An Easy Way to tell a New Calvinist from an Old Calvinist — Say Lutheranism!

This is inspired by R. Phillips’ post on why Old Calvinists should be encouraged by, even rejoice over, New Calvinism. The word inspired is key because inspiration does not come easily to Old Calvinists unless we are talking the doctrine of Scripture. Temperamentally, we tend to be phlegmatic souls who see almost nothing new under the sun (see below). But New Calvinists see inspiration and enthusiasm as part and parcel of genuine faith. Such inspiration also cuts down on cognitive powers — think Gilbert Tennent.

The lone exception to the New Calvinist w-w is Lutheranism. That is where New Calvinists find their critical skills and discern differences. Does cessationism matter? Not so much. But talk too much about the Lord’s Supper or baptism and you feel the wind going out of New Calvinist hedonism.

I wonder if one reason for such skepticism about Lutheranism is that confessional Lutherans put the stiff upper lip in the theology of suffering. Lutherans know the hype and pizzazz of the theology of glory and stay away from it. New Calvinists, in contrast, seem to be suckers for energy, the triumphalism, the earnestness of the religious conference and the celebrity speaker.

For that reason, I propose a thought experiment. What if we took Phillips’ words regarding New Calvinists and applied them to Lutherans? Would the world-wide interweb go kablooie?

1. Old Calvinism should avoid being overly critical but should rejoice in the New Lutheranism.

2. Old Calvinism should not be threatened by or feel pressure to conform to the New Lutheranism.

3. Old Calvinism should humbly listen to the New Lutheranism, benefiting from its insights and critiques.

4. Old Calvinism should zealously seek to serve rather than to undermine the New Lutheranism.

If Phillips could write about Lutheranism the way he does about New Calvinism, I might be persuaded. Otherwise, I suspect that Phillips was a New Calvinist before New Calvinists starting selling t-shirts.

Postscript: I have taken this personality test that has been going around on the Internet and I further wonder if New Calvinists would score differently from an Old Calvinist, if maybe the differences are primarily temperamental. Here are (all about) my results:


Your habits and perspectives most resemble those of middle-class Americans. Members of this group tend to be gentle and engaging parents, and if they’re native English speakers they probably use some regional idioms and inflections. Your people are mostly college-educated, and you’re about equally likely to beg children not to shout “so loudly” as you are to ask them to “read slow” during story time. You’re probably a decent judge of others’ emotions, and either a non-evangelical Christian, an atheist, or an agnostic. A typical member of this group breastfeeds for three months or less, drinks diet soda, and visits the dentist regularly. If you’re a member of this group, there’s a good chance that you roll with the flow of technological progress and hate heavy metal music.


126 thoughts on “An Easy Way to tell a New Calvinist from an Old Calvinist — Say Lutheranism!

  1. Man, the first half is spot on, the last half, not so much. I wonder of millenial middlings can like heavy metal and nurse for 12+ months. I’ll let you know.

    “Old Calvinism should zealously seek to serve rather than to undermine (the New) Lutheranism.”

    What does this even mean?


  2. Darryl said:

    “Otherwise, I suspect that Phillips was a New Calvinist before New Calvinists starting selling t-shirts.”


    Although, after the snow here, I (it’s all about me) took in the USMC flag. Just rehung her this morning on the front of the house. She’s blowing gently in the eastern NC breeze. I’m inspired. Oh oh, a neo-Calvinist and neo-Edwardsean.

    Good article.


  3. Another thumbnail of the P&R world is how it splits into Lutheran-leery-Baptist-friendly (neos) and Lutheran-friendly-Baptist-leery (paleos).

    Another middler here. Country music is only tolerable when there are peanut shells under my feet, a piece of red meat in front of me, and a girl named Megan (or Katy, Katy’s good) in a black tee shirt and jeans bringing me another beer. Even then, just barely.


  4. Whatever, Zrimsky. You didn’t join my NCAA (actually it’s Jed’s) madness NCAA group. You could not be more wrong here.

    Kidding..kidding. Sheesh, cancha take a joke?
    Seriously, I expected a higher turnout though.
    If anyone has a bracket and wants to join, you can go find our group and join. Some Lutheran did that today..

    But go find my buried links by yourself. In done doling out help.

    Good riddance to the lot of you..



  5. Phillips:

    “…the intersection of the Old and the New within big-tent, big-God Calvinism in these early years of the 21st Century.”

    Now that sounds like fun!

    [BTW, whose Lutheranism? Luther’s? Melanchthon’s? Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s? Guy Erwin’s?]


  6. Middling…I do not drink diet, do not hate metal, have not gone to the dentist this year (appt in May), and nurse for a long time. I think the test only takes the ethical and religious questions seriously.

    Zrim, is there any other kind of country?

    (sean, taking my dad to see Willie at the Ravinia this summer.)

    Off topic, but I believe I heard about it first here, so THANK YOU. Foyle’s War is AWESOME.


  7. DGH — I like much of what you have to say on this website. However, now I know why I cannot go whole hog.

    Do you really hate all metal? I like Dream Theater, Nightwish, Within Temptation, Kamelot, Blind Gaurdain … No wonder I feel a little ambivalent.


  8. As a guy who takes care of the kids by day and works by night, I can totally relate to the three-months or less breast-feeding guidelines. I am not sure if it was me or my kids, but they never really took to it. I can’t blame them for wanting a bottle over a mouthful of chest hair though.

    Sorry all for the disturbing visual,

    Jed – Non-evangelical (or atheist depending on which evangelical/young earth creationist you ask)


  9. Jed – Non-evangelical (or atheist depending on which evangelical/young earth creationist you ask)

    +righteous dude who had the bright idea to start the OL NCAA march madness last year.

    As for me, I’m just advertising agent for his brilliance, think mad men (golf).


  10. I reckon Rick Phillips is pretty Old School – but he’s taking commendably gracious attitude towards New Coke, while aware of the danger that it might have some adverse side effects.


  11. You know you’ve been reading Old Life long enough, when this Brit of a Baptist scores middling too. Is that a good or a bad influence?


  12. Andrew,

    We are big believers in nurturing the little ones as much as possible. One of my greatest blessings is that my wife was able to be at home with the kids.

    Once they hit 18 I want them the heck out of here, though.


  13. DGH: ” I like my car. I think it’s made of metal.”
    Probably not heavy metal these days unless you drive a classic, otherwise substantial amounts of plastic.


  14. It’s my fault, then, Mark. I’m stuck with my church in a pre-WWII era. Fully Freudian, but “these days” matters are for the mainliners. I’ll take your word on this one, though, for you have great taste in music.


  15. AB: My son-in-law keeps me up to date in metal.

    Does anyone know, do New Calvinists serve grape juice for communion whereas Old [school] Calvinists serve wine? Just seems like this could be a valid critical distinction I haven’t seen listed.


  16. Or said another way, I don’t think that is a showstopper, MG.

    My first op church had only wine. My last two had an “outer ring” (like Saturn?)(or was it inner ring?)(innie or outie?) with juice.

    Fruit of the vine, yo.


  17. As the defending champ, I can understand the stress of returning for an encore in NCAA MM, OL style.

    There’s always next year.

    Enjoy your night with your beautiful family, Erik. Your son and I share an enjoyment of Dr. Who, fyi..


  18. Just wonderin’ cuz the OP churches I’ve been part of all at least had wine as an option. However, every PCA church (TGC/Piper sympathizers) had only grape juice. My sample size is small but the result is absolute.


  19. D. G. Hart
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 9:32 pm | Permalink
    vd, t, Whose Lutheranism? That’s easy. Beza’s.

    And Melanchthon’s. Now yer talkin’, Dr. Disingenuous! What took you so long? Calvin and Luther were just the yeast in the beer. Now explain it all to your disciples.


  20. I grew up a Piperian (though none of us knew that)(he wasn’t then was he is today) before a nine month stint of a non denom church whose pastors surfed in Santa Barabara (google: Santa barara community church). Grape juice only growing up.


  21. I worked for Mentor in Santa Barbara for 3 years. Very nice place. We lived in Santa Clarita and attended an OP mission work in Encino.


  22. Temperamentally, we tend to be phlegmatic souls who see almost nothing new under the sun (see below).

    The good version of phlegmatic. That makes it impossible not to love us.

    You’ve been great folks.


  23. Andrew Buckingham
    Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:31 pm | Permalink
    Tom, mean people suck.

    Only if they aren’t funny, AB. HLMencken. DG Hart. Desert island. Your call.


  24. And some of us are leery of both old and new, of any “Reformed” person or church that will not call a spade a spade. Any theology which refuses to teach that Christ died only for the elect will end up glorying in something else besides the cross, be it the distribution of justification by means of water or by means of “free will”.

    Forde — A theology of glory … operates on the assumption that what we need is some flattery, some positive thinking, some support to build our self-esteem. Theologically speaking it operates on the assumption that we are not seriously addicted to sin, and that our improvement is both necessary and possible. We need a little boost in our desire to do good works.. A theologian of glory may well grant that we NEED THE HELP OF GRACE. The only dispute, usually, will be about the degree of grace needed. If we are a “liberal,” we will opt for less grace and tend to define it as some kind of moral persuasion or spiritual encouragement. If we are more “conservative” and speak even of the depth of human sin, we will tend to escalate the degree of grace needed….”

    Many Augustinians, old or new, are willing to say that God gives what God requires, but they will not boast in the cross alone, and they don’t want to say that Christ on His cross already did not die for the non-elect, because they want to talk about their own cross, their own faith, and their own obedience…

    And thus the math of 100% God, and also 100% us enabled by God. Leery of? “Crucified to”?

    For even those who are Reformed say that Christ died to make an offer to everybody, and they desire to have your infants watered that they may boast in being Reformed. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither old “the means of grace” Lutheranism counts for anything, nor the new “to make an offer” Calvinism…


  25. Growing up, the only options at the soteriology section of the buffet line were Protestant (Arminian) and Catholic. Then TULIP dawned on me. (Enter cage phase.) These three are the only categories noobs work with, IMO. Not too long ago I didn’t know there was “Lutheranism,” just Lutherans who have/haven’t discovered TULIP and pick and choose their favorite 3 points. Lutherans in the dark on TULIP were essentially Catholic in my regard. Besides, they sure look popish with the priestly collars, communion wine and practical antinomianism.

    Honestly, Lutheranism just doesn’t make much sense to me. There was a modern reformation article some time ago that attempted to give 5 points of Lutheranism, but it wasn’t coherent. Lutheran soteriology only seems to make sense in the entirety of their system (at least I hope it makes sense to them). I’ve yet to find a summary similar to TULIP. So that’s my theory. Lutheranism is too hard to understand, so noobs just consider them Catholic.


  26. David,

    I’m not sure the nature of your question.

    Let’s assume AB struggles with Alcohol Addiction the way Muddy apparently does.

    Should we drown him in sorrows by forcing wine down his throat to commune with us?

    I don’t get the exclusivity.

    Illimune me, but know my tone here is irenic.



  27. Jordan,

    What Calvin and further reformers did eclipsed what Luther did. Not to take away from our father in the faith. But let this post be one of many that can illumine your way as you look around. There’s many an article here, on the topic.


  28. AB, thanks. That post references “Lutheran Baptist” as oxymoronic, and that “Calvinist Baptist” should be equally so. I guess I still contend that “Presbyterian Baptist” is clearly an oxymoron because they are denominational categories. “Calvinist” on the other hand, to noobs, is not associated with any given denomination, but with a certain view in the soteriology section of the buffet.

    Yet new Calvinists love quoting Luther. He’s got some real zingers to enthuse the crowd. Including quotes on public worship totally at odds with Reformed worship.


  29. I personally divide up Xtian-dom about 7 ways (Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Catholic (debatable, I know) Pentecostal, Congregation/Baptist , and a group for all others (sorry Methodists, mennonites, etc, please don’t sue)).

    Let me consult my Machen (emoticon).



  30. We have that inner ring of grape juice jiggers with a few drops of wine for the weak. Honestly, our pastor hopes in ten years everyone will use the common cup. (Hopefully sooner.)


  31. AB,

    I’m not sure the nature of your question.

    I was just pointing out that your argument for the legitimacy of using grape juice proves too much.

    Let’s assume AB struggles with Alcohol Addiction the way Muddy apparently does.

    Should we drown him in sorrows by forcing wine down his throat to commune with us?

    If you mean, should we offer the poor guy juice, I don’t know that we can resolve this question until we settle the other one. Perhaps we can, but we’ll have to determine a Scriptural warrant first and the mere fact that grape juice comes from a vine does not such a warrant make (you would agree?), nor does the fact that our friend is given to immoderate alcohol use.

    Illimune me, but know my tone here is irenic.

    I’m in a bit of a cranky mood, but I mean no harm.


  32. AB,

    If you care to, I would be interested in your response to my specific objection. Romans 7 may cover a multitude of sins, but worshipping “according to the imaginations and devices of men” isn’t one of them.


  33. Sheesh. I meant “Romans 14 may cover a multitude of sins …” Maybe it’s time for me to take a break….


  34. David. R.
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 9:00 am
    (AB) “Fruit of the vine, yo.”
    So tomato juice is okay too?>/i>

    It’s OK to dispute the propriety of Lord’s Supper communication in other-than wine.

    But the objection as stated makes the use of the term, “fruit of the vine,” ridiculous.

    Problem: the *term* is distinctly Scriptural, even words-of-institutional: Mt.26:29; Mk.14:25; Lk.22:18


  35. Bruce,

    But the objection as stated makes the use of the term, “fruit of the vine,” ridiculous.

    How so? I wasn’t disputing the term. I was disputing the argument.


  36. David,

    Shall we call it a draw:

    Question and Answer

    Wine or Grape Juice?


    What is the position of the OPC regarding the use of grape juice in administering the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?


    The OPC does not have a declared position on whether grape juice or fermented wine is served in the Lord’s Supper. Some congregations use fermented wine, though I would judge that the majority of churches are content to serve grape juice.

    The common word for wine in the New Testament is “oinos.” As we know, in Bible times there was no means of keeping grape juice unfermented, so grape juice inevitably turned into wine as we know it today. There was another Greek word, “gleukos,” which means sweet wine, or new wine. It occurs only once in the New Testament (Acts 2:13).

    In Matthew 26:29 and Mark 14:25, our Lord refers to the sacramental cup as “the fruit of the vine.” That could be understood as allowing the use of either fresh grape juice or fermented wine, but, to my knowledge, the matter has never come before any General Assembly. Apparently the choice is left to sessional decision.

    As to why the predominant practice is on the side of grape juice, I can only suggest that tradition is the reason.

    Can a biblical case be made for the exclusive use of wine as we know it today? I doubt that it can be sustained. “Gleucos” appears but once in the NT. That is not strong enough to justify a clear distinction between “oinos” as uniformly fermented grape juice and “gleucos” as fresh or sweet wine.

    I hope that answers your question, but feel free to write again if you have further questions.

    I would link to a html test bed link (just throw those words into google, some fella named Marshall built a helpful site in 2003 or thereabouts), which is good for putting your html text in and testing before posting. Helps our host out, yo.


  37. Jordan Dahl,

    Lutheranism is actually quite simple to understand. Believing it is the hard part.

    Christ alone. In Word and sacraments.

    The freedom of God to choose (whomever)…and the freedom of the Christian.

    That’s it in a nutshell.

    No formulas per se.


  38. AB,

    Calvin, Zwingli, Melancthon, and so many other (just about ALL) backed off from what Luther taught and proclaimed.

    For us Genesio type Lutherans, it’s ALL…or NOTHING.

    And we have real assurance that we are of the elect without having to look inward (a la RS Clark).

    I’m a Lutheran because of the complete assurance…and because of the complete freedom.

    Others are Christians, sure…but real freedom and assurance are pretty much found only in a small group of centrist Lutherans (Fordeians).


  39. David R.
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 2:05 pm
    (Bruce) But the objection as stated makes the use of the term, “fruit of the vine,” ridiculous.
    How so? I wasn’t disputing the term. I was disputing the argument.

    So, when AB said, “fruit of the vine,” you actually thought he could be referring to something *other than* the biblical text? Tomatoes, for instance?

    If you *knew* AB wasn’t likely intending anything other than grapes, then it was a mocking question. It made his use of the term “ridiculous.” Which is ad hom.

    Or were you implying that AB was being uselessly *imprecise*? How does your unwarranted expansion of verbal possibility square with the fact that the term is explicitly scriptural?

    Does the allowance of a non-alcoholic interpretation of Jesus’ expression: “fruit of the vine” necessarily or even regularly imply that such fast-and-loose interpretations are subject to a reductio ad absurdam that must include tomatoes or pumpkins, kiwifruit or cucumbers?

    Even if your position is the correct one, “So tomato juice is okay too?” is a weak disputation on several grounds.


  40. Steve,

    Well ok. I read your words.

    Not sure I can square them all, though. I’m free. I have Jesus. I read my bible several times as a fundie, growing up. I found the OPC at age 19. I never knew doctrinally concerned Xtians existed like that until my girlfriend (now wife of 11 years, mother of our three kids, who are awesome) started answering my questions and giving me books.

    For example, it was amazing to find Xtians who didn’t equate 20th century Israel with that of the OT. I felt like I found people who took stuff seriously. Who read the Bible as I had, and saw similar patterns.

    That’s just me.

    If you think your freedom is of greater magnitude, sure, maybe. I’m a slave to righteousness I’m told. But the Truth of what I know deep down has me free. That’s Jesus, dude. You use other words, that’s cool. This blog is where I graze, so see you around.



  41. Bruce,

    A.B.’s implied argument (I think):

    Anything signified by the term “fruit of the vine” can be used in the Lord’s Supper.
    Grape juice is signified by the term “fruit of the vine.”
    Ergo, grape juice can be used in the Lord’s Supper.

    It proves too much. Make sense?


  42. Guys, I had this argument with a fella a church, years, who is of the argumentative stripe. He concluded I was ok resting on the fact that “fruit of the vine” does not mandate wine.

    Leaf juice of some vine, or anything thing that just grows on a vine, does not constitute what I was arguing.

    Didn’t mean to get us all tangled up. If my being flippant did this, my bad. The OPC answer says look to the session for guidance. That’s a good approach in my book, and disagreements can be handled in higher courts as needed Presbyism rocks.

    I’ll clear anything else up that needs it. Peace.


  43. AB,

    Here’s my first problem with that answer: “The OPC does not have a declared position on whether grape juice or fermented wine is served in the Lord’s Supper.”

    Not true. Check the OPC secondary standards (COF). Check the OPC tertiary standards (BCO). The OPC’s declared position is that wine is served in the Lord’s Supper.

    I’ll get back to you on the rest of the answer…..


  44. AB,

    Another testimony to consider:

    By wine as prescribed to be used in this ordinance, is to be understood “the juice of the grape;” and “the juice of the grape” in that state which was, and is, in common use, and in the state in which it was known as wine. The wine of the Bible was a manufactured article. It was not the juice of the grape as it exists in the fruit, but that juice submitted to such a process of fermentation as secured its preservation and gave it the qualities ascribed to it in Scripture. That οἶνος in the Bible, when unqualified by such terms as new, or sweet, means the fermented juice of the grape, is hardly an open question. It has never been questioned in the Church, if we except a few Christians of the present day. And it may safely be said that there is not a scholar on the continent of Europe, who has the least doubt on the subject. Those in the early Church, whose zeal for temperance led them to exclude wine from the Lord’s table, were consistent enough to substitute water. They were called Tatiani, from the name of their leader, or Encratitæ, Hydroparastatæ, or Aquarii, from their principles. They not only abstained from the use of wine and denounced as “improbos atque impios” those who drank it, but they also repudiated animal food and marriage, regarding the devil as their author. They soon disappeared from history. The plain meaning of the Bible on this subject has controlled the mind of the Church, and it is to be hoped will continue to control it till the end of time. (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, volume 3, p. 616)


  45. David, dude, Ok. Here’s a more updated q&a, with a link inside for even more.

    The grape juice party has a steeper hill to climb, as it is against history.

    You made your point. But I would personally prefer my congregation to give an option for people to choose between grape juice or wine. I don’t have a strong opinion here, its more based on personal preference.

    Your position is strong. Take care.


  46. David R.
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 5:10 pm
    A.B.’s implied argument (I think):
    Anything signified by the term “fruit of the vine” can be used in the Lord’s Supper.

    Enough said. You start off not crediting AB with enough sense to use a biblical term in a biblically restricted way.

    Here’s a different syllogism. I’m not going to impute this to AB. He’s justifiably embarrassed by this sideshow. It’s mine.

    A) All drinkable grape-produce is ‘fruit of the vine,’ in biblical parlance,
    B) Grape juice (non-alcoholic) is drinkable grape-produce.
    :.) Grape juice is ‘fruit of the vine,’ in biblical parlance.

    There’s no way that *Jesus* meant literally “anything signified by the term ‘fruit of the vine’ can be used in the Lord’s Supper.” So why assume your interlocutor means something else far outside the parameters set by the Lord?


  47. Just one more. Hodge the younger agreed with his father.

    III. The matter of the Lord’s Supper consists (1) of the elements used, and (2) of the sacramental actions which are performed in their use. The elements consist, as all Christians are agreed, of bread and wine.

    1st. The bread used in the original sacrament was the unleavened bread which had been used by divine com and in the paschal feast from the time of Moses to that of Christ. But Christ speaks of it, in instituting the sacrament, not as “unleavened,” but as “bread.” The point of the symbolism is that as bread, our daily bread, is the staff of life and nourishes the body, so Christ in his divine-human Person and mediatorial offices nourishes our souls when apprehended by faith. It is evident, from the allusions to its observance throughout the Acts and the Epistles, that the apostles commemorated the communion in connection with ordinary social meals and in the use if whatever bread happened to be present, which on such occasions we know to have been the common leavened bread. Although it is obviously a matter of indifference what particular form of bread should be used, a controversy sprang up between the Greek and Roman churches as to the kind of bread it is proper to use in the Eucharist. The Greek Church insisted that the bread used should be leavened, and maintained that the continued use of unleavened bread was a remnant of Judaism. The Roman church insisted on the use of unleavened bread. The Lutheran branch of the Protestant Church adheres to the practice of Rome in this particular. The great body of the Reformed churches, including the Anglican Church, on the contrary, maintain that the kind of bread is not essential, but that the wafer used by the Romanists is not properly bread, which is the staff of life, the ordinary food of man. We therefore, by an eminently proper tradition, use ordinary leavened loaf bread, so prepared that the unity of the “one bread” of which all partake is visibly set forth, and this is broken before the people into parts, so that they, being many, all partake of one bread.

    2d. The contents of the cup were wine. This is known to have been “the juice of the grape” not in its original state as freshly expressed, but as prepared in the form of wine for permanent use among the Jews. “Wine,” according to the absolutely unanimous, unexceptional testimony of every scholar and missionary, is in its essence “fermented grape-juice.” Nothing else is wine. The use of “wine” is precisely what is commanded by Christ in his example and his authoritative institution of this holy ordinance. Whosoever puts away true and real wine, or fermented grape-juice, on moral grounds, from the Lord’s Supper, sets himself up as more moral than the Son of God who reigns over his conscience, and than the Saviour of souls who redeemed him. There has been absolutely universal consent on this subject in the Christian Church until modern times, when the practice has been opposed, not upon change of evidence, but solely on prudential considerations. Many Christians have, however, mingled water with the wine, because it was an ancient custom probably practiced by Christ himself, and also by some because water mingled with the blood flowed from his broken heart (John 19: 34). (A.A. Hodge, Popular Lectures on Theological Themes, pp. 399ff.)


  48. David R.
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 6:23 pm
    First of all, calm down.
    Second, your major premise begs the question, no?

    First, you’re projecting: “I’m in a bit of a cranky mood,…”

    Second, what question? Your tomato juice question?
    I’m not “begging the question” in logical terms, either.
    At 12:13, the prior question was: where is Scriptural warrant for (non-alcoholic) grape juice?

    If you don’t think the major premise stands, then rebut it.
    Right now, it’s the only textually-based argument on the table.
    τοῦ γενήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου / tou genēmatos tēs ampelou, Mt.26:29; Mk.14:25; Lk.22:18.


  49. Members may be under the drinking age.

    People recovering from addiction cannot drink any alcohol.

    Some people choose not to consume alcohol as part of their walk.


  50. Bruce,

    In order for me to “rebut” something, there has to be an argument. A major premise does not a “textually-based argument” make. (But see the Hodges, above, on the textual question.)


  51. Certain driving licenses have ZERO tolerance for alcohol consumption

    I know three people whose professions require no consumption if on call or scheduled to work in a long time frame


  52. To be clear, I tend to agree with the Hodges (and apparently the pretty much unanimous testimony of church history) that NOT “All drinkable grape-produce is ‘fruit of the vine,’ in biblical parlance.”


  53. Well, we split at the 3/4 mark with Luther.

    We can overplay the “church history is on my side” argument.

    We aren’t papists.

    Nor do we celebrate passover because that has the longest history.

    There’s a freedom on conscience issue.

    Bible doesn’t proscribe it. Leave it up to the elders. Or the regional church, or national assembly, as last resort.

    End of story.


  54. Guys,

    We’re Reformed. First we settle questions of what the Bible teaches/commands/prescribes. (If you’re convinced in your own mind on this particular issue, then fine, but obviously we don’t all seem to agree.) Until we do that we can’t even know to what extent our consciences are free, or how to deal with questions of application. On this particular issue, if wine is biblically prescribed (and yes, I do realize that’s a big “if”), then that will determine whether or not a church member or church court is free to use something else instead.


    The argument from church history may sound papist to you, but the argument, “Leave it to the church to decide” sounds rather papist to me. I think we all agree that the church is responsible to do all things decently and in order, but again, first things first.

    All, that’s enough for me, thanks for the interaction.


  55. Didn’t say it sounded papist, just saying, we can take it too far.

    I like talking theology with you, David. Thanks for your response. I’m a bit unpredictable and all over the place. But hey, its a blog, what fun is a restricted discussion of these heavenly matters.

    Have a nice Lord’s day.


  56. AB, I agree that hypothetically we can take it too far, but in this day and age, I doubt we run much risk of that, and in fact, our far greater tendency is to be guilty of the opposite.


  57. Hey, communion wine is great. I’m with you. Lets do it right. Just don’t cause a brother to stumble, is all, brother.



  58. Steve Martin, thanks for the response. That’s a helpful summary. I think I still agree with this sentiment from that article I referenced (here):

    While presenting its doctrine according to a five-point system is not the most natural way to present the Lutheran doctrines of grace, it is almost necessitated by the fact that American evangelicals have come of age in an environment where the theological categories have been defined by others, and most of those others have been Arminians. Unless our doctrines are presented in a way such that the contrasts with Arminianism are easily seen, even an otherwise clear presentation of the Lutheran doctrines will produce confusion.

    Your summary uses different categories than Arminian/TULIP, so for many new Calvinists I suspect they would give a blank stare “does not compute.”

    I’m also influenced by statements like this, from Greg Forster in the Joy of Calvinism:

    Lutheran theology, as we have seen, denies the Calvinistic premises—the only premises that can possibly justify a promise of perseverance. But then Lutheranism seems to promise perseverance anyway. Not being a professionally trained theological scholar, much less a scholar of the notoriously puzzling paradoxes of Lutheran theology, I feel comfortable admitting my ignorance as to how they can simultaneously hold these irreconcilable commitments.

    Here’s a PhD giving up on understanding Lutheranism. On assurance, one’s assurance is built upon a doctrine of perseverance. If Lutheran perseverance is paradoxical then I don’t see how it produces much assurance.Anyway, my intent here is not to figure all this out in blog comments. I’m merely suggesting a theory in response to the original article, that ignorance is the reason new Calvinists react to Lutheranism so.


  59. AB, I hope you agree that worshipping God accebtably, as instituted by Himself and as limited by His own revealed will, can never be a cause of stumbling. It’s those who do otherwise who stumble.


  60. If I’m a drunk, and you as an elder in my OPC force me to drink your wine to have communion, I think there exists the possibility you are causing me to stumble.

    Is there some reason you keep hammering at this with me? I don’t mind, I’m just curious.


  61. Dear Jordan,

    The paradox of Lutheranism – to be more precise the paradox of Luther is not the paradox of Van Tillianism and therefore conversely the logic of Clarkianism (to be somewhat anachronistic) or rather the logic of analogy of Thomism. That is to say, it is not a conceptual or philosophical or mental paradox but intensely existential (“experiential” not in the sense of pietism and revivalism but the entire person – the “I” of the senses *and* the “I” of faith). It is a real paradox that cannot be resolved by logic or reason – cannot be synthesised into a higher principle. For theology is not theological principles but the Justifying God Who forgives you and you the justified sinner. In other words, theology is grounded in the language of proclamation (revelation of Law and Gospel) of I-it-thou — the “it” being the Word and Sacraments.

    The experience of theology is therefore is the experience of conflict, of total opposites coming together in an exchange or communication of attributes (or properties) — where the just becomes unjust, the unjust becomes just, where the judge is at the same time the guilty and convicted one, where the Holy One is at the same time revealed to be deep in the flesh of the sinner … is the *heart* of the sinner even as He, i.e. the Holy One pronounces judgment … where judgment is according to the Law and where justification is at the same time apart or against the Law …

    The doctrine of perseverance then is to understood not in a conceptual sense but existential in that the sinner is at once damned and blessed, apostate and elect. Assurance which is none other than the assurance of the New Adam can only be by faith which is none other than the union between the New Adam and Christ. Faith therefore is not a mental assent nor a mental assent plus confidence plus hope and obedience and so on but purely the death of the Old Adam and the resurrection of the New Adam by the alien and proper work of the Holy Spirit.

    The passages warning against apostasy kills the Old Adam and the promise of everlasting life whereby all who comes to Christ shall never be cast out and that all that the Father giveth to the Son, the Son shall not lose one raises up the New Adam.

    In other words, the Lutheran doctrine of perseverance cannot be fitted into systematic theology but is ever an existential paradox held in complete tension as befitting the Old and the New until the eschaton.


  62. AB,

    If I’m a drunk, and you as an elder in my OPC force me to drink your wine to have communion, I think there exists the possibility you are causing me to stumble.

    If you’re a drunk, then I hope your OPC elders wouldn’t admit you to the table in the first place. You have already stumbled without any help from them.

    Secondly, I think you have a fundamental (albeit widespread) misunderstand of Romans 14. Check this out:

    It is here that a grave distortion of the teaching of these passages must be exposed. In dealing with this distortion it is well to deal with it in relation to Romans 14 particularly. As pointed out above, Romans 14 is broader in its scope than I Corinthians 8 and offers, therefore, more plausibility to this widespread distortion.

    In our modern context this passage is often applied to the situation that arises from excess in the use of certain kinds of food or drink. It is particularly in connection with intemperance in the matter of fermented beverages that the application is made. The argument runs along the following lines. The person addicted to excess or intemperance is called the “weaker brother”, and the temperate are urged to abstain from the use of that thing in deference to the weakness of the intemperate. This argument may be applied to a great variety of usable things but it is in connection with fermented liquors that the argument has received widest currency and has been made to appear very plausible.

    It must be said quite plainly that this is a distortion and perversion of Paul’s teaching in the passage concerned. (John Murray, “The Weak and the Strong”)

    Is there some reason you keep hammering at this with me? I don’t mind, I’m just curious.

    Because I care about this, as I’m sure you do. Hopefully there is more sharpening than hammering….


  63. Thirdly, if acceptable worship requires wine, then your elders can’t possibly be causing you to stumble by only offering wine. If I seem to be hammering, it’s because I can’t seem to get an amen from you on some pretty basic Reformed principles.


  64. Didn’t they think the apostles were drunk, but not with ethanol?

    I simply said drunk, not from what.

    Maybe I’m equivocating on “drunk”..


  65. I’m with you brother D. We send that message that substances and addictions are stronger than the means of grace and work of the Spirit when we make the grape juice accommodation. Also sends a strong and clear message that we don’t take the bible’s teaching all that seriously.


  66. And if wine isn’t available?

    The rest of the world laughs at the wholly undeserved entitlement of Americans, who just may find all the blessings gone during our lifetime.


  67. @1:08pm
    Amen, brother chuckles

    Grape juice in individual disposable cups shows American entitlement (and refrigeration). Christians in former times (and other places today) can only access fermented wine and share one (washable) cup. If there is no wine available, Christians have suffered without communion for long periods of time. All the more shameful with our present abundance that communion is not widely celebrated weekly.


  68. Jordan, side comment for you: nice HTML skills. You could teach some of our interlocutors (hello Tom). These old oldlifers aren’t always adept. Nice to have some young blood in our ranks.



  69. Lutheran assurance is built upon one thing, and one thing only…the promises of God…coming to us externally. In Word and sacrament (It’s all one Word).

    And this external Word is in no way dependent upon what we do, say, feel, or think.

    If one believes it (trusts it), by God’s grace, then one has it.

    It’s really not complicated, at all. But it is a hard way to live…by faith alone.


  70. One more thing on grape-based sacramental fluids: God in his wisdom chose something that is available in most parts of the world, then and now. And red wine in particular has a great shelf life and travels well. Pre-pasteurization/Welchification fresh grape juice, not so much.


  71. Dr. Hart, Great post and thank you for the sanity you bring to the Reformed world. Do you have another brother, different spelling, named ‘Darrell’? **I lovingly dedicate this comment to Darrell Hart.


  72. Erik,

    Besides lessons on ‘How to love Lutherans’, and historical theology, I just wasn’t sure if RDP also needed spelling or respect lessons.


  73. Erik, the creature you name exist in my dreams but no where else. We’ve been commenting too often and too long when we dream up combox statements that in fact were never there to start with.

    Maybe that’s just me talking..


  74. “Different historical periods may exist side by side over long stretches.” Stanley Cavell, The Claim of Reason, p 121

    Lutherans teach that water baptism does not take from us “our ability to fall from grace.”. The Lutheran sacrament is not effectual in that way.


  75. Dr. Hart, I did not think D.G. stood for ‘Donut Guy’ either because somehow I don’t think you would give out free advertising for DeYoung’s ‘Hole in our Holiness’.


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