As a theologian with extensive knowledge of the history of the Christian denominations, I
understand that the Lutheran and Presbyterian Churches emerged during the 16th-century
Protestant Reformation. The two denominations have shared beliefs, values, and practices. I
often hear people engaging in the Presbyterian vs. Lutheran debate seeking to establish
whether the two churches have different beliefs.
In this article, I will discuss the differences and similarities between Lutheran and Presbyterian
and the theological comparison between them. So, join me as we delve into this exploration
and answer questions such as: which came first between Lutheran and Presbyterian, what do Presbyterians think of Lutherans, and can Presbyterians attend Lutheran churches? Read on to
What is the difference between Lutheran and Presbyterian?
The Lutheran and Presbyterian churches share the same origin; they are products of the 1517 Protestant Reformation. However, they differ in several ways. The table below shows the major differences between Lutheranism and Presbyterianism.
|Beliefs, values, and Practices||Lutheranism||Presbyterianism|
|Name||The name Lutheran comes from Martin Luther’s second name. Martin Luther is the founder of the Lutheran movement.||The name Presbyterian is derived from the Greek term presbyteros, which means “elder.” The Church embraces elder leadership form of governance.|
|Founding||Martin Luther founded Lutheranism in 1521 after the Edict of worms. The Pope excommunicated him for challenging the Roman Catholic Church practices and doctrines.
The Lutheran Church became a distinct denomination more than 80 years later, at the beginning of the 17th century.
|Presbyterianism is part of the churches that broke from the Roman Catholic Church during the Protestant Reformation. John Knox founded the Church after exiting his position as a priest at the Church of Scotland (St. Giles Cathedral).|
|Early Contributors||Martin Luther was the major early contributor to Lutheranism.||John Knox, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli were the early contributors to Presbyterianism.|
|Membership||Lutheranism has approximately 81 million followers worldwide. It is the largest protestant movement.||Presbyterianism boasts about 75 million followers across the globe.|
|Church organization||Lutheran churches exist in districts, synods, and conferences. Also, it is the member of the congregation that vote for pastors.||Presbyterian churches exist in is governed by sessions. The sessions are made up of elders who are representatives of members of the congregation. Other levels in the Church’s decision-making hierarchy include the presbytery, synod, and last, the General assembly.|
|doctrine of consubstantiation||Lutherans believe that the real body and blood of Christ is in the cup and bread distributed during the Lord’s Supper.||Presbyterians believe that the Lord’s Supper is just a continuation of a tradition started by Jesus Christ. They reject the belief that Christ’s body and blood are present in the wine and bread shared during the Lord’s Supper.|
|Baptism||Lutheran Church baptizes infants. The Church does not wait until the child understands what the rite means.||Presbyterians baptize infants when they are old enough to understand the Baptism rite and the benefits of being baptized.|
What is the theological comparison between Lutherans and Presbyterians?
The theological and social worldview of the Lutherans depends on the synod. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod adopts a conservative stance, while the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA) is liberal.
Conversely, the Presbyterian Church of USA (PCUSA) uses a progressive and liberal approach to theological and social issues. The Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) adopts a conservative stance when addressing various theological and social issues.
What are the similarities between Lutheran and Presbyterian?
Lutheranism and Presbyterianism emerged during the Presbyterian Reformation. They are both members of the Protestant movement, which means they share much in common. The table below shows the major similarities between the two denominations.
|Beliefs, values, and Practices||Lutheranism||Presbyterianism|
|Nature of God||Lutherans believe that God exists in three forms; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.||Presbyterians believe God is a Sovereign being and exists in three forms; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.|
|Source of authority in the Church||The Hebrew Bible/Holy Scriptures is the sole source of authority in the Church.||Presbyterians believe that the Hebrew Bible/Holy Scriptures is the sole source of authority in the Church.|
|Roots of the Church||The roots of the Lutheran Church are in the 16th-century Protestant Reformation.||The roots of the Presbyterian Church are in the 16th-century Protestant Reformation.|
|Bible||Lutherans use the Hebrew bible. Luther removed the deuterocanonical books from the Protestant Bible because he believed that they contained teachings that contradicted the other books in the Bible.||Presbyterian churches use the Hebrew Bible used by all Protestant churches.|
|Salvation||Lutherans believe in salvation through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.||Presbyterians believe in salvation through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.|
|Doctrine of Justification||Lutherans believe that justification can only be acquired by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone.||Presbyterians believe that justification can only be arrived at by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone.|
|View of Christ||Lutherans believe Jesus Christ is the Second Person in the Holy Trinity (Son of God). They also believe He is the Messiah/savior of humankind-He died for our sins and that resurrected on the third day.||Presbyterians believe that Jesus Christ is the Second Person in the Holy Trinity (Son of God). They also believe that He is the Messiah/savior of humankind-he died for our sins and that resurrected on the third day.|
|Sacraments||The Lutheran Church has two sacraments; the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Lutherans do not affirm the Catholic belief that the sacraments are pathways to receiving God’s grace.||The Presbyterian Church has two sacraments; the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Lutherans do not affirm the Catholic belief that the sacraments are pathways to receiving God’s grace.|
|Authority of the Pope||Lutherans do not accept the Roman Catholic Pope as their leader.||Presbyterians do not acknowledge the Roman Catholic Pope as the leader of all churches across the globe.|
|Who can take the Holy Communion||Lutheranism does not affirm open communion. It practices closed communion. Only members can participate in the Holy Communion at the Lutheran Church’s altar.||Presbyterianism practices closed communion. Only members can participate in the Lord’s Supper.|
|Purgatory||Lutherans reject the doctrine of purgatory, which states that there is a place between heaven and earth where Christian believers will pass through before entering heaven.||Presbyterians reject the doctrine of purgatory. They believe sinners are purified through seeking forgiveness and repentance here on earth.|
|View of the end of times||Lutherans affirm the second coming of Christ and that everybody shall be judged according to what they did here on earth.||Presbyterians believe in the second coming of the Son of God when every day will be judged.|
|Heaven||Lutherans believe in the doctrine of paradise, where all righteous people will spend eternity.||Presbyterians believe in the existence of heaven, the place where all believers will go after judgment.|
|Hell||Lutherans believe in the doctrine of hell, a place where all sinners will burn for eternity.||Presbyterians believe in the doctrine of hell, where all sinners and non-believers will go after judgment.|
Which came first between Lutheran and Presbyterian?
Lutheranism came before Presbyterianism. Lutheranism was founded in 1521 after Martin Luther was expelled from the Roman Catholic Church by the Pope for challenging its doctrines and practices. Eighty years later, the Church became a distinct Christian denomination and is currently the large Protestant Church worldwide. Presbyterianism was ensured in 1707 and is presently the second-largest Protestant denomination across the globe.
What do Presbyterians think of Lutherans?
Presbyterians think of Lutherans as family. This is so because the two churches are products of the Protestant Reformation and share much in common. As I have mentioned, both believe that God exists in three forms; that the Bible is the sole source of authority; have two sacraments; believe that justification is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone; use the Hebrew Bible, and much more. These similarities make the two churches almost the same. Therefore, Presbyterians think that Lutheranism is not that far from being part of the Presbyterian Church.
Can Presbyterians attend Lutheran churches?
Presbyterians can attend Lutheran churches. As I have mentioned, they share much in common. How they conduct their services is almost the same. However, I would be wrong for a Presbyterian to partake in the Holy Communion at the altar of the Lutheran Church because it is not allowed. The Lutheran Church practices closed communion.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.