Why don't Lutherans join the EO or other Orthodox?

I apologize if this is an ignorant question. I constantly see Lutherans bring up the EO as evidence of there being no Papal Supremacy. So what are the defining reasons that Lutherans don’t join Orthodoxy? What is it that the Orthodox believe that Lutherans can’t accept and if they do accept them why not unite with them?

A side and more bold question to Lutherans: If the Orthodox are also wrong about certain beliefs then at what point did they possibly fall into some type of heresy? Because if they have not in any way, I would expect Lutherans to want to unite?

Forgive me if they’re silly questions, but I don’t know much on the Lutheran perspective of Orthodox.

Thank you.

Me. Personally.

What if Rome is right about the issue?
There are no EO parishes near by.
If there came the time to move, I would consider it

It seems, though, that LCMS members, pastors do lean that way if they plan to move. Pelikan is an example


In the grand schem of things, the Eastern Orthodox believe the same things that Catholics do. The two largest differences is the view of the role of the Bishop of Rome and Latin Catholic says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (or through the Son) while the Orthodox say the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.

Otherwise, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and the Church of the East all believe in the 7 sacraments like Catholics do (they call them mysteries, which is what sacraments comes from in Latin).

Orthodox do not believe in Sola Scriptura and do not believe in Sola Fida. The Orthodox also place more emphasis on tradition (lower case t) than the Catholic Church.

Finally, the Lutherans believe that Scripture is the source of all authority of God’s teaching, Catholics believe it comes from both Scripture and Tradition, while the Orthodox believe its just Tradition (that Scripture is part of Tradition).

In all honestly, Lutherans have more in common with Latin Catholics than they do with the Orthodox. But Catholics have more in common with the Orthodox than they do with protestants.

God Bless.


I believe that there are a few issues:

  1. Lack of Orthodox Churches
  2. Ethnically divided Orthodox churches that can be very unwelcoming
  3. Because they are Lutherans and believe that the teachings of Luther over the teachings of Orthodoxy. There are differences between Lutheran and Orthodox theology, it is not just a matter of the Papacy.

From your point 3 would it then follow that Lutherans believe that the Orthodox fell away from some truth at some point in history?

You would have to ask Lutherans that question. I would say that they believe that the EOC has corruptions or errors, not that they necessarily fell away from the truth.

How can one believe something erroneous and not fall away from the truth? Error is the opposite of truth, is it not?

As Jon points out, we have lost some of our best theologians to the Orthodox Church but as **phil **also points out, Lutherans are Western Christians and even more theologians/ pastors have entered the Roman Catholic Church than any other denomination combined.

in the USA the Othodox Churches are divided up by ethnicity -America Luthereans were predomonatley Germans or scandanavians-would love to see those Norwegians farmers mixing and worshipping at a Greek Orthodox Church -would be good to appear on youtube

During the Reformation some Lutherans wrote the Ecumenical Patriarch, thinking he would agree with them. He did not, and told them so. I understand there was an increasingly angry exchange until the EP cut it off, figuring he had rebuked those heretical so-and-so’s enough.

The exchange has been printed. But Lutheran and EO theology are NOT the same.

Not really in the Orthodox church in America, and the Antiochian Orthodox church such ethnicity has nearly completely dissapered.

The Antiochian church formed from the old Arabs and the Evangelical Orthodox mission. In the AOC parish I belong to there are just two 2 Arab families and the rest converts from Latin Catholics to ‘church of Christ’.

There are also very few Russians in the Orthodox church in America. Again they are mostly comprised of American converts.

You forgot the batchelor in Norweigian Bathchelor Farmer :smiley: Need to listen more closely to Garrison Keillor. :smiley:

The Lutheran perspective on justification by grace through faith alone, and sola Scriptura would probably be the biggest issues IMO for the Orthodox.

Not silly questions at all. They are questions that Lutherans have considered since the Reformation. The two groups hold much in common; especially if one compares the Orthodox to a good-ol’-fashioned, Confessional, “high-church,” Gottesdienst-observing Lutheran. So it only made sense that Lutherans reached out the Orthodox in the 1570’s and took part in what some might call the first “ecumenical dialogues” between Christians.

For various reasons, the dialogues weren’t successful. They ended with Patriarch Jeremias II writing his Lutheran correspondents, “Go about your own ways. Write no longer concerning dogmas; but if you do, write only for friendship’s sake. Farewell.” Modern day dialogues have been more fruitful, with agreement coming even on issues that would seemingly be points of contention - the Orthodox represented in Helsinki even accepted the Lutheran explanation of Sola Scriptura!

Obviously, no corporate unity has ever been achieved. Yet this has not deterred Lutherans from considering Orthodoxy today. In fact, many Lutherans have toyed with the idea of converting (this Lutheran included), some even making the leap with the idea that, underneath, Lutheranism is actually Orthodoxy.

With all that we hold in common, what ultimately separates Lutherans from the Orthodox is doctrine. Lutheranism places a heavy emphasis on Justification (we are Western Christians, after all), whereas Orthodoxy focuses more on Deification or the process of Theosis (they have absorbed some Hellenistic influence, after all). These differences are apparent in everything from theology to art (just look at how many beautiful “Apotheosis of…” frescos exist in the East). A good overview, from the Lutheran perspective, can be found in this journal.

We Lutherans would consider them heterodox bodies, but the Word is preached there and the Sacraments administered, so we acknowledge them to be church. To my knowledge, the Orthodox do not speculate about where the church might exist outside of their communions. Perhaps our Orthodox friends can help.

Very astute :thumbsup:

Finland/ Baltic nations Lutherans came to consensus w/ Orthodox on the Eucharist; a magnificent statement.

Actually, given the demographics of Orthodox Christianity in Sweden, they’d be more likely to find homes in the Syriac Orthodox Church (~80,000 in Sweden, compared to roughly 63,500 of all Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions), which is Oriental (not Eastern) Orthodox, than in any other church.

And in that the Suryoyo seem to not be doing too bad. You’ve even got ethnic Swedes speaking modern Syriac now. :wink:

Essentially, yes. We are not supposed to be speculating about the “salvation status” of those beyond the visible boundaries of the Church–or, for that matter, about anyone other than ourselves.


Let me preface this that I’m certain that the Gospel is proclaimed and the Sacraments are administered in the EO church.

Having said that, I don’t think our suffering Lutheran church is insufficient - the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is present and I, and my family, are content to receive Hid grace as He has placed us.

In addition, I have an obligation to my fellow church members to uphold them and to receive their witness to Christ, and I have a profound duty to help them in their journey to the cross.

In short, I won’t abandon my fellow sheep as we follow our shepherd. I’m safe in my flock.

I think while the Orthodox and Lutheran perspectives on a surface level can look very similar they are at their core very distinct and very much opposed to each other.

Justification by faith alone may be the big thing preventing the two churches from ever uniting. In that, its not that Orthodoxy believes we somehow work to earn our salvation, as if by doing actions we can pay with them to God to enter into paradise, but we stress the need the for change, that we ought not be content in remaining sinners but instead perfect ourselves and obey the commands of Christ. That we should “seek righteousness,” Not be like the unprofitable servant, “abstain from every kind of sexual immorality” and “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Yet at the same time the ORthodox prayer books say things like this, “o lord heavenly king, comforter and spirit of truth, show compassion and have mercy on me your sinful servant and remit and loose me from my unworthiness, and forgive all wherein I have sinned against you today as a man, not only as a man but even worse than a beast…”

There is a quote from Saint Mark the ascetic and his “On those who think they are made righteous by works,” which I think encapsulates the Orthodox position.

“Wishing to show that to fulfil every commandment is a duty, whereas sonship is a
gift given to men through His own Blood, the Lord said: ‘When you have done all
that is commanded you, say: ‘We are useless servants: we have only done what
was our duty’ (Lk 17.10). Thus the kingdom of heaven is not a reward for works,
but a gift of grace prepared by the Master for his faithful servants.”

But in the same breath he also says:

“He who relies on theoretical knowledge alone is not yet a faithful servant: a faithful
servant is one who expresses his faith in Christ through obedience to His
commandments” and further on “He who honours the Lord does what the Lord bids. When he sins or is disobedient, he patiently accepts what comes as something he deserves.”

From what I see in the Orthodox patristic tradition we embrace an emphasis on both faith and works whereas in Lutheranism the sole focus is on faith alone, our complete and utter unworthiness before Christ, that he is the sole reason for which we are saved and we do nothing to effect that. There is little emphasis in Lutheranism (from what I have seen) like there is in the orthodox church on the need to do good works. Perhaps the Lutherans may charge me with not detailing their position but from what I’ve read and heard from Lutherans is the emphasis on faith alone. I am not saying that Lutherans deny works, I know they believe works are the natural outcome of faith. Perhaps the main distinction is in the monergism and synergism dichotomy. The Orthodox believe man can work with God, that we can be receptive to him and embrace him and then with God’s help or guiding hand as it were we are made Holy and “saved.” That is we can of our souls accept the help that God offers. God reaches out, we accept it and we are saved and continue on to glorification in the hopes of resurrection in glory. I will leave it to a Lutheran to explain monergism which I believe centers everything in God, that we are not doing anything ourselves but it is solely God through us who does whatever is good.

There are also other practical matters which differentiate us. The Orthodox locates the church with those group of churches which bear apostolic succession in both faith and the Bishops who are the successors of the apostles. Lutherans feel no need to have Bishops in a line of succession from the apostles, believing their faith is enough to justify the ordination of Priests, Bishops and deacons.

There is also sola scriptura. In the end the Lutheran judges everything by what he sees in scripture. This is demonstrated by the charges of the Lutherans made to the Patriarch in the correspondence made by others that on certain doctrines and practices that they found it not in scripture and thus they were not persuaded. Some of the practices the Lutherans of that time rejected are the following:

Monasticism (they didn’t explicitly reject it but they found it wanting in justification from scripture): Second Exchange of Tubungin to the Patriarch “We know Basil became a great admirer of the monastic life. But there are times when even the most renowned men, in judging, overlook some things (which you yourself have said before hand…) so that, consequently, nothing on earth is found absolutely perfect and blessed in everything. Therefore, we demand divine and not human evidence without purpose.”

Veneration of icons: Moreover, the sixth and seventh ecumenical synods are not of such great esteem as to have authority in the church of God to introduce new forms of worship without the sanction of the divine word. Neither can it be denied that many of the canons which have been decreed in the synods are not entirely applicable to the rule of faith of the divine word. Therefore, since neither the prophets, nor Christ, nor the apostles ordered the invocation of the saints or the reverencing or worshiping of their icons, no one perhaps is able on this account to condemn us for impiety because we only omit that which God himself in his own words did not require of us, second exchange. 31 (Modern Lutherans have told me that they personally accept the seventh ecumenical council and find nothing wrong in what it says)

The authority of the fathers: Nor do we for this reason shift the boundaries set by the fathers, even if we cannot accept everything which has been introduced into the church in the name of traditions; rather we therefore carefully seek out and dig up the boundaries which the prophets, Christ and the apostles set down. We limit ourselves to within them so that we will not be led astray more than we should. Second exchange, 23 (Lutherans do not deny the fathers as being not of authority, but rather test everything against what they see and read in the scripture.

I would however not, Lutherans are not beyond quoting the fathers as authority, they simply do not accept them as binding authority like the scripture.

The contrast to the orthodox position which accepts those three examples is plain. The orthodox appeal to the fathers as authorities believing them generally to be of greater authority than the modern interpretations of the bible and perhaps even equal to the bible in some cases (the ecumenical creeds and Christological definitions for one thing). This not to suggest the fathers got everything right, but we take more seriously the opinion of Maximos than say the opinion of Luther or a modern baptist interpretation of the bible. In fact this sort of view can be evidenced in the early fathers themselves and how they viewed other fathers. Here is what Maximos Says of Gregory for instance.

“These things pertain to certain passages in the writings of Dionysus and Gregory, those highly praised saints and blessed and truly elect men, who from the beginning were appointed by God according to his eternal purpose. They received within themselves all outpouring of wisdom that can truly be attained by the saint, and by setting aside a life conformed to nature the occupied themselves with the substance of the soul and so took hold of the living, unique Christ… became the soul of their souls, manifest to all through all their deeds, words, and thoughts, by which one is persuaded that the passages cited hereinafter were authored, not by them, but by Christ, who by grace has exchanged places with them” Ambigua to Thomas, prologue, 3 ( I would note however, that the Orthodox church does not place any of the fathers on a place equal to the bible, as evidenced by modern orthodox bibles today)

Another example of how the orthodox see the importance of the fathers i think is found in saint Basil:

What are you saying? That we should not give more attention to those who gave gone before? That we should not respect the multitude of those who are currently Christians an those who have been Christians from the time when the Gospel was first proclaimed? That we should not consider the honour of those enlightened with manifold spiritual gifts? You have indeed inaugurated this road of impiety as an act of hatred and Hostility against people such as these! Or should each of us do this: Shut the eyes of our soul once and for all, banish from our mind the memory of every saint, and then each of us take his own heart now swept clean and empty and hand it over to your misleading and sophistical arguments? You indeed have obtained great authority , if it turned out that by a word of command you obtained what the devil could not by his various whiles. Furthermore… we would have to judge the tradition that has prevailed in every time past due to so many saints as of no less worth than your impious fabrication. Against Eunonmius, 1.3

If these quotes can be taken as evidence of the Orthodox position against the Lutheran position and the Lutheran position against the Orthodox position, as I hopefully have done then I will leave it at that. The Orthodox world is a different world than the Lutheran world although I will say this that an orthodox or a Lutheran debater can get along alot more than say a roman Catholic and baptist. We agree on some key issues but that is not enough for union.

Thanks IgnatianPhilo; I think that is a good summary and fairly accurate re: Lutherans.

The issue of apostolic succession, though still viewed as not necessary, has taken on more meaning and most Lutherans, world-wide follow apostolic succession. This emphasis is viewed as church-uniting in Dialogue with Roman Catholics/ Anglicans, and, no doubt a point of agreement with the Orthodox.

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