What is the difference between Lutheran and Calvinist beliefs in the apostasy of the Church? Do Lutherans and Calvinists believe in the Great Apostasy belief like Mormons do?

B.H. Roberts, an LDS Seventy and LDS Church historian, in his introduction to the History of the Church, stated that the LDS Church is founded upon this very premise. He wrote,

Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

B. H. Roberts, the History of the Church, vol. 1, p. xl.


1 Answer 1


As far as I know, both Lutherans and Calvinists are not subscribed to ritualistic pattern. The Great Apostasy article in Wikipedia, I believe, refers to the 'ritualistic' apostasy which were increasing in the period of pre-reformation.

Doctrine-wise, Luther and Calvin do not differ on great apostasy, as they hold on 'Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura'. The 'Apostasy' they fought was due to the greediness of the church at that time which deny those 3 principles as the foundation of Christian faith. In both Lutheranism and Calvinism, the important point of sacraments are to remember the work of Christ in this world, instead of doing them for the sake of the rituals. The same goes to the Christian holidays which are celebrated nowadays, they are acting as remembrance for the work of Christ.

Regarding Mormonism

Survivors of the persecutions were overly-influenced by various pagan philosophies either because they were not well indoctrinated in Jesus' teachings or they corrupted their Christian beliefs (willingly, by compulsion, or with good intentions but without direct revelation from God to help them interpret said beliefs) by accepting non-Christian doctrines into their faith. Latter-day Saints believe that many plain and simple truths of the gospel of Christ were, therefore, lost. (Wikipedia)

I quoted some of the Mormons understanding on the 'Apostasy' of the church. And, NO. Both Lutherans and Calvinists do not believe that the simple truths of the Gospel of Christ were lost due to the human inability to interpret the Scripture. Holy Spirit works, and to conform to this statement would means that we undermine the power of God (in this case via the persona of Holy Spirit), to help the church to understand the Truth.

At the very least, God has preserved the Truth from the time of Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses to David to Christ to the early church. He, Himself, is the one and only Truth. After all, preserving the Truth and revealing Himself to the faithful and righteous has been his hobby for quite a while (i.e. Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, I can go on and on with this). And, there wasn't any 'Bible' before Moses, they were all received the Truth orally, too, like the early church.

  • As a former Calvinist I can understand your reasoning that Calvin didn't believe in utter apostasy like in Mormon. But in principled manner both Mormons and Calvinists do believe that the Church inevitable at some point in time failed to preserve the faith that once was delivered unto the saints. If possible you might want to expand your answer by addressing what Calvin believed (the second link on my question) in regards to the gradual apostasy of the Church. You might need to address when the transition from oral tradition to Scripture took place in Christianity as asserted by Protestants? Apr 10, 2015 at 0:33
  • @Adithia Kusno: Reformators, not only Calvin, believed that the catholic church (without capital 'C') failed to preserve some aspect of the Truth. Calvin arguments on apostasy can be found here. Like Israel, many may forsake God even in the Church, but some did not. For the oral tradition to Scripture matters, there are many good and well know summaries of the history, one of them can be found here
    – Lucy
    Apr 10, 2015 at 2:59
  • It's true that Calvin relied on the Fathers, eg. paedobaptism, Trinity, and Christology. Without adhering to utter apostasy of the Church, Calvin did believe the Church gradually lapsed essentially. The Old Testament Israelites didn't forsake God in essential manner, remember 1 Kings 19:18. In principled manner Calvin's view regarding the gradual lapsed of the Church is not different than Mormon's Great Apostasy. Because both presupposed that the Church has lapsed essentially. This is no different than Novatians and Donatists both saw the Church had lapsed. Please read article in second link. Apr 10, 2015 at 18:30
  • I studied at Westminster in 2011 and have read Lillback's excellent book on the Binding of God. I think you might need to read my answer regarding what the early Christians believed. The articles you gave me misrepresent history. Prior to Huss Catholic allows 6 bibles containing sola fide. St. Bellarmine even defended the Patristic usage of it. The Greek Orthodox whose native language is Greek agree with Catholics. Trent didn't condemn sola fide per se, it condemns antinomianism. You need to check my second link in my original question. Apr 10, 2015 at 18:48

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