Compare the Lutheran and Calvinist Reformations
Religion like the family and the economy is a universal and insidious phenomenon, part of the cultural system, because it is assumed to meet some basic need of human being. Religion is an incorporated part of human experience and shows astonishing continuity through time. Even in the modern secularized societies in the West, religion has persisted and still exerts a great influence in the lives of people. Almost all known peoples in all places and times have some set of specific cultural prototypes made up of beliefs and codes of conduct, traced with emotional views, an explanation or justification of human behavior and social organization regarding the distribution of power between the leaders and the governed, the moral code, the distribution of wealth, or the success of some and failure of others may be found in religion.
Religious, beliefs and practices have been debated by various religious sectors and it includes the Lutheran and Calvinist reformations.
This essay’s intention is to compare and contrast the doctrines and beliefs between Lutheran and Calvinist Reformations between 1500 and1700.
A. Calvinism and its beliefs
Calvinism is the mysticism and system of church practices founded on the teachings of the protestant Reformation leader John Calvin. It is a doctrine of the Presbyterian and the Reformed churches which is part of the heritage of Baptists, the Congregationalists, and various Christian groups. Calvin’s thought is most completely expressed in his Institute of the Christian Religion (1536). Other significant documents of Calvinism are the Canons of Dort (1619), the doctrinal basis of the reformed churches; and the Westminster Confession (1646), the traditional Presbyterian creed. Fundamental foundation of the early Calvinism was the belief in God’s absolute sovereign will over the affairs of man. To do the will of God was man’s first duty according to the canon of original sin, Adam the first man who was created by God, was created pure and did God’s will. Adam’s sin however resulted in man’s fall from this state of purity. Thus, all mankind was infected with “a total degeneracy,” leaving man free to sin but not to do well. All were rightfully damned (R. Po-Chia Hsia & Henk Van Nierop, 2002). 
The strict Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement held that Christ’s death atoned for the sins of a restricted few, but not all mankind. The limited few, called the elect, were thus saved by receiving salvation. According to predestination, Calvin’s most widely known doctrine; God decreed eternal life for the elect and eternal damnation, or reprobation, for the rest who did not receive salvation. According to the idea known as irresistible grace, individuals elected by God to be saved by his grace could not choose to resist it but to do it according to the doctrines of the church.
Calvinist, like most other early Protestants, emphasized the doctrine of justification, which dealt with the condition of man’s salvation. A saved individual was made righteous by God’s grace, as God’s judgment was declared just, or acceptable to everyone. An individual’s good deeds could not achieve his salvation or justification one had to live by faith alone. However, his faith was expressed outwardly in strict moral and righteous conduct and good works. To a Calvinist, the ability to base one’s life in faith was probable evidence that one was saved from sin and numbered among the elect (Kingdon, 2006).
In Calvinism, Scripture and scripture reading became the supreme authority in faith and life. Calvinists believed that the Bible designated only two sacraments— that is the sacrament Of Baptism and the sacrament of the Holy Communion. Calvin’s notion of the church government in which the church elects elders, or presbyters, to preside over its affairs came from the Bible and was adopted by the Presbyterian and the Reformed Churches. This idea of representational church government was an important manipulate on the development of modern democracy.
In the 17th century, some Dutch theologians and the English Puritans added to Calvinism the covenant theology. The covenant was a contractual relationship between Christians and God, at the same time they had sacraments which were given as seals of the covenant. They believed that there were two covenants that God made with man they were—the covenant of Works and the covenant of Grace. The covenant of Works was made with Adam in the Garden of Eden while the covenant of Grace was made in Jesus Christ when Jesus died on the cross and resurrected (Van Bruaene, 2004). The covenant theology, which became central to Puritanism in England and America, mitigated the doctrine of predestination by giving recognition to human cooperation in accomplishing salvation.
B. Lutheran and its beliefs
Lutherans are Protestant Christians who follow the teachings of Martin Luther, the leader of the German Reformation. Lutherans form the largest group of Protestants worldwide especially in Germany; they occupy more than 95 percent of the people of the Scandinavian countries and they have strong minorities in many other countries. Lutherans in the United States number about 8,460,000 and are the nation’s fourth largest religious group.
Lutherans places tough emphasis on doctrine. It avows that the Bible is the introverted rule of faith and accepts all traditional Protestant Christian doctrines. Distinctive Lutheran beliefs are defined in Luther’s two catechisms, the Augsburg Confession, the Schmalkaldic Articles, and the Formula of Concord (Anderson, 2001).
The chief Lutheran ideology is justified by faith alone. Salvation, unlike in the Calvinism and its beliefs the Lutheran salvation does not come through good works. Rather it comes by the faith of believers that God has forgiven their sins through the Sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and that by God’s grace they have been become righteous.
The Lutherans have two sacraments, baptism and the Lords Supper also called the Holy Communion, so Lutherans believe that during the Holy Communion there is no physical change in the bread and wine, but they believe that Christ is truly present to forgive them their sins and to renew the spiritual life of believers.
Lutheran churches make greater use of liturgy than most Protestant churches, but there are differences in forms of public worship among Lutheran bodies (Braaten, 2004) especially in church administration. The Lutheran churches in Europe have bishops while in the United State the local congregation is the unit of church organization and the source of authority. During the 15th century congregations combined in synods or regional groupings (Arnold, 2002) and after 1500 many synods united to form national denominations. Some synods are advisory bodies while others have a considerable amount of authority.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was form by a merger of the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. The denomination has over 5,300,000 members, two of the denomination that make up the church were born out of mergers; and one, the association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, was a group that seceded from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (Braaten, 2004). One is The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod which believes in strict devotion to the Bible and to all Lutheran confessions. This denomination, of German origin, was founded by the Rev. Cal F. W. Walther. The Missouri Synod has about 2,630,000 members. It has many congregations in Canada (Rogness, 2000). And second is The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod one of the conservative Lutheran bodies, holding without hesitation to the Lutheran confessions and the infallibility of the Bible. The church was organized in Milwaukee with congregations in most states of the Union; it had over 400,000 members in the church by then. There are several small Lutheran denominations which include the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America with over 6,000 members; The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations with over 19,000 members; The Church of the Lutheran Brethren of America with over 12,000 members; The Church of the Lutheran Confession with over 9,000 members; The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church with over 7,000 members; The Evangelical Lutheran Synod with over 20,000 members; The Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with over 14,000 members; The Protestant Conference (Lutheran), Inc. (1,000 members), and World Confessional Lutheran Association (1,300 members) (Nelson, 2002).
Most of the doctrines of the 15th to the 17th centuries of the Calvinism are no longer being practiced because the churches characterized as Calvinist have either drastically been modified or discarded such doctrines as appointment, destiny, and appealing grace to give man a free will to determine his salvation from any possible. Moreover, there was much rivalry between Lutherans and the Reformed Church, which was founded by John Calvin. The reformed faith gained considerable support in some German states. Later on the Lutheran and Reformed groups formed union churches in many of the states. There are still many reforms taking place even after the 17th century. Christians/elites are seeking for better ways to know their God and serve him faithfully so that they can receive salvation.
1. Anderson, C.S. Faith and Freedom: The Christian Faith According to the Lutheran Confession (Augsburg, 2001).
2. Arnold, D.W. The Way, the Truth, and the Life: an Introduction to Lutheran Christianity (Baker Book House, 2002).
3. Braaten, C.E., editor. The New Church Debate: Issues Facing American Lutheranism (Fortress Press, 2004).
4. Kingdon, Robert M. The Disciplinary Revolution: Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe. Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 59, 2006
5. Nelson, E.C. The Rise of World Lutheranism (Fortress Press, 2002).
6. Rogness, A.N. The Story of the American Lutheran Church (Augsburg, 2000).
7. Van Bruaene, Anne-Laure. Calvinism and Religious Toleration in the Dutch Golden Age. Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 57, 2004.
8. R. Po-Chia Hsia, Henk Van Nierop. Calvinism and Religious Toleration in the Dutch Golden Age. Cambridge University Press, 2002
1.  Kingdon, Robert M. The Disciplinary Revolution: Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe. Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 59, 2006
Nelson, E.C. The Rise of World Lutheranism (Fortress Press, 2002).
R. Po-Chia Hsia, Henk Van Nierop. Calvinism and Religious Toleration in the Dutch Golden Age. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Kingdon, Robert M. The Disciplinary Revolution: Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe. Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 59, 2006.
2.  Anderson, C.S. Faith and Freedom: The Christian Faith According to the Lutheran Confession (Augsburg, 2001).
 Arnold, D.W. The Way, the Truth, and the Life: an Introduction to Lutheran Christianity (Baker Book House, 2002).
Braaten, C.E., editor. The New Church Debate: Issues Facing American Lutheranism (Fortress Press, 2004).
Kingdon, Robert M. The Disciplinary Revolution: Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe. Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 59, 2006
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