Martin Luther And John Calvin -- By: Herman J. Selderhuis

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 21:4 (Winter 2017)
Article: Martin Luther And John Calvin
Author: Herman J. Selderhuis

Martin Luther And John Calvin1

Herman J. Selderhuis

Herman J. Selderhuis is professor of Church History at the Theological University Apeldoorn in the Netherlands and director of Refo500, the international platform on projects related to the 16th Century. He wrote his PhD on “Marriage and Divorce in the Thought of Martin Bucer” (1997) and is the author and editor of several books,
John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life (IVP Academic, 2009) and Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography (forthcoming, 2017). Dr. Selderhuis is also president of the Reformation Research Consortium (RefoRC), president of the International Calvin Congress, and Curator of Research at the John A. Lasco Library in Emden, Germany.

Luther’s Only Student

The connection between Calvin and Luther is more intense than the centuries-long and often fierce confessional discussions between Lutherans and Calvinists might suggest. Although from Lutheran side came the statement that Calvinists were even more dangerous than Muslims2 and Lutherans often saw Calvinists as synonymous with spiritualists,3 the fact that no Protestant theologian has so fundamentally absorbed Luther’s thinking as did the Genevan reformer is evident in all of his works. Peter Meinhold stated the conviction of many researchers when he said that Calvin was probably the greatest and maybe even the only pupil Luther ever had. According to him, Calvin was the only theologian who understood Luther’s theology well and developed it further in such a way that he kept standing on Luther’s shoulders.4 The point that Calvinists are in fact Lutherans in the true sense was already made in the sixteenth century,5 but this standpoint was never accepted—at least not by the majority of Lutherans or by many in the Reformed tradition.

The relationship between these two reformers includes more than just the

theological relationship between Calvin and Luther; it also involves Calvin’s relations with Luther’s colleagues, such as Melanchthon and Bugenhagen. Furthermore, Calvin had contact with other theologians who were connected to Luther but lived outside of Wittenberg, so that Calvin’s relation with the Lutherans comes up for discussion. One can distinguish the personal from the theological aspects of these contacts, though to Calvin these aspects were in fact always connected to each other. This article restricts itself ...

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