Calvinism, Modern American Evangelicalism, and Lutheranism #2: God’s Sovereignty as the Central Teaching of Calvinism, by Bethany Tanis

(Editor’s Note: Bethany Tanis has authored many great comments on the BJS website, particularly concerning Calvinism and so we asked her to do a little writing for us on the relationship between Calvinism and Evangelicalism. It is a good thing for the Brothers and all our readers to understand the various denominational tag lines out there as we seek to uphold the Lutheran Confessions and distinguish them from false confessions. Bethany has a Ph.D. from Boston College in modern British history and is starting an assistant professorship in modern European history at Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, MI in the fall. This is part two of a five part series.)

In the last post we saw that the formal principles of Lutheranism and Calvinism differed and led them to different theological conclusions. The material principles of Lutheranism and Calvinism also differ. The material principle of Calvin’s theology is the sovereignty of God.

Whereas Lutheran theology takes its start from receiving God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; Calvinist theology starts from speculation about God’s sovereign nature.[1] This is why the doctrine of predestination assumed such importance for Calvin and his followers. Predestination is a matter of God’s sovereign will. Using His sovereign will, God predestined all men either to heaven or hell before the beginning of the world. The problem with this emphasis on God’s sovereignty is precisely that it does lead us to speculation about His hidden will, something that He has not revealed to us, rather than directing us to something He has revealed to us, His will according to the cross of Jesus Christ. By emphasizing that salvation lies in God’s sovereign decisions made before the incarnation, Calvinists inadvertently make the atonement appear only incidental to salvation.[2] This also results in Calvinist theology being “theocentric (God-centered)” and not usually “Christocentric (Christ-centered)” like Lutheran theology. Whereas Lutherans strive to preach nothing but Christ and Him crucified, Calvinists tend to preach God’s sovereign power to redeem all creation, without necessarily emphasizing Christ’s role. In fact, while a student at Calvin College I once asked my professor of Pauline Literature (a proponent of the New Perspective, by the way) whether it was fair to say in an assigned paper that Luther was more Christocentric in his thinking than Calvin. I did not want to say this if 1) it was not true or 2) if it would take a lot of extra writing to prove. My professor replied that I could merely assert that Luther was a more Christocentric theologian because this was common knowledge and did not need elaborate justification.

In my time worshiping at Calvin’s chapel during week days and on Sunday evenings, I did notice a distinction between the Christ-centered Cross-focused (to echo Issues Etc.) sermons preached by my Lutheran pastor at the Divine Service and the messages focused on God’s will and power preached at Calvin. Although John Calvin’s theology was not “Christ-less” by any vast stretch of the imagination, his tendency to move the center of gravity in his theology away from Christ and His work and toward God’s hidden essence and sovereign will may have paved the way for the type of “Christ-less” Christianity we see among American Evangelicals today.[3] John Calvin would be shocked today to see that sermons about power for living have replaced sermons about Jesus’ work, but his body of theology nevertheless helped move Christianity in this direction.

[1] See Oswald Bayer, Theology the Lutheran Way, Lutheran Quarterly Books, Jeffrey G. Silcock and Mark C. Mattes, trans. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), xxiv.

[2] See the Canons of the Synod of Dordt (1619); Internet, Christian Classics Ethereal Library; accessed 4 February 2009. Notice that the “first head of doctrine” is “Divine Predestination,” while the “Second Head of Doctrine” is “The Death of Christ and the Redemption of Man.”

[3] See Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2008). Mike Horton is, in fact, a Calvinist concerned with the direction of contemporary Evangelicalism.

Part 1 of the series
Part 2 of the series

Posted in Calvinism permalink

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Calvinism, Modern American Evangelicalism, and Lutheranism #2: God’s Sovereignty as the Central Teaching of Calvinism, by Bethany Tanis — 38 Comments

  1. Note: I would rephrase the sentence: “Whereas Lutheran theology takes its start from “suffering,” that is, God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; Calvinist theology starts from speculation about God’s sovereign nature” as “Whereas Lutheran theology takes its start from receiving God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; Calvinist theology starts from speculation about God’s sovereign nature”. See the Bayer reference for his explication of how Christians “suffer” God’s revelation under His opposite, something we can only apprehend by God-given faith.

  2. Where’s the love? As in: where’s the love in a God whose main feature is that He’s sovereign?
    Is love a secondary nature of God, to the Calvinist?

  3. Susan,

    I would say that love is as important an attribute of God for Calvinists as it is for Lutherans. We may argue that some Calvinist doctrines like double predestination and limited atonement seem to undermine this claim from a Lutheran perspective, but, nevertheless, Calvinists very much emphasize the love and mercy of God. It is His sovereignty which enables Him to act in a loving manner toward mankind. According to His justice, God could actively condemn all to hell and nobody could complain. His love and mercy is then evident in His choice to save a few. According to the Heidleberg Catechism: “Question 11. Is not God then also merciful?
    Answer: God is indeed merciful, (a) but also just; (b) therefore his justice requires, that sin which is committed against the most high majesty of God, be also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul.”
    Similarly, the Belgic Confession’s first article describes God as “eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty; completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing source of all good.”
    I think Calvinists tend to get a bad rap sometimes for being all about judgment and hellfire. Just think of the poor reputation of the American Calvinist theologian Jonathan Edwards! All anyone thinks of when they think of Edwards is “sinners in the hand of an angry God.” But his primary focus was on God’s beauty and love revealed in His glory and human participation in God’s glory. More typical Edwards: “As God delights in his own beauty, he must necessarily delight in the creature’s holiness which is a conformity to and participation of it, as truly as (the) brightness of a jewel, held in the sun’s beams, is a participation or derivation of the sun”

    Anyhow, Lutherans and Calvinists have different beliefs about how God’s love works itself out in the concrete, but I think we all put an equal emphasis on it in the abstract.
    All the best,

  4. Bethany,

    Would you mind elaborating further on what you mean by Calvinists “[speculate] about God’s sovereign nature”?

  5. Where can I find the first article on Calvinism by Bethany Tanis? Calvinism, Modern American Evangelicalism, and Lutheranism #2:

  6. Justin,

    Here is a qhickie answer to your query.

    Dr. Nagel taught us much about the distinction between Calvinism and Lutheranism. He didn’t say it in quite this manner but the point is his:

    If someone put a gun up to the head of a Calvinist and said “you can only have one attribute of God – what will it be?” The Calvinist would say: “God’s sovereign power.”

    Do the same to a Lutheran and he would say “God’s mercy.”

    Now of course you cannot have one without the other. This is simply an academic exercise but how you answer the question reveals much about a given theological system.

    The Calvinist is more enamored with God’s glory than his mercy. This leads to fundamentalism’s over-emphasis on politics and a desire to change this world or preserve this country as God’s land, etc. It leads to worship that is more about us praising God than Him coming to us with the forgiveness of sins, etc. It leads to sermons that are about life skills rather than Life itself in Jesus Christ, etc.

    I hope that helps.

    Pastor Rossow

  7. This is a very helpful series. We should let some respected good Calvinist theologians bring their rebuttals to the table though. I am thinking here of Michael Horton and those who argue on the White Horse Inn. It is ironic that Michael Horton (who is a Calvinist) wrote the book Christless Christianity. Rod Rosenbladt (who is a Lutheran) often makes the remark that Horton is a lot closer to Luther than Calvin is some of his theological thinking. I love it when Lutherans and Calvinists get together and argue their theological differences. Most of them are able to do it in a very civil way. Let us hope this continues.

    I do want to make one comment about last weeks topic. B.B. Warfield quite frequently wrote on the subject of reason and faith and the roles of each in the Christians life. I am not sure if that is a topic talked about in the Lutheran or Reformed confessions. However, it seems that Warfield’s views were not different then those of Luther. I do understand that the Reformed allowed more of a role for reason to play in their view of the sacraments and Luther would not allow reason to play a role on God’s pronouncements in Scripture. That is why Luther went ballistic during his arguments with Karlsdadt and Zwingli on the issue (I forget where- I think it was Marlsburg or was in Marberry- some city with a M in it).

    I do appreciate the Reformed’s work in the area of apologetics. Warfield was particulary insightful and helpful in how he defended the faith. Reason played a huge role in his apologetics. Many Lutherans will not go the route he went in their apologetic endevours. I was wondering if Bethany could comment on this too. Warfield’s postmillenialism often gets in his way however.

    Kim Riddlebarger wrote his phd thesis on B.B. Warfield which I found to be a fascinating study. It is well worth anyone taking the time to read. You can access it in Kim’s blog site the Riddleblog.

  8. Justin,

    Regarding the “speculate” part, Calvin and later Reformed thinkers tend to follow a different theological methodology than Lutherans. When Calvinists ask “Why are people saved?” they tend to go to God’s sovereign decree of predestination, which occurred prior to the Incarnation. God’s electing decree is a hidden event occurring prior to His revelation in Christ. When Lutherans ask “Why are people saved?” they go to Christ’s atoning work on the cross because this is what God has revealed to us. Lutherans tends to stick to the concrete/revealed events of the salvation narrative when addressing theological questions. As a result, many Lutherans see the Calvinist method of going right for God’s hidden will as “speculation” because He has not revealed all aspects of His will. This would make “speculation” a theology of glory, because it grasps at the hidden things of the sovereign God, whereas a theology of the cross receives God’s revelation of Himself in the crucified Jesus. Hope that makes some sense!

  9. Dot,

    Because Bethany is just doing a guest thing with us, we have catalogued her articles under my “Editor’s Blog” in the Brother’s Cafe.

    Pastor Rossow

  10. John Y.,

    Thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with B.B. Warfield at more than a cursory level. If I ever have time, I should read his work! I think you are absolutely right about the role of reason in apologetics and the better job the Reformed do in that area. In fact, I think this is an area where Lutherans can learn something from our Calvinists friends! Historically, it seems that Lutherans’ (in my opinion good) desire to keep human reason from becoming a principle of Biblical interpretation has led us to be a bit gun shy of using it to explain and defend the faith to unbelievers. We forget that for Luther (I believe) and the Lutheran theologians in the Age of Orthodoxy there was nothing illogical or irrational about the faith as properly understood. Our Lutheran fathers did not see the faith as irrational or illogical. We could definitely take a cue from the Reformed in terms of a willingness to use reason in the service of the Gospel as far as I’m concerned. Another area where I think we could learn from Calvinists is doing a better job of engaging with the broader culture. Now, there are theological reasons why Calvinists are more active in this field that we may not want to buy into, but, at the same time, there are no compelling theological reasons for Lutherans to be quietists either. Gene Edward Veith has some good thoughts about the need for Lutherans to get involved in the culture under the rubric of vocation in several of his books.
    That was a tangent – apologies!

  11. Dot (#5) I added a category for this series of articles, so you can now go to the right column and select each article in the series from the “Related Posts” section

    Norm Fisher

  12. Thanks Bethany for your remarks. I get troubled sometimes by those who critique others by putting words in their mouths and not representing their postions properly. This really is slander and something which we are often not that concerned about. You seem to be very careful in trying to get opposing viewpoints right.

    I too went to Calvin College but was not a Lutheran during the time I was going their- although I did start listening to the White Horse Inn and was a beginning avid reader of Modern Reformation magazine during those years (1990- 1994). I also started reading Luther during this time and finally joined a Lutheran Church this past year as a result of my intense reading of him and the impression he made on me. Your comment about the professor at Calvin (who was an advocate of the new perspective on Paul) was intriguing to me. I had many moments like that at Calvin College.

    Keep up the good work- I really enjoy reading what you have to say. I am especially interested in this topic because I still struggle with the differences between the Reformed and the Lutherans. This is not an easy topic because there are so many different types of Lutherans and Reformed for that matter. That is why the movement back to the Confessions is so refreshing. At least we both have clear positions hashed out through the prism of thelogical controversies they struggle with during their time in history. Many are saying we need to update some of the confessions with theological controversies we are battling today that the Reformers did not have to deal with.

    Looking forward to your future articles and comments on this web site.

  13. John [and whoever else happens to read this],

    How did you like Calvin? I received a wonderful education there and would recommend the school to anyone. On the one hand, I would love to be able to teach there, but on the other hand, part of what I loved about Calvin was its Reformed distinctiveness and that would, of course, be lost if confessional Lutherans could join the faculty. So I suppose it’s better that Calvin remain as it is.
    I was 1998-2002 at Calvin, by the way.

  14. One last point I forgot to make. I agree that the Reformed are much more engaged in the culture than Lutherans are. I benefited greatly from David Wells series of books on Christianity and how it is effected by the surrounding culture. We have to learn how to resist the prevailing zeitgeist and the only way to do it is by becoming cognizant of it. I spent much time trying to “get” his books. It took me awhile but was well worth the effort.

    Gene Veith’s books have been helpful to me also in this regard. Learning to distinguish between the two kingdoms and the vocational emphasis in Lutheran theology are great tools for helping us.

  15. I loved it their too. I went through the Business and Economics program and it was the toughest thing I have done in my life. I remember having an extreme exedrin headache after taking those darn accounting tests. I guess they have the highest percentage passing rate of those first timers who take the CPA exam in the country. I became very close with many of the econ professors their and am still in correspondance with one of them to this day. He has been very helpful to me in trying to get a hold on many of the economic problems facing us today. He sends me updates all the time on the differences between the conservative and liberal approaches to the problems- very fascinating to me. The differing schools have thought are going at it with a vengeance.

  16. I meant to say the differing schools of thought not have thought. Anyways, hashing through the differences is good theological training to. That seems to be what I am best at. I mean hashing through and comparing differences in big picture structures of thought.

  17. Bethany,

    My brothers daughter Jennifer Yeazel went their during the time you were going to Calvin I believe. Also, my son Brian Yeazel went to Calvin from 2002-2006. Perhaps you knew one of them? Jennifer got an English degree and my son Brian went through the Business and Econ program like myself so you probably did not know them.

  18. John,

    You know, strangely enough, the name Jennifer Yeazel does ring something of a bell, although it would be a case of “heard of her” not knew her. But I definitely didn’t know of Brian at all. Is it a Dutch last name? Small world! 🙂

  19. Bethany,

    Some Dutch but mostly German- I think that is why I have such an interest in things both Lutheran and Reformed- although it took me awhile to get there. I was raised in a Methodist home but by the time I came along (I was the youngest in the family) religion had dissipated and I did not go to Church much in my youth- I mostly played sports as a substitute passion. Perhaps that was a blessing in disguise. My mother was Lutheran in her youth but switched over to the Methodist faith when she married my father. I also have a very philosophical bent in my thinking which I think grows out of my German and Dutch roots. Anyways, thanks for asking.

  20. Pastor Rossow,

    I would have to disagree with you that Calvinists would say anything but “God’s mercy!” in that situation.

    Calvinist certainly have a great love for God’s glory, but I would say that the particular scenario you point out could hardly be attributed to any Calvinist worth his salt. Look at any number of Calvinists from James White to Kim Riddlebarger to Paul Washer to R.C. Sproul to John Piper and you can hardly say that they are not as smitten with the the mercy of God as they are the glory of God and I would say even more so because the is grounded in the former for them.

    Certainly Calvinistic step children like the Baptists and even the Methodists (to a degree), have show how bad it can get when you toss out certain balances from their theological definitions, but before one opens full bore upon Calvinism remember the Lutheran Pietists and the other step children that Lutheranism has spawned.

    (As a side note, I say this as a person who is neither wholly Lutheran or Calvinist, but as a person still getting their grounding in the Reformation.)

  21. Bethany,

    I am not sure why it would be considered speculation. Sure not all things about the reasons for or the nature of predestination are known, but Romans is pretty clear that salvation is due to the predestined election through the means of Christ’s atonement on our behalf. I for one think that this is an issue that one should not focus on the “either-or” when you are talking about the nature of salvation, but the “both-and”.

  22. Justin,

    Do you have any evidence to support your position?

    Here is the very first line of Calvin’s greatest work – his Institutes:

    “By the knowledge of God, I understand that by which we not only conceive that there is some God, but also apprehend what it is for our interest, and conducive to his glory, what, in short, it is befitting to know concerning him.”:

    Notice the emphasis on God’s glory.

    I can give you a million more proofs to support my point. Do you have any proof to support your assertion?

    Pastor Rossow

  23. Pastor Rossow,

    Yes, Calvinist theology has a emphasis on the glory of God, I do not deny that, I merely point out that you should not attempt to pigeon hole Calvinists as if they have will rush to die on the hill of the Glory of God to the exclusion of all else.

    I can guarantee you that if I put a gun to any of the people’s head I mentioned they would not plead the glory of God, they would plead the blood of Christ.

  24. Hmmm, though mulling it over, I suppose for a Calvinist my latter statement would be tantamount to saying “The Glory of God” at the same time, since the mercy shown by God to mankind is for his own Glory (though that itself is found in scripture).

  25. Justin @ #23:
    The gun to the head analogy fails to address the reality of the two theologies, and indeed you seem bent on meshing the two into one that you can live with.
    No doubt the atheist, with a loaded gun to his head, might plead for God’s mercy, but it doesn’t follow that the atheist has a thorough grasp of the One to Whom he appeals.
    But then again, at that moment, the erstwhile atheist is perhaps better aimed (no pun intended) at a clearer understanding (should his plea be answered to his satisfaction) of God: of what great good God’s mercy has really accomplished: not only the atheist’s life, but the life of the world, through His mercy (not His glory nor His sovereign power).
    Sovereign power implies nothing of mercy–of help in time of trouble. It can as easily imply caprice; willfulness instead of His will.

  26. Thank you Susan!

    Justin has misunderstood the for-discussion’s-sake example. As you figured out, it is not an existential question, i.e. it is not about what would I do when facing death. It is an ideological question. Do I talk more about God’s glory or his mercy?

    Pastor Rossow

  27. Or: Do I rely more on His glory, or on His mercy?
    Day-to-day, let alone with a loaded gun to my head, it’s His mercy, as given in Christ’s death for my sins, that feeds me, even awes me; not His glory, which I can’t even begin to fathom.
    We know so little of His glory from the scriptures; indeed, it hasn’t been fully revealed. What He did reveal of Himself, of benefit to me, is His Son. His glory isn’t what He wants me to know about Himself, beyond knowing that, as the author creator of the universe and all life, He is a God of glory. But He’s first, to me, a God of grace.

  28. I see, thanks to both Susan and Pastor Rossow for clearing that up. I have been accused of taking things too literally at times before. *chuckles*

    I must admit that while on paper I tend to lean toward more toward Calvinism in many respects as far theology goes, my operating principle from day to day is derived from the hope of the mercy of Christ’s atonement for us.

    That said, I think that the emphasis on glory in Calvinism derives itself from the act of Christ on our behalf as its original ground (What a beautiful God it is that would die for such as I!) and expands further as it reads about what it revealed about the Glory of God in the Bible.

    So while it may not have any every day benefit to oneself, marveling at and acting such that one glorifies God is a proper response to the thing of benefit to you.

  29. Justin wrote:
    ‘I think that the emphasis on glory in Calvinism derives itself from the act of Christ on our behalf as its original ground…’
    What of Calvinist teaching lends itself to that thinking, or is that thinking based on your speculation on the root of that emphasis?
    See, that’s where feeding one’s theology with speculations, no matter how charitable or even how linear they are, might miss the mark.
    There’s really nothing wrong with
    1) not knowing everything about God’s will, beyond what we need to know (and *do* know, as revealed through Christ); and
    2) not having all parts of the whole story plugged in; in having holes all over the place.
    These holes in the story don’t change the story, don’t interfere with the nature of God, either as Sovereign, Judge, or Giver of Grace, nor with the grace already given.
    Indeed, our filling in the holes is what (potentially) imperils us. We dont’t imperil the story–the truth–but we do imperil ourselves and our knowledge of the truth.
    Thru plugging holes (or what we perceive to be holes), we miss the whole. We relinquish it.

  30. I will admit I base my statements less on the dogmatics of Calvinism (none of which I have read outside of the 3 Forms of Unity), and more from my personal experience with Calvinists (talking with them and hearing and reading various books and programs by them).

    As far as speculation, I have yet to see any actual hard evidence on how they are speculating at all provided only accusations there unto.

    Calvinists may actually be speculating on many things, but saying that they do and actually showing they do are two different things.

  31. Well, partly I’m taking Bethany Tanis’ word for it (see her first article on the subject), and partially taking the word of Dr. Kim Riddlebarger (Calvinist) on a recent Issues, Etc. (Feb. 3, on Calvinism and Lutheranism), wherein, where the scriptures are silent on some matters, Lutherans remain silent, commending what is yet unknown to God’s wisdom, but the Calvinist tendency is to somehow (thru reason?) construct a true statement on it, as if to ‘undo’ the ambiguity, as if that were a weakness within the Word itself. I recommend listening at Issuesetc-dot-org on the OnDemand page.
    But, you are side-stepping what was said about speculation, whether it be Calvinists or anyone else: speculating beyond what’s clear from the scriptures, no matter how well-intended or even carefully done, *for the purposes of certainty*, leads to uncertainty in the Word of God as it stands. One risks, at some point, leaning on one’s own certainty, or, as my pastor puts it, ‘putting one’s faith in one’s faith.’
    Our faith does not rest in making all questions relevant, or making our faith rely on the answers to those questions. Our faith lies in the certainty of Christ’s atoning death. Our faith *is* that death; that cross.

  32. Apropos of nothing: I just noticed the teeny little smiley face at the very bottom of each page. That’s just cute.

  33. Susan and Justin,

    Many thanks for you many comments. I must confess, however, that I haven’t yet had time to read them word for word or digest them. I think one of you mentioned something about “speculation” again. As I’m using the word, basically I mean the attempt to understand God by going beyond the written Word, usually using reason as an aide. Re: Predestination – God has revealed to us that some are predestined to salvation. So that’s not speculation. From a Lutheran perspective, to then go beyond that and argue that logically then some are also predestined to damnation is speculation. Now, of course, many Calvinists “worth their salt” could call me on that one and say that double predestination is also found in the revealed Word in Romans 9 or elsewhere. Here then we have a genuine difference in the interpretation of the text. In any case, “speculation” is also present when we attempt to solve a theological problem by going first to God’s hidden essence instead of his revelation in Jesus Christ. So, for example, if you ask “Are unbaptized babies saved?”, going right away to saying God is essentially good and so therefore yes is speculation. Instead, a more Lutheran methodology is to go to the concrete fact that Jesus died for all people and work from there. [But Lutherans fall into the speculation trap too! I believe my favorite theologian Johann Gerhard fell into what I consider the speculation trap on just this very question]. In any case, while all orthodox Calvinists should have a very strong belief in salavation by grace alone through faith alone and for Christ’s sake alone, from a Lutheran perspective their theology does tend to put more weight on God’s glory and therefore speculation about His essence.
    And, you should always listen to Kim Riddlebarger over me when it comes to Calvinism! I certainly trust him to know his own faith better than me. I certainly appreciated his Issues Etc. interview referenced above. Actually, I don’t think I’ve claimed anything about Calvinism generally that Dr. Riddlebarger would deny. As Dr. Riddlebarger mentioned in his interview, Calvinism is a much more slippery fish than Lutheranism due to the divisions among the Dutch Reformed, Scottish Presbyterians and others just to name a couple. There’s no one Calvinist Book of Concord. So everything I say about Calvinism should be understood to be generally applicable to most Calvinists. But, since the movement is theologically a bit broader than Lutheranism, there will often be some exceptions.
    Also, re: Pietism – yes, I agree that Lutheranism has spawned some unfortunate theological movements as well! I do think that there is a difference between say “Christ-less” Christianity developing out of the Calvinist theological tradition and Pietism developing out of Lutheranism. In the first case, I do think that the end result comes from the emphasis on God’s glory present in most Calvinist theologies from the beginning. Thus, it is a development of ideas already existing implicitly within Calvinism. I think Pietism is the result of external influences upon Lutheranism, not a result of the internal logic of Lutheran theology. Of course, there are many Pietists who would fight me to the death on that one!
    All the best,

  34. You are correct, I went back listened to the talk on Calvinism with Pastor Riddlebarger and it was quite an appropriate suggestion (I podcast Issues Etc. and WHI, incidentally). Issues Etc has been a great boon to me, and actually has nigh on convinced me of the Lutheran view on the Eucharist and pulling me toward the same on Baptism.

    That being said, I still am pretty much convinced of much of what I have come to understand of the Calvinist stream of the Reformation and do not see how drawing a logical conclusion from the text of scripture is speculation. I could see where you were coming from if the things they proclaimed were based on secondary or tertiary conclusions based on multiple primary conclusions, but what I have seen (and I admit that I have not gone deep into the dogmatics) are not of that nature.

  35. Thank you, Bethany.
    Yes, that is a good distinction, that the assault on Lutheran confessional dogma and practice is an external virus that invaded, that we ‘caught,’ and can’t shake. So many don’t yet realize they’ve been infected, or else actually prefer this sickness to their previous health.

  36. Justin,

    I think you make a good point that drawing “logical conclusion from the text” is not necessarily speculation. I probably should not have painted with such a broad brush! I do think, however, that when we try to make logical conclusions about how God would act within the hidden and eternal counsel of the Trinity as opposed to how God revealed as the God-man Jesus has acted we are on shakier ground. Also, I actually do think that some of classical Calvinism falls into “secondary or tertiary conclusions” as you put it. Of course, I’m sure some would disagree with me in this assessment. Nevertheless, one area where I think this was the case historically is in the supralapsarianism vs. infralapsarianism debates regarding whether God’s electing decree logically preceded the fall or came after it. But, as you point out, “speculation” can be a fine line and one person’s speculation may be another person’s rational deduction from the revealed Word. Therefore, while I think Lutherans should be aware of the problems of “speculation” and are right to critique others when we think it becomes a theological problem, I personally don’t think it in itself is something to cry “heresy” over (although the results might be).

  37. Bethany,

    I can see where you are coming from on the lapsarian debate. That whole can of beans has not been one that I have cared to even delve into. We fell and Jesus came as the new Adam to pay the price of ours sins, that is all that one really need to delve into. It is a good academic debate, but it should not reach the level of factionalism over where you stand on it.

  38. I have to disagree with Pastor Tim Rossow. God’s sovereignty was the essence of Martin Luther’s theology, as much as it was of John Calvin’s. On the bondage of the will Luther contended that man’s will is not free, because otherwise it would limit the freedom of God’s will. He also stated that not a single leaf falls of a tree without God’s permission. And yes Martin Luther, like John Calvin, clearly taught that God hardens the hearts of the reprobate as the bible teaches. Now both Luther and Calvin taught that the reprobate are solely responsible for their damnation, and we should not inquire as to why God saves some and damns others, but we should revere it and be in awe at God’s wisdom. Humans can not understand it, the view of justice that humans have is very different from God, so they can’t reconcile the infinite justice of God with a God that saves some and damns others. Modern lutherans instead of revering the infinite wisdom of such a God, reject him. It is very sad to see lutherans criticizing Calvin, when Luther was an even stronger proponent of God’s sovereignty than Calvin.

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