Okay, working on some class notes for school, and I stumbled upon a sentence which seems like it's in another language to me in the text:

"To Luther’s emphasis on the individual’s relationship to God, Calvin added a focus on moral regeneration through church discipline and the autonomy of religious communities."

This is supposed to explain the way Jean Calvin modified the Lutheran form of protestantism, but I don't understand what it truly means. I have done research and understand Calvinism, the ideas of predestination and reliance on God's mercy significantly better than explained in the book, but I am unable still to decipher the above quotation. The best answers would explain the quotation and what it means on a literal scale, in terms of Calvinism, and possibly on at a more macroscopic level, if relevant.

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    Hi Louie , you might get more help in the Christianity forum:- christianity.stackexchange.com
    – TheHonRose
    Dec 7, 2014 at 21:07
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    I'm not sure this is a history question - the source is right there. Interpretation of this source seems to require theological skills rather than historical skills. For example, comparison of the autonomy of Lutheran and Calvinist religious communities requires an understanding of the rule of the religious community, the integration of the religious community and ultimately the aims of the community; these are theological questions, not historical questions.
    – MCW
    Dec 7, 2014 at 21:24
  • But the question pertains to the historical religious and political constructions which were emphasized in Scotland and Switzerland, both of which no longer exist in the present day. Though the question may include the word "Calvinism", I am more interested in the Calvinist political constructions of the 16th century, not present day. Dec 7, 2014 at 22:22
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    Having been involved in the Lutheran church for a good many years, I have participated in a number of bible studies where comparisons between Luther and Calvin were made. These often took a historical slant because you really had to understand how the church in general was perceived at that particular point in history. Because of that, I would deem this question to have some historical merit. Dec 7, 2014 at 23:33
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    Reading comprehension problem. Both Luther and Calvin had an emphasis on the individual's relationship to God. Calvin saw Luther's emphasis and added things to it. Calvin added moral regeneration, people being made again. Calvin added church discipline, people being intimately subject to the church. Calvin added autonomy of religious communities, individual communities not following a central ruler. For Calvin, moral regeneration would be caused by church discipline. For Calvin, moral regeneration would be caused by autonomous communities. Dec 7, 2014 at 23:44

1 Answer 1


At the time that Luther and Calvin came forward, the Holy Roman Catholic Church basically controlled religion throughout Europe. The Church helped ensure this by telling people that God spoke through the Church and NOT to common man. This was made easier by the fact that most people could not read and the only bibles available were in the churches.

Luther and Calvin both promoted the concept of an individual relationship between man and God, with or without the Church. They both began to write many works expressing their opinions, and many people began to look at other options besides the Catholic church. This was a major turning point for religion in the history of mankind.

This particular sentence refers to a basic fundamental difference between Luther and Calvin. Luther believed that ALL mankind was saved by the grace of God as long as they had faith in Him (salvation through faith alone). Calvin believed that grace and salvation were granted only to those who were chosen, or predestined, by God. Calvin believed that a man could become one of the chosen by adhering to church doctrine, "moral regeneration through church discipline", which basically meant that you would become more worthy by becoming more godly. He also believed that the "autonomy of religious communities" would make it easier for a man to adhere to these church doctrines by allowing him to live in a community with others who were like-minded.

  • Do you have a citation for this claim: "Calvin believed that a man could become one of the chosen by adhering to church doctrine"? This is utterly opposed to the Calvinist doctrine of election, and if Calvin said something so contrary to his general teaching, I'd love to see it. Feb 11, 2016 at 21:28
  • @Nathaniel, that was simply my attempt to clarify the "moral regeneration through church discipline". Calvin's doctrine of "unconditional election" suggested that those individuals chosen to be saved by God were already predestined, so if you were going to be saved it was already decided. However, he suggested that those who followed these principles were more likely to be among those who had been predetermined by God to be saved. Feb 11, 2016 at 22:08
  • Okay, yes, that's in line with my understanding, but not what I get from your answer. I suspect that whoever wrote that quote actually meant sanctification, not election, when referring to "moral regeneration," but who knows. Church discipline is much more related to the former. Feb 11, 2016 at 22:22

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