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Martin Luther’s Impact vs. John Calvin’s Impact

Whose impact was greater and why. An analysis of the Reformation.

In Wittenberg, Germany in 1517, a man by the name of Martin Luther, pinned 95 theses on the door of the Catholic church, in the common manner of the time. However, his ideas went farther than anyone else’s. So far, in fact, that they went against the Catholic church and created a new religion; Protestantism. Other characters, like John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli, helped the spread of similar ideas go farther. By 1618, 101 years after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, about half of all Europe had become Protestant. Through appeal to the masses, the role of the church in state affairs, and nationalism, Martin Luther’s impact in the first century of the Protestant faith was greater than John Calvin’s.

Luther’s appeal to the masses in the first century of the Protestant faith was greater than Calvin’s through the use of the printing press, illustrations and, vernacular language. While both Luther and Calvin used the printing press, Luther is often considered to be one of the first Europeans to realize the advantage one can obtain with the printing press. Unlike Calvin, for example, Luther printed his face in his book, and thus became Europe’s first ‘celebrity’. In this way, he appealed to all. Also through the printing press, Luther used illustrations in his pamphlets. Calvin did no such thing, and thus could not appeal to the illiterate. Luther, however, could. These illustrations, obtainable by anyone, were swallowed up by the masses, and eventually made a laughing stock of the catholic church and its pope. Another one of Luther’s tactics for appeal, was the use of vernacular language. He was the first man to translate the bible from Latin to his vernacular language, German. Calvin, on the other hand, wrote his book, Institutes of the Christian Religion, in Latin; virtually only accessible by the nobility. Hence, Luther appealed to the masses to spread his ideas, and thus impacted the masses, more than Calvin.

Through the uneasiness of the role of the church in state affairs, Luther’s impact in the first century of the Protestant faith was greater than Calvin’s. Martin Luther believed that state and church should be separate. In fact, he even believed that the church should be subordinate to the state. He said that the clergy should not be superior to the laity, because the people could interpret the bible for themselves, and the clergy was thus virtually useless. Calvin, on the other hand, believed that the church and state should be united. In reality, he believed that the church should rule the state. Thus, he said the clergy were in fact superior to the laity. The common peasants, nobles, or royalty would have therefore reasonably sided with Luther. The people did not want the clergy to be superior because that made them inferior. Thus, through the uneasiness of the role of the church in state affairs, Luther’s impact in the first century of the Protestant faith was greater than Calvin’s.

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  1. Shawn

    On February 6, 2011 at 1:54 pm


    Luther and Calvin were great in their own respect. Luther and Calvin both agreed that works as a way of inheriting salvation were useless, and that one could only inherit faith through \”election\”, as Calvin would put it, and \”calling\”, as Luther would put it. Both symbolized the same thing, as election promised the divine call of God unto the requirements leading up to glorified redemption. That is, the stepping stones in between, which are listed, not all, in Romans 8. But only in the clear sense that justification by faith promises the Spirit of Sanctification.
    Martin Luther\’s mission in Christ was to expose the outward religion of Roman Catholicism. He did this, and had the right to do so (Under the Authority of God) because he knew the scriptures in the Spirit, rather than the letter.
    John Calvin amplified election, predestination, and even eternal security, more clearly than any other reformed Christian theologist.
    Double Predestination was also taught exclusively by Calvin, who made it clear that either eternal mercy and salvation or eternal destruction and misery was foreknown, and preordained by God. Romans 9 talks about the potter molding some into vessels of wrath \”prepared for destruction\”, and molding others into vessels of mercy prepared for everlasting life.
    Clear understanding of the Bible, in the Spirit, supported these men in absolute thoroughness as both men were equally effective in the doctrines and teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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