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:
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, ?
?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:
http://uregina.ca/~gingrich/318n1302 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:
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/WEBER/toc.html 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
the EUCHARIST.? http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/9170/AHODGE1.
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
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:
http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/apr1992/v49-1-bookreview9.htm 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:
http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/subs.asp?ref=1463-1652 ) 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: http://ic.net/~erasmus/
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
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: http://www.issuesetc.org/resource/journals/v1n8.
CREEDS AND SYMBOLICS:
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
http://www.ccel.org/s/schaff/creeds1/png/0561=543.htm - taken from
this page: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds1.ix.iv.ii.
?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.? http://www.aplacefortruth.org/creeds1.
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: http://www.lcms.org/pages/
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:
MISCELLANEOUS ARTICLES AND ESSAYS:
?Luther and Calvin on the Sabbath:? http://grace-for-today.com/347.htm
?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:
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: http://www.erskine.edu/library/instruction/st01
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: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/
?The Reformers and the Trinity? by Korey D. Maas compares and
contrasts the views of Luther and Calvin on trinitarian doctrine:
?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
?Reformation Sketches: Insights Into Luther, Calvin and the
Confessions? by W. Robert Godfrey: http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/
?The Legacy of Sovreign Joy: God?s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of
Augustine, Luther and Calvin? by John Piper: http://www.powells.com/
?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.
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