Monday, October 26, 2009

ISI Interview

Today at 3PM I will be on Chris Arnzen's Iron Sharpens Iron show. The show can be heard live over the Internet, and the MP3 will be available for download around 4:30 PM.

James Swan, who is involved in teaching ministry at the Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church in New Jersey, will address "Did Martin Luther Believe in the Reformed Tulip?"

James has a hobby of tracking down obscure Luther facts. Today we'll examine some of the recent claims about Martin Luther, as well as address the similarities between Calvinism and Luther's theology.

Because of the emphasis James places on the Reformation, his writing tends to attract defenders of the Roman Catholic Church. He spends considerable time interacting with the arguments and materials they produce, calling them to embrace the sole authority of the Scriptures, and salvation by faith alone through grace alone, because of Christ alone.

James is also a member of "Team Apologian", contributing articles to the blog on the web site of renowned Bible scholar Dr. James R. White's Alpha and Omega Ministries , contributes Reformation articles for Christian apologist Dr. Eric Svendsen's New Testament Research Ministries' website, and has had articles published in the Reformed periodical, The Outlook . He also runs his own daily blog, Beggars All: Reformation and Apologetics , dedicated to historical and Biblical research on the Protestant Reformation.


L P said...

Hi James,

Thank you for a fair presentation of Luther. You are the first Reformed guy I heard to admit that Luther was not a TULIPian. Thank you for being honest about him. Luther, if you study more his view of the Sacraments, was no Calvinist either.

re: Bondage of the Will, older Lutherans than I have told me that the Bondage was one of the earlier books of Luther and that he made more precise or softened the edges of his presentation there.

However here is a blog post that argues that Luther denied L even from the Bondage!

As to Lutherans charging Calvinists that the latter are more closer to Rome by virtue of emphasis on a changed life, I believe such Lutherans are charging the latter at the wrong point, but I won't go into that.

This boils down to our internal debate inside Lutheranism about the 3rd use of the law. Some deny it, I for one believe there is a 3rd use of the Law.

Further, Lutheran Confessions do not deny change of heart and life, what old Lutherans like Chemnitz, Calov, Quenstedt etc would deny is that it is a basis for assurance or the focus of assurance.


Jordan Cooper said...

I enjoyed the overall presentation, however I think you have a few misunderstandings of Lutheran theology as regards to both irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints. I would like to talk with you sometime to explain this.

L P said...
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L P said...

however I think you have a few misunderstandings of Lutheran theology as regards to both irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints

I do not think James misunderstood the Lutheran understanding on this.

Where did he miss it? Can you cite from the Lutheran Confessions where James run off the rails?

As far as I recall, he affirmed that Luther was no TULIPian, denying L, I and P which is a fair presentation.

The Lutheran confessions enjoins the Christian to look continually to the means of grace - Word/Sacrament for the very Word/Sacrament that creates faith, is the very thing that sustains faith.

Lutherans are into assurance of salvation, they are not into eternal security.

Continual looking to the means of grace - Word/Sacrament makes one not obsessessed with his destiny.

Presence of faith in the Gospel is life and salvation, thus absence of faith in the Gospel is death and damnation.

So can you cite from the Confessions where James Swan misunderstood these issues. For example what he said and why he said is countered by the Lutheran Confessions?

Citing from the Confession would be a good thing, rather than quoting a Lutheran Church Father, their opinions are not the same as the confessions.



Constantine said...

Hi James,

Thanks for the very interesting presentation. I don't personally have much energy for Luther so I appreciate your work in this area. And your pastoral tone is easy on the ears.

Keep up the good work.


Andrew said...

I just listened to the MP3. I found it to be very interesting. Thank you.

Jordan Cooper said...

As regards the doctrine of the "perseverance of the saints", Luther accepted this doctrine in its Augustinian form. The perseverance of the saints has taught that God will bring those he chooses unto final salvation. This Luther affirms. However, Luther certainly does not believe that a believer cannot fall away. Swan seemed to think that election could be lost.
Irresistible grace, I would argue is largely misunderstood by Lutherans. We believe that God offers grace universally. However, God will effectually bring his elect to faith. This in a sense conforms to the doctrine.

L P said...


You mentioned Lutheran theology in your prior comment where you have meant Luther's theology then.

Swan seemed to think that election could be lost.

Hmm, I am not sure about that.

As to Lutherans not understanding Calvinist Irresistible Grace, well as a former Calvinist now Lutheran, I can say and observe that it is not that Lutherans necessarily misunderstand this, it is more like them not being interested in the subject.

Lutherans do not have an official stance on the ordo salutis (in which the I of TULIP plays a role). They are not into the mechanics of Salvation.

Aside from Quenstedt an old Lutheran theologian who proposed an ordo salutis, I know of any other Lutheran who ever did.

So it is more like disinterest or considering the topic of irresistible grace irrelevant to their dogmatics.


Jordan Cooper said...

I am also a former Calvinist. Thus, part of my conversion was looking into the Lutheran position on these issues. I may have misunderstood James Swan on the point of losing ones election. However, I do not think it is fair to say simply that Luther or Lutherans do not believe in perseverance of the saints. As defined by Augustine, Prosper, Fulgentius and several other early predestinarians we do agree with it, just not as the Calvinists have interpreted this point.
I understand that we do not hold to an ordo salutis, however I am curious to hear more about what Quenstedt tried to do. I do think the basic idea of God bringing us to faith by overcoming our resistance is an important affirmation in Lutheran theology, which is largely the purpose of the "I" in Tulip.

L P said...


The source is the BoC and I have not found any systematic treatment of an ordo salutis in the BoC.

However Schmidt in his book Doctrinal theology of the evangelical Lutheran church, quotes Quenstedt there. It is in Google books.


L P said...


Sorry I also miss half of your point.

Does a Lutheran believe in the Perseverance of the Saints? The formulation of this is I think carried somewhere else.

I think we do, that God does not live the Christian alone and asks him to make it on his own.

The question is how does he keep you in the faith - this is through the means of grace - law/gospel - Word an Sacrament.

The big difference in Calvinism and Lutheranism is the concept of means of grace. To understand Lutheranism and how it can affirm JBFA and have real sacraments, one must understand what they mean by Means of Grace.


Rhology said...

LP Cruz,

Yes, I've been wondering about that.

Do you know of a good paper on the meshing of JBFA with baptismal regeneration/baptism as means of grace? Something not too terribly long would be appreciated, but I'd understand if you're not aware of sthg that's short-med length and also does justice to the topic.

L P said...


The best explainer of means of grace is Luther himself.

So I commend you to his Small Catechism and Large Catechism. They are the best way of understanding why Luther and Lutherans can be staunch defenders of JBFA and yet have meaningful Sacraments - Baptism and Lord's Supper.

So for Luther and Lutherans it is simply like this - Jesus died on the Cross for sinners, that was 2000 years ago. Luther says it is a treasure that lies on a heap and no one benefits from it unless the HS delivers it to the sinner - the operative word is - deliver.

So how does the HS delivers what the gift that happened 2000 years ago to your space and time continuum - to your here and now.

The HS uses the Word and Sacraments to do this to deliver the gift of the Atonement of Christ. The means of grace. For Lutherans though God is sovereign, he purposely limits himself and binds himself to the means of grace to comfort and make us certain of his good will towards us. This is love, for a strong man to limit himself for the sake of the weak is compassion.

That Atonement happened outside us, we were not asked, we were not consulted, Jesus did it on his own accord - a gift - whether one believes it or not , but they better believe it ;-)

Baptism is not just water, it is water plus the Word - it is Gospel a gift, but that Baptism is linked to the Atonement - Rom 6:1-6. This is what Luther/Lutherans believe. It is Holy. It is not something you can flaunt.

In fact, that is how they understand it in their liturgy - when the pastor greets them - in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They reply - Amen. That was reminder of their baptism.

So much so that when he was assailed by doubts by the devil whether he was a child of God or not, he says - "But I am baptized!". He does not say, but I believe. He was very smart, he knew that was the point of contention - whether he is a believer or not. Rather he points outside himself - to his baptism.

For Luther, at baptism God made a promise to him that God is uniting him to Christ forgiving him of his sins for the sake of Jesus' atonement. This is consistent with Scripture - Rom 6:1-6, Col 1:11-14(?).

I can also recommend to you some Lutheran bloggers (and my blog LOL)

Understand that Calvinism and Lutheranism have differences and one point of difference is on the Sacraments - what do they do? Does it give anything?

Calvin was much closer to Luther than to Zwingli on the Sacraments, although I observe, because Calvin tracked a via media between Zwingli and Luther, his faith children tend to levitate toward Zwingli.

This is in a nutshell.


L P said...

So much so that when he was assailed by doubts by the devil whether he was a child of God or not, he says - "But I am baptized!"

The *he* in that bit is Luther. Sorry for my mistype.


Rhology said...

Thanks LPC.
I've been curious about that and then my interest was piqued when I read most of this thread. What Darius was saying made a lot of sense, but it was a good read on both sides, to be sure (except for the guy who was consigning Calvinists to heterodoxy or worse, blaspheming Christ; I didn't think that kind of talk was all that necessary).