Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Underlying Rift

It's not all a White Horse Inn love fest between the Lutheran and Reformed out in cyber space. Some of you are probably aware of the underlying rift between Lutherans (that take their Lutheranism seriously) and the Reformed (those people not afraid to refer to themselves as "Calvinists").

I rarely get involved with this dispute. I'm not a Lutheran, and I don't plan on becoming one anytime soon. On the other hand, I'm not going to spend my sparse blogging time fighting with Lutherans over predestination, the extent of the atonement or the sacraments.

Here's a blog post though for my Reformed friends with time on their hands: Luther & His Tower Experience:

The most dangerous enemy of the Lutheran confessions is not so much Rome who is obvious but Reformed doctrine which is more clandestine.

Here's another similar tidbit from a CyberBrethren comment box:

As a former Calvinist doctrine was a philosophical matter. We were proud to show how well our i’s were dotted and our t’s were crossed. Everything was done in the Divine Council before the beginning of time. Your life on earth was about your gratitude and your glorifying God. The reformed worship is a play of things past, it is not about what is happening in this very moment.

Speaking of CyberBrethren, recently Pastor McCain posted a comment from Doug Wilson he found uplifting. I like Pastor McCain (and his blog), but if I recall correctly, he's not a big fan Calvinism. So, posting a comment from a post millennial federal vision Calvinist was somewhat surprising:

‎Jesus promised us that the gates of Hades would not prevail against the Church. It is not often noted that the gates of Hades are not an offensive weapon. Hades is being besieged by the Church; it is not the other way around. We need to learn to see that biblical worship of God is a powerful battering ram, and each Lord’s Day we have the privilege of taking another swing. Or, if we prefer, we might still want to continue gathering around with our insipid songs, dopey skits, and inspirational chats in order to pelt the gates of Hades with our wadded up kleenex.” ~ Douglas Wilson

I left this brief comment: If this is the Doug Wilson I’m familiar with, you’re quoting not only a Calvinist, but a post-millennialist. I haven’t seen this quote in context, but for a post-millennialist, of course "Hades is being besieged by the Church."

Pastor McCain responded, "Well whatever he meant by the comment, I thought it was still good. A broken watch is correct at least twice a day."

Well, the next time either I, or one of my fellow Reformed minions quote Dr. Luther’s De Servo Arbitrio on predestination and a Lutheran complains, I’m going to say, “Well whatever he meant by the comment, I thought it was still good. A broken watch is correct at least twice a day.” (:
Doug Wilson is a great writer. I have some serious disagreements with him, but he is an excellent communicator, and highly quotable. Why… even Lutheran pastors quote him!

31 comments:

Reformed Veritas said...

Yo, James, you slipping man.
I looked at "Luther and his Tower Experience" post and pretty much found it incoherent. The comments seemed to consist of concurring members of the PCA infected with the FedVision or what all.
But maybe I'm all wet.

On the other hand if this is all that lutheranism can come up with, no worries.

FTM I always understood that contemporary lutheranism repudiated Luther's Bondage of the Will - which the reformed affirm wholeheartedly!

Even further, I for one, was always disappointed with Gene Veith's The Spirituality of the Cross which was supposed to include his reasons why he didn't go with a reformed church. Never could find it after buying it, in part for that reason, in that I really enjoyed some of his other excellent titles on literature and fascism.

Anyway/whatever!

James Swan said...

LOL

This type of sentiment is all over the Internet. I just don't have the time to deal with hostile Lutherans against Reformed theology.

Viisaus said...

That argument of Doug Wilson actually would handily deflate the common RC/EO argument: "If the church had really apostasized in the Middle Ages, that would have meant that the gates of Hell would have triumphed over it, contrary to the promise of Christ."

But according to the Wilsonian interpretation on who is really on defense, all that Christ's promise would mean that EVENTUALLY the church would triumph over its enemies - that the gates of Hell would be ultimately broken.

Ken Abbott said...

The rather intense anti-Reformed attitude displayed by some professed Lutherans on web sites drives me nuts. This is the main reason I no longer visit Dr. Veith's blog--not because of his posts, but because of the belligerance or condecension displayed by his frequent commenters and his seeming unwillingness to police them.

As the White Horse Inn guys so amply demonstrate, the Lutheran and Reformed traditions have so much in common and can mutually edify one another, yet the vitriol continues. I don't get it.

natamllc said...

Abbott:

"...yet the vitriol continues. I don't get it."

I do and so these Words are true too:

Joh 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I don't know if you have ever been informed about Robert Farrar Capon?

Here's a little diddy of his from Kingdom, Grace, Judgment Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus, page 17:

After that--to the consternation of generations of tub-thumpers for a hard-line God -- the Bible becomes practically a rhapsody of indirection. God tells Abraham that he still intends to build the city but proposes an exceedingly strange way of going about it. He says he has infallible plans for the redeemed community but then proceeds to insist it be formed not at some reasonable site, but on the road -- and among the future children of a man who hasn't a single descendant to his name. Furthermore, even when Abraham's childlessness is remedied and God does indeed have a people with whom to build the city, he makes them spend an inordinate amount of time in slavery, wandering, and warfare before he selects a suitable piece of real estate for the venture. Finally, when he does get around to providing them with an actual location, it remains theirs (rather tenuously at that) for only a few hundred years -- hardly longer, it seems, than he felt necessary to engrave Jerusalem as an image on their corporate imagination. They certainly did not possess it long enough, or with sufficient success, for anyone to claim that the city definitively has been built."

Not sure why a Child of God in this day and age will be driven nuts? But such as it is? Buy Capon's book, read it and I guarantee you you will go hilariously nuts if you can follow his wit in it? It's only 515 pages of some of the most belly wrenching fun full wisdom I have ever read!

LPC said...

James,

I like Pastor McCain (and his blog)

I am Lutheran and an ex-Calvinisticus, but please, how in the world could you say such a thing?

He hates Calvinism yet all he knows about it is hearsay; he gets a rise by repeating the same talking points he heard from his buddies who also heard it from others.

To your readers: please do not judge Lutheranism by what you see in so called American "confessional" Lutheranism, a body infected by C F W Walther and Co. Walther is considered to be church father by the likes of McCain. I would classify him to be Waltherian rather than Luther-rians. There is a difference but that is another story.

There are orthodox Lutherans who are not LC-MS, WELS, ELS etc,and no, they are not liberals like the ELCA.

And of course, I have disagreements with Calvinistic confessions otherwise why would I be a Book of Concord confessor?

To learn about Lutheranism there is no better source than the Book of Concord. I would not advice people know or be informed about it from McCain.


LPC

Andrew said...

LPC,
Where can I find a good debate or two concerning concerning one or more of the points of disagreement between Lutherans and Reformed? Do you know?

James Swan said...

Where can I find a good debate or two concerning concerning one or more of the points of disagreement between Lutherans and Reformed? Do you know?

I'm not aware of anything, but then again, I've never looked. That would be a worthwhile debate- I'd love to see an in-person debate between the two sides.

James Swan said...

I am Lutheran and an ex-Calvinisticus, but please, how in the world could you say such a thing?

I've had some sparse interaction with him, and didn't have a problem with him.

James Swan said...

I no longer visit Dr. Veith's blog--not because of his posts, but because of the belligerance or condecension displayed by his frequent commenters and his seeming unwillingness to police them.

I visit every once in a while. Not enough theology to keep me interested.

Viisaus said...

I have now checked the original Greek: in Matthew 16:18, is is said that the Gates of Hades will not "KATISCHUO" the church.

"Kata" is "against" and "ischuo" does NOT mean exactly to conquer or triumph over something - there is another perfectly good Greek word for that, "nikao."

Ischuo rather denotes "an ability in strength" - it often in the NT translated as "able" or "could". I t is often written how someone was not "able", ischuo, to do something.

So I think it could be translated: "the gates of Hell will not be able to manage themselves/stand their ground against the church".

In this sense, we see in Acts 6:10 how the opponents of Stephen could not "ischuo" against him:

http://www.searchgodsword.org/isb/bible.cgi?query=ac+6:10&translation=kjv&ot=bhs&nt=na&sr=1&l=en

"But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking."

We can see that Stephen (in spite of his eventual martyrdom) was attacking the Gates of Hell, not defending against them.

LPC said...

Andrew,

A good debate between Calvinism and Lutheranism is found in history. For example the debate between Zwingli and Luther on the real presence of Jesus on the Supper. Another was the debate of Calvin with Westphal.

The real difference is in the so called means of grace. For example Calvinists differ in the number of these so called means of grace. Calvin thinks it is only efficacious to the elect. Lutherans confine the means to Word and Sacrament (Baptism and Supper). God saves through them and never apart from them.

So a Lutheran would find it weird when someone says he was visited by Jesus and got born again. Or someone believing in Jesus or got converted because he saw a beautiful sunset. I am not saying no Calvinists could find this weird but I do say that a Lutheran should find such mystical experience weird or strange because it appears God is by-passing his means of grace - Word or Sacrament. BTW the Sacrament to the Lutheran is Gospel proclamation using visible elements.

To illustrate, I was reading Tim Enloe's comment somewhere her on the means of grace of which I read reason being one of them. Lutherans won't agree with that. To them God has limited himself to the Word and Sacrament, for our salvation so there is no uncertainty where we can find him. He limits himself so we may not be beset with doubt as to where he can be found.

However, I do not think a debate between Calvinism and Lutheranism should be the starting place for one examining Lutheranism. The starting place is the Book of Concord in one hand and the Scripture on the other. You weigh what the BoC says against Scripture and see if you too can confess what it says.

Why? Because at the end of the day a Lutheran is defined by his confession, which is the BoC.

Lutherans do not have regional confessions like in Calvinism, e.g. Westminster, Helvetic, Belgian etc.

Either you agree with BoC or not, you are not allowed to redefine what Lutheranism is.

Even the late H. O. J. Brown a Reformed Theologian himself was impressed that when the BoC was presented in Europe (Germany, Scandinavia etc) 8000 pastors and theologians signed it in 1580.

Even Calvin himself signed a version of the Augsburg Confession formulated by Melanchton. He and Melanchton were friends.

LPC

Kim said...

Viisaus, I always enjoy your comments. Do you blog somewhere? If not, you should!

Brigitte said...

LPC: I think James has promised that he will read the BOC sometime soon.

:)

Ken Abbott said...

Even Calvin himself signed a version of the Augsburg Confession formulated by Melanchton. He and Melanchton were friends.

Yes, and a fat lot of good it did Melanchthon, who got lableled a "crypto-Calvinist" by the Gnesio-Lutherans (the hardliners).

LPC said...

Ken,

Well Melanchton was too much of an accommodator he was castigated for always revising some of the documents he was asked to write. Calvin communicated to Luther through Melanchton. There was a time Calvin wrote to Melanchton of his view of the Lord's Supper, and Melanchton was too afraid to show it to Luther; he knew Luther would foam in the mouth. Calvin wanted to be a via-media between his old mentor Zwingli and his senior Luther(Calvin considered Luther his Elder in one of his letters to Melanchton).

We all know Calvin did not succeed as history shows.

BTW, the same way that there are crypto-Calvinists in Lutheranism, there are crypto-Lutherans in Calvinism too. I suspect Michael Horton might be one of them.

LPC

Andrew said...

LPC,
Thanks for the response! I checked out your blog and liked it. I will be back. Thanks again.

Ed "The layman" said...

I was wondering about this passage. While some translations say gates of Hell or gates of the Netherworld, the Greek says Hades right?

Hades can mean hell or death, and we know that Christians (Christ's Church) will not taste the second death. Is this passage just a promise of the resurrection to the faithful that say, "You are Christ, son of the Living God," not by flesh and blood, but by the spirit?

Or is it to be interpreted as something more earthly?

Ken Abbott said...

LPC: Before commenting further, may I ask you to clarify your description of Zwingli as Calvin's "old mentor"?

James Swan said...

A good debate between Calvinism and Lutheranism is found in history. For example the debate between Zwingli and Luther on the real presence of Jesus on the Supper.

I don't consider it a good debate, as Zwingli wasn't the brightest of all Reformers. In fact, Zwingli and Calvin do not hold the same view on the Lord's Supper.

I think a contemporary debate would be very useful. We need a smart guy from the reformed camp, and a Lutheran that would simply pound his fist on the table repeating "hec est corpus meum" over and over again.

James Swan said...

I think James has promised that he will read the BOC sometime soon

Only if you promise to read the Heidleberg Catechism my Canadian friend!

James Swan said...

Even Calvin himself signed a version of the Augsburg Confession formulated by Melanchton. He and Melanchton were friends.

I read a good article some time back questioning their "friendship." If I remember, I'll post some information on this.

LPC said...

Before commenting further, may I ask you to clarify your description of Zwingli as Calvin's "old mentor"

In the sense that in the early formation of Calvin, Zwingli and him were collaborators of reformation as they saw it.

I don't consider it a good debate, as Zwingli wasn't the brightest of all Reformers. In fact, Zwingli and Calvin do not hold the same view on the Lord's Supper.

A "good debate" for me is that it illustrates where Luther and the Lutherans shared their view of the Supper so much so that Luther said of Zwingli that Zwingli is of a different spirit and he did not mean it in a polite way.

If Zwingli wasn't the best champion of the other side, that cannot be helped.

I think a contemporary debate would be very useful. We need a smart guy from the reformed camp, and a Lutheran that would simply pound his fist on the table repeating "hec est corpus meum" over and over again

What was wrong with the Calvin versus Westphal debate? Do we do the Marburg colloquy once again?

Only if you promise to read the Heidleberg Catechism my Canadian friend!

For info, I WAS a Heidelberg Confessor, I liked it better than Westminster. It was written by an ex-Lutheran until I was convinced of Lutheran interpretation of 1 Cor 10:4-6.

Calvin on the Supper: As I said, he wanted to be a via media between Zwingli's view and Luther's view and yes, his view as we know in history is neither Zwinglian and neither Lutheran. But anecdotally it seems that within Calvinistic groups specially for those who identify their views as Reformed Baptist, they levitate towards Zwingli and not Calvin. There is a reason for that.

I read a good article some time back questioning their "friendship." If I remember, I'll post some information on this.

There were documented letters of exchanges and in the Regensberg Colloquy they were together, both he and Melanchton were there but Luther considered it a waste of time and he was correct.


I do not go for a debate if a person is considering Lutheranism because whoever wins does not necessarily prove the truth of one position, case in point - you pointed on Zwingli as not the best debater. Yet, today, there are still Zwinglians on the Supper.

I recommend that the would be inquirer look at the confessional documents weigh them against scripture and make their judgement from there, because at the end of the day, one is not asked to subscribe to the writings of Calvin or Luther, one is asked if he/she can affirm the confessional documents.

The debate is a champion this versus champion that exercise.

LPC

Brigitte said...

I will read the Heidelberg Catechism, James. I thought it was John who was to read the Heidelberg Catechism. Reformed have quite a number of Catechisms, I believe.

Not a problem. I am guessing that is it shorter than the BOC. I am hoping so. I am still on my first time through of the Formula of Concord, to say to my own shame.

In fact, I was born very close to Heidelberg. Is it the same Heidelberg we are talking about? (on the Neckar).

LPC said...

Andrew,

Thanks for the visit to my blog.

In my blog you will find I also do a critique of certain respected Lutherans, I do not just bag Calvinist, Evangelicals or Charismaniacs.

I am getting old, except for Jesus and the Apostles, I cannot hold anyone sacred anymore. We have been there, done that and I even gave away the t-shirt.

I got no sacred cows.

Peace be with you,

LPC

Brigitte said...

I've read the Heidelberg Catechism in the meantime. Now what do we do? First of all I'll finish the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration. Maybe we'll have James start there, too. Or maybe we let him start with the Epitome.

James Swan said...

I will read the Heidelberg Catechism, James. I thought it was John who was to read the Heidelberg Catechism. Reformed have quite a number of Catechisms, I believe.

Well, if I recall correctly for Lutherans:

The Augsburg Confession
The Apology[Defense] of the Augsburg Confession
The Larger and Smaller Catechisms prepared by Luther
The Articles of Smalcald
The Formula of Concord

In my church, we use the Heidelberg, as well as the Belgic confession, and the Canons of Dordt.

I spend most of time with the Heidelberg.

Probably what I need to do is pick up the actual BOOK of concord, as the versions I have are e-versions, part of my Libronix software.

James Swan said...

Andrew,

Thanks for the visit to my blog.


I likewise visit LPC's blog. There are only a handful of Lutheran blogs I visit.

Brigitte said...

Get the new Reader's Edition, I told you before. It has excellent historical introductions and summaries. You will love it. Or let me send you one.

LPC said...

James.

Thank you.

You know that you are my favorite Luther scholar and I look forward to your outdoing Althaus one day. ;-)

LPC

James Swan said...

LOL, well Althaus was the Luther book I was weaned on in my studies of Luther. It's a dull book for sure, but an excellent resource.