Did Warfield Make the World Safe for Piper?

Are Lutherans different from Reformed Protestants? Duh! The odd aspect of the arguments that distinguish Lutheranism from Reformed Protestantism is that the arguers don’t seem to be so conscientious when it comes to Baptists. Are Baptists Calvinistic? Some are. Lots aren’t. So when it comes to drawing distinctions among Protestants why the urge to draw lines between Reformed and Lutherans and not between Reformed and the uncles of Baptists, the Puritans?

Of course, contemporary discomfort with Lutherans among Reformed Protestants and Calvinistic Baptists is not new. Benjamin Warfield, who rarely strayed in his judgments, was also inclined to draw a distinction between Lutheranism and Reformed Protestantism. He did so by observing the tendency of Lutherans to stress justification by faith in contrast to the Reformed impulse to push beyond faith and its benefits to the underlying circumstances of justification. Here is how Warfield put it (thanks to Scott Clark via Timothy):

Just as little can the doctrine of justification by faith be represented as specifically Lutheran. It is as central to the Reformed as to the Lutheran system. Nay, it is only in the Reformed system that it retains the purity of its conception and resists the tendency to make it a doctrine of justification on account of; instead of by, faith. It is true that Lutheranism is prone to rest in faith as a kind of ultimate fact, while Calvinism penetrates to its causes, and places faith in its due relation to the other products of God’s activity looking to the salvation of man. And this difference may, on due consideration, conduct us back to the formative principle of each type of thought. But it, too, is rather an outgrowth of the divergent formative principles than the embodiment of them. Lutheranism, sprung from the throes of a guilt-burdened soul seeking peace with God, finds peace in faith, and stops right there. It is so absorbed in rejoicing in the blessings which flow from faith that it refuses or neglects to inquire whence faith itself flows. It thus loses itself in a sort of divine euthumia, and knows, and will know nothing beyond the peace of the justified soul. Calvinism asks with the same eagerness as Lutheranism the great question, “What shall I do to be saved?” and answers it precisely as Lutheranism answers it. But it cannot stop there. The deeper question presses upon it, “Whence this faith by which I am justified?” And the deeper response suffuses all the chambers of the soul with praise, “From the free gift of God alone, to the praise of the glory of His grace.” Thus Calvinism withdraws the eye from the soul and its destiny and fixes it on God and His glory. It has zeal, no doubt, for salvation but its highest zeal is for the honour of God, and it is this that quickens its emotions and vitalizes its efforts. It begins, it centres and it ends with the vision of God in His glory and it sets itself; before all things, to render to God His rights in every sphere of life-activity.

Several items are worth noting in this quotation. First is Warfield’s notion that Reformed Protestantism is not content with faith alone but embarks upon a deeper quest to find the origins of this faith. He does not explain here what this quest looks like, but his could be an argument in favor of the kind of introspection that experimental Calvinists like Edwards and Piper favor.

A second curious feature of Warfield’s contrast is the idea that Lutheranism emphasizes justification while Reformed Protestantism stresses the glory of God. This suggests common view in some union with Christ circles that Lutheranism manifests an anthropocentric view of Christianity (e.g., man’s salvation) that contrasts with Reformed Protestantism’s theocentric outlook (e.g., God’s glory). After all, an oft-made contrast between Heidelberg (which is considered a catechism that made concessions to Lutheranism) and Westminster is that the former catechism begins with man’s “only comfort” while the Shorter Catechism begins with “God’s glory” as man’s chief end.

The danger in this contrast so far – man’s salvation vs. God’s glory – is that Lutherans had good reasons for not becoming absorbed with God’s glory. Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation was a forceful warning to theologians who were tempted to identify God’s glory with outward and external signs or forms. In other words, writ large in Luther’s theology is the idea that God’s ways are not man’s, and so God may not actually glorify himself the way that man expects. The cross is folly. Preaching is weak. Christians are poor and humble. In which case, God saves an unlikely people through surprising means. And that may also mean that God’s glory is not always as glorious as human beings expect it.

If God’s glory can be a complicated affair, then perhaps Warfield is wrong to draw the contrast between Lutheranism and Reformed Protestantism the way he does. If Lutherans actually believe in God’s glory but are also aware that it comes in surprising ways, then maybe Reformed Protestants need to learn a thing or two about how to be truly theocentric. The Lutheran theology of the cross could teach Reformed Protestants a measure of humility in their self-ascribed ability to locate God’s glory in every nook and cranny of the created order. Reformed might also consider that Lutherans understand better than Reformed triumphalists and experimental Calvinists that God’s glory is nowhere more on display, at least in this world, in the justification of sinners. After all, if man is the crown jewel of the created order and if Christ took on human form to save fallen sinners, then contra Warfield, we may not need to go much beyond justification and man’s salvation in seeing the glory of God.

If this is so, then Reformed Protestants may need to be content with the glory that is revealed in the cross and the salvation it yields instead of yielding to the temptation to find God’s glory in human powers of discernment. If Reformed Protestants followed the lead of Lutherans more, we might be spared many of those neo-Calvinist efforts to show the “Christian” meaning of calculus, Shakespeare, or Dutch history.

So while the game of saying that Reformed highlight God’s glory and Lutherans stop with justification sounds theocentric, it may turn out to be an unintended example of anthropocentricity in which believers try to prove their own godliness by discovering God’s glory through forced interpretations of general and special revelation. Perhaps Lutherans are the truly biblical ones who rest content with the glory that God has revealed in the salvation accomplished by Christ for weak and poor sinners. What could be more glorious than that!


85 thoughts on “Did Warfield Make the World Safe for Piper?

  1. I agree regarding Lutherans (though I always thought the line was drawn on account of worship & sacramental issues), but not when it comes to drawing a line between Reformed Protestant and Puritan. How can English speaking RPs do so when our Confession IS Puritan? Of course, I’m with those Puritans who lumped Baptists in with Quakers and do not consider them representative of the tradition. And since I live in the Deep South Lutheranism is sort of an abstract entity, whereas Baptists are a constant threat.


  2. I’ve had some contact with a few LCMS congregations in my current city and have been really impressed. I’d concur that they’re far less likely to get involved in some of the cultural excesses that seem to plague certain Dutch-leaning Reformed-types.


  3. I have found that the doctrinal issues that separate the confessional Reformed branches and the confessional Lutheran branches to be somewhat confusing and hard to determine who is interpreting the scriptures most accurately and faithfully. You also find a wide range of interpretation from individual theologians on certain topics in each branch of what each traditions confessions are saying and how they came to their conclusions. Added to this are the caricatures that each tradition attaches to the other. At least they seem to be talking to each other more these days and might be able to provide a more unified voice against the problems that many from both sides have diagosed about the American religion. I guess it seems to be a matter of choosing your battles wisely and trying to get to the issues that are really important.


  4. Aron, my understanding is that church polity — which is fairly meager in the Standards — was the sticking point for Owen. I believe Savoy also added a chapter on conversion (or some such religious experience).


  5. Thanks for the follow-up, Dr Hart. I did a quick search and found a somewhat helpful comparison here. It appears the Savoy-writers added a new chapter 20 (Of the Gospel, and of the Extent of the Grace thereof), deleted Chapters 30 (Of Church Censures) and 31 (Of Synods and Councils), and made a few other very minor tweaks.

    – Aron
    Member, OPC Hackettstown, NJ
    Hillsdale College, ’97 – (just found out that you taught at the ‘dale for a while!)


  6. “It will be interesting to see what happens to the hordes of YRR/GC/Acts29 folks in another decade. My money’s on the SGM churches, but I tend to be somewhat pessimistic….”

    From what I have observed at various levels of remove, I’m not sure that any of the churches in these new movements teach doctrine to believers in a way that would make their basic theology reproducible over more than a couple of generations.

    And the charismatic end of these movements tend to contain a lot of people who have moved there from other charismatic churches who bring Holiness-influenced theology with them. So after a few generations you have various types of generic evangelicals – some of whom might talk a lot about grace.


  7. Re the quest for the origins of faith – Warfield does in fact explain what he means by this quest, right there in the excerpt quoted – starting at “Whence this faith by which I am justified?”

    It can’t be fair to impute to him this dodgy introspection or even incipient dodgy introspection when he specifically says that in contrast to Lutheranism, “Calvinism withdraws the eye from the soul… and fixes it on God” (etc to the end of the quotation).

    Ie he’s not talking about human powers of discernment, or the discovery of personal salvation, or how godly you can be, but with the doctrine of what explains justification, which has been revealed to be free grace. Even if being “experimental” is as bad as you say it is, on this quote alone, it can’t be blamed on Warfield.


  8. This is really tangential (which is probably to be expected since I’m more of a synergist than Reformed). Warfield’s Calvinist asks,

    >“Whence this faith by which I am justified?”

    A fair question. What we non-Calvinists don’t see is why it’s necessary to ask “Whence?” about it [faith] more than about anything else. There’s certainly a basic sense in which God is the source of all things. But it seems like a long way from there to unconditional election.


  9. I’m curious where people find “Lutheran concessions” in the Heidelberg Catechism? It seems that if anything the HC clearly distinguishes itself from Lutheranism at key points such as the ascension (denying ubiquity and defending against charges of Nestorianism) and on the sacraments (with the “just as” language the Lutherans so disliked).


  10. Could be wrong, but wasn’t there a time when confessional Lutheranism wasn’t so clear about faith being itself a work of grace? I am wondering whether Warfield isn’t targeting such an Arminian view of faith. Any confessional Lutherans here will know more about this than I do, but wasn’t the “election controversy” at the time of Walther to do with whether our election is “in view of faith” or an act of God’s unconditional grace?


  11. Bill, I think the concern stems in part from Heidelberg’s sacramental theology which is a bit higher than what neo-Puritans will allow. Plus, Heidelberg is warmer than the Shorter Catechism and Reformed Protestants are God’s frozen chosen. If we get warm, we melt.


  12. I’m not sure which “Neo-Puritans” of which you speak that downplay the Sacraments. It seems to me that it is Charles Hodge and his followers that led to the Zwinglianesque view of the Lord’s Supper (a point you made in your bio of Nevin) among Reformed folk.

    If anything the “Transformationalist” which you lump in with the Leithart/Wilson crowd have a higher view of the Supper and Baptism than the “old-schoolers” you lump yourself in with.

    As an aside here I am not sure we are closer to either the Lutherans or the Baptists. Having an unbiblical (at best) view of the Lord’s Supper, the ignoring of the 10 Commandments (especially their unbiblical renumbering and their denial of the 2nd and 4th commandments) and a questionable Christology is just as bad as having an unbiblical view of Baptism and Covenant Theology (which of course the Lutherans also have their issues.


  13. Benjamin, re this notion that the Lutherans “ignore the 10 Commandments,” Fesko does a fairly nice job of helping to put to bed the Lutheran epithet. Here at length is a bit of the conclusion to “The Westminster Standards and Confessional Lutheranism on Justification.”

    In turning to the second half of our investigation, we must explore the question of whether the Lutheran commitment to sola fide is such that they make absolutely no place for the necessity of good works, in some sense, in the broader category of their soteriology. In other words, is Lutheran soteriology antinomian? There have been those in both the distant and recent past who have argued that Luther and Lutheranism only hold to two uses of the law: the political or civil, in retraining evil, and the elenctic or pedagogic, in leading people to knowledge of sin and the need of redemption. Yet, at the same time a perusal of primary sources, including Luther’s writings, Lutheran confessions, and other Lutheran theologians evidences that Luther and Lutheranism hold to the third use of the law in some form, the didactic or normative use, regulating the life of the regenerate. One may begin with Luther’s own writings, as his writings are incorporated in the confessional corpus of the Lutheran church.

    While Luther certainly divided the scriptures into the categories of law and gospel, commands and promise, just because a person became a Christian did not mean that he was now suddenly free from the demands of the law. Luther, for example, writes that

    “…as long as we live in a flesh that is not free of sin, so long as the Law keeps coming back and performing its function, more on one person and less in another, not to harm but to save. This discipline of the Law is the daily mortification of the flesh, the reason, an dour powers and the renewal of our mind (2 Cor 4:16)…There is still need for a custodian to discipline and torment the flesh, that powerful jackass, so that by this discipline sins may be diminished and the way prepared for Christ.”

    So long as the Christian is simil iustus et peccator, there is always a need for the law in the life of the believer. Luther’s use of the law in the life of the believer is further evidenced from his catechisms.

    Luther’s Small Catechism begins with an exposition of the Decalogue. At the close of the exposition of the Decalogue in Luther’s Large catechism, Luther explains the importance of the law in the life of the believer:

    “Thus, we have the Ten Commandments, a compend of divine doctrine, as to what we are to do in order that our whole life may be pleasing to God, and the true fountain and channel from and in which everything must arise and flow that is to be a good work, so that outside the Ten Commandments, no work or thing can be good or pleasing to God, however great or precious it be in the yes of the world.”

    Luther saw a need for good works, but was careful, like the Reformed tradition, to teach about the proper relationship between good works and justification. Luther addresses the proper place of the law as it relates to justification when he writes:

    “The matter of the Law must be considered carefully, both as to what and as how we ought to think about the Law; otherwise we shall either reject it altogether, after the fashion of the fanatical spirits who prompted the peasant’s revolt a decade ago by saying that the freedom of the Gospel absolves men from all laws, or we shall attribute to the law the power to justify. Both groups sin against the Law: those on the right, who want to be justified through the Law, and those on the left, who want to be altogether free of the Law. Therefore we must travel the royal road, so that we neither reject the law altogether not attribute more to it than we should.”

    Luther saw a place for the law in the life of the believer. When he was explaining the doctrine of justification he said that there was no place for works or the law. In relationship, though, to one’s sanctification and the knowledge of what is pleasing to God, the Decalogue served as guide as well as a tool in the hand of God to confront the remaining sin in the believer. This careful fencing of justification from works, yet at the same time connecting justification to sanctification, is especially evident in the Lutheran confessions.

    The Augsburg Confession is the first official Lutheran confession, and was largely written by Luther’s lieutenant, Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560). The Augsburg Confession carefully explains that justification is by faith alone: “Our works can not reconcile God, or deserve remission of sins, grace, and justification at his hands, but that these we obtain by faith only, when we believe that we are received into favor for Christ’s sake, who alone is appointed the Mediator and Propitiatory, by whom the Father is reconciled.” Yet, at the same time the confession gives an apology against antinomianism: “Ours are falsely accused of forbidding good works. For their writings extant upon the Ten Commandments, and others of the like argument, do bear witness that they have to good purpose taught concerning every kind of life, and its duties; what kinds of life, and what works in every calling, do please God.”

    The confession even goes so far as to say that Lutherans “teach that it is necessary to do good works,” but it specifies that “not that we may trust that we deserve grace by them, but because it is the will of God that we should do them. By faith alone is apprehended remission of sins and grace. And because the Holy Spirit is received by faith, our hearts are now renewed, and so put on new affections, so that they are able to bring forth good works” (Augsburg Conf., ¶ 20, in Schaff, Creeds, 3.24-25). So, here, in this Lutheran confession we see the emphasis upon justification by faith alone but also the need for good works, informed by the law. While this is not precisely the same nomenclature that one finds in the Westminster Standards [it] is nonetheless parallel to the Standards’ emphasis on the third use of the law (WLC qq. 95-97; WCF 19.6; cf. Belgic Conf., ¶ 25; Heidelberg Cat., q. 93). What we find in inchoate forms in the Augsburg Confessions, however, emerges quite clearly in the formula of Concord.

    …It is in the Formula of Concord that the Lutherans, legendary for their insistence upon justification by faith alone, also state that “good works must certainly and without all doubt follow a true faith (provided only it be not a dead faith but a living faith), as fruits of a good tree” (Formula of Concord, ¶ 4, in Schaff, Creeds, 3.122.). It is in article six, “Of the third use of the law,” where the document makes its most pronounced statement about the importance of the law and good works: “We believe, teach, and confess that although they who truly believe in Christ, and are sincerely converted to God, are through Christ set free from the curse and constraint of the Law, they are not, nevertheless, on that account without the Law (Formula of Concord, ¶6, in Schaff, Creeds, 3.131.). The document goes on to state that “the preaching of the Law should be urged not only upon those who have not faith in Christ, and do not yet repent, but also upon those who truly believe in Christ, are truly converted to God, and regenerated and are justified by faith” (Formula of Concord, ¶6, in Schaff, Creeds, 3.132.). So, then, it appears from primary sources such as Luther, the Augsburg Confession, and the Formula [of] Concord that Luther and Lutheranism places a heavy emphasis upon justification by faith alone but not to the exclusion of the importance and necessity of good works or the third use of the law. This is not a unique conclusion.

    J.V. Fesko in The Confessional Presbyterian, Volume 3, 2007, pgs. 22-24.


  14. Benjamin, I took the statement “ignoring of the 10 Commandments” to mean something generally antinomian, something not unusual for non-Lutherans even of Reformed devotion to accuse of. And I took the parenthetical statement “(especially their unbiblical renumbering and their denial of the 2nd and 4th commandments)” to mean something a little more specific. I agree that the Lutheran posture on the second and fourth is problematic, amongst other things. But I take considerable exception to any suggestion that those who are our closest theological relatives should be construed as antinomian. That’s no way to treat a cousin.


  15. Aron writes:
    “Appreciate the critiques of Piper/Edwards. It will be interesting to see what happens to the hordes of YRR/GC/Acts29 folks in another decade. My money’s on the SGM churches, but I tend to be somewhat pessimistic….”

    I attend a SGM church. I’m not really sure what is meant by your last sentence. Would you mind elaborating?


  16. And we are kissing cousins, too! It annoys me too to hear Lutherans caricatured. I grew up in the Missouri Synod, sent my son to an LCMS church in Grand Rapids while attending Calvin. I don’t recognize the Lutheranism some of us Reformed brethren attempt to portray.


  17. Dr. Hart,

    I have read many of your books and always stop by to read the discussions here. I have thought multiple times when reading your works, “Why is he not a Reformed Episcopalian or a Confessional Lutheran?”

    I would hazard to guess that Reformed Episcopalianism has a great appeal due to its view of the church. However, its limited confession would be a hindrance? And I would hazard to guess that Confessional Lutheranism has an appeal due to its view of the Kingdoms and the church. However, its view of the Sacraments and the person of Christ (ubiquity) are a hindrance?

    Would those assumptions be correct?

    I am still trying to get my mind around the type of confessional Presbyterianism that you are advocating. And it helps me to see it in contrast to not only other forms of Presbyterianism and Calvnism, but other traditions.


  18. DJ,

    I am very thankful for the huge resurgence of a more biblical understanding of salvation, of which SGM and the others mentioned above have been major players/leaders. In my opinion they have much to offer those fresh out of a more Arminian / pentecostal-ish background, having recently embraced a Calvinistic soteriology — but who are yet to follow that stream feeding the TULIP back to the source, and fill out their theology. I suppose I mean things like the regulative principle of worship (something essential to being, I believe, “Reformed”), a robust form of government, a different sort of piety, federal/covenant theology, etc. I would like to see these folks come all the way through the transfer station to a full-orbed and more consistent Reformed understanding.

    But (and here’s the source of my ‘pessimism’), I tend to think the desire to retain a more experiential worship ‘environment’ (for lack of a better word) will eclipse going wherever the doctrine leads, so to speak, even if all the way to instrument-less psalm singing (which I don’t think it does, but just to illustrate). The ‘charismatic Calvinist’ position comes admirably (miraculously) far from error. But, having tasted what lies a bit further beyond it, I would wish the same for them. Presumptuous as I know that sounds, I’m convinced that there is further to go toward a more historic position than they have yet traveled…and (contrary to popular belief) the water’s surprisingly warm here.

    I guess I’m saying, Desiring God is great, probably a godsend. But the Westminster Standards? …much further down a similar road, and way, way better. Where the former perhaps inaugurates a trajectory, the Standards consummate it. (My two cents.)



  19. Good thoughts, Darryl. You definitely get an Amen from this Calvinist. My only frustration is that the two parts I most want to quote have textual difficulties.

    The first is the paragraph that begins “The danger in this contrast far – man’s salvation vs. God’s glory – is that Lutherans had good reasons for not becoming absorbed with God’s glory.” I’m not sure what to do with the word “far”. It doesn’t seem to have a syntactical place in the sentence. If I omit it, will I be quoting you fairly or changing the intent.

    The second is the sentence that ends, “it may turn out to be an unintended example of anthropenctricity in which believers try to prove their own godliness by discovering God’s glory through forced interpretations of general and special revelation.” I assume that “anthropenctricity” is a typo for “anthropocentricity”?


  20. Thanks for your reply Aron. I grew up, much like Dr. Hart, in an independent fundamental baptist home and church. In 2005 I broke away from the IFB, and ended up in a calvinistic SBC church. Then in 2007, after working through Grudem’s ST and hearing Driscoll go through I Cor, I became convinced of the “continuationist” position which lead me to SGM.

    There are many times that I wanted to, and actually tried to become Reformed (and yes, I do recognize that there is a difference between being a calvinist, and being “Reformed”). But I’m just not convinced of the paedobaptist/covenant theology position. Maybe someday I’ll see it… but I’ve tried and I just can’t come to that conclusion. In the mean time, I will continue to read/listen and learn from a lot of Reformed guys I respect (Horton, Riddlebarger, Clark, Hart).
    I think guys like Horton and Riddlebarger would be surprised at how much some SGM guys follow and are influenced by their work!


  21. FWIW I think that in the long run it’s very hard to hold both dispensationalism and charismaticism alongside a truly Reformed soteriology. In that sense SGM are further from the Reformed than Lutherans.


  22. Chris,

    SGM is not dispensational. Rather, we are amil (if that’s what you were implying… if not, my bad). And I don’t see how believing the gifts continue make it hard to hold to God’s sovereignty in salvation. I would love for you to try and demonstrate how you think that is?


  23. DJ – I really appreciate where you’re coming from. When I read Grudem’s Prophecy in the New Testament and Today back in about ’05 (?), I was sold. I’ve eased back a bit since then, but can certainly relate. Paedobaptism was a tough one for me too, until I read Meredith Kline (Kingdom Prologue, Structure of Biblical Authority, and By Oath Consigned [link]) – boy was my mind blown! Since then, the understanding that the new covenant is the Abrahamic covenant has been enough to sustain my position. (And the fact that all of us ‘raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord’ – i.e., we “make them disciples”).

    The Lord opened my eyes to the doctrines of grace in ’02, while I was ‘on staff’ at an independent, (very) charismatic church. I joined a wonderful OPC congregation in ’06. Methinks we would have a great time comparing journeys over coffee.

    Blessings to you – and thanks, Dr Hart, for indulging this aside between commenters!



  24. I think the reason why Owen didn’t sign the Westminster Confession is that he wasn’t among those invited to attend the Assembly – he was a young and relatively inexperienced man. Professor James Renihan has prepared a very thorough study of the WCF, Savoy and the 1677 / 1689 Baptist confession in “True Confessions” – and when you see the texts side by side, it’s fascinating to see that the differences between WCF and Savoy extend even to justification!


  25. “SGM is not dispensational. Rather, we are amil (if that’s what you were implying… if not, my bad). And I don’t see how believing the gifts continue make it hard to hold to God’s sovereignty in salvation. I would love for you to try and demonstrate how you think that is?”

    Beg pardon – I assumed from your mention of problems with covenant theology you were a dispensationalist – of which I do know some who attend SGM and other “Reformed Charismatic” churches – which imho makes it difficult to preach the OT Christocentrically, with all the attended knock on effects in terms of moralistic sermons leading tointrospection without a redemptive focus.

    In terms of Charismatic teaching – I think that people in those circles for a variety of reasons (mostly historical and incidental) find it hard to fit ‘simul justus et peccator’ into their teaching on personal holiness.


  26. Darryl and Zrim,

    Bill, I think the concern stems in part from Heidelberg’s sacramental theology which is a bit higher than what neo-Puritans will allow. Plus, Heidelberg is warmer than the Shorter Catechism and Reformed Protestants are God’s frozen chosen. If we get warm, we melt.

    But I take considerable exception to any suggestion that those who are our closest theological relatives should be construed as antinomian. That’s no way to treat a cousin.

    So, is this type of humor something inherent in Calvinists or did it come over time from discussing issues with Calvinists who disagree with you?

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Jason, I am Reformed and have no reluctance about being so. But in the late 16th century Reformed Protestantism took an inward turn that started with the Puritans, extended to the Dutch (nadere reformatie), and found its way to the colonies in someone like Jacob Frelinghuysen who then got Gilbert Tennent started. American Presbyterianism has never been the same since. If you want to see the difference between a subjective and an objective Reformed understanding of the church and ministry, you might look at the difference between Martin Bucer’s work on the pastor, recently published by Banner of Truth, and compare that with Richard Baxter. Judging from the table of contents, Baxter is all about the pastor’s motivation, while Bucer seems to be describing the work of the pastor.


  28. @ Chris: I see why you thought now… (dispy) I meant that I didn’t hold to covenant theology in the presby/reformed way. Obviously “reformed” baptist would have a different take on it… and I would probably lean more new covenant theology. But I’m just not certain. I’m only 35 so maybe one day I’ll land someplace! There may be a few dispy folks within SGM, but amil is what is taught at the pastors college, and Riddlebarger’s book is sold in the bookstores in churches. And as far as the following:

    “In terms of Charismatic teaching – I think that people in those circles for a variety of reasons (mostly historical and incidental) find it hard to fit ‘simul justus et peccator’ into their teaching on personal holiness.”

    I can say that my experience with them is doesn’t reflect this assumption. Matter of fact, The Enemy Within by Lundgaard is highly recommended. As Paul said, Christ is my sanctification!
    I Cor 1

    @ Aron: Thanks for the links. I will tackle Kline someday. WHI guys speak of him often… and why coffee? Let’s have a beer! (we’re more “reformed” than desiring God churches, hehe).


  29. I read Richard Baxter’s book The Reformed Pastor back in the early 90’s while I was attending a non-denominational Church and going to Calvin College. Back then I thought it was a great book on the role of the Pastor. Now that you mention this I am going to have to read Bucer’s book on the pastor and compare the two. I still find in the makeup of my psyche a hangover from my 19 years in the evangelical, charismatic and transformationalist worlds. You seem to be one of the few who consistently hammers at the problems of a subjective understanding of the church and ministry. That causes quite a stir in our understanding when all that many of us have known is this subjectivity which is the majority report “out there.”


  30. Darryl

    That stuff about the subjective turn in the late 16th century is fascinating. I’m trying to get my head around the different approaches to covenant children within Reformed circles. For instance, I listened to some sermons by Joel Beeke on raising covenant children. He stressed the need for us to evangelise our kids and emphasise the new birth and the need for conversion. He described the approach of presumptive regeneration as hyper-covenantalism and said that it repeats the error of Judaism in that it breeds little Pharisees. His preaching was warm and electrifying, yet I wonder if his type of thinking is a product of the subjectivity of which you speak?

    First, is his view confessional? Second, what were the views of Bucer and Calvin?


  31. Nick, I don’t presume to know Calvin and Bucer exactly but I don’t think the notion of conversion experience was around until after their time. One complication for all sides is the state church system where being born means you are baptized into the church and state community. I do recognize a problem here for rearing children. But I also think Beeke’s idea of rearing covenant children to be converted has its flaws. This doesn’t mean I believe in presumptive regeneration. It does mean that I think it is possible to grow up like Isaac, never having known other than that I am a child of God. I try to address this in one of the chapters in my book, Recovering Mother Kirk, where I contrast Hodge’s conversion experience with Nevin’s.


  32. Thanks Darryl. It seems that many good Reformed men disagree. I think I agree with you on this, although I don’t think there’s a great deal of difference between Beeke’s approach and yours. Maybe Beeke’s choice of language needs nuancing? For instance, while Beeke cautioned against presumptive regeneration, he encourged parents that their kids shouldn’t remember when they first believed the gospel. On the other hand, he spoke of encouraging kids that they need to be converted and born again. Perhaps using language like, “trust in Christ” and “improve your baptism” would be better?

    BTW, is there a place in the UK where I can buy Recovering Mother Kirk without first having to sell my covenant children into slavery? It’s rarer than a drunk southern baptist.


  33. Nick, it’s going for £11.25 in the Evangelical Bookshop, Belfast. If that’s too much, they do take covenant children in part exchange.


  34. Crawford, and here I was ready to move the pool table into my son’s bedroom. Thanks for the heads-up.


  35. Cath (and hopefully Nick), once it arrives go to pages 191-194 for the Hodge-Nevin contrast. But don’t you know that, like its secular counterpart, theological porn comes at a steep price?


  36. Darryl,

    When I first started reading your books a few years back the hammer was felt severely. I think I likened it to Zrim as the way Kafka wanted his novels to be read and taken- like the death or suicide of a close friend. I’m trying to use humor but they did make a deep impression on me.

    This Pastor issue is an important one I think. I’m looking forward to reading that book by Bucer. I know my soul longs for deep and abiding fellowship with other believers and the Pastor plays a major role in allowing Christ to minister to our needy souls together. There is nothing more satisfying than fellowshiping with Christ and those who know him. And it is all too rare that this takes place on a consistent and abiding basis. We are much the weaker for it.


  37. I doubt if many neo-Cals, transformationalists, neo-Puritans or subjectivists of any stripe would agree with my sentiments about some of the books you have written. A hammer can do many strange things to people it seems.


  38. I haven’t yet seen anyone who is openly speaking as a confessional Lutheran in the thread, so since I’m LCMS, I wanted to respond to a couple of things.

    A much earlier post had asked about the election controversy of the late 19th century, in which the Missouri Synod defended the election of grace (our term) on one side and a couple geographical synods now absorbed into the ELCA defended election intuitu fidei. I am unaware of what or if Warfield knew about this controversy, but since the LCMS also emphasized justification (in fact, objective justification was another issue in the same controversy), I think all Lutherans would come in for censure from him, not just the pietistic ones.

    I also wanted to respond to some of Mr. Glaser’s points, with which I’m familiar from around the Reformed blogosphere. As a Lutheran seminarian, I often hear other Lutherans characterize Reformed Christians in all sorts of ways that sound correct to Lutherans but would sound incorrect to the guys I listen to on Reformed Forum, for instance. So let me explain briefly some Lutheran things in Lutheran ways.

    1. The ubiquity of Christ is actually taught by Lutherans from the perspective of the communication of attributes between the divine and human natures of Christ. We don’t begin thinking about it as some kind of latent pantheism, just as I don’t think Calvin thought of himself as the Nestorian Lutherans often accuse him of being. So ubiquity in relation to the person of the Son of God is conceived of by beginning with the fact that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. David P. Scaer is good on this subject and his articles are available online.

    2. The numbering of the commandments used by Lutherans is traditional in the West, and I don’t see numbers listed in the original Hebrew. But if you read Luther’s Small Catechism, you can see his explanation of “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” has to do with the preaching of the Word of God and its honor, not rest from external works. We understand the outward works of the Mosaic law to be fulfilled by Christ. So we understand your 2nd Commandment as an appendage of the 1st’s to have no other gods, with 2nd having to do with God’s Name and its use.

    3. Dr. Hart gets the Lutheran understanding of the theology of the cross correct, and I’m sorry that the discussion re: Lutheranism in the thread has steered away from that very important topic, which has received so much attention in Lutheran circles of late. I would add that Lutherans do not have efforts in all realms of “life-activity” because we cannot be sure of God’s will toward us except in Jesus Christ. We cannot speak of God’s will apart from this Crucified One so we speak of his will for his church in relation to his Gospel, which is the Word we have had from the beginning, according to 1 John. Calculus, Shakespeare, and Dutch history can be understood by unbelievers who have his Law, but what is distinctively Christian is the Gospel of Christ crucified and raised for our justification. God has his rights in giving us the righteousness of Christ.


  39. Can anyone help me out on the “theology of the cross?” I think I understand the gist of it and am attracted to it, but I am wondering why I haven’t at least heard of it until recently. Has it had much of an audience in Calvinistic circles, or has it pretty much been confined to Lutherans? Is it inherently more Lutheran/less Calvinistic, or has it just been steamrolled by American revivalism and/or postmillenialism?


  40. @ DJ: Didn’t want to presume, but hey – even better!

    RMK is going for upwards of $200 on alibris. Drat. Time for a reprint!


  41. Michael, there’s an excellent book on the subject called The Spirituality of the Cross by Gene Keith, a Lutheran layman. As I read it I recall being particularly struck by how the cross goes against all our instincts and confounds human wisdom.


  42. Adam,

    I am a Missouri Synod Lutheran too. I have tried for years to understand the doctrinal differences between confessional Lutherans and confessional Calvinists. It is very difficult to determine where and why they veered off from each other on such issues as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the two natures of Christ, the ascension, how justification and sanctification relate to each other and differences on the use of the Law. You hear different explanations from different theologians on each side of the divide.

    One of the more common explanations of why they come to varying doctrinal interpretations is that the Calvinists supposedly start with the Glory and Sovereignty of God as their starting point where the Lutherans start with Christology (or a theology of the cross as opposed to a theology of glory). Another explanation is that Calvinists thought through the Covenant theology as revealed in the Old Testament more thoroughly than Lutheran theologians did and their doctrinal differences stem from this Covenant thinking. Calvinists place great significance in the Covenants God made with man throughout redemptive history from the Old Testament into the New. They have worked out a detailed covenant structure in their theology and their doctrines stem from their understanding of the various covenants God made with man. It all gets very confusing when trying to sort it all out. I am sure others could do much better than I in explaining all this with much more clarity.

    I think someone needs to write a book on the subject. I have found the doctrinal differences become quite complex the more you delve into it. Most of the differences you hear on web pages are caricatures repeated over and over again, aka., alot of sound and fury but usually signifying nothing of significance.


  43. Pfffft @ Zrim. This is all on your recommendation mate, so this won’t be the last you’ll hear. Once it arrives, obv, in an estimated 2-3 weeks.


  44. Nick,

    That book The Spirituality of the Cross is by Gene Veith not Gene Keith.

    Jason Stellman actually critiques a Theology of the Cross from his Calvinist perspective in his book on the two kingdoms (albeit a very short and I thought very generalized explanation). Alister McGrath wrote a whole book on the subject and goes into more theological depth than Veith does in his book.


  45. Thanks John. My predictive text substituted Keith for Veith! Smartphone was too smart. I’ll have a read of JJS’ book; it’s been on my shelf for a while.


  46. Michael,

    There’s also On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard Forde, which is a brief but pithy book on Luther’s Heidelberg Theses. Spirituality of the Cross was partly spurred by Veith’s journey from evangelicalism to Lutheranism, so Forde is a better place to examine the theology of the cross specifically.


    You do hear many different interpretations, although I find more on the Reformed side than the Lutheran, reflecting the fact that Lutherans don’t ever claim to be Calvin’s true heirs but Calvinists may claim to be Luther’s. We’re generally less interested, although I think this is by and large a tragedy.

    Our Confessions actually address these differences in many places, like AC X which refers to Zwingli’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper, but most notably the Formula of Concord, composed after Calvin and strife within Lutheranism over the true body and blood of Christ, predestination, and other things. The Saxon Visitation Articles, usually included as an appendix to the Book of Concord, are specifically directed against Calvinism. As to where all of this stems from, specific historic events such as the Marburg Colloquy are best explained within their own contexts, instead of generalizing a la Warfield above.

    In this regard, covenant theology’s relation to Lutheranism is particularly hard to address. For one, covenant theology’s dormancy in Reformed communions for a long time (see the recent Reformed Forum interview on it) and their multiplicity of seminaries means that not everyone knows of, has read, or least of all agrees with a Vos or a Kline. This is very different from the Missouri or Wisconsin Synods (pretty much the only games in town in the US), where everyone who is ordained has read Walther on Law and Gospel and Pieper on dogmatics, who were themselves piling on Luther, Chemnitz, and Gerhard quotes. It’s hard for a Lutheran to come to terms with Reformed theology because of its greater and perhaps more fruitful diversity, covenant theology being one example of the same.

    A more theological reason for the same difficulty is that Lutheran theology is premised on the concept of promise, or with more specific reference to Holy Baptism or Communion, testament. Melanchthon says in the Apology that all the Scriptures are made up of either the law or the promises, synonymous with “gospel.” So thinking in terms of covenants, while not totally foreign to us (cf. Luther on Baptism in the Large Catechism), isn’t really something we do much of, focusing very heavily on the words and actions of God in the means of grace. Luther’s Large Catechism is a great example of this, composed after his encounters with Zwingli and the Anabaptists, who both denied baptismal regeneration. Luther therefore accents strongly the promissory nature of the water of Baptism in which children of God are made by the word of God. Oswald Bayer is a great resource on this in Theology the Lutheran Way.


  47. Adam,

    I have found that your first paragraph rings true in my experience too. Lutherans do seem to be less interested in understanding the Calvinists which makes it difficult to have any meaningful conversations with other Lutherans on the subject. It is good to know you feel the same way as I do. I would enjoy staying in contact with you to discuss some of these issues further. I am a bit tired tonight but I will try to make a few more comments. Hopefully they will be coherent.

    I have read the differences and controversies between Lutherans and Calvinists in the Lutheran Confessions (Book of Concord) and found those to be a bit misleading after dialoging with many Calvinists over the past 3 or 4 years. Zwingli is not very representative of many Calvinists I know of either. Not many Calvinists agree with him. I have always wanted to read the Book of Concord along with reading the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort and the Westminster Confession at the same time but have never gotten around to do it. All the good theologians will tell you to read primary sources too and not get bogged down in lesser lights who often misinterpret and misrepresent the primary sources.

    It is very difficult to reconcile covenant theology with Lutheranism. You make some excellent points in this regard. It is here, I think, where the major issues and differences are to be found. Lutherans are much more attracted to the sacramental theology developed in Luther’s understanding of finding and experiencing the Gospel (with greater assurance) in the sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). I think the idea of baptismal regeneration is very misunderstood among both Lutherans and Calvinists. The Calvinist’s misrepresent Luther’s ideas on this subject and it was later Lutheran’s who developed the idea of baptismal regeneration further than Luther did. At least that is what I gathered from reading J.V. Fesko’s new book on Baptism. Luther was oppossed to the Catholic idea of baptismal regeneration who rooted their ideas in ontology whereas Luther tied his idea’s to the promise and covenant. This is what I mean when I say that the more you delve into it the more complex it becomes and the caricutures begin to be seen as very misleading.

    Thanks for your comments Adam- it is always good to hear from another Lutheran on this web site. I heard somewhere else that Luther and Bucer met at Wittenberg and talked about the sacraments for an extended period of time and wrote up a document called the Wittenberg Concord which tried to staighten out some of the disagreements between the two groups. Do you know anything about this?


  48. I was just lurking and wanted to say that these last 3-4 articles by DG have been especially beneficial to me because I use to read and listen to a lot of Piper and I still think I am feeling some negative affects of it. (I hate to write that because I have a lot of love for him.)

    Also, John and Adam, keep up the good discussion. There are no reformed churches in my area so I attended an LCMS church without knowing anything about Lutheran theology and was pleasantly surprised. I have been studying Lutheran theology for the past few months to see if I could join and I am finding that I am being persuaded of things that I didn’t expect. Would either of you have a good book or article you could recommend to me on the Lutheran view of baptism? I am having a hard time wrapping my head around it.
    /end threadjack


  49. Mark M,

    You can go to http://www.bookofconcord.org and read Luther’s section in the Large Catechism on Baptism. Not only does this give you the advantage of a thoroughly Lutheran teaching on Baptism, but it’s also unconditionally subscribed to by all confessional Lutherans. So it’s official, for what that’s worth. After that, my professor David P. Scaer’s book on Baptism in the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series is simply excellent.


    It would be good to stay in touch. As for the Wittenberg Concord, if you Google it, you’ll get an article published in Concordia Theological Quarterly written by James Kittelson (ELCA) and Ken Schurb (LCMS). To save you a little time, the last paragraph includes this, “On the same day the Wittenberg Concord [1536] was struck, Melanchthon reported the proceedings to a friend. Little has been accomplished, he declared. Basic agreements persisted.” And this is coming from Melanchthon, not known as argumentative or ornery. Check out the article in any case.

    I haven’t read Dr. Fesko’s book on Baptism but did listen to the Reformed Forum interview with him on the book. Again, I would say read Luther’s writings on Baptism, his Baptismal rite in Vol. 53 of his Works, in particular, and see what he actually says (as well as in the Large Catechism). “Baptismal regeneration” is just shorthand for Peter’s “Baptism now saves you,” and Luther teaches this. Sure, faith is necessary (Mark 16, cited in the Small Catechism) but the faith is in the sacrament and the life it gives through God’s promise. “How can water do such great things?” Because it has God’s word of promise attached to it.


  50. Jason Stellman actually critiques a Theology of the Cross from his Calvinist perspective in his book on the two kingdoms (albeit a very short and I thought very generalized explanation).

    His point is fine as far as it goes, namely that glory is the “natural outgrowth” of the cross or that exaltation follows humiliation. But I tend to think it’s to somewhat diminish the larger point of Luther’s paradigm, which is to contrast the undue indulgence of glory in the age of the cross where grace is said to be sufficient, or what some have called “immanentizing the eschaton.” Ours is the semi-eschatological age marked by more by humiliation than exaltation which actually marks the consummate age.


  51. Luther’s theology of the cross was developed over a period of time. Korey Mass, a Lutheran Pastor who used to teach at Concordia College in Irvine, California wrote a paper entitled, “The Place of Repentance in Luther’s Theological Development.” In this paper he traces the development of Luther’s ideas on repentance with reference to his theology of the cross. They go hand in hand along with the development of his sacramental theology. The following are some of the quotes I extracted from the paper. It always has to be remembered that many cherry pick from Luther and draw the conclusions they want to draw without reference to how his theology of the cross developed over time. Here are some of the quotes:

    1) “The theology of the ninety-five theses was expanded in Luther’s Explanations of 1518. While the content had not significantly changed, Luther emphasized more forcefully the necessity of self-hatred, mortifications, and crosses:

    ‘If a person’s whole life is one of repentance and a cross of Christ, not only in voluntary afflictions but also in temptations of the devil, the world, and the flesh, and more especially also in persecutions and sufferings, as is clear from what has been said previously, and from the whole of Scripture, and from examples of the saint of saints himself and all the martyrs, then it is evident that the cross continues until death and thereby to entrance into the kingdom.’

    In this statement is heard the ‘theology of the cross’ which is often portrayed as a distinctly Lutheran theology.

    2) By the middle of 1519 Luther was able to proclaim confidently the importance of Christ’s word alone, but he has yet to speak so confidently of Christ’s cross alone. The cross remains something both man and Christ share.

    3) During the years 1520 and 1521 Luther produced three short works, all practical and pastoral guides for the penitent. Luther’s thought is summed up in the following: ‘The penitent should put his trust in the most merciful promise of God alone, with complete faith and with certainty that he who promised the forgiveness of sins to the person about to confess them will most faithfully fulfill his promise.’…………..confession is nothing without this trustworthy promise……….it is utterly useless to strive to create good intention…………..now he also points to God as the one who effects even contrition…………..Luther continues in this vein throughout 1520 and into 1521, speaking of God as the source of both grace and contrition………..insisiting that contrition without the promise of God is fruitless. But is this as far as Luther goes?

    4) Toward the middle of 1521………..there is no longer room for both man and Christ to share in its sufferings and punishments. Thus, Luther can write confidently:

    ‘Our sins have truly been taken from us and placed upon him, so that everyone who believes on him really has no sins, because they have been transferred to Christ and swallowed up by him, for they no longer condemn.’

    5) These insights become even more evident in Luther’s Personal Prayer Book of the next year. Although based on medieval handbooks of prayer and penitence, Luther completely revises the content and focus, and therefore the theology, of such devotionals. Gone is the lengthy catalogue of sins; in its place are the ten commandments. While these commandments bring the penitent to a realization of his own sinfulness, the creed outlines the content of the gospel………..And the office of the keys has been given to the Church to proclaim this forgiveness, to deliver these gifts, to the penitent.

    6) This idea finds its fullenst expression in Luther’s writing, Against the Heavenly Prophets, which was completed in 1525. Although he speaks primarily of the sacrament of Holy Communion, his emphasis certainly mirrors that placed on Holy Absolution. That is, forgiveness is discussed in two ways, how it was acheived and how it is delivered. Christ has won forgiveness on his cross; but this is delivered in the sacrament. Thus, Luther can explain:

    ‘If now I seek forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there. Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ….in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross.’

    Here is seen what can properly be called Luther’s mature theology of repentance, or quite simply, his mature theology.

    The point being is that his mature theology of the cross was not really reached until 1525 and any quotes taken before this time can be construed for anyone’s purposes. The theology of the cross by 1525 contained the glory of what Christ won for us in it. Gone is the talk of the “necessity of self-hatred, mortifications and crosses.” These become useless and fruitless in Luther’s mature theology of the cross. Korey Mass also adds this quote: “The absence of any such emphasis on humility and sufferings is what is most notable in Luther’s revised edition of 1525. This absence of man’s sufferings and crosses serves then to highlight the focus on the singular, all sufficient work of Christ’s suffering and cross which permeates Luther’s mature theology.

    Mass’s conclusion to this paper is so good I have to quote it in full:

    “As noted in the introduction, Luther’s road to Reformation was neither straight, simple, nor easily mapped. Depending on the audience for (or often against) whom he was writing, Luther often modified his emphases. But having tracked some of his thoughts on penance and repentance we are now prepared to offer at least a tentative outline of his progress.

    Comparing the theology of his writings, lectures, and sermons reveals that, at any given time, Luther presented his theology of repentance quite consistently. Up to and through the year 1517 Luther consistently spoke of the theology of penance in terms of his theology of crosses and sufferings. God’s word was considered a word of condemnation which the Christian accepted and restated. The penitent, rather than attempting to escape God’s judgment through indulgences, must judge himself in order to be righteous; he must cling to sufferings and persecutions as proof of God’s mercy.

    In the years 1518-1519, laying hold of a new understanding of the word metanoia, Luther began to see God’s word in a new light. His theology of humility had not yet disappeared, but there was a new emphasis on the penitent’s faith, faith which trusts in the work of absolution rather than the word of condemnation. In 1520 and early in 1521 this focus is becoming clear as Luther begins to distinquish between God’s promising word and his threatening word. These words effect both man’s contrition and his absolution; that is, all mention of man’s work in repentance begins to fade. But God’s work, according to Luther at this time, is still a work in man (in man is still the important distinction here- my addition).

    It is only toward the middle of 1521 that Luther begins explicitly to refer God’s work (for man, rather than in man) back to Christ’s work, his suffering and death for man’s sake. God’s words are no longer merely doing or promising; they are delivering the benefits of that which has already been done at Calvary. Luther now understands grace to be the favor Dei rather than something which is infused in man. With these new foci, Christ’s atoning work and the gift of its benefits in absolution, Luther now begins to emphasize receiving Holy Absolution rather than doing penance as a whole or even doing confession in particular. This becomes the manner in which Luther speaks consistently by 1525. This understanding of repentance, evident in the writings, lectures, and sermons of 1525, is that which then finds expression in Luther’s mature works of the late 1520’s and 1530’s, those which might be called his “definitive” works.

    Luther understood quite early that theology and practice, especially that concerning penance, could not be separated. He would soon come to understand that the doctrine of penance was intimately entwined with the whole of Christian theology, and especially the central Reformation doctrine of justification. Thus, as noted in the introduction, Luther’s three great “breakthroughs”- the understanding of God’s righteousness, law and gospel, and repentance- can only be understood in relation to one another. And ultimately, Luther would confess, these can be properly understood only in relation to the person and work of Christ, the Christ who alone suffered and died for the forgiveness of sin, and the Christ whose gifts are bestowed in his Holy Absolutions.”

    Liked by 1 person

  52. @John Yeazel,

    Many thanks for your comments. I greatly appreciate you sharing your knowledge and understanding.


  53. @ Michael. Another good book on the theology of the cross is Forde’s On Being a Theologian of the Cross. Whereas Veith’s book can be finished in one or two sittings, Forde reflects on the Heidelberg Disputation, and took me quite a while to get through (although it is not very long).


  54. Thanks Lily, I appreciate the kind words. Unfortunately, my knowledge and understanding gets me in more trouble than anything else; especially with my relatives and those closest to me. I find the Lutheran and Calvinist controversies fascinating but not too many others hold the same convictions. At least not too many others that I know of.


  55. To any whom it may concern here. I have recently been blogging over at Gene Veith’s web site (Cranach) and some Lutherans I think are misrepresenting some Calvinist’s points of view about the Gospel. Check this one out from a guy named Stephen:

    John @ 218

    “The gospel which a Calvinist finds “extra nos” is no gospel. It sees this Christ who is outside the believer only as mirror of the sanctified, obedient believer in which is to be found assurance of election. This is to put on Christ as example – in your words “appropriated in someone’s life.” But this is not the gospel which actually saves, for again, it locates the truth within the believing individual for its certainty – in works of obedience to law, and thus making the gospel into law. There is no cross, no mercy, no Christ “for me.” And it is also not certain, because the human realm is always broken by sin. This is the fallacy that some finally discover as their efforts to appropriate the “example” fail them, and why many flee such false doctrine, inoculated forever against true faith in Christ alone. This kind of faith is old Adam faith, and it cannot offer assurance because it depends upon experience which is always uncertain, headed for the grave. Such a difference is anything but subtle.

    Lutherans (ideally) do not trust in their ability to appropriate anything. They trust in the promise made to them in Christ alone sealed in their baptism. We believe and trust in the mercy of God in Christ for our salvation and nothing else. The only “evidence” of faith is found where God has placed it – in Word and Sacrament. This is truly extra nos, independent of any act of believing. Where Christ is, there is life and salvation.”

    Is this not misrepresenting and misinterpreting Calvin’s understanding of the Gospel? Is this not a caricature which Lutherans have of the Calvinist Gospel? Or, is he not saying enough here to come to any clear conclusions on the matter? From that first sentence this Lutheran named Stephen seems to be saying that the Calvinist Gospel is a different Gospel. He seems to treading on dangerous ground in a somewhat cocky and overly confident manner. Am I wrong about that?


  56. Adam , Mark M, John Yeatzel

    There is a fundamental Law/Gospel difference that Reformed cannot see that is the stumbling block for Lutherans.

    For Lutherans this is the formula:

    The Image of God = Original Adamic Rightousness = Sanctification = ?

    For Lutherans that “?” is this: faith alone in Christ alone. Alone!
    Image: Lutherans say that Adam´s Original Righeousness was naked faith in Jesus Christ. From the very begining. This is sort of radical eh?

    You can find that this is what the Lutherans teach in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession in art II, and by doing a word search on “Image” in the Lutheran Confessions. This is , indisputably, the only truly Lutheran position on this. This is the very root of the difference between Lutherans vs Rome/Geneva.

    For the Reformed and Roman Catholics the “?” is the Divinely Revealed Law of God found where it is written by God in the mind/reason/conscience, Natural Law and the Decalog.

    So Scholasticism in Rome and St Thomas Aquinas, and neo-Scholasticism in Melancthon, his disciple Calvin, and Saint Augustine, and even early Luther in his “Bondage of the Will” till he cleanly broke from Saint Augustine in favor of St Paul are all about how to regain that lost Image of God and the Original Adamic Righeousness.

    This looks much like Aristotle´s practicing virtue until one becomes what one practices. This is called “habit”. Rome places this process before and as preparation to Justification. Geneva places this after Justification and as a consequence of it. Both baptize aristotles Virtue Ethics by saying only the aid of the Holy Spirit can make this happen.

    As a direct consequence of this. Lutherans teach that Holy Baptism and the Holy Supper and everything that we can see done in Church is what? Law or Gospel? Lutheran teach that everything we can do and see in Church is all and completely Law! Rome and Geneva teach these things are Gospel. Especially in Covenant Theology.

    But Lutherans do teach that the Gospel can only be found in Church. But where do Lutherans find it then if everything one does in Church is pure 100% Law/

    So I hope I am showing 1) that the difference between us is a rather radical one that is all about first things, and 2) You are all dealing with the symptoms of that fundamental difference and not the root difference.

    Bless you.

    frank william


  57. To go back to the original post – I see that Paul Helm is hilighting an upcoming post on his blog that will cover Religious Affections, and in his words: “I claim that his main thesis in that work is both unclear and exaggerated. This thesis also forms part of the political character the work noticed earlier, and suggests that the book is a powerful, though perhaps unintentional, factor in the development of ‘evangelicalism’ whose characteristics are identified and noted by David Bebbington; notably, in this case, the novel stress on conversionism and on activism. “


  58. Frank,
    I am trying to follow what are you saying but I’m having some trouble with the start. You are a bit over my head. If you could point me to some articles about what you mean by all of this I would appreciate it. -Mark

    “There is a fundamental Law/Gospel difference that Reformed cannot see that is the stumbling block for Lutherans.

    For Lutherans this is the formula:

    The Image of God = Original Adamic Rightousness = Sanctification = ?

    For Lutherans that “?” is this: faith alone in Christ alone. Alone!
    Image: Lutherans say that Adam´s Original Righeousness was naked faith in Jesus Christ. From the very begining. This is sort of radical eh? “


  59. mark M

    Good. The big question for everyone, including pagans, can really be summed up as this question: “How do we get back to Paradise and Eden?

    The Lutherans suggest that the way to do this is exactly and only through Holy Baptism. There we are restored instantly to the Image of God and the Adamic Original Righeousness that is and was faith alone in Christ alone.

    Lutherans perceive this and it could be wrong:

    that the Reformed by way of Calvin, and the Romans have in common that they identify the Image of God is revealed in the Law of God. That law was written in the heart of adam, but with the fall that image became like a shattered mirror. the Image is for all intents and purposes ruined, even though we can see bits and pieces of it in things such as “natural law” (as defined by saint thomas aquinas).

    So in that case the way back to Paradise is to reconform mankind to the Law of God. The purpose of the gospel and regeneration is to do exactly this.

    Can you see how this starting point, if in fact the Lutherans are correct in their observation about the other groups, would make a huge difference in how the respective theologies play out ?

    You can find more on this in the Lutheran Confessions, in the Apology/Defense of the Augsburg Confessions at http://www.bookofconcord.com

    Let me know if you have other questions. fwsonnek@gmail.com

    Liked by 1 person

  60. D.G. Hart: Several items are worth noting in this quotation. First is Warfield’s notion that Reformed Protestantism is not content with faith alone but embarks upon a deeper quest to find the origins of this faith. He does not explain here what this quest looks like, but his could be an argument in favor of the kind of introspection that experimental Calvinists like Edwards and Piper favor.

    RS: The word “experimental” is also something like the word “practice” or “practical” which has the idea of actually doing or practicing the faith. So experimental Calvinists is simply those who live out the faith. As to this deeper quest, to be in line with Luther himself one must look for something deeper than justification by faith alone to be biblical. The only way that justification by faith alone makes sense is in the broader teaching of justification by grace alone and to the glory of God alone. The purpose of justification by faith alone is to defend justification by grace alone to the glory of God alone. Warfield was right.


  61. If you can have eternal life and then lose it before you even get to the next age by losing your faith, then it seems that the “objective universal justification” supposedly obtained at the cross is not nearly so presence as “union” defined in terms of Christ’s indwelling presence in faith. We are back to the false gospel of Osiander.

    Check out Truman’s essay against the Finnish interpretation of “union”



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