Why Not Lutheranism?

While Joe Carter is yet again telling me what I should do, this time how to think about October 31st, Protestants (and others) in Hillsdale will be observing Reformation Day with a book talk by (all about) me on Calvinism. What follows is an excerpt:

Why Calvinism (Why not Lutheranism?)

One of the stranger features of religion in the United States is the level of comfort that Americans seem to have with Calvinism even though it is a version of Christianity that many, along with H. L. Mencken, place in their “cabinet of horrors” – the Baltimore journalist put it on the shelf right next to cannibalism. One way to illustrate this peculiarity is to compare Americans’ familiarity with Calvinism to their general indifference to and ignorance of Lutheranism. If you do as I do and have Google alerts set up for both Calvinism and Lutheranism, you will daily receive an email with at least three or four references to Calvinism. You will also usually go three or four days between emailings with a reference or two (at best) to Lutheranism.

This is odd at least for a couple of reasons. First, Lutherans are the ur-Protetstants, the original Christians who broke with the papacy, and yet few Protestants in the United States seem to have any awareness of the debt they owe to Martin Luther – or the reasons for convening this lecture in competition with costumes and candy on a day known as Reformation Day, the alleged date when in 1517 Luther nailed a piece of paper to a cathedral door and destroyed the sacred canopy of Christendom in Europe. Second, Lutherans far outnumber Calvinists in the United States. The mainline denomination, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is almost 6 times larger than the mainline Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. – roughly 6 million compared to 1 million. And outside the mainline denominations, Missouri Synod Lutherans are almost 30 times larger than the Orthodox Presbyterian Church – roughly 3 million compared – ahem – to 30,000. Even the Wisconsin Synod, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, to be precise, a communion that even with “evangelical” in its name is unknown to most American Protestants – even the Wisconsin Synod is larger than the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination that thanks to Tim Keller’s popularity in the Big Apple seems to be poised to transform America into a nation of urban chic Protestants. The Wisconsin Synod has roughly 400,000 members and the PCA has only 300,000.

But does that kind of history and those raw numbers make American pundits, scholars, and laity take notice of Lutherans? Hardly. If you want to glom on to an influential form of Protestantism, one with world-shaping significance, in the English-speaking world you go not to Lutheranism but to Calvinism.

To illustrate Calvinism’s appeal – again which is hard to believe because of its associations with teaching total depravity and predestination, thus qualifying for Mencken’s cabinet of horrors – think back to this past summer when Baptists of all people, Southern Baptists specifically, received a report about the propriety of Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention. For several years, fellows like Al Mohler and Russell Moore, both at the oldest Southern Baptist seminary in Louisville, had carved out a place for Calvinist teaching in the denomination. But Baptists have long been hostile to Calvinism, even if some Baptists have gone by the name of particular or Calvinistic. To make this point we need only think of Hillsdale College’s origins. It began as a Baptist college and only severed its church ties in 1913 – one hundred years ago. It was associated with a particular brand of Baptist churches – the Free Will Baptists. And these Baptists were not at all comfortable with Calvinism’s teaching about the bondage of the will (thanks to the fall) or to Calvinism’s notion that Christ’s death was effective only for those God elected or predestined to save. One Kentucky preacher spoke for many Free Will Baptists and other democratic Protestants when he sniffed, “We are not personally acquainted with the writings of John Calvin, nor are we certain how nearly we agree with his views of divine truth; neither do we care.” And those words would likely have likely received support from Hillsdale College’s original board of trustees.

So why would Baptists like Mohler and Moore today find Calvinism to be a brand of Protestantism worthy of emulation? Why do we hear about Protestants like John Piper, the famous pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, being called a Calvinist or Reformed Baptist? Why not a Lutheran Baptist? Why is the former unexceptional but the latter – Lutheran Baptist – why does THAT sound oxymoronic? Isn’t Calvinist Baptist just as much of an oxymoron? After all, Calvinism has as many foreign Christian elements as Lutheranism. If Lutherans have funny views about baptism and the Lord’s Supper, so does Calvin. If Lutherans don’t sing revival hymns, Calvinists don’t even sing hymns – or at least they didn’t used to; they only sang psalms. And if Lutheranism has odd notions about church membership, Calvinism has its own set of difficulties for Protestants who prize congregational autonomy and rule by church members. It was Calvin, after all, who wrote an order for church government, conveniently excerpted in Hillsdale’s Western Heritage Reader, which lays down a precise Presbyterian polity that would drive Baptists, who thrive on congregational autonomy, batty.

Last summer a writer for the conservative journal, First Things, tried to account for Baptist preferences for Calvinism over Lutheranism. He observed that when Lutherans came to North America, they actually had a far more flexible form of church government than Calvinism. Yet the irony is that Lutheranism is associated much more than Calvinism with a fixed understanding of church organization, whereas Calvinism is associated almost exclusively with ideas not about the church but about salvation – as in the Five Points of Calvinism, or T-U-L-I-P. Gene Veith, academic dean at Patrick Henry College, and a Missouri Synod Lutheran himself, weighed in on the spectacle of Calvinstic Southern Baptists and argued that Lutheran theology cannot be detached from its understandings about the nature of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The same would have been said of Calvinism at least in the sixteenth century.

But by the time English Protestants had appropriated Calvinism, they had concocted an idea that could not only be severed from Calvin’s own views on the sacraments but also potentially from much having to do with Christianity. Indeed, a common occurrence among pundits in the United States and the United Kingdom is to associate Calvinism with aspects of modern life well beyond the church – politics, economics, education, science, art. In other words, quite apart from the merits or defects of Calvinism’s ideas – human sinfulness to the point of total depravity, the scope of the benefits of Christ’s death, and divine sovereignty in relation to human freedom – Calvinism has become for English-speakers a familiar term, even a brand, that makes it as easy to talk about the effects and influence of Calvin and Geneva as it does to talk about Thomas Jefferson and Jeffersonianism. Calvinism, no matter what it actually means, is a word with which most English-speakers are comfortable. In contrast, Lutheranism feels like a foreign word, sort of like Hegelianism. If you are going to drop that into a sentence or two to explain developments in the West, you better be sure you know what you are talking about. But with Calvinism, English-speakers know enough (they think) to use it to account for a host of world-wide developments, which again is strange since Lutheranism, the original Protestantism, did as much to disrupt Europe’s received patterns, and was as much on the ground floor of world-changing significance as Calvinism – perhaps even more so. After all, Calvin didn’t start to make things happen in Geneva – the 1540s – until the very last years of Martin Luther’s life.

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  1. Daniel Stinson
    Posted November 5, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    “Members of the visible church, including infants, are considered to be elect by faith unless and until they prove otherwise by committing apostasy,” based on Proverbs 22:6

    Proverbs 22:6
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    6 Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.

    Both Luther and Calvin, agreed that only a covenant promise from God capable of atonement are worthy of being called a “sacrament”. Both Luther and Calvin, accepted and embraced God’s two means of grace (Covenant of Grace) in baptism and Eucharist. We see two sacraments and two forms of atonement, as seen in the earliest days of the Christian Church.

    It’s from “universal” atonement that the “catholic” faith receives its name, which is taught by the earliest Christian congregations. Christ Jesus affirms with exceptional redundancy that he died for all, Jews (the elect) and Greeks (the non-elect). Both Luther and Calvin saw themselves as a continuation of the Church “catholic”.

    Luther, in keeping with the early church, retained the ancient Church’s teaching of “universal atonement” and “vicarious atonement”. It’s under universal atonement at the cross that children are eligible and worthy of baptism into one faith in Christ Jesus, as members of his elect. In catechesis the catechumenate proclaims vicarious atonement in their personal salvation between him/her self and God publicly affirming the validity of his/her baptism; and it’s only upon this confession that participation in the Eucharist is permitted. The Catholic Rites have retained their teaching of universal and vicarious atonement since before the Nicene Creed was drafted.

    Vicarious Atonement is the teaching that the atonement which states that Christ’s death was “legal.” It satisfied the legal justice of God. Jesus bore the penalty of sin when he died on the cross. His death was a substitution for the believers. In other words, he substituted himself for them upon the cross. Jesus hung in our place as he bore our sin in his body on the cross. See 1 Pet. 2:24.

    Calvin got hung on Pope Augustine’s overreaction to Pelagianism, which is where the pope expressed double-predestination and limited atonement. Calvin ate this up to an extreme and replaced universal atonement with limited atonement; Calvin also replaced vicarious atonement with penal atonement. It’s under limited atonement that infants are eligible and worthy of baptism in one faith in Christ Jesus, as members of his elect. In catechesis the catechumenate proclaims penal atonement in their personal salvation between him/her self and God publicly affirming the validity of his/her baptism; and it’s only upon this confession that participation in the Eucharist is permitted.

    Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed Presbyterian, Reformed, Dutch Reformed, UCC, and etc… all participate in infant baptism; whether under universal or limited atonement.

    The Protestant-Reformed theologies were directly challenged by the Radical-Reformation, which introduced “believers baptism” denouncing Luther and Calvin for performing infant baptisms. The Radical-Reformers claim to predate the Protestant-Reformation because their Ana-Baptist teachings were often linked to Peter Waldo in the 1200’s. Waldo’s Waldensian followers in the 1600’s were so adamant that they started the “Reformation” rather than Luther and Calvin; that they even put “1st” in front of their congregation names i.e. 1st Baptist and 1st Presbyterian which assimilated Baptist and Presbyterian into the Waldensian Church. The Waldensian dropped “Waldensian” from their congregational names to avoid further Inquisition from Rome, so they adopted Baptist and Presbyterian to their congregational names. The Radical-Reformers were also successful in establishing the Great Commision which altered many American Reformed congregations to a more post-modern (anti-Calvin, anti-Luther) Radical view against infant baptism and the sacramental Eucharist (replacing the Eucharist with multiple baptisms).

    Both Luther and Calvin acknowledged one baptism for the remission of sins (universal- or limited- atonement); and both acknowledged an age of cognitive awareness, reason, accountability, or maturity for catechesis that would put on display a confession of faith, whereby the faithful catechumenate could publicly proclaim either (vicarious- or penal- atonement) by way of God’s active grace in their lives.

    I think some of the posts were beginning to incorrectly establish a universal vs. vicarious argument against Luther, and the Church catholic that’s been expressed for nearly 2k+ years. Unfortunately, such posts equally damn Calvin for likewise supporting two forms of atonement as though limited vs. penal are in opposition to one another. One form of atonement brings you into God’s predestined-election; while the other is an extension of the first which builds us deep into conviction through our faith, a faith that was given in baptism and regenerates in the Eucharist. The function of the Eucharist is an acknowledgement of our depravity and need for regeneration of our baptisms. Where the waters of baptism are spread over many, the consumption of sacrament is more personal and individualistic. I hope this begins to open-up the discussion beyond the string of misconception.

  2. Daniel Stinson
    Posted November 5, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Another form of atonement exists that’s more thoroughly rejected by both Luther and Calvin, known as Universalism.

    Universalism is in itself its own sacrament, because it teaches that Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection are the only physical means of grace. Universalists won’t accept the baptismal waters nor the Eucharist as a valid physical means of grace connected to a Covenant promise, and denounce priests’ perception in consecration of any physical substance. The Charismatic movement has a very strong prosperity Gospel that’s aggressively pushing post-modern Arminianism into relativity, rationalization, and universalist viewpoints of scripture. It’s creating an open-door for scientific paganism, mysticism, and unrealistic “Holiness” experiences with spirit filled speaking in tongues and such. Former Luther based congregations like the UCC and ELCA have been swept away by this, to such an extent that aside from maybe having Luther’s Catechism laying around somewhere, any existence of Lutheranism is all but lost. Catholics, Episcopal-Anglican, Methodist, and Presbyterians are having a great deal of difficulty fighting off the Charismatics. Confessional Lutherans and Confessional Reformed congregations are but few who remain steadfast against the worldview here in the US and Western Europe.

    Unfortunately, universalism and universal atonement, are frequently confused with one another.

  3. Daniel Stinson
    Posted November 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Imputed Righteousness

    Impute: to attribute (righteousness, guilt, etc.) to a person or persons vicariously; ascribe as derived from another.

    vicarious: taking the place of another person or thing; acting or serving as a substitute.

    1.) It happened on the cross, predestined before our birth
    2.) It happens in our baptism into a universal proclamation at the cross of salvation through Christ Jesus alone
    4.) It happens in our vicarious partaking of the Eucharist as a public confession in our faith of the Holy Spirit
    5.) It happens every time you pray in Christ Jesus name for the remission of sins and forgiveness

    Obviously, some come to faith in God through a conversion later in life than those receiving infant baptism. So, there isn’t a one-glove-fits-all approach to the Holy Spirit actively stirring in us at a particular age, place, or situation in life. Our responsibility is to be the visible Church that converts our lead too by way of the Holy Spirit.

    If you can’t vicariously accept Christ Jesus as a valid substitute for your sins on the cross, in baptism, or through the Eucharist; then the Church is failing to reveal the fullness of grace it has to offer. Where you’re at isn’t the correct congregation for you; if the pastor and elders are confident that sermons, Bible studies, catechesis, and fellowship sufficiently supplied enough law and gospel to make imputance known by faith. There’s also the issue of too much law and poorly balancing Gospel, which can crush us under sin to such an extent that it’s too hard to ask for forgiveness of sins, not realizing atonement exists. This will mark the fall from grace under the law, but the Holy Spirit can work in us to bring us back into the grace offered through the Gospel.

  4. Daniel Stinson
    Posted November 5, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    “Lutherans accept the mystery as to, why some have been allowed to fall, from God’s predestined path of salvation for their benefit. The Holy Spirit gives and withholds the free-gift of faith, which enables spiritual free-will, this ties into election. Some are elect to receive the Holy Spirit while others have the Holy Spirit withheld at times, but all are given at some point the opportunity to participate as one of God’s elect.”

    I apologize for my use of the word “participate” in my quote above, as it was poor word choice, and a slip of the tongue and doesn’t accurately portray the belief system of the LCMS or myself. Lutherans don’t pretend to know who is or isn’t a member of the elect, so the Church allows all infants and confessional adults participation in baptism for instance, but the Church is carrying out the will of God, it’s not humans participating on behalf of God.

    This quoted “participate” was used against myself and Lutherans in discussion completely ignoring my obvious usage of “predestined” (not of human nature under depravity), “Holy Spirit gives and withholds the free-gift of faith” (not of human nature under depravity), “spiritual free-will” (not of human nature under depravity), and “Some are elect to receive the Holy Spirit” (not of human nature under depravity).

    Lutheran theology only allows enough “free-will” to fall from grace, not to initiate our relationship with God, God alone initiates his relationship with us and maintains such a relationship, so long as we don’t “fall from grace” by way of what little “free-will” that we’re granted.

    I don’t mind being quoted so long as I’m taken in context to the point that I’m driving. It’s not like it was too big of a paragraph to quote the wholeness of the point I was really trying to get across. This was nothing more than a cheap-shot at trying to design an Arminian angle to Lutheranism and myself.

  5. Daniel Stinson
    Posted November 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Formula of Concord, part 4
    The Righteousness of Faith
    Includes imputation of righteousness for those of you asking for it:

  6. Posted November 5, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I have not bowed out of these discussions I just had a lot I had to do today and just got to a computer. I am very tired so will probably not comment back until tomorrow. I appreciate you posting those Lutheran positions Daniel Stinson, whoever you are, I will read them in the morning and try to make some comments. It is good to hear from you again Lily. Hope your health is better. Alas, I can barely keep my eyes open right now. I watched the Bear/Packer game last night and then had to get up early to do all I had to do. I am not mentally alert and I would rather post when fresh and have adequately read the posts with comprehension.

  7. mark mcculley
    Posted November 5, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    what’s going to happen to my fantasy team now that the Bears injured my quarterback? Did you see the cheese cutters on the heads of the Bears fans?

  8. Posted November 5, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I did see those cheese cutters on the heads of the Bears fans- that was quite the topic of conversation at the establishment I was at here in Savannah, Georgia. I was at JJ’s on Bay Street and the owner is from Green Bay, Wisconsin. It is a Packer place down south. Us Chicagoans at the place were having quite the time gloating all game long. I even won 10 bucks. The game evened out quickly when Rodgers got injured. It was a fun game to watch, McCown was amazing as the Bears backup Quarterback.

  9. Posted November 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    John Yeazel,

    You’re welcome, any time, and I’m a LCMS congregational member on the northside of Greater-Metropolitan-Atlanta. My pastor is in his 30’s but is a 3rd generation LCMS pastor, his older brother is also a LCMS pastor around the Warner Robins AFB. Our congregation has just grown above the “mission” status level allowed by the LCMS, so we’re now a self-sustained congregation without LCMS charity. We’ve just purchased our 1st property and did a groundbreaking ceremony not too long ago, with a LCMS loan. Our congregation has helped in the ordination process of two congregational members through Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MS. One of them just completed his training and has opened a “mission” congregation near the Mall of Georgia in Gwinnett County. The other is still attending courses in St. Louis. We’ve also helped to start a “mission” congregation in Dahlonega, GA which is in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our elders are in rotation to aide these two congregations.

    We now have a Korean pastor among us who’s growing the Korean ministry relatively rapidly and he’s also helping in the ordination training of some Korean congregational members. We’re currently one of the fastest growing Lutheran congregations in the Atlanta market with about 15 members a few years ago to now just over 200 members. We’ve also had some local transfers from other LCMS congregations that wanted a more confessional Church than what some other LCMS congregations were offering. Our congregation has the highest percentage of participants in Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, of any Church in the Florida-Georgia District, which automatically lowers the interest rate on LCMS loans for building projects.

    Our pastor has setup an adult catechesis to reeducate our congregation and to help better integrate spouses who married into Lutheranism. Atlanta has a substantial transfer presence of Lutherans into and out of the area, so we’re growing off those Lutherans coming in from out of town, who are just now discovering that Lutherans do exist somewhere between all these Baptist Churches. We seem to be retaining young couples who like the consistency of our liturgy, which is more traditionally sung hymns, chanted Psalms, Christ centered, flower-petal sermons (each petal is either Law or Gospel, with the iris as God in the center), and the means of Grace through the Eucharist. Once the adult catechumenate is complete, we’ll begin our Book of Concord class, and further introduce new congregational members to Lutheran Confessionalism, and why we’re confessional to traditional liturgy and doctrinal Orthodoxy, as opposed to contemporary liturgy. I’ve actually seen guest leave because they couldn’t use a hymnal and hadn’t been to a Church before that isn’t dependent on overhead projectors.

    I attended Georgia Southern University in the 97-98 academic year, so that’s about as close as I’ve ever lived in proximity to Savannah. The whole campus pretty much attends St. Patrick’s week on River St.

    Hopefully, this breaks the ice a little bit…

  10. Posted November 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Daniel Stinson says: Both Luther and Calvin, agreed that only a covenant promise from God capable of atonement are worthy of being called a “sacrament”. Both Luther and Calvin, accepted and embraced God’s two means of grace (Covenant of Grace) in baptism and Eucharist. We see two sacraments and two forms of atonement, as seen in the earliest days of the Christian Church.

    It’s from “universal” atonement that the “catholic” faith receives its name, which is taught by the earliest Christian congregations. Christ Jesus affirms with exceptional redundancy that he died for all, Jews (the elect) and Greeks (the non-elect). Both Luther and Calvin saw themselves as a continuation of the Church “catholic”.

    John Y: You are making a huge assumption here that the sacraments are the means whereby atonement is made instead of the death of Christ on the cross in history. How did atonement switch from the historical death of Christ on the cross into the sacrament? How is this different from the reinactment of the Catholic mass and transubstantiation of the elements? Another question I would ask is are you interpreting the Scriptures rightly when you place all authority in the sacraments and those who hand out the sacrament? That is a dangerous amount of power to delegate to the fallen clergy. Plus, I am not as concerned about what the earliest Christian congregations taught as what the Scriptures teach. You sound like a modern Catholic apologist when you appeal to “early Christian congregations” instead of the Scriptures.

    Daniel Stinson says: “Luther, in keeping with the early church, retained the ancient Church’s teaching of “universal atonement” and “vicarious atonement”. It’s under universal atonement at the cross that children are eligible and worthy of baptism into one faith in Christ Jesus, as members of his elect. In catechesis the catechumenate proclaims vicarious atonement in their personal salvation between him/her self and God publicly affirming the validity of his/her baptism; and it’s only upon this confession that participation in the Eucharist is permitted. The Catholic Rites have retained their teaching of universal and vicarious atonement since before the Nicene Creed was drafted.”

    John Y: Again, huge assumptions are being made here without sources being supplied. Plus you are talking about election in ways that I don’t think the Scriptures talk about election- especially in Ephesians chapter 1 and Romans chapters 9-11. And you sound like the Catholic apologists that frequent the Old life web site, ie Jason and the callers.

    I am going to defer the rest of the comments from that first post to McMark because he has read far more theological works on the atonement than I have. I have trouble with sacramental theology being Scriptural. There is scant evidence in Scripture for a full blown sacramental theology. I don’t know enough of historical theology either to trace the development of sacramental theology. It seems to have its roots in how the church began to view its authority and usurp the authority of the Scriptures. That is probably the main reason why there was such a huge reaction against it and why it became a huge distraction during the Reformation of the Catholic church in the 1500’s. Of course, those who adhere to a sacramental theology do not think of it as a distraction but a vital Gospel issue. I think this is a tough case to make Scripturally and Sacramentalists imply that it is not that huge of an assumption to make. They appeal to early church congregations rather than the Scriptures.

    Lastly, the post on imputation is completely foreign to the way I have been thinking about imputation for the last 3 to 4 years. You want to make all the benefits of Christ’s death to be applied by sacramental feeding. Again, I don’t see that in the Scriptures at all. I have not listened to the issues, etc. podcast but when I do I will comment further if I have any questions about it.

  11. Daniel Stinson
    Posted November 6, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    John Y: I don’t know how the word “Sacrament” could even be used in any context that doesn’t on some level acknowledge the means of Grace existing through God’s works?

    Calvin disagreed with Luther over the issue of “real presence” or “true presence”. Calvin still administered sacramental water in baptism and sacraments of the altar in communion.

    Transubstantiation says the elements cease to exist, so bread and wine aren’t present. Luther’s “sacramental union” says the bread and wine still exists in union with the true or real nature of God. Consubstantiation adopted by the Phillipist is a hybrid between Luther and Calvin points of view.

    The gifts of the Holy Spirit defines a special “calling” into the priesthood or clergy apart from other gifts. Those called and ordained are to handle the sacraments. God alone performs the work of atonement where his sacraments are present. Baptism and the Eucharist replace circumcision, anointing with oil, and burnt offerings; as previous means of grace under the law.

  12. Posted November 6, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink


    I know the difference between Calvin and Luther on the real presence and the true presence. My main question and problem is the assumption that sacramentalists make that the means of grace is only applied through the sacraments. I read the book of Romans and don’t see any sacramental feeding at all. How do you read Romans chapters 4-11 and see sacramental feeding as the means God uses to apply the benefits of Christ’s bloody death to his elect? How do you interpret Romans chapter 4 where the imputation of righteousness is explained in full without any mention of sacramental feeding? And I think Romans 5 through 8 is just a continuation of the explanation of the legal ramifications of what took place for the elect when Christ died, rose and ascended for them into heaven where He now intercedes for them until they are joined with Him in glory.

    I am not expecting you to be able to answer these questions on a blog site, I am just explaining how my thinking has changed and why I have come to have doubts about the sacraments. I see grace being applied to the elect when God the Father places the elect into the death of Christ and declares the person justified. This is what applies the death of Christ to the elect. This has nothing to do with sacramental feeding at all. And I think this is clear in the books of Romans and Galatians. Sacramental theology is in direct opposition by declaring that God applies the benefits of Christ death through the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I want biblical proof not appeals to church authority for the sacramentalists position. Luthers appeal to “this is my body” is scant biblical proof.

    I was close to buying into sacramental theology while attending a LCMS church for 3 years. I asked many questions to the pastor of the church where I was attending about some of the problems I was having but he never adequately answered my questions. He was more into liturgy than theology though so I went to the LCMS church in Naperville, Illinois on some occasions too to try get some of my questions answered. I ended up having family difficulties and had to leave Illinois so I never did sufficiently get to know the Pastors there to start inquiring about the questions I had.

  13. mark mcculley
    Posted November 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Bill Evans: Scott Clark is much closer to Barth on the question of soteriological solidarity than I am, and I critiqued Barth on precisely this point in the book (Imputation and Impartation, pp. 243-245)…
    Barth’s soteriology, despite his use of terms like “participation,” is (particularly in connection with justification) rather thoroughly extrinsic (see, e.g., Adam Neder, Participation in Christ, p. 12). In fact, some excellent contemporary Barth scholars have contended that precisely in his insistent emphasis on the extra nos of Christ “for us” Barth is the truly consistent Protestant.

    Evans: Thus Bruce McCormack takes Calvin to task for saying that justification flows from mystical union with Christ. This, according to McCormack “would seem to make justification and regeneration the effects of a logically prior ‘participation’ in Christ that has been effected by the uniting action of the Holy Spirit.” This, he says, is a problem from a truly Reformational standpoint in that “the work of God ‘in us’ is, once again (and now on the soil of the Reformation!) made to be the ground of the divine forgiveness of sins.” (Bruce McCormack, “What’s At Stake in the Current Debates over Justification,” in Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates, ed. Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier [IVP, 2004], pp. 101-102, 113-117).

    Evans: It is this effort to protect the doctrine of forensic justification by means of an extrinsic soteriology that connects Barth with later federal theology of the sort that Clark espouses. The similarities are fairly obvious, and this, I think, may account for the interest that some contemporary Barthians are now showing in Reformed orthodoxy. It also helps to account for the use that Clark’s colleague Mike Horton is now making of McCormack’s Barthian theological ontology, though Horton does not endorse McCormack’s indictment of Calvin (see Michael Horton, Covenant and Salvation [WJK, 2007], pp. 200-204).

    For Scott Clark, the crux of the matter is his conviction that the doctrine of forensic justification demands the sort of extrinsic relationship between Christ and the Christian that he advocates.

    Scott Clark: On what basis does God accept us? Who earned that righteousness? How does a sinner come into possession of that righteousness? Where is that righteousness to be found relative to the sinner, within us or without? Evans may scoff at the doctrine of an “extrinsic” doctrine of justification but Paul himself asked these questions and historically the only alternative to extrinsic (alien) righteousness is a “proper” or “intrinsic” ground of divine acceptance and in that case we’re right back in the medieval soup or, to switch metaphors, moving in with Andreas Osiander.

    mark: on this point, Scott Clark has it right. If that makes him “Lutheran”, so be it.


  14. Posted November 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    John Y: OK, so despite Luther’s or Calvin’s views on the subject of sacraments, who have a general falling-out with the use of sacraments in general, as a “means of grace”.

    The Sacraments are primarily viewed as a “covenant” promise through the Gospels: Baptism and Lord’s Supper, because of the literal usage of “covenant”.

    Only the Baptized are worthy to partake of the Eucharist, so the Eucharist is only discussed among those already Baptized. This does limit discussion of the Eucharist in the Epistles, because many hadn’t yet been converted into Christianity by baptismal waters. Paul was a witness to the un-elect (Greeks), while other Apostles were commissioned to the Jews first.

    Many of the Biblical Books specific to regions where large numbers of Hellenistic-Jews and Orthodox Synagogues resided and converted to Christianity do discuss the Eucharist in greater detail. I would recommend starting with the Lord’s Supper in each of the Gospels, followed by the 1st & 2nd, Epistles to the Corinthians, which discusses the Eucharist in more detail than most other Epistles. The other Epistles often use the word “covenant” and it’s our responsibility to know from the Gospels by which context “covenant” is referring to “Baptism” or “Eucharist”.

    There’s sometimes comparisons made between (Covenant) Old Law and New Law, because the New Testament in many ways actually still requires some adherence to new laws, and many associate these around the two Sacraments.

    I’m fortunate to have a pastor of pastors, I think he got a head start on Koine and Hebrew, while others don’t experience it until their 1st day of class in the seminary.

    Prayerfully, these passages can be made of use, below without causing further discontent:

    Acts 2
    English Standard Version (ESV)

    The Fellowship of the Believers

    42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[e] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

    1 Corinthians 11
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    The Lord’s Supper

    17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,[d] 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

    23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[e] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[f] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

    27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.[g] 31 But if we judged[h] ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined[i] so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

    33 So then, my brothers,[j] when you come together to eat, wait for[k] one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

    Galatians 3
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    The Law and the Promise

    15 To give a human example, brothers:[f] even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

    19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

    21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

    23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

    Hebrews 9
    English Standard Version (ESV)

    The Earthly Holy Place

    9 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. 2 For a tent[a] was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence.[b] It is called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a second section[c] called the Most Holy Place, 4 having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. 5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

    6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age).[d] According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

    Redemption Through the Blood of Christ

    11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,[e] then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify[f] for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our[g] conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

    15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.[h] 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

    23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

  15. Posted November 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    John Y: I forgot to add that the two Sacraments aren’t replacements for Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection from the cross proclaimed.

  16. Posted November 6, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    John Y: On the “too Catholic” point of view that Lutherans frequently hear from southerners here in the “Deep South”, we didn’t fair very well against the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK didn’t appreciate the many African-American congregations founded by the LCMS. They also didn’t like Jews and Catholics much either. Lutheranism, Catholicism, and Judaism weren’t tolerated by the KKK, which only supported various forms of Baptist denominations, and tolerated Presbyterians and Reformed traditions so long as they weren’t pushing the anti-slavery movement. Basically, from the 1860’s-1950’s, it’s in the 1950’s that Lutheranism began mission work and growth projects for Lutherans that were left without congregations in areas that weren’t safe to publicly do so.

  17. Posted November 7, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Here in the “Deep South” the KKK viewed those born into slavery as being God’s non-elect who are predestined for Hell. Their viewpoint of double-predestination and limited atonement was used to justify the continuation of slavery.

    In the 1980’s the Southern Baptist Convention declared abortion as part of God’s plan, because God’s elect could never possibly be aborted under double-predestination and limited atonement. The LCMS immediately announced that salvation is no longer available within the Southern Baptist Convention, due to their theological position that abortion is part of God’s plan, which goes directly against the Lutheran teaching of infant Baptism, and universal atonement. The LCMS agreed to organize new congregations in the “Deep South” with the specific purpose of conversion of Southern Baptist. The Southern Baptist recanted their position and withdrew their approval of abortion under Roe vs. Wade, but not before some LCMS congregations had already been planted throughout the “Deep South”.

    The Lutherans and Baptist really have no history of euceminicism, unlike the Dutch Reformed and other similar congregations that have good relationships with Lutherans.

    Two Calvinist politicians in 2012 implied that double-predestination and limited atonement makes rape impossible among God’s elect, meaning that those raped must not be of God’s election. The whole issue of “legitimate rape” became a campaign issue for Presbyterian, Todd Akin (Master of Divinity, Covenant Theological Seminary) and non-denominational, Richard Mourdock. Many strong Christian families have had to deal with daughters or wives victimized, and Calvinism in many respects has been used in “hellfire & brimstone” congregations to imply such an act only occurs against God’s non-elect alone who are predestined to Hell. The sin of murder and sexual assault are typically viewed as a sin against the Holy Spirit who dwells within us as his temple, and the Calvinist view portrays that the Holy Spirit could never be attacked in this manner. So, the “legitimacy” of your election under predestination can fall into question, under various interpretations of Calvinist followings, where human atrocity occurs. Calvin’s double-predestination and limited atonement makes no room for compassion in too many instances, hardening many hearts against God, when victims can’t come to terms with the possibility of not being members in God’s election.

    I feel Lutheranism handles election with a better balance of Law and Gospel, and has a more realistic approach to Christian suffrage in a sinful world against God, with God’s Grace being adequately proclaimed in a way that tragedy can actual be a reason to come closer to God.

  18. Posted November 7, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    D.G. Hart: “Why not a Lutheran Baptist? Why is the former unexceptional but the latter – Lutheran Baptist – why does THAT sound oxymoronic?”

    Hopefully, from a Lutheran perspective, this question is adequately answered.

    There’s obviously various denominations that poorly portray Lutheranism and Calvinism. Just as Confessional Lutherans reject the Arminian, ELCA, and UCC; I would hope that the Confessional Reformed likewise reject certain Baptist, Arminian, & UCC groups that misuse or missrepresent Calvin.

    Many Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Wesleyan congregations worked together in the “Deep South” to crush racism associated with the Southern Baptist. They helped to create the Dixiecrats and Free-Soil Parties to liberate Africans.

  19. Posted November 7, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Orthodox Lutheranism, Confessional Lutheranism of 1530 and doctrine of 1580
    Triglota Concordance of 1580 (hyperlinked Adobe searchable)

    John Y, I don’t know if you still have access to those Lutheran documents discussed between yourself and your former LCMS pastors? The table of contents is (.pdf) searchable, if you desire to compare the theology against how your former pastors presented it in Illinois.

    Erroneous Faiths; statements against false religions appears towards the end of the table of contents, which includes many Baptist associated with the Ana-Baptist movement.

    Predestination has a summary statement towards the end of the table of contents as well.

    Both the Small and Large Catechism are available as well.

    The 2001 Catechism editions use the ESV translation primarily, some passages may also use NKJV or NIV (1984 edition).

  20. Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink


    I am going through the posts and trying to think through what you have posted along with some links others have posted too. There is a lot of material to digest and I want to be more careful in what I say. Plus I have a lot of other things going on in my life right now. I have been interested in the conflicts between the confessionally Reformed and the confessional Lutherans for a while now and the issues between them can get complex and difficult to sort out. Plus the differences can get highly inflammatory when certain testy issues surface. A big point of impasse occurs when Lutherans claim they never go beyond what the Scriptures say while the Reformed have no problems with making logical deductions and inferences from biblical doctrines. I forget the way the Westminster Confessions states this but most are familiar with this difference between the two traditions. With that said, I will continue reading the posts while trying to think through what I think are major issues and differences while trying to show how my thinking has developed too in the process. Signing off for now.

    I appreciate you telling me a bit about your backround. What are some of Lutheran theological writings that have influenced you the most besides the Lutheran confessional writings? Have you read a lot of Luther, Walther, Sasse, etc. etc? What about Pipers dogmatics?

  21. Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    That is not Piper but Franz Pieper. I always have wanted to read Pieper’s book on pietism but have never gotten around to it. There is also another Lutheran book that traces the various approaches to God, ie the moral approach, the mystical approach, etc but I forget the name of it. I am thinking the authors name starts with a K (Kaberly?) but not sure.

  22. Posted November 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink
  23. Posted November 13, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    John Yeasel,

    You mean Adolf Köberle’s Quest for Holiness. You can get a start with it here:



  24. Posted November 13, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    By the way, I have no idea if Dr. Hart will allow such shameless self-promotion, but I have written an extensive answer to the question: Why are there no Lutheran Baptists, jumping off of Gene Veith’s insights.


    I will admit I have not had time to read the full conversation above, but am looking forward to it. Another good response to this article just came out (same guy I linked to above who talks about Köberle), where the author, a Lutheran, tries to explain the appeal and influence of Reformed theology (he worshiped at Tim Keller’s church for 8 years as he was drawn to it): http://strangeherring.com/2013/11/13/why-calvin-and-not-luther/#comment-9239


  25. mark mcculley
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    One does not need to be baptist to want to avoid the Lutheran theology about the justice and efficacy of Christ’s death

    “My argument stands against an unspecified penal satisfaction narrowed only by its application. The sacrifice for sin in Scripture is itself specific…If the penal substitution of Christ has no relation to one person’s sin, then it is not in itself God’s actual answer to any sin, and therefore not penal at all…An unspecified “No” is not an answer to anything; it is without meaning….I cannot see how anyone who excludes the identification of Christ’s satisfaction itself with the specific sins of specific
    individuals can avoid the logical outcome of denying its truly penal character.
    Gary Williams, p 107, From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, Crossway, 2013, ed Gibson and Gibson

    the truth that some sinners have been baptized into Christ
    is no evidence that I have been baptized into Christ
    not all sinners have been baptized into Christ
    and not all sinners watered have been baptized into Christ

    those who have once been in Christ stay in Christ
    it did not depend on sin or faith for them to be in Christ
    nor does it now depend. on sin or faith for them to stay in Christ
    those put in Christ by God’s imputation will now always be out of Adam

    not everybody is God’s own child, :
    Jesus died for Christians
    the gospel is for Christians
    not everybody is or will be Christians

    not everybody is baptized into Christ!
    even though everybody needs His death to pay for
    ALL their sins, even their unbelief
    Christ did not die for every sinner, and not every sinner died with Him

    Christ gave the full redemption price only for those who believe
    And this redemption causes them to believe
    This is why even their believing is not part of the payment
    Christ did not pay the price for those who will not be redeemed

    Do I need clergy and sacrament
    to make sure that eternal life lasts
    at least until I die
    Or is salvation free because Christ paid it all?

    The water cannot comfort
    because many with water perish
    but none die the second death for whom Jesus made the sacrifice

    It was not water or clergy
    that placed me into Christ’s death
    by God’s imputation I am located
    in the righteousness of Christ

    Satan accuses those whose guilt
    has not been paid with Christ’s death
    Satan turns even gospel into law
    claiming that Christ paid, but then still condemns
    those who sin the one sin the false gospel
    claims that Christ did not die for

    Satan says that death is nothing
    Satan promises that the real you will not die
    Satan lies that salvation depends on you
    Satan deceives with a false gospel conditioned on the sinner

    Satan tells us that we are immortal
    tells us that we have freewill
    tells us that God loves everybody
    but where we will live depends on us

    But Genesis tells the truth
    Dust plus God’s breath becomes a ;living human
    but the wages of sin is death
    only Christ is the life-giving Spirit for those the Father has given Him

    those once justified will be glorified
    they will not be condemned again
    they will not fall from grace

    having passed from death to life,
    their resurrection from the sleep of the grave
    is not another justification, not another judgment:

    those resurrected to immortality on that day
    will have already been justified
    and those raised for condemnation
    were never in Christ, never out of Adam

  26. Posted December 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    D.G. – even the Wisconsin Synod is larger than the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination that thanks to Tim Keller’s popularity in the Big Apple seems to be poised to transform America into a nation of urban chic Protestants.

    Erik – Nice.

  27. Posted December 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m having trouble getting caught up reading these posts & comments. In rebellion against the Pope I’ve been busy trying to be an even better capitalist than I was previously.

  28. Posted December 14, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Tony – It’s a shame that so many in the U.S. who claim the name of Christ don’t see that full-fledged, genuine Biblical Christianity is alive and well in the sole communion Jesus founded personally in 33 A.D.: the Catholic Church.

    Erik – Since when does the Catholic Church care about being biblical?

    Jason has taken it on as one of his pet projects, though.

  29. Posted December 14, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    D.G. – Tony, I hear Jesus actually built the portico for St. Peter’s in his days as a carpenter.

    Erik – According to Pope Francis Jesus lived in a Sears refrigerator carton that he found by a dumpster.

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