The Lutheran Tradition

Key Reformation Insights—a Brief Summary
The key themes in the Lutheran Reformation are well documented and readings are widely available.  See the bibliographies, other summaries, and links on this page.  Each theme has long provided the church with fresh and practical insights on the Gospel which is why they remain current and important.  The list below is fairly standard but varies a bit from source to source in number and terms. This introductory list keeps them to a convenient ten and is in no special order.

A List of Tenchapel stained glass

  1. The spiritual is not above the material
  2. A biblical anthropology
  3. Law and Gospel
  4. Simul iustus et peccator
  5. Two Kinds of righteousness
  6. God hidden and God revealed
  7. A theology of the cross
  8. Christian liberty
  9. The Doctrine of vocation
  10. The two kingdoms

See below for a couple of list-of-ten summaries. To pique your interest, each includes brief comments related to Lutheran higher education and teaching content.  For further study and additional themes (such as the three solas or the formal and material principles) pursue the additional readings in the bibliographies on this page.

Document Links

The links below will take you to various lists, essays, slides, transparency masters, articles, and other documents about the Lutheran tradition and about how that tradition informs Lutheran higher education.  Some of the essays and articles are copyrighted material.  Please respect the intellectual property rights of the author.  The lists, slides, and transparencies are copyrighted through this website but may be used freely with a brief credit to the contributor or this site.

 Ten Reformation Principles

A list with brief discussions of ten key insights about the Gospel.

Key Reformation Themes–a Summary

Similar to the document above, this is a briefer version of the list-of-ten, useful for quick reference.

A Brief Summary of the Two Kingdoms

A one page overview of the two kingdoms doctrine useful as a starter document.

What Drove Luther’s Hammer

A 4 minute video with Rod Rosenbladt (Concordia Irvine) on why making Martin Luther a professor was one of the “stupidest” decisions in the history of Western Christianity.

Martin Luther on Education

A 3 minute video with Jonathan Strom (Emory University) that discusses Martin Luther’s 1524 open letter “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany,” in which Luther argues for the value of liberal learning in Germany. Dr. Strom highlights Luther’s argument for the liberal education of boys and girls as preparation not only for a good Christian life, but also a good civic life.

The Lutheran Difference by Mark C. Noll

An interesting longer article by the American church historian Mark Noll, currently at Notre Dame University.  Noll is an evangelical Christian who wrote this essay in 1992.  He makes several positive observations about the Lutheran tradition that can help us reflect on our practice 25 years later.

Education for the Real World: Foundations of Lutheran Education

by Dr. Susan Mobley, Concordia University, Wisconsin.  A 45 minute video presentation on the practical conditions and events that influenced Luther and Melanchthon as they re-crafted education and moved the church out of the medieval world and into the Renaissance.  An engaging talk in which Mobley moves the subject along at a brisk pace while covering the key themes and developments.  Very good for those seeking an overview of the context and history for education and the Reformation or as an introduction for those interesting in doing some further reading.  Closes with a short Q&A session also well worth viewing.  (Did you know that Florence Nightingale received her training under the instruction of Lutheran deaconesses?)

Luther and the Priesthood of All Believers: Reformation Laity

by Dr. Matthew Phillips, Concordia University, Nebraska.  A 50 minute video  presentation that summarizes Luther’s views on the priesthood of all believers or those Luther referred to as “baptized priests.”  This lively talk serves as a good overview of the key themes with attention to the context of the Reformation and the issues both then and now. Phillips delivers informed background on the development of Luther’s thought to keep the church as the church and not merely as the clergy.

A Lifetime’s Pursuit of Faith and Reason

A first person reflection by Robert Benne discussing ways that the Lutheran tradition informed and developed his approach to scholarship and teaching.  Benne is founding director at the Center for Religion and Society at Roanoke College, Salem, VA.  He is the author of many books including Ordinary Saints and Reasonable Ethics: A Christian Approach to Social, Economic, and Political Concerns.  This article is used with permission from the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, Lutheran Forum/Forum Letter, P.O. Box 327, Delhi, NY  13753-0327, (607) 746-7511,,

Religious Expression in the Public Square

From Issues in Christian Education, Winter 2005, several readings on the two kingdoms doctrine and the Christian’s role in God’s left-hand kingdom including articles from David Lumpp, Martin Marty, Jerrald Pfabe, and Eric Moeller.  (Alt link: Issues in Christian Education Winter 2005)

One Kingdom Teaches the Other

A chapter-length essay explaining how the two-kingdoms concept enables Lutheran education to address both the temporal concerns of our disciplines and the eternal concerns of Christ’s kingdom without compartmentalizing or conflating them.  From Learning at the Foot of the Cross: A Lutheran Vision for Education, Joel Heck and Angus J.L. Menuge, eds.

The Challenge of History: Luther’s Two Kingdoms Theology as a Test Case

This helpful article by Cameron MacKenzie examines ways that we have misrepresented the two-kingdoms doctrine and have not adequately considered it dynamic and appropriate application in different historical contexts.  His discussion is especially timely in our period of culture shifts–not unlike Luther’s own times.

Two Kingdoms Biblical Texts

A selection of representative Bible passages to assist with gaining a perspective on the two kingdoms, their function in Scripture, and their incumbent tension.

What’s Lutheran About Lutheran Education

A fourteen page chapter which sets out several features of the Lutheran tradition that make its teaching by DCEs, teachers, pastors, and professors a distinct and lively ministry to and for the whole church.  From A Teacher of the Church, ed. Russ Moulds

Steadfast Past

Brief and well written essays addressing themes of politics, education, and other two-kingdoms issues during the Reformation.  Helpful for quick orientation and endnote references to selected historical issues.  From Matt Phillips.

Research in Lutheran Education: a hub for those interesting in Lutheran education research

Compiled by Bernard Bull at Concordia University Wisconsin, this blog collects research not just on Lutheran schooling, but Lutheran education in the broadest sense, including information about action research, other forms of qualitative and quantitative research, historical scholarship, philosophical and theological works, as well as reports on best or promising practices.