Your recent Q&A question from a Catholic “eucharistic minister” leads me to ask this question: How is Lutheranism different from Catholicism?
—via the Internet
At the risk of oversimplification, and keeping in mind that individual Lutheran (and Catholic) theologians would undoubtedly disagree about the success of recent Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogues in lessening or even “resolving” historic doctrinal differences between these two churches, listed below are what the LCMS would regard as some of the major theological differences between the Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic Church:
- The authority of Scripture. Lutherans believe that Scripture alone has authority to determine doctrine; the Roman Catholic Church gives this authority also to the pope, the church, and certain traditions of the church.
- The doctrine of justification. Lutherans believe that a person is saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The Roman Catholic Church, while at times using similar language, still officially holds that faith, in order to save, must be accompanied by (or “infused with”) some “work” or “love” active within a Christian.
- The authority of the pope. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, Lutherans do not believe that the office of the papacy as such has any divine authority, or that Christians need to submit to the Pope’s authority to be “true” members of the visible church.
- Differences remain about both the number and the nature of the sacraments. Lutherans believe that Christ’s body and blood are truly present in the Lord’s Supper, but they do not believe, with Catholics, that the bread and wine are permanently “changed into” Christ’s body and blood [transubstantiation].
- Differences remain about the role of Mary and the saints. Unlike Catholics, Lutherans do not believe it is proper or scriptural to offer prayers to saints or to view Mary as in any sense a “mediator” between God and human beings.
While Lutherans believe that any doctrinal error has the potential to distort or deny Scripture’s teaching regarding salvation, we also believe that anyone (regardless of denominational affiliation) who truly believes in Jesus Christ as Savior will be saved.
(This answer is from the FAQ section at lcms.org.)