John Calvin and Martin Luther

6 June 2016

Martin Luther and John Calvin were two religious reformers who were similar in that they both believed that religious authority rested in the Bible. But, they had different views of sacraments and religious doctrines. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Lutheranism and Calvinism began to gain a lot of attention. Both these men were leading influences of the Protestant Reformation, which was a time period when people began to question the church and how government and society should be adhered. The Reformation emerged in the 16th century as a series of attempts to reform the Roman Catholic Church in Western Europe.

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As religious reformers, Calvin and Luther wanted to stop the abuses of the Catholic Church and return to a more spiritual Christianity. Although they followed two different religions, Lutheranism and Calvinism, they still had similar attitudes about political authority and social order. They both denied the political power of the pope. They denounced the Pope and said that he was not infallible. They also believed in following the words of the scriptures because they believed that the scriptures were the original basis of Christianity. They also believed in regional ecclesiastical autonomy. They didn’t want the pope to rule each region but they did want each region to have independence over what religion they wanted to practice.

Although they agreed about some things, they also disagreed about many other things. Luther believed in political and religious autonomy of the state. He also did not want to alter the political structure of the government. He wanted the monarchy to remain as the form of government. This was because Luther was accused of heresy by Emperor Charles V and would have been put to death but Prince Fredrick III helped him out, saving his life. Therefore he wanted to keep the monarchy as the political authority over the state. But he also encouraged German princes to reform the Church in their states and advertised the idea that the Church was not subject to the pope’s interpretation.

However, John Calvin believed that church and state should be one and that political authority should be changed from monarchy to the reformed church. Calvin and Luther also had their own set of social orders which they believed in. Luther believed that all people were equal in God’s eyes. He also believed in salvation. He held that salvation comes by faith alone. He emphasized that all people were saved only by the decision of God.

Luther also rejected the idea that the Church and priests held special powers. Martin Luther believed in consubstantiation which is the belief that the body and blood of Christ are present and exist along with the elements of bread and wine. However, John Calvin believed that the body and blood of Christ are spiritually present in the bread and wine but not physically present. Calvin also believed in the doctrine of predestination, which is the belief that all events have been decided by God. He enforced this concept because he believed that specific people were chosen as God’s “elect”, or the ones favored by God for salvation.

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