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Q: Re-posted Question re: Comparison of the theologies of Luther and Calvin ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   8 Comments )
Subject: Re-posted Question re: Comparison of the theologies of Luther and Calvin
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: jat-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 26 Dec 2003 17:41 PST
Expires: 25 Jan 2004 17:41 PST
Question ID: 290510
(NOTE: This is essentially a re-post of my previous
question -- I
am seeking another researcher's perspective on the same subject.)
I'd like to read a good quantity of material which compares the
theology of Martin Luther with that of John Calvin.  Further, I'd like
to see side-by-side comparisons of the major symbols of Lutheran
theology (Augsburg Confession; Smalcald Articles; Small
Catechism/Large Catechism; Formula of Concord, etc.) with those of
Calvinist theology (Belgic Confession; Heidelberg Catechism; Second
Helvetic Confession; Canons of Dort; Westminster Confession of Faith;
Westminster Shorter/Larger Catechisms, etc.).  Again, for the purpose
of clarification, I'm familiar with these symbols.  I don't need to
see them in a stand-alone setting.  I would like to see comparisons
between the Lutheran and the Calvinist theologies.  In addition to
essays and the like, I would appreciate knowing if there are any books
written along these lines?  Again, I'm interested in reading the work
of those who have done the comparisons between these men and their
theologies.  I'd like to know the similarities as well as differences.
Subject: Re: Re-posted Question re: Comparison of the theologies of Luther and Calvin
Answered By: byrd-ga on 28 Dec 2003 17:18 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello Jat,

I saw and was most interested in your original question.  However,
intervening obligations previously prevented me from having the time
to devote to a full answer, and so I am now particularly glad you have
reposted it, thus providing me with an unexpected opportunity to
research this topic after all.

I note that my esteemed colleague, nancylynn-ga, has given you quite a
number of interesting and potentially useful links, and you?ve also
received a few interesting links in comments.  However, as you
apparently surmised could be the case, I do have a rather different
perspective on your question and what you?re looking for that has
taken me in a somewhat different direction in seeking references and
links for you on this interesting topic.

First, I?d like to state that, like my colleague, I come from a
Lutheran background.  I was raised in the Lutheran Church ? Missouri
Synod and, beginning with attendance at Lutheran grade school as a
child, onward through adulthood and election as a Church Elder among
many other and various activities and involvements, have been well
steeped in its historical teachings and theological interpretations.
In addition, I was, over a period of years, both peripherally and
integrally involved in various local and regional manifestations of
the modern doctrinal controversy that resulted in the eventual
establishment of the current Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (
ELCA), ultimately combining several historical branches of U.S.
Lutheranism, and am fairly conversant with the fundamentalist vs.
moderate doctrinal views that precipitated that event.

However, as a matter of intellectual and religious curiosity, I am 
also widely read on a variety of religious topics, and have studied 
other theologies than Lutheran only, indeed other religions altogether.
 Thus, I do not approach this question from a purely Lutheran stance, 
but rather from a theologically inquisitive one, sympathetic, as you 
hoped, to both perspectives, and interested in a fuller understanding 
of the history and underlying theological principles represented by 
these two classical Reformist viewpoints.

As I understand your question, you?re asking not so much for 
information merely on the respective theologies of Luther and Calvin 
in order to make a comparison yourself, but are trying to discover 
what others have concluded after studying the ideas and teachings of 
these two Reformers. That is, it appears to me that you are interested 
in reading the conclusions of other scholars, in studying existing 
opinion on the subject in order to gain a broader understanding of the 
major points of comparison, whether agreement or disagreement, between 
Luther and Calvin. On that understanding I have based my answer.  
Therefore, if I?m wrong, please do say so in a request for 
clarification before rating and closing the question, so I might have 
the chance to amend my approach if need be to ensure you?re satisfied 
with the information provided.

That said, then, here are the discussions and references (with
supporting links) to which I?d like to direct your attention. You are,
of course, aware that writings on this subject are extensive and
voluminous, to a degree far beyond the scope of this one question.
That is, the information presented in this answer is only the tip of a
very large iceberg, but I hope that these references, together with
the search strategy provided, will give you not only a great deal of
interesting and pertinent reading, but the means by which you may
easily locate more similar information on the subject. Bear in mind
that, while few are actual ?side by side? comparisons per se, taken as
a whole, most do address the pertinent areas of comparison in a
systematic manner that could easily lend themselves to a ?side by side?
 type summary of points.


Essay: Luther versus Calvin?s Teaching [Presented to the Pastoral 
Conference, Dakota-Montana District, WELS, held at James Valley Ev. 
Lutheran Church, Jamestown, North Dakota, April 12-14, 1983.] by 
Pastor John J. Sullivan:
SullivanLuther.rtf (Or you could also download a .pdf version here:
SullivanLuther.htm )

From ?What?s the Difference? A Comparison of the Faiths Men Live By? 
by Louis Cassells (published in 1965 by Doubleday & Company, Inc. This 
book was prepared for Religion Online by Harry W. and Grace C. Adams). 
This excerpt from Chapter 5 (scroll down to see the section entitled, ?
Lutheran-Calvinist Differences:?

?A Comparison and Evaluation of the Theology of Luther With That of 
Calvin,? is a student essay by Martin Luther King, Jr. dated 15 May 
1953, at Boston, MA. This link is also given in the comments below, 
but for completeness? sake I thought I would include it here as well, 
together with this quote from the site that gives an interesting 
perspective: ?King submitted versions of this essay for two courses at 
Boston: Edwin Prince Booth's Seminar in Historical Theology and L. 
Harold DeWolf's History of Christian Doctrine. In this version, 
written for DeWolf, King differs with Luther and Calvin's undue 
emphasis on the sovereignty of God, arguing that "God is first and 
foremost an all-loving Father." DeWolf graded the paper "A. Very good,
" but added: "awkwardly worded title. 

A commentary on the Five Points of Calvinism from a Lutheran 

This discussion of the historical development of German culture draws 
heavily on a comparison of the respective influences of Luther and 
Calvin, and how that influence helped to shape secular society.  ?The 
Reformation exerted an important influence on many European cultures. 
However, its results were different according to whether it was the 
Lutheran or the Calvinist version. There are fundamental differences 
between these two, differences that explain many cultural distinctions,
especially between Anglo-Saxon and the German culture.? You can read 
more of the specifics here:

Among a selection of background materials for a course in Classical 
Social Theory at the Canadian University of Regina in Saskatchewan (
taught by Paul Gingrich) is this excerpt from ?The Protestant Ethic 
and the Spirit of Capitalism? by Max Weber, which contains an 
interesting discussion of the contributions of Lutheran and Calvinist 
ideas to the development of these social ideas.  It can be found here: but you will have to skim through 
the larger discussion to find the parts pertaining to Luther and 
Calvin.  They do, however, provide an interesting comparison.  For 
further reading, it might be well to obtain a copy of the book itself, 
which is available here: or you could purchase 
a hard copy here:

Further commentary along these lines can be found in an excerpt from 
Paul Tillich?s ?The Religious Situation,? here:
Scroll down to 3. Protestantism. (a) Protestantism and Culture to read 
his explication of the roles of Lutheran and Calvinist thought. 
Tillich, of course, ?is generally considered one of the century's 
outstanding and influential thinkers,? and his views are most 
interesting on this subject.

Here?s a site from a Catholic viewpoint that argues similarity of 
error in both Luther and Calvin, while also pointing out some of the 
differences between them. Whether you agree with the author?s 
conclusions or not, it is nevertheless interesting to read of these 
men from a point of view outside either of their teachings:

?Originally published in 1860, Outlines of Theology is now in the 
public domain .... In this chapter [Chapter 6] will be presented a 
brief sketch of the main contrasting positions of the three rival 
systems of Pelagianism, Semipelagianism, and Augustinianism ....? 
There follows a discussion which includes section ?9. What is the 
position of the Lutheran church with relation to these great systems?? 
that concludes the only difference between Lutheranism and Calvinism 
is  with regard to understanding communion. As Hodges states, ?The 
grand distinction of Lutheranism however relates to their doctrine of 

This lecture on the history of the Protestant Reformation, with which
you are no doubt familiar, is nevertheless interesting because it 
states unequivocally that ?before Calvin became a Calvinist, he was 
clearly a Lutheran,? and goes on to highlight the ensuing major 
differences between them.  Though relatively brief, it?s still worth a 
look.  You?ll need to scroll about three-quarters of the way down the 
page to the portion on Calvin to read the comments comparing him to 

Here is a short, simple, high-school level essay comparing Luther and

Another simple, point by point outline comparison:

A course outline from Samford University of Birmingham, AL ? ?Lecture
2: Luther and Calvin Compared:?

?Major Groups Formed at the Time of the Reformation? attributes all 
such groups to either Luther or Calvin, and gives a short comparison 
of the major points of difference between them:

This essay, ?John Calvin Compared with the Older Reformers,? taken 
from Chapter VIII of the book ?John Calvin and His Work,? posits that 
Calvin polished and refined the work begun by Luther and other 
previous reformers:

In a review of two books, ?Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the 
Reformation 1521-1532,? and ?A Life of John Calvin: A Study in the 
Shaping of Western Culture,? the reviewer (M. Eugene Osterhaven of 
Western Theological Seminary) states, ?Reviewing these two books 
together reminds one of the similarities and differences between 
Luther and Calvin and of the dependence of the latter on the former.?  
 He then goes on to provide  a very interesting comparison of the two 
and their respective ideas.  You can find it here: If you?re 
interested in the books, the first is available here:
103-8933833-2271068?v=glance and the second, here:


?Catholic, Calvinist, and Lutheran Doctrines of Eucharistic Presence: 
A Brief Note towards a Rapprochement,? by Richard Cross (2002) From 
the International Journal of Systematic Theology, Volume 4 Issue 3 
Page 301  - November 2002.  *Note: This article must be purchased, 
either via an online subscription (info here: ) or a one 
time purchase (good for 30 days) for USD$19.

?The Eucharistic Theories compared. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin:?

For a comparison of Luther?s and Calvin?s views on baptism, scroll 
about two-thirds of the way down this page:


?The Origin and Historical Development of Sola Scriptura? is an essay 
comprising a comparison of Luther?s and Calvin?s views toward 
scripture and man?s relationship with God:


Here is a brief discussion on Luther?s and Calvin?s respective views 
on predestination, quoted from ?History of the Christian Church, 
Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation? by Philip 
Schaff (1819-1893):

Although entitled ?Martin Luther and the Doctrine of Predestination,? 
this essay includes a comparison of both Luther?s and Calvin?s views 
on this subject:


A discussion on ?Luther?s Small Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism 
? The Continuing Struggle: The Catechism?s Role as a Confessional 
Document in Lutheranism? By Ulrich Asendorf also includes some 
thoughts on the differences between the Book of Concord and the 
Calivinist Confessions.  Read it here:

?The Heidelberg Catechism: Comparison with the Lutheran and 
Westminster Catechisms:?  - taken from 
this page:

?The Protestant Creeds are either Lutheran or Reformed. The Lutheran 
were all made in Germany from AD 1530 to 1577, the Reformed arose in 
different countries: Germany, Switzerland, France, Holland, Hungary, 
Poland, England, Scotland and wherever the influence of Calvin and 
Zwingli extended. They both agree almost entirely in their theology, 
christology, anthropology, soteriology, and eschatology, but they 
differ in the doctrines of divine decrees and of the nature and 
efficacy of the sacraments, especially the mode of Christ's presence 
in the Lord's Supper.?

This article, entitled ?The Formula of Concord and Satis Est? is a 
modern treatise on the confessional differences between Lutheran and 
Reformed views, and states, among other declarations, that ?the 
Lutheran Confessions of the sixteenth century condemned the teachings 
of other Reformation churches as well as the Papacy,? going on to give 
specific examples of where Luther diverged from Calvin:  http://www.

On the Lutheran Church ? Missouri Synod website, the answer to the 
question ?How does the Missouri Synod differ from the Presbyterian [
Calvinist] Church? gives some insight into and comparison between 
these two descendants of Luther and Calvin:

In another modern attempt to understand these differences, ?Seventeen 
theologians of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions met in Strasbourg, 
March 17-22, 1975, under the chairmen, Prof. Andreas Aarflot, Norway (
Lutheran) and Dr Jacques Rossel, Switzerland (Reformed), of the 
freshly constituted Lutheran-Reformed Joint Committee appointed at the 
world level by the Lutheran World Federation and the World Alliance of 
Reformed Churches.? The following link is to the report of that 
meeting, which discusses the points of difference:


?Luther and Calvin on the Sabbath:?

?Faith and Work: John Calvin? by Alistair MacKenzie would imply by the
title that it is about Calvin only, but it includes a comparison with
Luther?s ideas about work and life as well:,,PTID61609%7CCHID487124%7CCIID1391736,00.html

A link to several applicable articles in theological journals, which I
could not locate online, but might be available through a public or
university library:

An essay comparing Luther and Calvin on secular authority: http://www.

From the ?New York Review of Books? are two letters discussing Luther
and Calvin:

?The Reformers and the Trinity? by Korey D. Maas compares and
contrasts the views of Luther and Calvin on trinitarian doctrine:,,PTID307086%7CCHID581342%7CCIID1653680,00.html

?Another Look at the Reformation by Ernest Falardeau is indeed another 
look, a fascinating one, at the respective work of Luther and Calvin 
from the vantage point of a modern Catholic:

?On Luther and Calvin and the Priesthood of All Believers:?

A book review entitled ?Michael Horton, John Calvin, and ?Law and 
Gospel?? by Bill DeJong compares and contrasts Calvin?s (and Horton?s 
book about the same) and Luther?s views on law and gospel:

In this essay, entitled ?Calvin and the Reformers and their 
animosities? by Edward T. Babinski one is given a fascinating glimpse 
into what Calvin and Luther respectively thought of each other:


Finally, as you asked for referral to available books on this topic, 
here are several I located that address specifically the subject of 
comparison between Luther and Calvin, and appear to be of reasonably 
sound scholarship:

?Reformation Sketches: Insights Into Luther, Calvin and the 
Confessions? by W. Robert Godfrey:

?The Legacy of Sovreign Joy: God?s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of 
Augustine, Luther and Calvin? by John Piper:

?What?s Going on Among the Lutherans? A Comparison of Beliefs? by 
Patsy A. Leppien and J. Kincaid Smith.  This book talks in part about ?
Luther, Calvin, Armenius, Wesley, Zwingley, and the Roman Catholic 
Church are examined in detail as to their approach to Scripture and 
how the resulting doctrines and errors flow from each different 
approach.? The review states it is a book that ?should be read by 
anyone from any denomination that is searching for answers as to why 
their church teaches the way they do.?  http://christian-books-online.

?Luther and Calvin on Old Testament Narratives: Reformation Thought 
and Narrative Text? by Michael Parsons. One review states ?This 
masterful work provides a fresh look at Calvin and Luther, inviting us 
to discover the fullness and power of their experience with Holy 


I hope this answer will give you, as you asked, a ?good quantity? of 
material to read on this subject, and the search strategy defined 
below an assist in locating more as needed.  I have tried to provide a 
variety of sources, including those from both Lutheran and Reformed, 
as well as other viewpoints, so as to attempt to give a reasonably 
balanced and objective comparison between Luther and Calvin.  As I 
stated above, if I have misunderstood your needs, please do let me 
know before rating and closing the question, and also be sure to ask 
if there is anything unclear. One other note: if the formatting should
result in any unclickable links, merely copy and paste them into your
browser, or ask for a clarification if you really run into trouble
with a link. It happens sometimes despite the care we take to ensure
all links work properly. Thank you for this opportunity to research
this fascinating and complex topic, and all my best wishes to you as
you seek to broaden your understanding of it.

Kindest regards,

Search strategy:

I discovered, as perhaps you did also, that it wasn?t enough to simply 
enter a search term such as ?luther calvin comparison? and get any 
serious results.  Therefore, I experimented with a number of 
combinations of different terms, and ultimately found the following to 
return the best results:

?luther and calvin?
"luther and calvin" similarities differences
?luther and calvin? compare
luther calvin compare OR contrast OR comparison OR differences
lutheran calvinist compare OR contrast OR comparison OR differences
lutheranism calvinism compare OR contrast OR comparison OR differences
lutheran reformed compare OR contrast OR comparison OR differences
symbolics lutheran calvinist reformed
sacraments luther calvin compared
baptism luther calvin compared
doctrine lutheran calvinist reformed
theology lutheran calvinist reformed
confessions lutheran calvinist reformed

Of course, merely reading through search results is only the beginning.
I began by selecting those that seemed most pertinent, and then 
followed various other links as indicated, as well as then using as 
additional specific search terms various authors, articles and books 
jat-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
This is the first 5 star rating I've given, as I recall.  And, I've
used GA quite a bit.  You hit the nail on the head in understanding
what it was that I am looking for.  And, you've supplied me with
enough info to keep busy for quite awhile.  Thanks...

Subject: Re: Re-posted Question re: Comparison of the theologies of Luther and Calvin
From: fp-ga on 26 Dec 2003 22:56 PST
This side-by-side comparison may interest you (in German):
Subject: Re: Re-posted Question re: Comparison of the theologies of Luther and Calvin
From: jat-ga on 26 Dec 2003 23:44 PST
So who's going to translate?
Subject: Re: Re-posted Question re: Comparison of the theologies of Luther and Calvin
From: nancylynn-ga on 27 Dec 2003 11:36 PST
Hi again Jat:

Regarding the site fp-ga suggested, try the "Word Reference Service" at:

Select the link for your browser and it will bring up options to
download translation software, including German to English. I've never
used this service, so can't promise you how well it works.

Also, I've become aware of a great archaeology/anthropology site,
maintained by Egyptologist Rod Polasky, which contains theology

Scroll down that page to:

"Resources for Religious Anthropology/Religions:"

and to: 

"Christian Anthropology General Resources/belief/practice by
Denomination or Group Associations," where you'll find links that will
lead you to numerous relevant pages.

Subject: Re: Re-posted Question re: Comparison of the theologies of Luther and Calvin
From: pugwashjw-ga on 28 Dec 2003 01:41 PST
Hi Jat-ga. Your question is very interesting and very complicated.
Both Martin Luther and John Calvin in their day were trying to find
the truth that they knew was in the Bible. Organized religion in those
days had so wrapped up the basic truths in gobbledegook and tradition
that ordinary people , with minimal learning, had no chance. The
Bible, originally in Greek and Hebrew, was translated into Latin and
those basics were hidden. The personality we all know as God wanted
people to worship him out of their own heart, through his love for
them and their love for him, not for what he could do for them. So
through his 40 or so bible writers, he made his wishes known. To be
friends with someone, you must use his name. God does have a personal
name, and it started off as four hebrew consonants, Y,H,W,H, being
pronounced Yahweh, and the english equivalent is Jehovah. Only one
modern Bible uses it consistently, the New World Translation. Other
translations use the Holy name at Psalm 83;18, Exodus 6;3, Isaiah 12;4
and 26;4. The scripture at Isaiah 52; 5 says " and constantly, all day
long, my name was being treated with disrespect" So God`s name { GOD
is his title] is to be used.. with respect. Luther and Calvin also
read at Isaiah 55;6. " Search for Jehovah, you people, while he may be
found, call to him while he proves to be near. Let the wicked man
leave his way and the harmful man his thoughts, and let him return to
Jehovah, who will have mercy upon him,and to our God, for he will
forgive in a large way. The complications imposed on people can put
God beyond understanding and HE will change the system that does this.
Another simple truth about our earth and its future. Isaiah 45;18. He
the one who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for
nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited. HE will step in long
before we can do too much damage. And if anyone thinks what the bible
promises is nonsense, then they had better learn to resurrect
themselves. .p.s. Luther and Calvin were the original Bible
Students, not taking for granted what their priests dished out. But
they in turn got weighed down with tradition.
Subject: Re: Re-posted Question re: Comparison of the theologies of Luther and Calvin
From: fp-ga on 28 Dec 2003 02:49 PST
"A Comparison and Evaluation of the Theology of Luther with that of
Calvin" by Martin Luther King (1953):
Subject: Re: Re-posted Question re: Comparison of the theologies of Luther and Calvin
From: nancylynn-ga on 29 Dec 2003 08:12 PST
Beautifully done, Byrd. This (formerly Missouri Synod, now ELCA)
Lutheran salutes you!
Subject: Re: Re-posted Question re: Comparison of the theologies of Luther and Calvin
From: byrd-ga on 29 Dec 2003 19:15 PST
Thank you so much, Jat, for your kind words and the five-star rating -
I'm honored to be your first recipient of such, but certainly hope I
won't be the last! I'm just very happy you were pleased and wish you
well with the reading!  Thanks also to you, nancylynn-ga, for your
equally kind words, which are greatly appreciated coming as they do
from a respected colleague!

Best regards,
Subject: Re: Re-posted Question re: Comparison of the theologies of Luther and Calvin
From: byrd-ga on 29 Dec 2003 19:21 PST
Ah, I should have looked first, Jat, before commenting. Truth is, I
fear you may have forgotten about a few other 5-star answers you
received, namely from tehuti-ga, tisme-ga and synarchy-ga on previous
questions.  So the honor of being first is not mine to claim, though I
remain very grateful for the rating, and for your faithful patronage
of our service!


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