through the Spirit.”



DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.