Martin Luther and John Calvin both a crucial role in the Protestant Reformation. Despite their similar purpose of reforming the Roman Catholic Church, they brought about different ideas in religion. Luther and Calvin rejected the practices of the sixteenth century Catholic Church but differed in doctrinal issues such as means of salvation, predestination, and original sin. Along with differing theological beliefs, Luther and Calvin had different views on social and political aspects of the European World in the sixteenth century. Many of the doctrinal and social concepts established by these two Reformation leaders are practiced in the current Christian church. Martin Luther, a German scholar, initially began his ecclesiastical career as a monk in the Roman Catholic Church.
Luther's religious beliefs can be viewed as revolutionary since he was raised and educated in a Catholic atmosphere. However, the time spent as a monk enabled Luther to rise against Catholic institutions and lead the Protestant Reformation in Europe. The ultimate form of upheaval by Luther towards the Catholic Church is seen through the ninety-five theses in 1517, leading to his excommunication. This German theologian's theories on Christianity and criticisms of the Catholic Church can be summarized in his concept of justification through faith, the priesthood of all believers, the validity of sacraments established by the Catholic Church, the fallibility of the papacy, and the relationship between church and state. European Catholic institutions during the sixteenth century practiced "salvation through good works." Luther was inspired when reading Romans 11: 6. "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." It was then when he revealed the concept of justification through faith.
The idea of the Priesthood of all believers and the fallibility of the papacy were two concepts that went hand in hand. Luther believed that faith in Christ made every man his own priest, reducing the usefulness of the papacy and the Catholic clergy. Luther believed that ministers should be appointed for the sole purpose of conducting services and helping their congregation; not in having secular powers or privileges. The Priesthood of all Believers allowed priests (ministers) to be married and the end of monks or nuns.
Through Luther's careful studies, he established the infallibility of the Bible. After diligently studying the Bible, Luther discovered a lack of evidence to prove the validity of the seven sacraments established by the Catholic Church. Out of the original seven, Luther only found support for Baptism and the Eucharist in scripture. Despite his agreement with two of the sacraments, Luther disagreed with the Catholic notion of transubstantiation (literal converting of bread and wine to the actual body and blood of Christ) and favored consubstantiation (symbolic converting to the body of Christ.
) One of the main sources of revenue for the Catholic Church in Europe was state taxes and the selling of indulgences. Gullible members of congregations believed they could purchase their entrance to heaven, as well as that of their loved ones. Luther didn't find any biblical evidence to support the sale of indulgences; the ninety-five theses were primarily associated with this practice. Luther disagreed with the practice because he had already established the doctrine of salvation through faith, not good works or indulgences.
Luther is considered to be a religious radical but a social and political conservative. He is known to be the most radical and influential reformer during the Protestant Reformation. However, his political and social views were far from extreme. During his quest in reforming the Catholic Church, a group of peasants in Europe revolted against their feudal lords, resulting in a bloody massacre. After hearing about the revolt, Luther quickly reprimanded the peasants and encouraged every Christian to "obey their prince." John Calvin, a Frenchman, shared many doctrinal beliefs with Luther. Many of Calvin's beliefs were based on Luther's reading, since Calvin was a second-generation reformer and Luther a first.
Calvin's ideas on reforming the Catholic Church were based on the concept of predestination, logical preaching, and a different view on the Eucharist. Like Luther, Calvin disagreed with many doctrinal beliefs of the Catholic Church. Calvin disagreed with the sale of indulgences from the Catholic Church and the means of revenue. Despite Luther's efforts to end the impractical concept of indulgences, the Catholic Church continued to use corrupt forms of revenue and attacked the Protestant Reformation with the Catholic Counter Reformation. Calvin strongly opposed the belief of infallibility of the papacy and held the Bible as the only infallible resource in the church. Unlike Luther, Calvin proceeded to create a church similar to that of a government.
Because Luther commenced the movement of the Protestant Reformation, he had little or no experience in crafting a strong-held congregation or did he worry about the politics of the congregation. Calvin however was forced to create a more stable "denomination" to allow Catholic institutions to see Calvinism as credible. Calvinism spread throughout Europe, especially in France where Calvinists were known as Huguenots. Calvinism was widely spread due to the nature of political order and community that Calvin had created, as seen in the Acts in the Bible.
Unlike Luther, Calvin wasn't a theologian prior to his reformation years, rather a lawyer. Calvin being a lawyer reconciles how these two reformers dealt with the hierocracy and political aspects of a congregation. One of the strongest differences between Luther and Calvin was Calvin's belief in predestination. Calvin drew the notion of predestination from Ephesians 1: 5 & 11. "He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will."In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will." Calvin believed that since God was omnipotent and omniscient then He must chose who would achieve salvation, thus, creating the concept of predestination. Calvin's social and political views vary to great degrees from Luther.
Unlike Luther, Calvin believed that a Christian has the right to disobey the law, if the law didn't accord with the Bible. Calvin held the idea of creating a government within religion, preventing any misunderstandings of law associated with religion like that Catholic Church. Although Luther and Calvin's purposes were similar, these great reformers had varying views on biblical interpretation. Despite the burst of denominations that came out from the Protestant Reformation, and arguments one may have, one must appreciate Luther and Calvin for their valor to reform the only religious institution in Europe in the sixteenth century.
It is important to note that the current Christian Church draws doctrinal beliefs from these reformers. Luther is greatly associated with the concept of justification through faith and the 95 theses he posted protesting practices against the Catholic Church. Although there had been protestors in the past in Europe, such as John Huss, Luther is credited for taking the Catholic Church out of their comfort zone, and making it known to laymen how corrupt the papacy and Catholic institutions were. Calvin, a second-generation reformer managed to run congregations, similar to running a government. His logic, studious observations of the Bible, and notion of predestination, lead many Catholics to convert to Calvinism..