Lutherans, Reformed, Baptists Apart

The following is an excerpt from my contribution to On Being Reformed: Debates over a Theological Identity. Here is how Amazon dot com describes the book:

This book provides a focus for future discussion in one of the most important debates within historical theology within the protestant tradition – the debate about the definition of a category of analysis that operates over five centuries of religious faith and practice and in a globalising religion. In March 2009, TIME magazine listed ‘the new Calvinism’ as being among the ‘ten ideas shaping the world.’ In response to this revitalisation of reformation thought, R. Scott Clark and D. G. Hart have proposed a definition of ‘Reformed’ that excludes many of the theologians who have done most to promote this driver of global religious change. In this book, the Clark-Hart proposal becomes the focus of a debate. Matthew Bingham, Chris Caughey, and Crawford Gribben suggest a broader and (they argue) more historically responsible definition for ‘Reformed,’ as Hart and Scott respond to their arguments.

Without further delay, one of the points that came to me in the exchange:

In both the case of Clark and myself, present-day concerns about Christian fellowship and communion inform assessments of the past, not the sort of integration of faith and historical learning that usually transpires in Conference of Faith and History circles where ecclesiology and creeds become barriers to scholars hoping to find fraternity warmed by religion. Pan-denominational efforts like Banner of Truth, ACE, or TGC need a Calvinism that includes Baptists, especially after the resurgence of predestinarian theology in the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant communion in the United States. If Calvinism is narrow and strictly ecclesial, these parachurch organizations lose a potentially big audience for their enterprise. At the same time, confessional historians reveal their own biases as churchmen who use denominational boundaries to inform their reading of the past. The logic is fairly simple: if the United Reformed Churches do not allow Baptist pastors into the pulpit or behind the Lord’s Table, the history of Reformed Protestantism should reflect a similar understanding. Why exclude Baptists from Reformed ministry today but include them in the history of Reformed Protestantism? A scholarly move that is at odds with ecclesiastical practice makes no sense.

Even Lumping Has Its Limits

The six-hundred-pound gorilla in the historiography of Baptists and Reformed Protestantism is Lutheranism. Here the roles reverse, with predestinarian Baptists rarely including Lutherans in their recovery of historic Protestantism and confessional Reformed historians admiring Lutherans for their self-conscious ecclesial and creedal identity. Gribben, Caughey, and Bingham do not mention Lutherans, which makes sense because seventeenth-century English Protestantism showed no signs of a Lutheran influence. Clark and I, in contrast, regard Lutherans as confessionalists who are clearly not Reformed but who take their confessions, practice, and ministry seriously enough to regard broad evangelicalism and its parachurch aspects as solvents of a Protestant communion’s integrity. Consequently, Clark and I have little trouble recognizing and are willing to live with the reality that Lutherans cannot affirm the Westminster Standards or the Three Forms of Unity. For Gribben, Caughey, and Bingham, however, Lutherans are a mystery. According to their logic, if the London Confession is down stream from Westminster, then why not also argue that Westminster is an extension of Heidelberg, which leads back to Augsburg, which leaves Baptists an extension of the same theological movement that Martin Luther started? Instead of talking about Reformed Baptists, why not Lutheran Baptists? Furthermore, if parachurch predestinarians who refuse to baptize babies can claim that John Piper can affirm ninety-five percent of the Westminster Standards, one might also wonder how much of the Augsburg Confession the Minneapolis minister would dispute. Chances are that Piper could not affirm roughly four of the twenty-eight articles (on the sacraments and holy days), which makes him by one measure eighty-six percent Lutheran. Yet, Baptists of a predestinarian bent want to be included not among the Lutherans but Reformed Protestants.

One explanation might be that Luther was too earthy. His piety is much more off-putting than the earnest, worn-on-the-sleeve pursuit of holiness that typified the Puritans. Another factor is cultural. In the English-speaking Protestant world, Baptists and Presbyterians share a common history and culture that makes similarities easier to conceive than thinking of German Protestants, who have no stake in the British monarchy, the English ecclesiastical establishment and the dissenters it created, or American independence, as fellow believers. German and English Protestants have distinct histories and that makes Lutheranism seem foreign to most Anglo-American Protestants while Calvinism feels familiar, part of the religious landscape, for English-speaking Protestants.

In the end, though, the question is not historical or cultural but one of authority, namely, who decides whether Baptists are part of Reformed Protestantism? Do historians and parachurch leaders or is the decision the task of church officers? Of course, a royal commission of federal agency charged with categorizing Protestant groups could readily solve the dispute but those days are long behind. So the duty of policing Reformed Protestantism’s boundaries has to fall to non-governmental agencies.

This has bearings on both the Theological Dark Web and the Ecclesiastical Dark Web: Luther is too dark for evangelicals and Baptists, communions are too complicated.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Lutherans, Reformed, Baptists Apart

  1. “….Here the roles reverse, with predestinarian Baptists rarely including Lutherans in their recovery of historic Protestantism and confessional Reformed historians admiring Lutherans for their self-conscious ecclesial and creedal identity…. Clark and I … regard Lutherans as confessionalists who are clearly not Reformed but who take their confessions, practice, and ministry seriously enough to regard broad evangelicalism and its parachurch aspects as solvents of a Protestant communion’s integrity…”

    This has been covered here before, but I’ll mention it again: “Lutherans” is a broad category which includes mainline (ELCA), borderline (LCMS), and sideline (ELS, WELS, etc.) communions (synods). Only those in the sideline and some fraction of the borderline synods take their confessions seriously. The mainline synod and part of the borderline are heavily linked into social justice, global warming, feeding the world’s poor, etc. and give the confessions lip service at best.

    Like

  2. cg, seriously, people come in to com boxes anonymously to rip people who put hard work into discussion and scholarship?

    Like

  3. It’s not about predestination. Jews believed in predestination. And Jews believed that God made a promise to their children. It’s not about the children making a promise or a confession to God. So a Reformed boundary against Augustinians or Lutherans makes no sense.

    So what if some of the “predestinarian but not Reformed” people you lump together make it all about the certain justification of all for whom Christ died? For sure, that does not make them Reformed, because they reduce the new covenant down to the elect few who have been effectually called by God through the gospel. And being Reformed is about the promise to Reformed children.

    But when you look at some of the other folks behind the boundaries of your own Reformed boundary, you see them teaching justification not only as a process but also a not yet reality based on works done by us (enabled and predestined by God). Does the “process” make them more Lutheran than you are? Or does the “future works” make you more Lutheran than they are? While you attempt to police Reformed boundaries against Baptists, many paedobaptist predestianarians are attempting to police Reformed boundaries against the Lutheran law/gospel antithesis.

    Your “lumping” Baptists together won’t work because not all Baptists want to be “Reformed”. But you and Scott Clark can always decide that anybody who doesn’t want to be Reformed is not really a Baptist. But do you also get to decide who is really Lutheran? Or is it up to Robert Kolb to decide that Steven Paulson is a Lutheran?

    Beale, New Testament Biblical Theology, p 516—My view is compatible with Snodgrass–”Justification by Grace–to the Doers:An Analysis of the Place of Romans 2 in the Theology of Paul…Snodgrass holds that justification excludes ‘legalistic works’ done to earn justification but includes an evaluation of IMPERFECT works done by us through the Spirit

    Robert Kolb—“No safe haven is to be found in demands for human obedience.”

    Eric Philipps—Paulson interprets the communicatio idiomatum not only as God the Son sharing in human nature, but sharing in human sin (92). How could Christ make a fitting sacrifice of Himself , if taking Human Nature meant taking Original Sin? Paulson’s two great errors flow together in his treatment of the Atonement, and the result is nothing short of appalling. How did Jesus save us? By breaking the Law Himself: Christ goes deeper yet into flesh to take our sin and acknowledged sins as his own, that is, he confessed them. This is like a man whose son has committed a crime, and out of selfless love the father steps in to take the punishment, but then goes so far that he irrationally comes to confess t that he believes he has committed the sin—and as Luther famously said, “as you believe, so it is.” …

    Paulson teaches that Christ came to believe that his Father was not pleased with him, thus multiplying sin in himself just like any other l sinner who does not trust a promise from God. …Then finally in the words on the cross, “My God, my God”, Paulson teaches that Christ made the public confession of a sinner, “why have you forsaken me?” Confessing made it so, and thus Paulson teaches that Christ committed his own, personal sin

    Paulson—-Christ felt God’s wrath and took that experience as something truer than God’s own word of promise to him (“This is My Son, with whom I am well pleased”). Christ committed his own, personal sin.”(104) That’s exactly how Paulson defines Original Sin in another part of the book: “It is to receive a word from God in the form of a promise, and then to accuse God of withholding something of himself—calling God a liar” (152). Paulson defines sin as against grace, not as sin against law. And how is this supposed to work salvation for sinners, that the spotless Lamb should join them in sin? Paulson says that by identifying so deeply with human beings as to actually experience the act of sin, Christ confessed not just that He was a sinner, but that He was every sinner, the only sinner.”

    http://pseudepigraph.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Paulson-Review-E.-Phillips.pdf

    Like

  4. DJ,
    That picture involks a “wok the dog” comment like no other. I’ll never see that breed of dog again without thinking “blueberry muffin”.

    Like

  5. MMC: While you attempt to police Reformed boundaries against Baptists, many paedobaptist predestianarians are attempting to police Reformed boundaries against the Lutheran law/gospel antithesis.

    As are many credobaptist predestinarians.

    The hypercharged sanctification push is coming out of the credo camp, blowing into Presby rooms via TGC.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jason Alligood – just because someone spends time on “discussion and scholarship” doesn’t mean they do a good job, or that they are above criticism, in anonymous comment boxes or anywhere else.

    That said, DGH’s analysis is actually spot on. The Reformed Baptist-Presbyterian “alliance” is more cultural than theological. There’s no reason Presbyterians shouldn’t be more closely aligned with Lutherans and even Anglicans, as much as I hate Anglican ecclesiastical structure (such that it is). TGC’s big error, in my opinion, is its heavy Baptist influence: they should embrace Lutheran and other voices as much as they do Baptist and Presbyterian.

    Like

  7. Jeff, you are so right ..and sadly it’s not only the Baptists who want to be Reformed but many of the other kind of predestinarian credobaptists as well.

    dgh: “Now the response to me might be, well Hart, you have lots of resemblances to Lutheranism. And my response is, so? When did Lutheranism become something worthy of anathemas?”

    https://oldlife.org/2009/12/21/if-not-two-kingdoms-two-decalogues/#comment-133771

    mcmark– Hauerwas keeps talking about leaving the Methodists to become Roman Catholic, but Stan never did (he became Anglican) Why has Hart not left the “two stages of justification” Reformed to join the Lutherans? I know the Lutherans invite Hart to come say nice things about them, but why the reserve to go join something which is not merely “high mother church” in theory? Is it a residual attachment to the faith of his “evangelical” parents? Or is it that the Lutherans don’t really want to take on board Hart’s special two kingdom worldview?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.