The core of Christianity is faith in a loving God who is the origin and final destination of everything that exists.
God always surpasses the limits of human experience, comprehension and explanation. However, God has revealed himself, or made himself known, in three divine persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the basis of the Christian doctrine of Trinity, developed in the first centuries.
The Father is the Creator
God has created both the visible and invisible world and cares for it with fatherly love. God has created both the humanity as a whole and individual human beings in his image, which means that every person is a representation of God’s image and nature.
The Son is the Redeemer
Endless and eternal God has become human in Jesus Christ, revealing in him his love for humanity and the entire creation and, through his death and resurrection, redeeming them from the bonds of evil, transience and death.
The Holy Spirit is the Life-giver
God’s presence and action in the world, the church and individual can be experienced through the Holy Spirit, who invokes and nurtures faith, hope and love.
Christian faith is based on God’s revelation as reflected in the witness of the Bible and the Christian interpretive tradition. The Bible is a collection of sacred scriptures, recognised by all Christians. It describes God’s loving and just will and the history of redemption (the sequence of God’s redeeming acts from the calling of Abraham and liberation of the people of Israel to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the sending of the Holy Spirit, establishment of the Christian church and expectation of the return of Christ). The Bible comprises the Old and the New Testament, with 66 books in total. The Bible communicates God’s revelation, but it has been written by human beings who have experienced, interpreted and communicated God’s revelation at different times and in different situations – in this way the Bible reflects both divine and human aspects.
The Bible is the book of the church; it was born and it has been transmitted in the praying Christian congregation, trying to discern the will of God. The sacred scriptures of the Bible are read during Christian worship. The Bible has a central role and meaning in Lutheran worship services.
Early Christian creeds
In addition to the Bible, the doctrine of the Lutheran church is based on three early Christian creeds as reflections of faith in the Triune God. The earliest of the creeds is the Apostles’ Creed, originating from the 2nd century and used in our church in all Sunday services. The other two creeds are the Nicene Creed (4th century) and the Athanasian Creed (5th century).
The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church belongs to the family of Lutheran churches, which was established on the basis of the principles advocated by Martin Luther, a 16th century German theologian and reformer. The name ‘Evangelical’ (rooted in the Greek word for “good news”) emphasises Luther’s notion of Christianity, which focuses on the gospel of a gracious God, not on the Law, moral norms or Christian traditions.
Central ideas of Lutheranism concerning faith and God:
Justification by grace – a human being is justified by the grace of God, which in Christ overcomes the divide between God and humanity, bringing to an end the human need to prove their worth to God or earn God’s favour. The only thing that is expected of human beings is to accept God’s love.
Faith – a person receives God’s justification through faith alone. The Lutheran church emphasises the personal experience and decision of faith of an individual. However, faith does not originate from the human being but from the Holy Spirit who awakens and nurtures our faith through God’s Word and sacraments.
The Bible – the Bible is the ultimate norm and gauge of all religious, doctrinal, ethical, everyday and ecclesiastic organisational matters; all aspects of the church and Christian life should be critically reflected upon in the light if the Scripture. If there is a conflict between the Bible and a church tradition, the authority of the Bible prevails.
Christ – the teachings and acts of Jesus Christ are the foundation of faith and redemption.
In addition to the Bible and the early Christian creeds, the Lutheran faith and doctrine are based on the Lutheran confessions, written in the 16th century, in particular the Augsburg Confession and the Large and Small Catechisms of Martin Luther.
The sacraments (sacred acts instituted by Christ and connected to his promises) of the Lutheran church include Baptism, through which an infant or an adult is brought into the communion of the church and personally shares in the redeeming acts of Christ, and the Eucharist (Holy Communion) in which a believer can share in the true nature of Christ, his body and blood, through bread and wine.
Living as a Christian
The God of Christians is the Creator and upholder of life. He created the human being to live in a harmonious relationship (communion) with God who is the source and purpose of life. Communion with God gives rise to a trusting and loving relationship with fellow human beings, the entire creation and oneself. In Christianity, a situation where the trusting relationship between a human being and God or between human beings is damaged or broken is called ‘sin’. The manifestations of sin include violations of the Ten Commandments, seeing one’s own interests as supreme to the interests of others, inability to love and forgive, as well as addictions and alienation.
Baptism relieves a person of sin and restores communion with God and fellow human beings. It does not make the person perfect but is only an invitation and obligation to walk with Christ and other Christians on the path that lasts for the entire life. Living as a Christian means a life of daily repentance, faith in the Triune God and love and service of fellow human beings. Faith in God and love of other human beings gives meaning and significance to life, provides strength to overcome hardships and experience God’s presence and blessing even in suffering.
Faith in the Triune God is born and nurtured through God’s Word and sacraments and in fellowship with other Christians, supported by praying for and serving each other. For this purpose, every Christian needs a church and a congregation where he or she can learn more about God’s will and how to apply it and live every day in faith. The apostle Paul compared the church to the body of Christ where each member has a particular role in the functioning of the organism as a whole.
Death and eternal life
The Bible teaches us that death is not a natural part of human existence, but a consequence of corruption of God’s original natural arrangement of life. God has created human beings for eternal communion with God. Death has lost its power through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus promised his disciples that they will live with him forever. A Christian can believe that death is not the end of life but a gateway to eternal life.
The Bible also teaches us that the history of the world is not aimless or chaotic, but flows towards its final destination, which is the return of Christ at the end of time. This will mean the final realisation of God’s kingdom, which can currently only be glimpsed on occasions, the ultimate disappearance of sin and death, and a perfect harmony between the Creator and the creation.