Calvinism vs. Lutheranism: What is the main difference?

Being in the ministry for over 15 years and having attended Theology School, one of the topics I enjoy the most when it comes to Christianity is how the different denominations came to be. Recently, we had a theology discussion of Calvinism and Lutheranism, and I learned a lot despite having vast knowledge in this area. We highlighted the key differences and similarities between these two denominations. So, you might be wondering, how does Calvinism vs Lutheranism compare?

The main difference between Calvinism and Lutheranism is how they perceive the concept of salvation. Calvinists hold onto the idea of predestination and believe that God only saves the chosen ones, and others remain unsaved. On the other hand, Lutherans believe that Christ’s death on the cross was enough and efficient for all of us, and we can all be saved as long as we have faith. However, the two denominations acknowledge that humans are sinful and our actions cannot save us.

I invite you to join me as I dig deeper into the differences between Calvinism and Lutheranism. I will look at the similarities between these two denominations and the beliefs they hold on. Keep reading to learn more.

Calvinism vs. Lutheranism: Difference in definition

Calvinism is a doctrine that follows the theological teachings and traditions of John Calvin and Reformation-era preachers. Calvinists fall under Protestantism and set themselves apart from the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th century due to their solid and different beliefs about salvation and other fundamental Christian doctrines. Calvinists present a high view of God’s sovereignty and how it relates to salvation. They believe that humans are sinful and there is no amount of work or effort one can put in to make themselves acceptable before God.

On the other hand, Lutheranism is also a Protestantism denomination that came to life through Martin Luther after the fallout from the Roman Catholic Church. The primary reason for their disagreement was the teaching. Catholicism believe that the Pope’s teachings are true, while Luther argued that the truth could only be found in the Bible and alone. However, it is vital to note that the Lutheran Church consists of many bodies, but they all base their doctrinal teaching on Martin Luther’s work to some extent. It is common to come around more liberal Lutheran denominations while others are conservative. The central concept of Lutheranism is justification; they believe we can be saved through faith alone and by grace only.

What do Calvinists believe in?

Calvinism vs. Lutheranism
Calvinists beliefs. Image source: Pinterest

The main belief that sets Calvinists apart is their concept of the sovereignty of God and salvation. Calvinists believe that man has no control over their life. They also believe in pre-determination, that though Christ’s atonement on the cross was sufficient, it is only efficient for a chosen group of people. This means that nothing we do as humans can save us, but only if we are among God’s chosen people. They believe God is working all things on this earth for his glory and does not need anyone to fulfill His purpose.

Calvinists are guided by the five points, which go by the acronym TULIP.

T is for Total Depravity and means the human race is sinful because of the sin of the first human (Adam and Eve), and thus we cannot save ourselves.

  • U is for Unconditional Election –by this, Calvinists believe because we are all sinners, we are unable to make God forgive us despite our actions. Only God knows those he has predestined to save, and predestination and election are unconditional and not based on our works.
  • L is for limited atonement – Calvinists believe that though Jesus’ atonement was sufficient, it was only efficient for the elected. This is because they believe God has set apart those who will gain salvation from His unconditional election.
  • I stand for Irresistible Grace – Calvinists believe that God makes those He has chosen willingly come to Him through grace they cannot resist.
  • Lastly, P is for Perseverance of the Saints – Calvinists hold on to persevering if you are among God’s elect. They believe the elected ones cannot be lost as they have gained eternal security.

Those are the main beliefs that set the Calvinism church apart from other churches. And though their views might have some biblical basis, most denominations do not agree with them.

What do Lutherans believe in?

Lutherans beliefs. Image source: Pixabay

One fundamental belief that sets the Lutherans apart from Calvinists is salvation. Lutherans believed Christ’s death on the cross was enough and efficient for anyone. This means that anyone who has faith in God can be saved by God’s grace. Lutherans acknowledge the fact that man cannot save himself with his actions, and only God’s grace can save through faith.

Furthermore, Lutherans acknowledge the supremacy and divinity of God and believe that we receive salvation entirely based on the judgment and will of God. They also recognize that though man is bound to sin, we are also freed from it by Christ’s death. They also entirely lean on the Scripture as their source of authority.

Difference between Calvinism and Lutheranism





Christ’s death on the cross was sufficient for all humans but only efficient for a selected group.

Christ’s death on the cross was sufficient and efficient for all humans.


God saves only the chosen ones.

As long as you have faith, you can be saved.


They hold onto the concept of predestination.

They do not believe in predestination.


Stress and entirely believe in the sovereignty of God.

Believe that man has some power over some aspects of his life.


If you are among the elect, you cannot resist God’s grace.

Despite who you are, you can resist the grace of God.

Similarities between Calvinism and Lutheranism

Calvinism vs. Lutheranism
Calvinism vs Lutheranism. Image source: Pinterest

Being both Protestantism denominations that set themselves apart from the Roman Catholic, Calvinism and Lutheranism hold a lot of similarities. These two denominations believe that man is sinful and is unable to save himself despite what he does. They believe that the salvation we receive is entirely about God’s sovereignty and grace and is conditioned by nothing from us. Furthermore, both denominations agree when it comes to the Bible’s authority, the Trinity, and the rebuking of sin. They both also believe in heaven and hell.

What do Calvinists think about Lutherans?

Calvinists greatly appreciate Lutherans, despite disagreeing on some doctrines. Calvin, the father of Calvinists, greatly appreciated the Lutheran Reformation and honored Luther for being one of the foremost servants of God. Because Lutherans and Calvinists agree on a couple of doctrines, these two denominations interact pretty well and emphasize on just of God’s love for sinners. However, Lutherans strongly disagree with the concept of predestination (an essential belief for Calvinists) as they believe Christ’s atonement is sufficient and efficient for everyone.

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