Calvinism vs. Lutheranism: Know the Difference
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on November 18, 2023
Calvinism is a Christian theological tradition emphasizing predestination and the sovereignty of God, while Lutheranism focuses on justification by faith alone and the authority of scripture.
Calvinism, based on the teachings of John Calvin, emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the doctrine of predestination, suggesting that God has predetermined the salvation or damnation of individuals. Lutheranism, founded by Martin Luther, centers on the belief of justification by faith alone, asserting that salvation is achieved through faith in Jesus Christ, not by good works.
Calvinism adopts a strong view of God's providence, believing that God preordains all events and outcomes. Lutheranism, while acknowledging God's providence, places greater emphasis on the individual's relationship with God, fostered through faith and scripture.
Calvinism has influenced various Reformed churches and presbyterian governance, where church authority is vested in elected elders. Lutheranism, traditionally, has been more congregational or episcopal in governance, emphasizing the role of the larger church body or bishops in church governance.
In Calvinism, the concept of predestination implies that human free will is limited in matters of salvation, as God's will is ultimate. In contrast, Lutheranism recognizes human free will, but underscores that salvation is not attainable through human effort but through faith in God’s grace.
The Calvinist doctrine includes the belief in the perseverance of the saints, indicating that those chosen by God will maintain their faith and cannot lose salvation. Lutheranism teaches that salvation can be lost through willful sin and disbelief, stressing the ongoing need for repentance and faith.
Predestination and sovereignty of God
Justification by faith alone
View on Free Will and Salvation
Limited human free will; predestined salvation
Human free will; salvation through faith
Concept of God's Providence
God preordains all events
God’s providence works through faith and scripture
Presbyterian or Reformed, led by elected elders
Congregational or Episcopal, with emphasis on bishops
Calvinism and Lutheranism Definitions
A theological tradition emphasizing God's absolute sovereignty.
In Calvinism, the concept of God's unchallengeable authority is fundamental.
Advocates for congregational or episcopal governance.
Lutheranism often operates under a system of congregational autonomy or episcopal leadership.
Advocates the perseverance of the saints.
Calvinism holds that the elect will persevere in faith and cannot lose salvation.
A Christian tradition emphasizing justification by faith.
Lutheranism teaches that faith in Christ, not good works, leads to salvation.
Emphasizes predestination in Christian salvation.
Calvinism teaches that God predestines individuals to salvation or damnation.
Founded on the teachings of Martin Luther.
Lutheranism began as a reform movement led by Martin Luther in the 16th century.
Influential in Reformed and Presbyterian churches.
Calvinism's influence is evident in the governance of many Presbyterian churches.
Values the authority of scripture.
In Lutheranism, the Bible is the primary source of religious authority.
Has a distinct approach to scripture and worship.
Calvinism traditionally favors a plain and reverent worship style, centered on scripture.
Incorporates liturgical worship and sacraments.
Lutheranism maintains traditional liturgical worship and sacraments like baptism and communion.
The religious doctrines of John Calvin, emphasizing the omnipotence of God and the salvation of the elect by God's grace alone.
Of or relating to the religious doctrines of Martin Luther, especially the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
The theological tenets or doctrines of John Calvin (a French theologian and reformer of the 16th century) and his followers, or of the so-called calvinistic churches.
Of or relating to the Protestant denomination adhering to these doctrines.
The theological system of John Calvin and his followers emphasizing omnipotence of God and salvation by grace alone
A member of the Lutheran Church.
The doctrines taught by Luther or held by the Lutheran Church.
Teachings of Martin Luther emphasizing the cardinal doctrine of justification by faith alone
Repeatedly Asked Queries
What is the central belief of Lutheranism?
The central belief of Lutheranism is justification by faith alone.
Does Calvinism believe in free will?
Calvinism believes human free will is limited, especially in matters of salvation.
How does Calvinism view God's providence?
Calvinism views God's providence as absolute, believing God preordains all events.
What initiated the Lutheran movement?
The Lutheran movement began with Martin Luther's efforts to reform the Catholic Church.
Can salvation be lost in Lutheranism?
Yes, Lutheranism teaches that salvation can be lost through willful sin and disbelief.
What is the main focus of Calvinism?
Calvinism focuses on the sovereignty of God and the doctrine of predestination.
Who was the founder of Calvinism?
Calvinism was founded by John Calvin, a French theologian and reformer.
Do Calvinists believe in the perseverance of the saints?
Yes, Calvinists believe in the perseverance of the saints, meaning the elect will maintain their faith.
What sacraments are recognized in Lutheranism?
Lutheranism recognizes two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Do Calvinists and Lutherans agree on the nature of the Eucharist?
There are differences; Calvinists generally hold a more symbolic view, while Lutherans believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
What is predestination in Calvinism?
Predestination in Calvinism is the belief that God has predetermined who will be saved and who will not.
What role does scripture play in Lutheranism?
Scripture is central in Lutheranism, serving as the primary authority in matters of faith.
How do Calvinists view salvation?
Calvinists believe salvation is predestined by God and not dependent on human actions.
Is faith alone sufficient for salvation in Lutheranism?
Yes, Lutheranism asserts that faith alone is sufficient for salvation.
How does Lutheranism view the role of good works?
In Lutheranism, good works are seen as a response to God's grace, not a means to earn salvation.
How does Lutheranism view human efforts in salvation?
Lutheranism views human efforts as incapable of achieving salvation, which is granted solely by God's grace.
How does church governance differ between the two?
Calvinism often uses a presbyterian governance model, while Lutheranism typically uses congregational or episcopal structures.
Are Calvinism and Lutheranism forms of Protestantism?
Yes, both Calvinism and Lutheranism are branches of Protestant Christianity.
What is the Calvinist view of worship?
Calvinism traditionally favors a plain, scripture-centered worship style.
Can individuals in both traditions be assured of their salvation?
In Calvinism, the elect can be assured of their salvation; in Lutheranism, assurance comes through faith and the promises of God.
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Written byShumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.