Calvinism, Modern American Evangelicalism, and Lutheranism #4: The Eucharist, 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 four of a five part series.)

In the previous essay, I noted the Calvinists belief the finite cannot contain the infinite. This belief affected Calvin’s Christology, but it also affected his view of the sacraments. For example, if the finite (bread and wine) cannot contain the infinite (Christ’s human and divine body and blood), then the Real Presence of Jesus’ Body and Blood in the sacrament is impossible.[1] Moreover, Calvin believed Christ’s body was present at the right hand of God in heaven, which was conceived of as a physical location.[2] How then could Christ’s body also be present on the altar in thousands of locations at once on Sunday morning?

For the Lutheran, who accepts a real hypostatic union of Christ’s human and divine natures, this is not a problem. Christ’s divine nature communicates its omnipotence and omnipresence (genus maiestaticum) to His human nature, allowing Him to descend to altars around the world simultaneously. But, since Calvin denied the full ability of Christ’s divinity to communicate its attributes to His humanity, he denied the possibility to the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper because Jesus remained seated locally in heaven. Calvin argued instead that we received Christ spiritually, but not in a sacramental oral way, in Communion.[3] How did this happen?

Since the divine was incapable of being conveyed via bread and wine (or water in baptism or the spoken or written Word[4]), the Holy Spirit instead acted directly on the heart of the believer when he received the bread and wine. [5] Thus, the Holy Spirit acts in a parallel but unconnected way with the reception of the elements, which remain signs of the grace received directly by the heart.[6] (Calvin later argued that the Holy Spirit elevated the believer’s soul to the right hand of God to spiritually commune with Christ’s body in heaven).[7]

Although Calvin did not believe in the substantial Real Presence in the same way as Lutherans, he nevertheless used highly realistic language to describe the spiritual reception of Christ parallel to oral communion. He could even say at times that he believed in the real substantial presence of Christ in Holy Communion![8] We see the same phenomena today in Evangelical circles. If you were to ask most Evangelicals if they believed Christ’s body and blood were really present in Communion, they would say no, the bread and wine are merely symbols. Despite his complex theology of spiritual eating and communion with Christ, in the end, Calvin shared with Ulrich Zwingli a belief that the bread and wine were merely symbols or signifiers of Christ’s absent body.[9] Nevertheless, there are many Evangelicals who tell you that they do believe in the Real Presence of Christ’s body and blood in Communion. The problem with admitting such believers to altar fellowship in a Lutheran church is that they are probably not using the terms “Real Presence” in the same way as Lutherans. They are probably using them as Calvin did – they believe Christ is “really present,” but in a spiritual sense as communicated through a direct action of the Holy Spirit on their hearts. This is why our communion statements in LCMS churches need to be extremely specific in order to prevent misunderstanding among Evangelicals influenced by Calvin’s teachings.


Footnotes:

  1. See Heidelberg Catechism (1563), question 78; Internet, Westminster Theological Seminary Resources, available here; accessed 4 February 2009.
  2. See John Calvin, Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper (1541), para. 41; Internet, available here, accessed 4 February 2009; and Heidelberg Catechism (1563), question 76; Internet, Westminster Theological Seminary Resources, available here; accessed 4 February 2009.
  3. Hermann Sasse, This Is My Body: Luther’s Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar, Revised Ed. (Adelaide, South Australia: Openbook Publishers, 1977), 262.
  4. See Jack D. Kilcrease, “Review of Principles of Lutheran Theology by Carl E. Braaten,” Logia 18, issue 1 (Epiphany, 2009): 49.
  5. Unlike Luther, both Zwingli and Calvin rejected the possibility of God operating through secondary causes. Lutheran historian Martin Noland notes that “the consequence of the denial of secondary causes for Reformed [Dutch Calvinist] theology is that the word of God, the sacraments, and the ministry of the church are not true causes of salvation, but merely empty instruments which require God’s intentional activation by the Spirit” See Martin Noland, “The Lutheran Mind and Its University,” Logia 17, issue 4 (Reformation, 2008): 48. See also John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter XVI, 2-3, 8; Internet, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, available here; accessed 4 February 2009.
  6. David P. Scaer, Christology, Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics Series Vol. 6 (Fort Wayne, Indiana: Luther Academy, 1989), 28fn.16; see also Sasse, This Is My Body, 262-263; and See Heidelberg Catechism (1563), question 79; Internet, Westminster Theological Seminary Resources, available here; accessed 4 February 2009.
  7. Sasse, This Is My Body, 263ff. See Calvin’s description from his Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper (1541), para. 60; Internet, available here, accessed 4 February 2009.
  8. Sasse, This Is My Body, 264.
  9. Sasse, This Is My Body, 262, 265-267
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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.

Comments

Calvinism, Modern American Evangelicalism, and Lutheranism #4: The Eucharist, by Bethany Tanis — 37 Comments

  1. I recently asked Scott Clark- a reformed theologian who teaches at Westminster Seminary in California and is close friends with Michael Horton (who also teaches there)to comment about the differences between confessional Lutherans and the Reformed. The following is the post he sent me: March 16, 2009 at 6:31 am

    R. Scott Clark

    Hi John,

    Yes and these three criticisms (I sent him the posts from this series in the steadfast lutheran site) are entirely drawn from an a priori or what Lutherans have long supposed we must believe!

    Calvin (and Calvinism) has long been little more than a bogeyman to confessional Lutherans. Your points are an excellent illustration of the fallacy of the “central dogma” method of analysis (not that you hold them). On this see Richard A. Muller, Christ and the Decree.

    What each of these criticisms mean is: You dared to disagree with us. The answer to each of these criticisms is to say that the substance of each is wrong and refuted by the particulars of what we actually teach and confess.

    1. We’re no more or less predestinarian than Luther in De Servo Arbitrio (The Bondage of the Will; 1525) or his Heidelberg Disputation (1518).

    2. The only reason Lutherans have accused us of having a different formal principle is because they (a priori) assume that if we disagree with them on the two natures of Christ, we must have a different principle. Indeed, if you look at the chapter in the Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant you’ll see that, in that case, the Reformed argued for their Christology from Scripture whilst the Lutheran orthodox of that same period argued philosophically.

    3. Yes, we do teach in substance a doctrine of finitum non capax infiniti and we do so unapologetically because it is what we call a good and necessary consequence. Another way of stating this doctrine (as you’ve seen in RRC) is to call it the “Creator/creature distinction” or “the categorical distinction. God’s Word says, “In the beginning God…” Done. God was when we were not. We are not God. We are capable of being glorified (and some contemporary theologians have redefined “deified” to mean “glorified”) but glorification is not deification. God’s Word in Hebrews says that Christ (God the Son incarnate) is like us in every respect, sin excepted. Confessional Lutherans effectively deny this truth. They assume that it must be the case, a priori their doctrine of the genus maiestaticus, that if Christ’s deity is ominipresent, his humanity must also be ubiquitous. Who’s the rationalist here? We Reformed, who say that God the Spirit operates mysteriously through the elements to feed believers on the proper, natural, true body and blood, or the Lutherans who resolve the mystery through some doctrine of the ubiquity of the humanity. Ditto for the doctrine of reprobation. They (a priori) seek to resolve the mystery of sovereignty and human responsibility by denying reprobation. Luther refused to do this. He knew it was scandalous but did it any way. At Montbeillard in 1580, in debate with the Lutherans, Beza stood to say, “We stand with Luther” on this question and the Lutheran response was: “Next question.”

    What this means is, though we may be wrong exegetically, our theology is subservient to God’s Word. That’s why I’m Reformed: Not because I have some a priori conviction about what must be, from which I supposed deduce a system of doctrine, but because God’s Word and the holy catholic faith (see the Definition of Chalcedon!) teaches that Jesus is true man (and God’s Word teaches that humans are finite, not infinite) and true God in one person. How? It’s a mystery. Rationalists who appeal to mystery? Don’t you think that’s odd? God is sovereign in election and reprobation and humans are morally responsible for their uncoerced choices (Rom 9). How can that be? I don’t know. Ask God. The holy Trinity is three persons and yet one God. How can that be? Ask God.

    I don’t imagine that a blog post is going to change anything, but FWIW, we certainly don’t see ourselves in the confessional Lutheran critique of our views. To see a 17th-century response to some of these, see Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology. My research into the LCMS polemic against Calvin (and Calvinism) should appear this year in a volume published by Brill on Calvin and Memory Cultures. The account given by confessional Lutherans in the USA since the mid-19th century is a fascinating study in the need for one group for a bogey man by which to define itself. The “Calvin” who appears in their publications (and has for a very long time) bears little relation to the Calvin of history. He is indeed a “Calvin of Faith.”

    Reply

    You can see the full dialog of this in the post New and Old Calvinism. It was written to refute some of Scott Driscoll’s (the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle) ideas that he is a new Calvinist. Scott Clark’s blog site is http://www.heidelblog.wordpress.com

  2. John Y.,

    Thanks for posting a reply from R. Scott Clark. I’m sorry he thinks I’ve constructed strawmen as I’ve been especially careful not to do so! I’m also sorry that this has resulted in hurling: “I’m not the rationalist – you are!” accusations! Pity! I’m off to church in a moment and thus have no time to respond, but I’ll do so later. PS – I’ll have to pick up a copy of that Muller book – he has an excellent grasp of Lutheranism in the age of Orthodoxy (I think he is a convert from the LCMS – am I right?). And I’ll be very interested to see Dr. Clark’s upcoming book on Calvinism in the memory of confessional Lutheranism – memory studies are so hot right now! Just like Hansel. Thanks again John for passing along this post.

    All the best,
    Bethany

  3. I am miffed how eerily silent Lutherans and Calvinists are on this subject. It is like siblings who are rivals in families. It is something we need to talk about with each other but we choose to ignore or misrepresent each others views. There is much confusion and little clarity here. There are probably a lot of historical reasons for this.

    I guess I can relate to that because my brother goes to Willow Creek and we do not see eye to eye about almost anything. However, Lutherans and Calvinists have much in common. I have found that a lot of the debate is much sound and fury sometimes amounting to nothing. If we stick with good refutation practices- like they did back during the reformation- we would all be better off. A lot of debate these days is just each side justifying their positions rather than seeking the truth about the issue.

    Scott Clark wrote an excellent paper on Luther’s theological development in regards to his doctrine of justification by faith alone. It was not until his second lectures on Galatians that he came to his mature understanding of the doctrine where imputation of Christ’s righteousness for us became the leading point of controversy with the Catholic theologians. The issue of theotic union was the position the Catholics took- where Christ’s righteousness was infused into us rather than God declaring us righteous by imputation.

    I should also not that Korey Maas (a Lutheran Pastor who teaches at Concordia seminary in California) wrote a gem of a paper on the place of repentance in Luther’s theological development. It was not until 1525 or 1526 that Luther was saying anything significantly different than the Catholic theologians back then. However, it was a radically different understanding of repentance and led Luther to reform the whole sacramental system that had had been put in place by Thomas Aquinas. Both papers are fascinating reads.

    Also, Scott Clark, in his paper gives an example of how theological differences were debated back then. It was called the disputation method and it was well monitored and the questions were stuck with in the hopes that the constant questioning and answering back and forth would lead to the truth of the matter at hand. Sounds like the Socratic method to me.

  4. As I was riding to church on the train this morning, I couldn’t help but think that it’s rather flattering to have Dr. Clark (I’ve even heard of him!) arguing with me (even though I’m sure he doesn’t know me from Aunt Millie and I doubt John passed along my name). In any case here’s my response to Dr.

    Clark’s concerns:
    “Your points are an excellent illustration of the fallacy of the “central dogma” method of analysis (not that you hold them). On this see Richard A. Muller, Christ and the Decree.” Sure, I agree that the “central dogma” method, as he puts it is not the best. In fact, I debated whether or not to use the material and formal principle technique. But I did because I think it is helpful in getting a grip on things at a general level and because I thought it might be more familiar to several readers than the loci method (see Muller). While I don’t think it is the best method for scholarly analysis and is anachronistic, I do not think it is misleading or involves a fallacy when used to paint with a broad brush as a popular level. I’ve not read that particular Muller book (although I know of it), but as I like him, I will have to do so. Last I knew he taught at Calvin Seminary at my alma mater!

    I think Dr. Clark’s concerns can be cleared up by stating what this series for the BJS is meant to do and what it is not meant to do. This is not a detailed scholarly analysis of Calvinism. Nor is this meant to be an apologetic for the Lutheran position (notice no Scripture citations) against the Calvinist position. Rather, it is meant to give a general idea of the very real (and I think Dr. Clark brings this out better than I could have!) differences between our two confessions and ways in which Calvinism doctrines have influenced popular American Evangelicalism, which is generally not Calvinist per se. Additionally, it is meant to be read by confessional Lutherans trying to understand a different church body from their own theological perspective and is written from an unapologetically Lutheran perspective. Finally, it is meant to give an impression of the type of Calvinism and Calvinist-influenced Evangelicalism the typical BJS layman might meet out on the street. To achieve this I based what I wanted to discuss on many, many long theological conversations with my Calvinist and Evangelical friends at Calvin College. Dr. Clark and other bright lights of contemporary Calvinism hold to a nuanced and complex theology that is not generally present “on the street” (although I wish it were!). The Calvinism the average BJS layman is most likely to encounter is the kind espoused by cradle Dutch Reformed member Pieter van Dordtsma in Holland, Michigan, rather than the more sophisticated version coming out of Calvinist seminaries. Of course, this is also true of Lutheranism! The type of sophisticated theological understanding present among many BJS supporters is not what you would usually find among the Hans Muellers at your average Lutheran congregation (sadly!). So, should we say that only the most sophisticated brand of Calvinism and Lutheranism are “real” Calvinism and Lutheranism? I leave that sticky wicket up to the reader! But what I have tried to do is show where in the Calvinist theological tradition contemporary Calvinists and Calvinist-influenced American Evangelicals have come by their theology. I do think this is a worth while enterprise. This does not mean it’s OK to be theologically imprecise for wrong in one’s assessment! And I certainly apologize to Dr. Clark if I have mischaracterized anything through ignorance.

    OK – on to the specific concerns. First, I’m not a pastor (obviously!!) or lay theologian and I don’t think the point of this series is to engage in a theological defense of Lutheranism or a theological attack on Calvinism, but I’ll just make a few points:

    1. We’re no more or less predestinarian than Luther in De Servo Arbitrio (The Bondage of the Will; 1525) or his Heidelberg Disputation (1518).

    Well, I would have to disagree with this statement. I would welcome everyone to read them both and see for themselves. Is Luther predestinarian? Yes! But I do not believe he goes as far as Calvin and later Reformed theologians did. I was just chatting with my fiancé (a Luther scholar and theologian) who notes that in several letters from the 1520s Luther explicitly states that God wishes to save everyone and denies predestination to reprobation.

    2. The only reason Lutherans have accused us of having a different formal principle is because they (a priori) assume that if we disagree with them on the two natures of Christ, we must have a different principle. Indeed, if you look at the chapter in the Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant you’ll see that, in that case, the Reformed argued for their from Scripture whilst the Lutheran orthodox of that same period argued philosophically.

    Perhaps some Lutherans have done this, but the disagreement on Christology is not why I think a different formal principle is at play. And of course the Reformed argued from the Bible. Their formal principle is the Holy Scripture. Far be it from me to suggest that reason comes first! However, I do think that historically, and in many conversations with Calvinist friends, reason plays a greater role in determining doctrine for Calvinists than it does for Lutherans. Of course, Dr. Clark may disagree. Also, of course Lutherans argued philosophically! But so did Calvinists and virtually everyone else during the age of Orthodoxy. The idea that Lutherans never used philosophy to guide their theology or that they only used it in determining their theology are both strawmen (to use the term again!). I would strongly recommend reading The Two Natures of Christ by Olevian’s contemporary Martin Chemnitz and then determining whether or not this criticism stands.

    3. Yes, we do teach in substance a doctrine of finitum non capax infiniti and we do so unapologetically because it is what we call a good and necessary consequence. Another way of stating this doctrine (as you’ve seen in RRC) is to call it the “Creator/creature distinction” or “the categorical distinction. God’s Word says, “In the beginning God…” Done. God was when we were not. We are not God. We are capable of being glorified (and some contemporary theologians have redefined “deified” to mean “glorified”) but glorification is not deification. God’s Word in Hebrews says that Christ (God the Son incarnate) is like us in every respect, sin excepted. Confessional Lutherans effectively deny this truth. They assume that it must be the case, a priori their doctrine of the genus maiestaticus, that if Christ’s deity is ominipresent, his humanity must also be ubiquitous. Who’s the rationalist here? We Reformed, who say that God the Spirit operates mysteriously through the elements to feed believers on the proper, natural, true body and blood, or the Lutherans who resolve the mystery through some doctrine of the ubiquity of the humanity. Ditto for the doctrine of reprobation. They (a priori) seek to resolve the mystery of sovereignty and human responsibility by denying reprobation. Luther refused to do this. He knew it was scandalous but did it any way. At Montbeillard in 1580, in debate with the Lutherans, Beza stood to say, “We stand with Luther” on this question and the Lutheran response was: “Next question.”

    Well, I’m glad that Dr. Clark and I agree that we disagree! It must be frustrating for him to feel that I’ve misrepresented the Calvinist position through over generalization or in any other way, because I feel frustrated that he unintentionally misrepresents the Lutheran position here! Of course, this is a natural consequence of this kind of discussion and a problem of our fallen nature that we cannot understand each other perfectly. I don’t really feel the need to respond to any of his specific concerns here, except to say that I would recommend readers take a look at Martin Chemnitz’s book or even pull out their McCain Concordia and look at the Catalog of Testimonies and to say that I strongly disagree with his assumptions of “a priori” theology. Also, note that Dr. Clark illustrates my point wonderfully about the use of highly realistic sacramental language. Finally, it seems to be a common Reformed belief that Luther supported what we often call “double predestination.” While Luther (not a systematic theologian) did not (to my knowledge) lay out a systematic doctrine of predestination, neither did he endorse the view that God is responsible for sin or damnation. The Lutheran position explicitly opposes Calvinism on this topic naturally evolved after Luther’s death when it had to contend with Calvinism. Obviously, Luther did not have the mature writings of Calvin and his followers to respond to in his own lifetime. Check out the Visitation Articles in your McCain BOC (1592) for the way Lutherans developed their theology in response to the in-roads of Calvinism.
    What this means is, though we may be wrong exegetically, our theology is subservient to God’s Word. That’s why I’m Reformed: Not because I have some a priori conviction about what must be, from which I supposed deduce a system of doctrine, but because God’s Word and the holy catholic faith (see the Definition of Chalcedon!) teaches that Jesus is true man (and God’s Word teaches that humans are finite, not infinite) and true God in one person. How? It’s a mystery. Rationalists who appeal to mystery? Don’t you think that’s odd? God is sovereign in election and reprobation and humans are morally responsible for their uncoerced choices (Rom 9). How can that be? I don’t know. Ask God. The holy Trinity is three persons and yet one God. How can that be? Ask God.

    I fully believe that Dr. Clark is Reformed because he believes his theology is subservient to God’s Word, not because it is based on a priori considerations. And I’m Lutheran because I believe Lutheran theology is subservient to God’s Word and not based on a priori considerations. Again, I don’t really see a need to either attack Calvinism or defend Lutheranism in response here. I’ll just point out again the emphasis on God’s sovereignty and note that, no, I don’t think it’s odd for rationalists to appeal to mystery. Calvinists are Christians and part of Christianity is mystery. I don’t think it’s a zero-sum game. I believe I already mentioned the difference in interpretation of Rom. 9 in an earlier comment.

    I don’t imagine that a blog post is going to change anything, but FWIW, we certainly don’t see ourselves in the confessional Lutheran critique of our views. To see a 17th-century response to some of these, see Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology. My research into the LCMS polemic against Calvin (and Calvinism) should appear this year in a volume published by Brill on Calvin and Memory Cultures. The account given by confessional Lutherans in the USA since the mid-19th century is a fascinating study in the need for one group for a bogey man by which to define itself. The “Calvin” who appears in their publications (and has for a very long time) bears little relation to the Calvin of history. He is indeed a “Calvin of Faith.”

    Uh-oh, I’m showing my technologically ineptitude – I don’t know what FWIW means! But in any case, I’m sorry if I misrepresented anything Calvinists teach, but, for the record, I also have a hard time seeing ourselves in Dr. Clark’s a priori portrayal. This is, of course, a problem and why, I think, exchanges such as these are helpful and important for all involved. We should all try to work towards understanding each other as far as possible. I’ve not read Turretin, although, of course, I’m familiar with him. So many good books and so little time! I look forward to Dr. Clark’s published take on the Lutheran search for the historical Calvin. Blessings on his work!

    Best,
    Bethany

  5. John Y.,

    Oops – PS, I forgot to add that I originally wrote this back in Feb. as a 6-part series. The final part was about the many very important aspects of shared theology between Calvinists and Lutherans. I don’t know if it will be posted or not since it may have been lost somehow in the shuffle. If it doesn’t come up though, I’ll ask Pastor Rossow if it can be posted at some point.
    Best,
    Bethany
    [actually, I’m sure Pastor Rossow is reading this – if you felt a 6-part series was excessive or felt there were problems with the last piece, I certainly don’t mind you doing as you will]

  6. Bethany,

    Throughout this series you have made a point to nigh on constantly draw parallelisms between Calvinism and modern Evangelicalism (almost with the assumption that one naturally leads to the other). I apologize if I am reading you incorrectly, but if I am reading you correctly these small brush overs that you are doing hardly have done anything to prove your point. Yes, the surface level parallels can be drawn, but when you get to the actual systems, do they really parallel at all other than having somewhat similar premises at points in their flow of reason?

    To be honest on the outside this sort of broad brushing sounds as bad as if someone outside of Lutheranism equated Lutherans with Roman Catholics because they both believed there was a physical presence in the Eucharist in spite of the obvious extreme opposing distinctives of the two, though of course making quick note of the distinctives, but certainly not going far to express that those distinctives are just as opposed to each other as the Zwinglian/Evangelical and Calvinist positions are to each other.

  7. Justin,
    Thanks for your note. I suppose I haven’t made myself very clear. I’m certainly not saying that Calvinism and modern Evangelicalism are the same thing. Neither am I saying that Calvinism inevitably led to Evangelicalism. As I always tell my students, nothing is inevitable in history! But I am saying that some Calvinist ideas/doctrines/whatever have in fact historically developed in such a way as to create what we call Evangelicalism today. We can trace these ideas back to their source in Reformed theology. Basically, everything “Protestant” that is not Lutheran grew in some way out of the Reformed tradition. There is just no historical way around that. I think it’s always helpful to understand the historical context of where an idea comes from, because they don’t just spring out of nowhere! In fact, if someone really wanted to, they could trace those Calvinist ideas back even further to Augustine or the like. But I’ll leave that for someone else! 🙂
    So: contemporary Calvinism and Arminian Evangelicalism are not the same thing but, yes, I think they grew out of the same root doctrines and yes, I think we can justifiably trace these back.
    Best,
    Bethany

  8. Gethany,

    Expound further on that premise of tracing things back to Reformed theology please.

    From what I can see in history I would argue that though, in a manner of speaking, Arminianism sprang from Calvinism, it was a responsive growth rather than a direct growth, much like you would claim the Lutheran Pietistic stream is not something that directly flows from Lutheranism, but is more of a response to certain perceived issues with Lutheran theology.

  9. Justin,

    I think I answered this exact question earlier. Yes, it’s similar to Pietism. Both are developments. Arminianism develops as a reaction to Calvinism, but it only exists as a result of Calvinism. Arimianism is a result of Calvinism. It doesn’t matter that the ideas went in a different direction. It is still a direct result of Calvinist theology in that it is a reaction against aspects of it. The same goes for Pietism and Lutheranism. You may disagree with this methodology, but I think it’s sound. I hope that cleared things up somewhat.
    Best,
    Bethany

  10. Great response Bethany. Thanks for taking the time to write it. This is getting fascinating to me. I hope we are able to resolve our differences (Calvinists and Lutherans that is) because I have learned alot from the good Calvinist theologians ie. B.B. Warfield, Kim Riddlebarger, Michael Horton, Scott Clark, R.C. Sproul, Robert Godfrey etc. I also have learned a lot from Luther, Melanchthon and all the good Lutheran theologians, ie., Martin Chemnitz, Walter, Rosenbladt, Korey Maas, Todd Wilken and all the Lutheran pastors and scholars that are presented on Issuesetc. This deserves our attention and critical scrutiny.

  11. Bethany,

    I did give Scott Clark your name because he asked a backround question. I hope you do not mind and I should ask you if you mind me posting your response on his web site again? Like I said earlier you can read the whole dialog on his site which I gave in an above post.

  12. John,
    That’s fine that you gave out my name, obviously, since it’s plastered across the top of this series. In terms of doing a background check on me, if Dr. Clark thought to google me, please tell him that I have a totally good explanation for all those pictures with the giant funnel, lampshade, and chartreuse feather boa. In any case, just let me again clarify that I am NOT a theologian. I’m an historian and I specialize in late 19th-century British history. I make absolutely no claim to more knowledge in the field than Dr. Clark, who is a professional in the area. Having said that, of course you can post it on his site or wherever. I figure that once something is out on the internet it pretty much becomes public property. To be honest though, I don’t plan on starting to read or respond to anything on Dr. Clark’s site. I’m sure it’s an excellent site, but probably so good that (knowing myself) I would be tempted to respond and therefore would lose even more time doing so. I was just thinking today that I honestly don’t know how serious bloggers find the time to post and respond to people who respond to them! It takes me enough time just to keep tabs on a short post on this site!
    All the best,
    Bethany

  13. Bethany, Justin, John, et. al.,

    First of all, thank you Bethany! Your series and comments have far exceded our hopes for a popular piece on Calvinism here at the BJS site. I may have mistakingly said “five part” series. I will just keep posting everything you sent me.

    Allow me to throw in my two cents on this discussion. I have not heard of Dr. Clark but based on what you all say about him I am honored that his views are being aired on the BJS site and Bethany you have done an incredible job responding. Even though I have been out of the Calvin/Luther debate academically for some years now, (my recent doctoral studies focussed on church structure and not in systematics although I do have a MA in philosophy and focussed on systematics in my M Div studies) just this weekend I was reading Calvin to prepare to teach my adult Bible class on the freedom of the will. I also read parts of Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology” which is probably the closest thing we have to an “American Evangelical” systematics text.

    1. Grudem agrees with you Bethany that Evangelicalism grows out of Calvinism and I guess he should know since he is one and teaches at one of their seminaries (Trinity, Deerfield, Illinois). My guess is that he is not half the theologian Clark is but none the less, he is as consistent a representative of evangelicalism as one will find, but of course we must remember that consistency is not a hallmark of evangelicalism.

    2. I would ask Dr. Clark to review the purpose for which “De Servo Arbitrio” was written. It was not written to address the providence of God and Bethany you are correct, it does not espouse a teaching of double predestination. To call Luther “predestinarian” is anachronistic. That is not Luther’s point or his target in this work. His point is to deny the semi-pelagianism of Erasmus. In so doing, he uses scriptures that Calvin would later use to support not only his predestarian teaching but more accurately his double-predestinarian teaching. Calvin is a predestinarian, Luther is not. Luther is certainly not a double predestinarian. Isn’t it interesting that Clark does not mention double predestination.

    3. The use of formal and material principles always seems to lead to trouble. When I first saw them in your series Bethany I thought about contacting you and asking you to state your point with different categories but then I arrived at the same conclusion you did. This is an article for laymen written on a “populist” website and so in the end it was a fine choice of categories. Whether we use the categories of formal or material principle or not, it remains crystal clear after nearly 500 years of Calvinism and Lutheranism, the former highlights the glory of God and the latter his grace and mercy. No doubt, Luther can be made out to look like a Calvinst and Calvin can be made out to look like a Lutheran, but there are profound differences.

    4. I would love to dive into the hypostatic union part of this discussion but I would need to do a lot of review of the teaching of the genera. However, we can talk genera until we are blue in the face and one fact will remain: the Calvinist will not speak of the presence of Christ in the Lord’s supper as being any different than his presence with me as I type this comment. Lutherans understand clearly from Scripture that Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper in a unique way beyond how he is present with us outside of the Supper.

    Thank you Bethany for this series. Brothers of John the Steadfast, if this seems esoteric, it is not. These are important discussions for us to have. There may be a lot of jargon that you may not grasp right away but stick with it and someday these things will become second nature to you. (Hmmm, I wonder which genera that “second nature” belongs to? 🙂 )

    TR

  14. Bethany,

    I doubt that Dr. Clark checked out your website- however, I did get a good chuckle out of that. He implied what your backround was and thought you might have been a former seminary student at Calvin so I told him of your Phd in European history. Although I said, maybe mistakenly, that you had done a lot of work on the Reformation period.

    I hope I did not cause any problems for you by getting Dr. Clark involved in this discussion. I have just grown tired of getting such conflicting answers on the differences between Luthans and Calvinists that I wanted to hear a respected Reformed theological and historical response. I think this stuff is fascinating.

    You are right about the time that can be wasted on the internet but I live alone these days and find that my nights after work are better spent on the internet then other activities I could involve myself with. Plus the time goes by real fast when you are mentally involved.

  15. John,

    OK, last post before I go to work tomorrow and then I probably won’t check for a while. Honestly, thanks for passing along the series to Dr. Clark. As I said, I found it rather flattering since I actually had heard of him somewhere before. I really do think that dialogue on these issues is good and important. However, I should clarify that I have done no post-graduate work in Reformation history. Reformation history and theology is a hobby of mine, so I read for fun. Just thinking from my perspective, I could imagine being possibly annoyed if someone who did modern British history started poking around like he or she had a degree in it or was a professional. So I just want to be very clear that my Ph.D. is in modern British history, not a Reformation field. Thanks again for the dialogue this afternoon – it made my day. 🙂
    Best,
    Bethany

  16. John,

    Oops – one more thought just came to me: since you seem very interested in Calvinist-Lutheran discussions, I just thought of a great person to possibly contact: I was chatting with Chris Brown (academic name: Christopher Boyd Brown), who is an historical theologian at BU, this morning at church. He’s been working on translating and edited the latest editions to Luther’s Works for CPH. In any case, his general editor is pastor named Ben Mayes. Chris mentioned that Pr. Mayes was defending his Ph.D. at Calvin Theological Seminary in a couple of days. Mayes would almost certainly have an interesting perspective since I would be very surprised if the Richard Muller mentioned above is not in fact his advisor. And if not his advisor, then he must have worked with him in some capacity. In any case, while on location at Calvin he was both studied under high-level Calvinist theologians and serving as an assistant pastor at my Grand Rapids church. Now he works as an editor for CPH obviously. If you wanted to contact him (I don’t know him personally, so don’t bother name dropping!), I know he has a page on the Wittenberg Trail.
    Best,
    Bethany

  17. PS – obviously I was just joking about the pictures with the giant funnel, lampshade, and chartreuse feather boa. It’s really a pink boa.

  18. Thanks Bethany for your kind words. You have been a real class act and I appreciated your insight and remarks. Thanks also for the other info mentioned.

    I just read somewhere (I cannot remember now where but I think it might have been on Issues etc.- yes it was a talk by Martin Noland on Luther) that only about 25 % of Luther’s works have been translated from the German or Latin that he wrote in. There is a big push being made to have all of his stuff translated within ten years. If I was a scholar that is something I would definitely be interested in.

    Best regards and hope you still comment occasionaly on the site

    John Y

  19. One last thing- I am going to post your remarks on Dr. Clark’s site right now and I will definitely post his remarks back here when he does so. He is very good about commenting back. I have actually gotten kind of known on a few Reformed sites and have developed some relationships with these guys in cyberspace. This is the danger of internet dialog because it is kind of Church incognito. You may be tempted to use it as a replacement Church. I do not do this and regularly attend services on Sunday at my beloved LCMS Church in the Chicago area.

    The sites I regularly go to are The Riddleblog- which is Kim Riddlebargers site, the confessional outhouse where D.G. Hart often writes and comments on and Dr. Clarks site. I have learned a tremendous amount dialogging with the internet addicts on those sites. Do not want to tempt you though with becoming an internet hack.

  20. I’m responding to mostly Bethany’s comments made in post #5.

    “This is not a detailed scholarly analysis of Calvinism. Nor is this meant to be an apologetic for the Lutheran position (notice no Scripture citations) against the Calvinist position. Rather, it is meant to give a general idea of the very real (and I think Dr. Clark brings this out better than I could have!) differences between our two confessions and ways in which Calvinism doctrines have influenced popular American Evangelicalism, which is generally not Calvinist per se.”

    I wish you would have explained at the beginning of your series that you weren’t meaning – per se – to go after Calvin’s theology as expressed in the historic confessions and catechisms written by both the continental and island European Reformed but the popular form of Calvinism that shows up in modern day non-denominational Christianity. My expectation would be that since Brothers of John the Steadfast is attempting to get Lutherans to dust off the Book of Concord that any critique of another confessional body would center on the confessional documents that make up the tradition.

    “Dr. Clark and other bright lights of contemporary Calvinism hold to a nuanced and complex theology that is not generally present “on the street” (although I wish it were!).”

    Dr. Clark is no more confessional then what you’re trying to promote and encourage for all Lutheran laity. We – confessional Calvinists – have the same problems you do. Just because some really bad theology goes under the banner of Lutheran doesn’t give Calvinists the right to say “That’s why we’re not Lutherans.” Lutherans – especially if they’re going to make a big deal out of being confessional – should show the same respect by interacting with confessional documents rather then basing their options on people who may or may not actually understand what they are talking about.

    “1. We’re no more or less predestinarian than Luther in De Servo Arbitrio (The Bondage of the Will; 1525) or his Heidelberg Disputation (1518).”

    “Well, I would have to disagree with this statement. I would welcome everyone to read them both and see for themselves. Is Luther predestinarian? Yes! But I do not believe he goes as far as Calvin and later Reformed theologians did. I was just chatting with my fiancé (a Luther scholar and theologian) who notes that in several letters from the 1520s Luther explicitly states that God wishes to save everyone and denies predestination to reprobation.“

    I know your going to disagree, and so does Dr. Clark. Actually, I bet if you read Calvin in the Institutes (1559) 3.21 – 25, the Belgic Confession (1561) article 16, Heidelberg Catechism (1563) question 54, the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) chapter 10, the Canons of Dort (1619) Heads 1 and 2 along with the conclusion of the Canons, and the Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 3 you might understand how Dr. Clark came to his conclusion.

    Calvin was very aware that the subject of predestination was very “. . . perilous by human curiosity, which cannot be restrained from wandering into forbidden paths . . .” but was also aware that “The secrets of his will which he sees fit to make plain, are revealed in his Word: everything necessary for our well-being is there” (3.21.1). Of course, Calvin earlier in 1.6.6 shows that unless God revealed himself through his Word that the human mind is prone to lapse into forgetfulness of God, readily inclined to every kind of error, bent every now and then devising new and fictitious religions. Therefore, from Calvin’s perspective even less contentions doctrines between Christians are no more fraught with peril than predestination.

    I did also want to interact with Pastor Rossow’s comment #14 about the “Bondage of the Will” before leaving the topic:

    “2. I would ask Dr. Clark to review the purpose for which “De Servo Arbitrio” was written. It was not written to address the providence of God and Bethany you are correct, it does not espouse a teaching of double predestination. To call Luther “predestinarian” is anachronistic. That is not Luther’s point or his target in this work. His point is to deny the semi-pelagianism of Erasmus. In so doing, he uses scriptures that Calvin would later use to support not only his predestarian teaching but more accurately his double-predestinarian teaching. Calvin is a predestinarian, Luther is not. Luther is certainly not a double predestinarian. Isn’t it interesting that Clark does not mention double predestination.”

    Dr. Clark doesn’t use the term “double predestination” because it’s not a Reformed term. I’ve only ever heard it used either by Lutherans or it reference to Lutherans – perhaps some other group that doesn’t like the Reformed theology also uses it. Lutherans might find it interesting that the Reformed don’t use the term, but that might clue you in to the fact that it’s not used in the Reformed community except to accommodate Lutherans!

    A paper that is an example of a Reformed guy looking at “Bondage of the Will” is Brian G. Mattson’s “Double Or Nothing: Martin Luther’s Doctrine of Predestination” (http://www.contra-mundum.org/essays/mattson/Luther-predestination.pdf) where Mattson does some research into why the Reformed like Luther’s “Bondage of the Will” for a different reason than Lutherans do. It’s somewhat of a historic essay, but it doesn’t attempt to find the historic reason why the BOC seems – from a Reformed Perspective – to teach contrary to what Luther said in his book. In addition Dr. Clark wrote an essay in “A Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes” titled “Election and Predestination: The Sovereign Expressions of God” where he brings quite a bit of historic context and exposition to Calvin’s writings on the topic and points out some misunderstandings that people have had about Calvin’s teachings.

    Basically we don’t view God’s activity in a positive-positive schema like the term double predestination implies, but in a positive-negative schema. If all the Lutherans were objecting to was the positive-positive schema then there would be no disagreement. However, hyper-Calvinists – a term which does actually have a technical definition – do subscribe to the positive-positive schema and so we have and still do disagree with them.

    “Check out the Visitation Articles in your McCain BOC (1592) for the way Lutherans developed their theology in response to the in-roads of Calvinism.”

    I’ve read the Saxon Visitation Articles and they grossly misrepresent the positions of the confessions of the Reformed Church at that time period. Now it could just be that the Lutherans were responding to some “Calvinists” who didn’t represent confessional Reformed theology and so the Lutherans were actually correct in their statements under “The False and Erroneous doctrine of the Calvinists On . . . “, but any confessional Reformed person of the time and now would say that the Lutherans of 1592 weren’t fairly representing their position and therefore the responses are insufficient. Therefore, I actually found that the Saxon Visitation Articles were not helpful in understanding either the Lutheran position or the Reformed position. I found the Marburg Colloquy (1529) by Luther much better reading – although, of course, Zwingli’s position on the Lord’s Supper would be different then the Reformed confessions. Actually some more background information on both the Saxon Visitation Articles and the Marburg Colloquy might actually be beneficial to both traditions.

  21. Nathan,

    Yours is an interesting and excellent comment. I accused Dr. Clark of being anachronistic but apparently I have committed a worse “faux pas” by labeling you and your ilk with a handle you do not use. I appreciate knowing that you do not wish to be known as double-predestinarians.

    I have to admit though, that using the phrase “positive-negative” is not doing much for me to excuse you as a double-predestinarian. As I mentioned in my comment, I have been away from the academic side of this debate for years and so I need to refresh and update my knowledge. Your references will certainly help with that.

    What I am getting out of this discussion is clarity on my earlier assertion. It is important to understand why Luther wrote De Servo… He wrote it in the context of salvation and not in the context of providence. This is why, as you put it, the Reformed don’t get why Confessional Lutheranism does not continue the theology they see in De Servo when it comes to providence. Also, Bethany’s point still stands – The Reformed when speaking of salvation use catagories of providence and Lutherans when speakingo salvation use the category of the means of grace.

    TR

  22. Nathan,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I wasn’t going to check in and respond today from work, but it looks like I feel compelled to address at least the first part here. I, to be honest, didn’t read all of them, but just to address a few:
    1) I didn’t think I was “going after” anyone. I apologize if I did inadvertantly.
    2) I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive to be doing a “popular” series and try to pay attention to a body’s confessional documents. In fact that’s what I tried to do.
    3) Re: “should show the same respect by interacting with confessional documents rather then basing their options on people who may or may not actually understand what they are talking about.” Again, I did make an effort to interact with the various confessional documents, since that’s where “ideas on the street” can originally be traced from. Again, I do not think it’s mutually exclusive to be concerned with what most people think and the confessional bases of those ideas. So it was certainly not my intention to short-change the very important and interesting Reformed confessional documents.
    4) I am familiar with the major Reformed confessional documents (proud Calvin grad – remember!) and, yes, I can see how Dr. Clark comes by his opinion. I disagree with his historical interpretation there, but I’m not going to argue about it because I think, frankly, it’s irrelevent. Not all of Luther’s beliefs (luckily in some cases) became a part of the confessional Lutheran theological tradition. The rule and norm is the Bible, not Luther (as of course you already know). So, to be honest, I don’t really feel that Luther’s views on the topic are relevent to the discussion.
    5) I do know that the Reformed prefer not to use the term “Double Predestination.” I only used it because it is a term the readership here understand. Apologies if its use offended you.
    Best,
    Bethany

  23. Pastor Rossow comment #22

    “I have to admit though, that using the phrase “positive-negative” is not doing much for me to excuse you as a double-predestinarian.”

    I got the schema from Dr. R.C. Sproul’s article titled “Double Predestination” (http://www.glenwoodhills.org/etc/printer-friendly.asp?ID=279). Dr. Sproul’s article might be a bit more useful since its only goal is to explain terminology. The schema is also talked about in Mattson’s article.

    “He wrote it in the context of salvation and not in the context of providence.”

    Can you please explain how salvation and providence are different is the context of the Bondage of the Will? I’m just trying to make sure I understand what your saying.

  24. Sorry Bethany for using the phase “go after” I should have said “explain.” I do think that 450 years worth of history is very important to understanding the current issues. For example, if Mattson’s thesis is correct by saying the Formula of Concord disagrees with what Luther taught then what happened to bring about the Saxon Visitation Articles and thus why do Lutherans understand the Reformed the be saying something that we not only aren’t saying but have historically also fought against.

    I know that there were disagreement between Lutherans after Luther’s death that eventually resulted in the Formula and Solid Declaration, but I haven’t yet read too much of the history. However, that history is what we are implicitly disagreeing about – it’s the elephant in the room – and to say that its unimportant won’t help us understand one another.

  25. Nathan,

    Good question about providence vs. salvatoin. I was hoping you would let that one slide but you got me. Let me try to explain what I mean.

    I am convinced that if Luther were to sit down and write a treatise on the providence of God that he would not arrive at a “positive-negative” position on the fate of mankind.

    In De Servo he did not set out to write a treatise on divine providence but on the human will. He addresses divine provedence for sure and in such a way that one could argue that what he says about it could be stretched by a Calvinist into the positive-negative doctrine but it would be stretching it beyond what it intends.

    His point is simply that humans are dumb asses ridden either by God or by Satan. When God rides you, faith is born which results in salvation. When Satan is riding you, there is no faith and thus no salvation. So, his topic is one of salvation. He answers the question – “does man have a free will to choose salvation?” and the answer is no. He does not answer the question as to whether or not God has chosen some to perdition. That is a providence question.

    TR

  26. Nathan,

    Indeed, I do think history is very important here – I am an historian after all! 😉 Re: Luther on the topic of positive-negative predestination, I completely agree with Pastor Rossow that had Luther written systematically from a “God’s eye” perspective he would have written against the doctrine as Calvinists developed it. In either case, it is anachronistic to address these concerns precisely to Luther. And, moreover, even if Luther had been a contemporary of Calvin and other later theologians and had been a systematician, I still don’t think he would have addressed God’s eternal will in terms of a positive-negative doctrine because he would have seen this as attempting to ascend to God to peak into His hidden nature. Luther was more concerned with God as He revealed Himself in history. I think Luther might have placed the Calvinist positive-negative doctrine under the rubric of a theology of glory (if he had used that term). However, I’m not a Luther scholar, so I think I’ll ask a friend of mine who is currently translating Luther’s works and editing them for Concordia Publishing House and I’ll ask my fiance, who is also a Luther scholar and theologian. I’ll post if they change my mind.
    However, I still think the question of Luther on predestination is not terribly relevent to Lutheran and Calvinist differences as they later developed, except to the extent that various Reformed and Lutheran thinkers sought to justify their position by appeal to Luther. Sorry, maybe I’m just missing something here, but even supposing that Luther did in fact teach a positive-negative doctrine, I don’t really see what that would change. I do not think it would have changed the Lutheran position in the Formula of Concord and it certainly wouldn’t make me change my mind today.
    Also, I wonder if you would elaborate further on: “why do Lutherans understand the Reformed the be saying something that we not only aren’t saying but have historically also fought against.” What specifically (outside of different terminology) are the Reformed not saying and how did they fight against it? Also, just for the record, the Visitation Articles aren’t confessional for Lutherans. But, just out of curiosity, what precisely do you think they get wrong? Also, I would recommend Hermann Sasse’s This is my Body on the Marburg Colloquy. He includes a complete English transciption!
    All the best,
    Bethany

  27. Nathan,

    I just read and greatly enjoyed the short piece you linked to by R. C. Sproul. I always think his writing is very good. In any case, having read the piece it occurred to me that perhaps Calvinists think Lutherans are saying more than we are when we use the term “double predestination”? I was not using it to imply a positive-positive view of predestination as outlined by Sproul and I’m also aware that the dominant strand of Calvinist theology sees predestination to reprobation in light of the fall. I certainly would not want to be seen as implying that Calvinists thought God was actively responsible for sin in some way! I would say that the way Lutherans use the term “double predestination” (at least those I know, which is, of course, a limited batch) do use the term in a positive-negative sense as Sproul puts it. Unfortunately though, I still think Lutherans and Calvinists have disagreements on this issue. Sproul writes that “In the Reformed view God from all eternity decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a monergistic work of grace. To the non-elect God withholds this monergistic work of grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves. He does not monergistically work sin or unbelief in their lives.” Those God has “decreed” to be reprobate He does not force or coerce into sin, He merely leaves them in their sinful state as a result of the Fall. Lutherans, however, (and if I misunderstand the Lutheran view here, I would be happy to be corrected) refuse to say this much about predestination. We just “don’t go there.” We agree that the Bible teaches that God has elected some to salvation. However, we refuse to say He has elected any to reprobation, regardless of whether this is seen as actively coercing some to sin (hyper-Calvinism) or as merely allowing the reprobate to live in their already existing state of sin (in the positive-negative schema). We teach that God earnestly does want all to be saved. The Gospel call is seen as universal and the Word is always efficacious because Lutherans believe God has predetermined to leave none in their sins. I know that Zwingli taught that the Word was not always efficacious because God sometimes withheld His Spirit from the Word. I believe Calvin also picked up on this, but am not entirely sure of Calvin on the efficacious nature of the Word. However, it would only be consistent with positive-negative predestination if for Calvin (like Zwingli) the Word was not always efficacious. In any case, for Lutherans God has joined Himself to His Word so that it has His power in and of itself. Why then is the Word not always effective? The Calvinist answer is that some are reprobate. God has past them by and left them in their sins as Sproul puts it. The Lutheran answer is that it is completely man’s fault and we do not contemplate a decree of even passive reprobation on the part of God because we can find no Biblical support for the doctrine (although, yes, Calvinists will disagree). Does this make rational sense? Not really. As Sproul puts it: “Consider the implications. If God has predestined some but not all to election, does it not follow by what Luther called a “resistless logic” that some are not predestined to election? If, as Brunner maintains, all salvation is based upon the eternal election of God and not all men are elect from eternity, does that not mean that from eternity there are non-elect who most certainly will not be saved? Has not God chosen from eternity not to elect some people? If so, then we have an eternal choice of non-election which we call reprobation. The inference is clear and necessary, yet some shrink from drawing it. I once heard the case for “single” predestination articulated by a prominent Lutheran theologian in the above manner. He admitted to me that the conclusion of reprobation was logically inescapable, but he refused to draw the inference, holding steadfastly to “single” predestination. Such a notion of predestination is manifest nonsense.” Well, manifest nonsense it may be, but it is nevertheless as far as Lutherans feel they can go on the subject without going beyond what has been revealed to us in the Bible. Regarding the “hardening of hearts,” I think this is a slightly different topic than eternal reprobation as it implies that there once was a period of efficacious grace, but I’ll just leave that for someone else to delve into. In any case, notice I did not try to cite any Bible passages or make an argument for the Lutheran position. I’m merely trying to point out that there is a genuine difference here and I do not think it is merely due to a misunderstanding. Having said that, I’m sure that there are many misunderstandings on both sides and that they, of course, never help! Therefore, if I have misstated what I see as the Calvinist position on predestination, please let me know and I’ll be happy to correct myself in the future.
    Best,
    Bethany
    PS – I reread what I had wrote earlier to make sure I was clear enough about Calvinists on predestination. In retrospect, in the sentence: “Calvinists, on the other hand, attempt to make sense of these teachings by arguing that both human rejection of grace and human acceptance are solely God’s doing,” I should have clarified that the human rejection is a result of God’s decision to withhold His grace and leave man in his natural sinful state, not a coercive action on God’s part. I was trying to be brief, but I apologize for any confusion.

  28. Bethany, Pastor Rossow, and Nathan,

    Thanks for the past handful of rejoinders with each other, they were quite elucidating (as well as much more useful than I think any of my responses have been in trying to get a clearer view into these very muddy waters).

    Just as an aside, and to whichever of you it might suit to do so (or anyone else for that matter), I think it would be quite pertinent and useful to gather the prooftexts (hooray for Sola Scriptura!!) Calvinists apply toward the defense of the positive-negative view as presented by Nathan and then showing from the Lutheran side of things how the interpretation does not flow from these Scriptures.

  29. Here is my fiance (Luther scholar and Ph.D. Marquette in systematic theology) on the Luther as Calvinist question:
    The person he disagrees with in point one is me! 🙂
    “Calvin and Luther on Predestination.

    A. I would not agree with you that it was not an issue yet and therefore as a discussion it was anachronistic. There had been a debate in the West about double predestination going back to Augustine and Prosper of Aquataine. Also, the debate heated up during the Carolingian Renaissance between a number of figures.

    B. Calvinists who think that Luther taught double predestination on the basis of Bondage of the Will do not understand how the dialectic of Law and Gospel- and the dialectic of Hidden and Revealed function in Luther thought. A couple of distinction should be made to show how this work.

    Calvin and Zwingli were both trained in the Via Antiqua and therefore had the Scotus “Univocity of Being” and the Thomistic “Analogy of Being” in the background of their thought. For Thomas there is dialectical similitude between temporal rationality and divine. For Scotus, words when applied to God mean exactly what they mean when applied to creatures. Therefore the divine being can be picked apart using human categories (hence his very complicated divine psychology and explanation of the order of divine decrees which makes its way into Reformed debates regarding infra and supralapsarianism of the 17th century!). Therefore revelation gives us a foothold into the divine being which we can pick apart with reason. Furthermore, the creature can “ascend” into the divine being and know it because it is echoed in it’s temporal manifestations.

    For Luther, a student of Biel and Ockham, the primary distinction is between God’s absolute and ordered power. The absolute power of God is what God can do, the order power of God is what he has done. What God could do is inherently uninteresting to Luther, what he has done and is doing in the concrete is what is interesting.

    Hence the dialectic of “Hidden” and “Revealed.” What God has done is actualized his relationship to the world according to two temporal orders- Law and Gospel. In the Law, God works all things in his wrath. He does so through mediums of the created order- parents, teachers, police, governments, terrorist, earthquakes, fires, Devil, Hell, etc. If I look for God there, then I will find a God who eternally wills my death. This is reality, not an illusion. God doesn’t just appear to will my damnation in these things, he really does. The God I find in the revelation also judges, but he does so for the sake of my salvation. As he reveals himself and offers himself in Word and sacrament, he wishes all to be saved. This is not an illusion either. He really, really does will all to be saved as he is present in Word and sacrament. Furthermore, Luther states in many many places (including several hymns) that this is God’s true heart- that is, what is most fundamentally true about God.

    This is why the divine being is fundamentally “Hidden.” “Above” the God who wants to save us and the God who doesn’t there is the unity of God’s eternal reality. We cannot know this reality, as Luther says at the end of Bondage of the Will, except in “light of glory.”

    Here we see the difference between Luther and Calvin on the issue. When Calvinist read Luther’s statements that the “Hidden God wills the death of sinners” they are reading Calvin willingness to ascend into the divine being through reason into Luther. Luther allows God the revealed God offered in the Gospel to be completely sincere without resolving God’s action elsewhere in the “mask of creation” with it. In other words, that God elsewhere damns, while offering grace in the gospel in a completely sincere manner is totally inexplicable for Luther- much as the existence of evil is!

    Calvin believes that there is a continuity between temporal manifestations of God’s will and the creature’s ability to read them off the state of the world. God may be incomprehensible to Calvin, but not “hidden” in the sense of Luther.

    Therefore, Calvin can “see” that because some are saved and some not, that God does divide the human race between the saved and the damned in his eternal decree. Since some who hear the Word are damned and because God wills some to be damned, it must mean that God as he is “offered” in the Word is not entirely sincere. Therefore “God so loved the World…..” or “God wishes all men to be saved….” cannot mean what they say- whereas for Luther these statements are absolutely sincere since they are part of the Word whereby God offers himself to sinners.

    For this reason, instead of focusing and distinguish between different temporal actualizations of the divine being (law vs. gospel, hidden vs. revealed), Calvin draws the creature into the divine being in itself, away from the Word and offer of God’s self in the gospel. Now, my own certainty about salvation is based on the eternal divine decree and whether or not I manifest signs of election (faith, participation in the sacraments, good works) and not the external actualization of the promise in the Word and the sacraments. This leads to what is typically called Calvinism’s “practical synergism.” One looks into the divine being and tries to justify one’s self through seeing whether one’s own works are signs of election. One ends up trust in those “signs” and not the divine promise of God. Even faith is a kind of work, in that it is something that I look to within myself as a sign of election, and not as something which receives the absolutely sincere promise of God as it is actualized in the Word and sacraments.”

  30. Oops – my fiance’s name is Jack Kilcrease. Shameless plug: He has a wonderful article coming out in the next issues of Logia with a response by Paul Hinlicky.
    Best,
    Bethany

  31. Jack/Bethany,

    Thank you so much for your comment. For those who do not know about Logia, we at BJS see it as the doctrinal and academic version of what we are doing here on a popular level. We would encourage all Brothers of John the Steadfast to subscribe to Logia. (I was thier first “business manager” so I know the journal well.)

    It is helpful to recognize the Okhamist background of Luther and the Thomistic roots of Calvin. I would offer two cautions however.

    1. Luther’s teaching on providence is based on the Scriptures and not on philosophy. Hieko Oberman and others have done a great service to Luther studies by illuminating the medieval philosophical background of the Reformation but Luther’s teaching on election is based on the fact that the Bible says God has elected all who believe to eternal salvation and nowhere says that he has elected some to eternal damnation. The problem with following the Okhamist string is that one can easily go too far and end up with an existentialist Luther (with which Oberman is quite comfortable) for whom the theology of the cross is not about forensic justification but about positing hope against all odds.

    2. This takes us beyond the providence issue but is crucial. Another problem with tooting the Okhamist horn to loudly in Luther studies is that I believe Luther was a metaphysical and epistemological realist and not a nominalist. (There is a great little article on Luther’s metaphysics in the Finnish Luther anthology on this.) We must remember that Luther’s beef with Thomas and Aristotle was not in epistemology nor metaphysics but in ethics. Luther rejects the act/potency schema of Aristotle because it leads to progressive justification which still plagues the Roman church today. Anyone who had such respect for the ability of language to communicate could not have been a nominalist. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Luther thought about epistemology much nor cared about it as a mature theologian, but I do believe he would accept the Thomistic analogy of being in regards to epistemology but certainly (and her I could not agree more with you Jack) would not accept the analogy of being with the divine.

    Again, great comment. It is an honor for the Brothers of John the Steadfast to host this discussion.

    TR

  32. Luther was a Nominalist- he repeatedly refers to “my master Ockham.”

    There might be justification for analogy of being in the sense of Romans 1- the problem with the analogy of being or analogical discourse used as a theological discourse at all is that analogy is always a law discourse and not a gospel one (again, see Romans 1!). Also, it tends to contradict Lutheran claims about the communication of attributes. The man Jesus and also the sacraments and the Word do not echoe divine glory, they communicate it in all it’s fullness! See Gustaf Wingren’s arguments against Barth in “Gospel and Church” and “The Living Word.”

    I would primarily describe Luther’s concept of theological language as sacramental. I would refer you to his defense of the “anthorpomorphics” in the Genesis commentary- as well as the “Disputation Regarding the Word Made Flesh.”

    Analogy always presumes that the human act of knowing is one of intellectual vision. It informs the creature of the state of affair and then tells them to correspond to them- this may be observed in both the two great masters of analogy Barth and Aquinas. If it demands that I conform to a state of affairs (“God is in himself gracious, so have faith”), rather than giving me a reality (“your sins are forgiven for the sake of Jesus” or “This is my body”) then it is a law discourse.

    Luther would likely say that analogy is valid in the world and in the order of law- but it is not true with the human relationship coram dei. The human subject totally receives the object of faith under its opposite. The object of faith is the divine being in Christ. He is not echoed in the form of analogy “of similitude with greater lack of similitude”-rather he is received in his fullness with under the hidden form. The form of hidden does not allow for analogy. The human subject “suffers” (to use Bayer’s term) God under total hiddenness. This means that the human subject “hears” the word but see the opposite (think of the dying Jesus on the cross- “surely this man was the Son of God”-really? or “this is my body” really, it looks like bread?!). We see one thing and hear another. Theologians of glory go on what they see- they are theologians of analogy. Theologians of the cross go on what the hear and therefore must trust and not see.

    The Finns are of course a helpful correction to 100 years of existentialist Luther studies- but at their heart they are little more than Thomists. They constantly describe the act of faith as an intellectual habitus or virtue. They talk of us being “imprinted” upon as if Luther taught a doctrine of created grace or something. They thereby make faith an activity and not receptivity. It is in the end seeing and doing (Aristotle/Thomas) and not hearing, receiving and suffering (Luther/Hamman/Bayer).

  33. Jack,

    I like your designation of Luther’s linguistics as “sacramental language.” Nothing better could be said as long as it is not meant in some Platonic way.

    Concerning the Finns, I have little time for them. They certainly help us appreciate that there are mystical elements in the faith and thus in Luther but their soteriology is all wrong and certainly salvation is not mystical as Mannermaa makes it out to be. I only bring up the volume because it has this refreshing article in it that rescues Luther from the ghetto of nominalism and actually posits that his epistemology and metaphysics are realistic. Of course, he had no epistemology nor a metaphysics per se but we all operate with some notion of how knowledge and language work and I am convinced that if pushed, Luther would cop to being a common sense realist.

    Concerning “his master Ockham,” I did a quick review of the references to Ockham in the American Edition. There are approximately 15 of them. One is neutral and 14 are critical. Of course these references primarily about Ockham’s faulty soteriology but none the less, he does not seem very beloved to Luther.

    Let me share a few more thoughts on the analogy of being. For sure, Luther’s scriptural principle does not allow him to use the Thomistic analogy with God. You are correct, that is the way of the law and does not get us a savior. My assertion is that he uses the analogy of being epistemologically, which teaches that we truly know the things of sense experience via our God-created ability of the brain to “know” the being of things. (This is Gilson’s view of Thomistic and common-sense realism.) As a matter of fact, nominalism really is problematic if we wish to maintain the objectivity of knowledge. But that issue is for another time…

    I would summarize things this way. Luther is no Thomist nor is he a nominalist when it comes to knowledge of God. He is a scripturalist and a theologian of the cross as you have reminded us, but in terms of epistemology, he must be a realist, otherwise there is not defense of objective language.

    TR

  34. Can any of you seminary trained theologians make any sense of this from Cornelius Van Til. This was inserted into the Calvinist/Lutheran debate on another web site. This quote thoroughly confused me. I am beginning to think the differences between the two camps are much more severe than I originally thought. Here is the quote:

    John,

    Lutherans are synergists. Chew on this quote from Van Til.

    How and for what reason does the individual Christian feel himself to be in genuine contact with the Christ, and therefore with God? Whence does the individual Christian have the assurance that he is in possession of the Truth? The Ritschlian doctrine of a subjective satisfaction on these points without an objective foundation has never entered the minds of the Reformers. If they think they have eternal life, it is based upon the presupposition that an absolute God exists and has revealed himself in Christ and in the Scriptures.

    Lutheranism did not as fully as Calvinism rid itself of the remnants of Scholasticism. Herzog calls attention to this when he says that Luther’s attack was not directed squarely against the paganism that was found in the church of Rome, but against the legalism that was its fruit.
    The truth of this may be seen from the Lutheran conception of the image of God in man. In opposition to Rome, all the Reformers held that the image of God was no mere donum superadditum, but was inherent in the nature of man and therefore of pivotal significance for knowledge. But Luther, in distinction from Calvin, thought of the image of God in man as existing exclusively in the moral attributes of knowledge, righteousness and holiness. He ignored the conception of the image of God in the wider sense, i.e., as consisting of man’s intellect and will. It should be carefully noted that this conception of the image of God in man as entertained by Luther is a remnant of Scholasticism. We saw that the reason for the Scholastic doctrine of the image of God as a donum superadditum, was that the Scholastics had not fully cast out the pagan leaven of an originally existing sense world. Man was in part formed out of this pre-existing material which was refractory. Accordingly, not the whole of man’s relationship as a self-conscious being was with the personality of God. In other words, man’s relationship to the world about him was not completely mediated through the personality of God. There was a remnant of impersonalism about it all. Similarly, we find that there is a remnant of impersonalism in Lutheran thinking. Luther thinks it possible that God’s dealings with man can at some points be below the level of personal dealings. This appears clearly from the fact that according to Luther, the fall of man resulted in his being impotent, in the sense that he was to be treated by God as a stone or a block. In his argument with Erasmus on the bondage of the will, Luther not only argues for man’s ethical inability as such, but virtually implies that man’s relationship to God after the entrance of sin into his heart has made it necessary for God to deal with man mechanically. Luther’s early teaching on predestination verges on the borderline of philosophical determinism. Then too, this same impersonalism appears from the fact that according to Luther, the means of grace, i.e., the Word and the sacraments, work, to some extent, mechanically. This impersonalism that is found in Luther’s position call be traced, we believe, to a remainder of the Scholastic notion that there are some vague impersonal principles that have an influence on man’s being. A completely Christian theistic epistemology can allow for no impersonalism anywhere along the line of the transactions between God and man.

    The same element of impersonalism comes to the fore still more clearly in the fact that historically the semi-determinism of Luther developed into the synergism of Melanchthon. This is a very controversial point. The point is not controversial in the sense that it may be doubted whether synergism actually was taught by Melanchthon. This point is conceded by all. The point of controversy is whether or not this synergism of Melanchthon is to be understood as an advance toward a greater emphasis on a personal relationship between God and man. Speaking of this, Benson says that Melanchthon made a great advance toward personalism because he clearly distinguished between God’s work in relation to the physical creation and God’s work in relation to his rational creatures. This judgment of Benson has a plausibility, but no more than a plausibility. There was, to be sure, in the synergism of Melanchthon an emphasis upon the fact that man’s intellect and will must be taken into consideration when the relation of God to man is discussed. Luther had almost forgotten this. Yet, when taken in its ultimate effect, synergism does not work in the direction of a greater personalization of the relation between God and man. Synergism takes for granted that there can be no truly personal relation between God and man unless the absoluteness of God be deified in proportion that the freedom of man is maintained. Synergism assumed that an act of man cannot be truly personal unless such an act be unipersonal. By that we mean that according to synergism, a personal act of man cannot at the same time, but in a different sense, be a personal act of God. Synergism assumes that either man or God acts personally at a certain time, and at a certain place, but that they cannot act personally simultaneously at the same point of contact. In other words, synergism holds that personal activity on the part of man must always be at the expense of the personal character of that which surrounds him. This might seem to be an innocent matter as far as the universe around us is concerned. Yet the danger is very great, since the depersonalization involved does not limit itself to the material universe. It extends itself logically to God. And even if it does not at once and clearly oppose the personal activity of God, it remains a fact that there is always a tendency in synergism to hold on to some of the remnants of the Greek idea of a universe, in some sense of the term, independent of God. If nowhere else, the synergist at least extracts his own activity from the personal activity of God at some point of time. And just to that extent he has depersonalized God.

    Van Til, Cornelius, The Works of Cornelius Van Til, (New York: Labels Army Co.) 1997.

    By: GAS on March 25, 2009
    at 11:45 am

    GAS,

    I will have to chew on that for awhile. My first reaction was this- this is a bunch of conjecture hashed from secondary sources. VanTilism bred Christian Reconstruction- are not Reconstrunctionist views of sanctification synergistic to the core? Perhaps I am misunderstanding what Van Til means by synergism. Synergism in respect with justification by faith alone or synergism in regards to something else? Or, just how God relates to man and the universe in general? This is not a real clear puote and anyone could interpret it a thousand different ways.

    I will go back and reread this as some of it went over my head. I am not a seminary trained theologian. Some of the terms I was not sure of- like donum superadditum. The theology I have developed has come mostly from the confessions and reading well-respected Reformed and Lutheran theologians (both contemporary and from the past). As Scott Clark posted to me the other day it is always best to develop your theology from primary sources.

    By: John Yeazel on March 25, 2009
    at 3:29 pm

    John,

    Van Til is difficult because he writes with such dense theological and philosophical terminology.

    In essence, the Lutherans still hang onto a final thread of autonomous human action in their relation to God.

    Some have described Lutherans as single predestinarians.

    It is also for this reason that the Sacraments are “mechanical” in their view.

    By: GAS on March 25, 2009
    at 3:46 pm

    GAS,

    I would tend to disagree with your notion that Lutherans hang onto a “final thread of autonomous human action (single predestinarians).” If I am not mistaken the Van Tilians also accused Gerstner and Sproul of this very thing in their apologetics by attacking their primacy of order on the intellect saying that our reason is never autonomous and you have to presuppose God (which Gerster and Sproul showed to be a circular argument in their book Classical Apologetics)

    Lutherans claim that the scriptures do not give any hint of double predestination and that the Reformed assume this because it is logically tenable. Lutherans say it may be logically tenable but we really do not know from what scriptures teach that God condemns some to eternal separation from Him. So, how do you arrive at the conclusion that single predestination leads to a final thread of autonomous human action? Lutherans would claim it is a mystery and a paradox which is part of God’s hidden will which we should not conjecture about.

    As far as the Sacraments go I still am unclear on this issue. I think it has more to do with the two natures of Christ rather than a mechanical view of the sacraments. I think this is conjecturing more from philosophy than theology. But again, I am not a trained theologian and I may be wrong here.

    The question I always ask is this doctrine really critical for how I come into a relationship with God and how it is maintained? Do you see a critical difference? I would say the sacramental differences may be critical but I am unclear on that at this point in my life.

    By: John Yeazel on March 25, 2009
    at 5:54 pm

    I should say- how God instructs us in His Word to maintain the relationship. God Himself being the maintainer of it (the perseverance of the saints). The perseverance doctrine may be another critical difference between the Lutherans and Calvinists. But like I said on the blog between the Hoagies and Stogies I put this into the Barthian category of an impossible possibility ie., the possibility that one who has come to true faith may fall away. My thinking may be a bit unclear on this matter also. However, from what I have read of the Lutheran and Reformed positions it seems like more semantics than anything else. As Rod Rosenbladt says you have to work on falling away quite hard for it to actually take place. Whether that is proper theological thinking is a mystery to me. I have never asked Rod or heard him give a detailed explanation of what he means by that or what he basis that on.

    By: John Yeazel on March 25, 2009
    at 6:14 pm

    There has been an ongoing debate on the steadfast lutheran site regarding the differences between Calvinists and Lutherans- I just saw this post today; it is relevant to our discussion:

    Here is my fiance (Luther scholar and Ph.D. Marquette in systematic theology) on the Luther as Calvinist question:
    The person he disagrees with in point one is me!
    “Calvin and Luther on Predestination.

    A. I would not agree with you that it was not an issue yet and therefore as a discussion it was anachronistic. There had been a debate in the West about double predestination going back to Augustine and Prosper of Aquataine. Also, the debate heated up during the Carolingian Renaissance between a number of figures.

    B. Calvinists who think that Luther taught double predestination on the basis of Bondage of the Will do not understand how the dialectic of Law and Gospel- and the dialectic of Hidden and Revealed function in Luther thought. A couple of distinction should be made to show how this work.

    Calvin and Zwingli were both trained in the Via Antiqua and therefore had the Scotus “Univocity of Being” and the Thomistic “Analogy of Being” in the background of their thought. For Thomas there is dialectical similitude between temporal rationality and divine. For Scotus, words when applied to God mean exactly what they mean when applied to creatures. Therefore the divine being can be picked apart using human categories (hence his very complicated divine psychology and explanation of the order of divine decrees which makes its way into Reformed debates regarding infra and supralapsarianism of the 17th century!). Therefore revelation gives us a foothold into the divine being which we can pick apart with reason. Furthermore, the creature can “ascend” into the divine being and know it because it is echoed in it’s temporal manifestations.

    For Luther, a student of Biel and Ockham, the primary distinction is between God’s absolute and ordered power. The absolute power of God is what God can do, the order power of God is what he has done. What God could do is inherently uninteresting to Luther, what he has done and is doing in the concrete is what is interesting.

    Hence the dialectic of “Hidden” and “Revealed.” What God has done is actualized his relationship to the world according to two temporal orders- Law and Gospel. In the Law, God works all things in his wrath. He does so through mediums of the created order- parents, teachers, police, governments, terrorist, earthquakes, fires, Devil, Hell, etc. If I look for God there, then I will find a God who eternally wills my death. This is reality, not an illusion. God doesn’t just appear to will my damnation in these things, he really does. The God I find in the revelation also judges, but he does so for the sake of my salvation. As he reveals himself and offers himself in Word and sacrament, he wishes all to be saved. This is not an illusion either. He really, really does will all to be saved as he is present in Word and sacrament. Furthermore, Luther states in many many places (including several hymns) that this is God’s true heart- that is, what is most fundamentally true about God.

    This is why the divine being is fundamentally “Hidden.” “Above” the God who wants to save us and the God who doesn’t there is the unity of God’s eternal reality. We cannot know this reality, as Luther says at the end of Bondage of the Will, except in “light of glory.”

    Here we see the difference between Luther and Calvin on the issue. When Calvinist read Luther’s statements that the “Hidden God wills the death of sinners” they are reading Calvin willingness to ascend into the divine being through reason into Luther. Luther allows God the revealed God offered in the Gospel to be completely sincere without resolving God’s action elsewhere in the “mask of creation” with it. In other words, that God elsewhere damns, while offering grace in the gospel in a completely sincere manner is totally inexplicable for Luther- much as the existence of evil is!

    Calvin believes that there is a continuity between temporal manifestations of God’s will and the creature’s ability to read them off the state of the world. God may be incomprehensible to Calvin, but not “hidden” in the sense of Luther.

    Therefore, Calvin can “see” that because some are saved and some not, that God does divide the human race between the saved and the damned in his eternal decree. Since some who hear the Word are damned and because God wills some to be damned, it must mean that God as he is “offered” in the Word is not entirely sincere. Therefore “God so loved the World…..” or “God wishes all men to be saved….” cannot mean what they say- whereas for Luther these statements are absolutely sincere since they are part of the Word whereby God offers himself to sinners.

    For this reason, instead of focusing and distinguish between different temporal actualizations of the divine being (law vs. gospel, hidden vs. revealed), Calvin draws the creature into the divine being in itself, away from the Word and offer of God’s self in the gospel. Now, my own certainty about salvation is based on the eternal divine decree and whether or not I manifest signs of election (faith, participation in the sacraments, good works) and not the external actualization of the promise in the Word and the sacraments. This leads to what is typically called Calvinism’s “practical synergism.” One looks into the divine being and tries to justify one’s self through seeing whether one’s own works are signs of election. One ends up trust in those “signs” and not the divine promise of God. Even faith is a kind of work, in that it is something that I look to within myself as a sign of election, and not as something which receives the absolutely sincere promise of God as it is actualized in the Word and sacraments.”

    Comment by Bethany — March 24, 2009 @ 8:43 am

    By: John Yeazel on March 25, 2009
    at 6:57 pm

    John,

    Bethany is a good nominalist but we see the fruits of nominalism in the post-modern world and it’s not very realistic. I’ll stick with realism.

    The crux for Bethany, as it was for Luther, was an assurance of a mechanical working through the sacraments. False arguments are brought out about Calvinists needing to find assurance in their works but this is just a misinterpretation of the Calvinist doctrine of gratitude something which is wrought out of the assurance of salvation.

    By: GAS on March 25, 2009
    at 11:47 pm

    Okay, this is all about as clear as mud. How you came to those conclusions from what was said above is beyond me. I do not think we are truly hearing each other at all. We are supposing things a priori and then putting words in each others mouth. Something is very eschew here and I am not sure what it is yet. But I am more confused now then I was before I started trying to understand the differences between Calvinists and Lutherans. Perhaps the differences are much more severe than I thought. That Van Til quote was bizarre- I have always been suspect about Van Til since the Reconstructionist movement came and went. There was enormous amounts of confusion in that movement. I am out of my realm of understanding now and am treading on waters that I am not familiar with or trained properly for.

    I am also unclear what you mean by a mechanical view of the sacraments. Does that mean impersonal or what? Just because the Calvinists insert the working of the Holy Spirit in the Super it is personal and not mechanical? In my experience of taking communion each Sunday at the LCMS Church I go to it is anything but mechanical- it is the most personal and intimate part of the liturgy. It is God coming down and nourishing us spiritually in forgiving us of our still inherent sin. To call it mechanical is offensive to me. And I do not think what you say has any merit in the truth of the matter.

  35. Pr. Rossow.

    By sacramental I mean that Luther views theological language as containing the reality that it gives. I do not mean something Platonic. As Martin Brecht shows in his Luther biography, the destruction of the the res-signum (i.e. Platonic concept the sacrament from Augustine) was came shortly after the Evangelical breakthrough. Luther in effect colapses these realities into one another.

    I would point to the defense of the Anthorporhites in the Genesis commentary. Luther says that figurative language about God does not point us away to some higher reality beyond the words (as analogy might), but rather God “wraps” himself up and hands himself over to us with such language. This strongly parallels the Lutheran Christological doctrine of the Genus Majestaticum.

    I’m not entirely certain why Nominalism and the denial of real universals would destroy theological and linguistic realism. For Ockham it certainly effected how much weight he was willing to put on natural theology and it also seems to have affected how he understood the doctrine of divine simplicity. This did not make him a theological anti-Realist though. Instead it seems to have driven him to emphasize the unknowability of God apart from the economy of salvation- in other words, God’s manifestation in concrete individual events and not abstract universals. Luther follows him in this and his negative statements about Ockham and Biel mainly have to do with the doctrine of grace. Oberman points this out in most of his writings. He shows that Luther’s ideas regarding faith and reason, as well as his emphasis on the Bible as the sole source of revelation remained a good Ockhamist- but disagreed with him strongly on the doctrine of sin and grace.

  36. With respect to the need to have a thorough communion card statement about the differences between the Lutheran real presence and the Reformed version of it less we inadvertently give them communion, isn’t a person professing more than just a belief in the real presence when they receive communion, i.e., that they are in doctrinal agrement with everything that is believed, taught, and confessed by that denomination?

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