Compare and Contrast Martin Luther and John Calvin.
Martin Luther and John Calvin were both very important leaders of the Protestant
Reformation. Although they were both against the Roman Catholic Church, they brought about
very different ideas in religion.
Martin Luther founded the group that are today known as Lutherans. He was ordained
a priest in 1507. He dealt with questions dealing with the structure of the church and with its
moral values. These questions were important in Luther’s eyes, but the most important was how
to find favor with God. Luther tried to pray, fast, and repent, but he never felt self-satisfaction.
He eventually concluded that God’s love was not a prize or a reward to be earned or won, but a
gift to be accepted. Luther further concluded that until man stops trying to achieve God’s favor
through his own achievements he cannot truly understand God’s grace. Luther also had the idea
that one did not need a priest to talk to God, he believed that one could pray and repent without
the help of anyone else. This was the idea for which Luther became famous.
In 1517, Luther was involved in a controversy which involved indulgences. Indulgences
were the idea that a person could donate money to a worthy cause in exchange for forgiveness
of their sins. Luther opposed this idea and stated his beliefs in his Ninety-Five Thesis, which he
posted on the castle door in Wittenberg, Germany.
In 1519, Luther had a debate in Leipzig with Johann Eck, a Roman Catholic theologian.
During this debate, Luther denied the supremacy of the Pope and stated that church councils
could make mistakes.
In 1521, Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X. Luther was then ordered to
appear before a council which demanded that he retract his teachings. Luther intern stated that
unless he was inspired to do so by scripture he would not since it is neither safe nor right to go
Possible the most important contribution of Luther to society was his translation of the
Bible into German. This made it possible for those who were not fluent in Greek to study the
Word of God. Luther also wrote another influential work, Small Catechism of 1529, which
was also known as the layman’s Bible. It summarized Christian beliefs into clear, simple
language and told how they should live.
During the Reformation, Luther discovered that he had founded a new church. He
complained that his name should not be given to a group whose name should only be taken from
Christ; but Lutherans still believe in the doctrines he originated.
John Calvin teachings were especially influential in Switzerland, England, Scotland, and
colonial North America. Calvin’s followers in France were known as the Huguenots, and in
England they were know as the Puritans.
During the Reformation, the people were insisting that anyone, not just the hierarchy, be
involved in political and religious policy making. This inspired Calvin’s teachings. The Calvinists
developed political theories that supported constitutional government, representative
government, the right of people to change their government, and the separation of civil and
church government. The Calvanists originally intended these ideas to apply to the aristocracy,
but democracy eventually arose in England and America.
Calvin’s basic religious beliefs were the superiority of faith over good works, universal
priesthood of all believers, and the Bible as the basis of all Christian teachings. The concept of
universal priesthood was that all believers were considered priests. This was unlike the Roman
Catholic Church which had various ranks of priests.
Calvin also believed that men could only be saved by the grace of God. He believed
that only the Elect would be saved and that no one knew who the Elect were. He also believed
in Predestination, which is the idea that your entire life is already planned for you.
Many of Calvin’s ideas were controversial, but he improved the morals of the Church
drastically. Calvin developed the pattern of church government that is today known as
Martin Luther and John Calvin achieved great results, but went about it in different ways.
Luther was more concerned with his own spirituality, and therefore set an example by changing
himself. Calvin on the other hand, was more concerned with changing society and the
government. They both believed in being saved through God’s grace, but Calvin believed in
Predestination and the Elect. Martin Luther and John Calvin were both key assets Protestant