Monday, December 19, 2005

John Mark Hits One Out Of The Ballpark: The Lutheran Understanding of Calvinists

There is significant value for Reformed folks to understand Luther’s “theology of the cross” (and probably at some point I will get into this one). It’s hard to sum this up quickly, but when I’m pressed to give an answer in ten seconds to someone who asks me about it, I ask this question:

“Which way has God most clearly revealed Himself?”

Sometimes the answer given is “in nature.” This would be a good try for a non-Christian, but the folks that have given me this answer are Christians! The answer of course, is “in Jesus Christ,” and this is the ten-second explanation to the “theology of the cross.” Luther would say something like, “If you want to know God, know Jesus Christ.”

Now, I’ve met quite a few cyber-Lutherans. I think in some cases, Luther’s “theology of the cross” is wrongly used by some of them against Reformed Christians. Many times if a Reformed person even mentions predestination, election, atonement, etc, some Lutherans will quickly take refuge behind the theology of the cross, and say that the Reformed are not talking about Jesus, but rather the hidden God. I always wonder if maybe the theology of the cross is being misapplied in order to maintain a tradition, or is either being misapplied due to a faulty understanding of Reformed theology. Now, I’m not pigeonholing all Lutherans, so please put your guns back in your holsters.

Probably motivated by this post from James White , John Mark over on Sweet Tea And Theology put something into words that I’ve never been able to relating to this subject. He applied a type of incorrect Lutheran hermeneutic to the Nicene Creed in which everything not mentioning Jesus was stricken from the creed.

Now of course, John Mark is using an example of argumentum ad absurdum, and doing so quite effectively. I doubt of course any Lutheran would agree with his findings. But this is the point isn’t it? Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” Of course, the primary meaning of this verse applies to the law, but secondarily, it is those things in the Scripture that have been revealed to us that tell us who God is. Yes, it’s true that God has most clearly revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, but this does not negate the Reformed doctrines of grace.


FM483 said...

If I had never read the bible or heard the Gospel preached, then I would be very susceptible to various philosophies. This includes the 5-point Calvinist doctrine of Double Predestination. If the bible is "someone else's mail" then I should not be prying into other peoples' business. However, once I read the bible and hear the Gospel preached, it is an entirely different "ballgame". The promises of God in Christ come into my heart and I know that as a member of the "world", Christ died for ME.

James Swan said...

Hi Frank-

Thanks for stopping by and your comments. Probably one of the greatest saddnesses I have is seeing the relationship between Lutherans and the Reformed.

I think, if constructive dialog were to occcur, many of our differences could be worked out.

I plan on doing some posts directly to the subject of Lutheranism vs. Calvinism. I hope you'll stick around.


johnMark said...

Thanks for the acknowledgement. I really should have clarified that it was a McCainian Lutheranism hermeneutic, although, anti-calvinist could also be a valid description. I was indeed responded to Rev. Paul McCain and his misrepresentations of Calvinism.