Skip to Content

Are Lutherans Catholic, Reformed, Calvinist, or Something Else?

Are Lutherans Catholic, Reformed, Calvinist, or Something Else?

#1 Are Lutherans Catholic?

No, Lutheranism and Catholicism are interrelated but still remain separate Christian denominations.

You will notice that Lutherans ministers and Catholic priests dress similarly, and Lutherans are known for taking a highly ‘catholic-approach‘ to Protestantism.

Lutheranism was founded in 1517 by the theology of Martin Luther, a Christian man seeking to revolt from the indulgences of the Holy Roman Empire and Roman Catholic Church. 

During the 16th century, branches started segregating from the Roman Catholic Church – leading to Protestantism. The five major branches of Protestantism are:

  1. Anglican
  2. Baptist
  3. Calvinism
  4. Lutheranism
  5. Methodism

Each of these Protestant branches are linked by shared values but distinct in their own rights. Lutherans and Catholics appear similar in their exterior appearances (including similar church styles, architecture, priest attire, confession booth, sacrament practice, etc.)

Lutheranism was founded to combine the aspects from Catholicism that Lutherans appreciated while diverging in the areas that they saw room for improvement. Some of the major differences between these two Christian denominations are:

PriesthoodEveryone may communicate directly to GodHierarchical Priesthood
Larger DenominationProtestant ChristianityRoman Catholic Christianity
Clergy MarriageYesNo
Sacraments2 (Eucharist and Baptisms)7
Focus onPreaching/EvangelicalismAuthority and Tradition
Scriptural-centricityMore soLess so

Related Scripture(s):

  • “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18
  • “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” – 1 Corinthians 15:3.
Denver Catholic

Related Video(s):

#2 Are Lutherans Reformed?

The Lutheran perspective is that there is a communication of divine attributes to the human nature of Christ.

Yes, Lutherans could be considered a Reformed religion because:

  • There was a period known as the Lutheran Reformation.
  • The larger Reformation of Protestantism dividing from Catholicismincluded the branching off of Lutheranism (Protestantism split into five major subsects: Anglican, Baptist, Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Methodism). 
  • Lutheranism is founded by Martin Luther, a German Reformer and Philosopher that launched the Protestant Reformation.
The Lutheran Reformation

Related Scripture(s):

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23.
  • “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:19-21.

Related Video(s):

#3 Are Lutherans Evangelical?

Yes, there are two meanings to this (1) Lutherans that practice gospel and sharing the word of God [the definition of Evangelicalism], and (2) the distinct denomination of Evangelical Lutherans.

The Evangelical Lutheran denomination is known for being liberally-inclined and progressive. With female ministers and even ministers of the LBGTQ community – Traditionalist or Fundamentalist Lutherans would have vastly different viewpoints than that of an Evangelical Lutheran.

Richard Web, a Pastor of the Lutheran Church of Hope and former ELCA Churchwide Evangelism member, writes through

“We may want to figure ways to [recontextualize] the word,” he said. “We talk about ourselves as ‘good news people,’ as ‘gospel people,’ but the best way to reclaim that word is to literally live that way. What kind of news are we to the people around us? Are we bad news? Are we boring news? Or are we startlingly good news?..

“We experience true evangelical witness when we partake of Jesus in the bread and wine, when we ‘splash in the bath,’ when we pray the prayers of the people and we sing the songs of the faithful,” he said. “What that does is propel us forward to then be our namesake in the world—to be evangelical in the truest sense of the gospel.”

Related Scripture(s):

  • “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” – 1 Corinthians 15:1-28

Related Video(s):

#4 Are Lutherans Saved?

Being saved in Christianity entails a paradise known as Heaven, which acts as a holy sanctuary for eternal bliss and grace.

While no Christian can assuredly know if they are ‘saved’ by God – The premise of a Lutheran’s faith is built upon the notion that humans can be saved by sin from God’s love and grace (Sola Gratia) or through faith alone (Sola Fide), through the guidelines and standards established in the Bible (Sola Scriptura).

Through this logic, a Lutheran (or any Christian) that devotes themselves to God and lives a moral life that is guided by the Bible should, in theory, be saved in the afterlife.

A Lutheran does believe that a human can lose his or her chance at salvation (by behaving immorally or rejecting God), and they also do not believe that Baptisms guarantee entrance to Heaven. Only through a life of dedication and ethical living can one guarantee a safe transit to Heaven.

Revelation 21:4 reads:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Living Lutheran

Related Scripture(s):

  • “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” – John 14:2

Related Video(s):

#5 Are Lutherans Calvinistic?

No, Lutherans and Calvinists are two separate Protestant Christian denominations that share many foundational principles.

Lutherans still retain many Catholic-influenced aspects of religion that are considered ‘pre-Reformation.’ Lutherans particularly place emphasis on the sacrament of Eucharist (Communion with Jesus Christ’s body being present at the ceremony instead of a symbolic presence).

The similarities and differences between these denominations are as follows:

Population Globally80-million75-million
FaithProtestant ChristianityProtestant Christianity
SalvationEspouse a view of salvation and does not fall under either category (Arminian nor Calvinistic). In Lutheranism, Salvation is possible for anyone.Calvinistic view – God has predestined who will receive salvation and be saved.
Free WillYesNo
Eucharist (CommunionChrist is PresentSymbolic Ceremony
ClergyMinisters (Priest is a Controversial Term).Council of Elders as Authority for each Church
BibleSource of TruthSource of Truth
Worship is Centered UponGospel, Preaching, & RitualPreaching
ERR – Lutheranism

Related Scripture(s):

  • “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” – Ephesians 1:4-5.

Related Video(s):

#6 Are Lutherans Baptized?

Yes, Lutherans are baptized from the age of infancy through adulthood. This is rare in the main branches of Protestantism, with major subsects such as Baptists outwardly rejecting the practice of infant baptisms.

Many Protestants feel that rejecting infant baptisms was a core justification for splitting from the Roman Catholic Church during Reformation (dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries). 

Despite this, Lutherans are known for their pre-Reformation style of worship, which includes baptizing those of all ages. Some feel you should be of mature age to make this decision, while others think that all souls need to be baptized to enter Heaven.

Note – Lutherans do not believe that a baptism ceremony will guarantee one’s entrance into Heaven or signifies immediate salvation. Instead, Lutherans believe that baptism is a positive start in life, that must be followed by dedicated worship, honor, and integrity. Only by living as a devout Christian may one enter the gates of Heaven (according to Lutheran theology), but a baptism may facilitate the process. Another unique quality of Lutheran baptism is that they sprinkle the recipient with water (just as the Catholics do). Most other Protestant branches embrace immersion baptisms (as was done to Jesus).

Living Lutheran

Related Scripture(s):

  • “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” – John 3:5.
  • “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” – Romans 6:3-4.

Related Video(s):

#7 Are Lutherans Strict?

The guidelines by which Lutheranism was founded date back to 1525 (when Martin Luther conducted his first worship service). Any denomination that dates back hundreds of years may be considered subjectively ‘stricter’ than a modern-day progressive faith.

Many faiths are considered strict, but the reasons that Lutherans have a reputation for being strict are:

  • They honor tradition
  • They value ethical behavior
  • They hold many pre-Reformation practices
  • They believe Christ is present at Communion (not spiritually as for Calvinists, but literally)
  • They believe you can lose your salvation
  • To hold onto salvation, one must behave honorably
  • To conform to expectations
  • To receive passage into Heaven after death

Lutherans are no more strict than any other Protestant denomination, only placing a greater emphasis on the sacraments and rituals. Because they view Jesus as literally present at the ceremonies, perhaps their strict nature comes from a fear-based desire to obey God’s word.

Any Christian follows the commandments of the Bible (not only to be a moral Christian), but moreover, to gain entrance into Heaven. In this sense, most any reason that a Christian would be labeled as ‘strict’ is due to their uptight nature of ensuring a haven in the afterlife.

Lutherans value your time on earth and use each day to prove one’s service to God. Their strict nature, embracement of confession, and desire to live without sin – all lead to their cumulative style of strict Christianity.

It is worth noting that not all Lutherans are ‘strict,’ with many progressive and Evangelical Lutherans that promote movements such as gay, female ministers. This would not be accepted in a legalistic or strict Church, so each individual should be taken on a case-by-case basis. 

Lutheranism –

Related Scripture(s)/Resource(s):

  • – Things to Know About Lutheranism: “There a large number of Lutheran denominations, with the two main bodies in America being the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). The LCMS is the more conservative of the two, teaching that the Bible is the “inspired and inerrant Word of God.” The ELCA holds that Scripture is not necessarily always accurate or trustworthy in all its details and parts. The two also disagree on “altar and pulpit fellowship” (allowing the pastors of one church to preach and celebrate Holy Communion in the church of another). The LCMS limits such engagement to certain other confessional Lutheran church bodies, while the ELCA is in full Communion with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church, and the United Methodist Church.”

Related Video(s):

#8 Are Lutherans Arminian?

Lutherans take an approach all-their-own to this controversy. Rather than being Arminian or Calvinistic, Lutherans diverge with their own outlook on salvation.

The major dispute between Calvinists and Arminians is the argument of why some are saved and others are not. The main differences are –

Christ died for everyoneA sinner can do good on his ownFree-willMan may resist God’s WillIf sinful, you can lose your salvationChrist only died for a select few/the chosenA sinner can only do good through GodNo free-will, God’s destiny/PredestinationMan cannot resist God’s willIf you are saved, you can never lose your salvation

Combining both soteriologies, Lutherans believe that:

  • Total Depravity – Lutherans agree with Calvinists (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” – Romans 3:23).
  • Unconditional Election – Lutherans individually promote that God elected some for salvation but did not damn any to eternal hell or punishment, favoring a loving God that offers free will.
  • Limited Atonement – While Calvinists think Christ only died for the selected few, Lutherans believe Christ died for all of mankind.
  • Irresistible Grace – Lutherans disagree with both Arminian and Calvinists pertaining to grace, stating that it depends on each person’s relationship to grace.
  • Saints – The topic of ‘Perseverance of Saints’ argues through Calvinism that salvation is permanently once it is bestowed, while it can be lost in Arminians (through sin). In Lutheranism, salvation may still be lost, but this premise does not discredit the elected promise (falling again between Calvinism and Arminianism).
Dawning Realm

Related Scripture(s):

  • “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” – Genesis 6:5.
  • “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.” – Psalm 58:3.
  • “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” – Isaiah 64:6

Related Video(s):

#9 Are Lutherans Pro-Life?

It depends on the legalistic, traditionalistic, fundamentalist, or progressive-nature of that given Lutheran. Certain Lutheran denominations outwardly oppose abortion while groups such as the ELCA maintain neutrality.

The public stance of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America is:

“The ELCA’s social statement entitled Abortion is grounded in the conviction that “Christians are united in Christ through faith with both the freedom and obligation to engage in serious moral deliberation.” (page 1) As ELCA social teaching it draws upon this community’s faith tradition that understands God’s life-giving purposes as pressing “beyond the usual ‘pro-life’ versus ‘pro-choice’ language.” (page 2) The social statement provides guidance for pastoral care and deliberation regarding unintended pregnancies as well as basic themes for reflecting on and discussing public policy issues. It was adopted by the 1991 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.”

Ultimately, most Lutherans (and most Christians) do not want abortion to be a first-resort. It is usually seen as a last resort and undoubtedly a sorrowful decision to be made. Evangelical Lutherans were the first to maintain a neutral position on abortion, describing itself as a ‘community supportive of life.’

Because of this, Lutheran public officials promote and encourage mothers to seek alternative options, such as adoption.

Related Scripture(s):

  • “You shall not murder.” – Exodus 20:13.
  • “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” – Proverbs 6:16-19

Related Video(s):