Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why Lutherans say Salvation can be Lost, and the Reformed say it Can't

I've gotten a lot of questions about Lutheranism over the years. Since I'm not a Lutheran, I have to admit I only have a cursory knowledge of their theology and its historical development. Why do Lutheran believe salvation can be lost?  Why do the Reformed say it can't?

I recently came across a few paragraphs from Reformed theologian Geerhardus Vos about this.  Ponder this, as I have been doing:

When we compare the representations of the on final state of man as they have been developed by the different theological traditions, there immediately arises a fundamental difference of great importance for the doctrine of the covenant of works. According to the Lutherans man has ready reached his destination in that God had placed him in a state of uprightness. Eternal life was already in his possession. In his situation the highest ideal was realized. Nothing more need be added to execute God's purpose in creating man. Man was mutable, that is true, and he could fall away from the state of original uprightness and bliss. But for the Lutheran conception this is not a stage that points forward to something else, but rather that which was usual and normal and to be expected. From this it follows that the same condition returns in the state of grace to which fallen man is brought by Christ. Precisely because mankind's destination had already been reached before the fall in Adam, Christ can do nothing but restore what was lost in Adam. And since the destination already realized was fully compatible with mutability and the possibility of falling, the sinner who has been brought back to his destination by Christ must necessarily have to remain at this level. Lutheran theology is, therefore, wholly consistent when it teaches an apostasy of the saints. It does not at all object to uniting the state of justification and sonship with the possibility of such an apostasy.

-snip- (I 'm skipping the discussion of the Pelagian view) -snip-

The Reformed view of the original state of man leads to a totally different result. It was a state of perfect uprightness in which he knew the good and did it consciously. As long as he remained in that state, he could also be sure of God's favor. Up to this point the Reformed view concurs with the Lutheran. But whereas the latter can be satisfied by perpetuating such a state and extending it indefinitely, the Reformed view fixes its gaze on something higher. It sees man not as being placed in eternal bliss from the beginning, but as being placed in such a way that he might attain to eternal bliss. There still hovers above him the possibility of sin and death which is given with his mutable freedom. He is free to do the good out of his good nature but he has not yet attained the highest freedom which can do good only. The latter is placed before him as an ideal. The means of obtaining it is the covenant of works. Here too the state of grace is again ultimately determined by the idea of man's destiny in the state of original uprightness. What we inherit in the second Adam is not restricted to what we lost in the first Adam: it is much rather the full realization of what the first Adam would have achieved for us had he remained unfallen and been confirmed in his state. Someone placed in that state can never again fall from it. As truly as Christ is a perfect Saviour, so truly must he bestow on us the perseverance of the saints.

Source:  Richard Gaffin, ed. Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos (Philipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing co., 1980) p.242-243.

56 comments:

Brigitte said...

first Adam would have achieved for us had he remained unfallen and been confirmed in his state.

Was is this that is to be achieved beyond an unclouded relationship with God dependent on his word, letting him be God, being reconciled to him? Was it not the "fall upward", which was the problem?

Nick said...

I think a more specific and fundamental point was overlooked in that quote. The real issue is how the Atonement is viewed.

Both sides accept Penal Substitutionary Atonement, which teaches Jesus received the punishment the sinner deserves.

The Reformed side argues, quite logically, that if Jesus took the punishment you deserved, then you can never be damned (otherwise God would be punishing the same sin twice contrary to justice).

Though the Lutheran side accepts Penal Substitution, they believe Scripture and church history testify strongly enough that salvation can be lost that it must be true. They don't have any good answer as to how to address the Reformed logic presented above.

So while Lutherans have Scripture and 'tradition' on their side, they are forced to embrace a blatant logical inconsistency - and the very few Lutherans who are aware of this are OK living with this paradox.

On the other hand, the Reformed doctrine of Eternal Security was unheard of before Calvin, and thus not testified to in 'tradition'. But Reformed Protestants are fine with this, since the logic of their view of Penal Substitution makes total sense (and it does). When it comes to Scriptural examination, they feel warranted to 'water down' any text that seems to talk about losing salvation and 'reinterpret' it as saying if the Christian falls away, they were never saved in the first place, while also emphasizing any text that seems to speak of a believer's 'security'.

When it comes to the theological approach each side takes, this is the picture that emerges: Lutherans generally emphasize Scripture (and tradition) over Logic, while Calvinists generally emphasize Logic over Scripture (and tradition).

Brigitte said...

Both this quote of James' and Nick's excursus strike me as very inert.

Is the first word in the title of this blog not "Beggars"? Have we not stood, knelt before God and said in the most ashamed way "Forgive me for my sluggishness, coldness of faith, lack of love... Forgive me and help me and keep me in the faith for Christ's sake?"

Is this not the elemental thing in faith? Is it not his continuing mercy which stirs us up to faith and hope and love.--So help us God.

James Swan said...

Brigitte: Here would be my strategy if I were responding to this blog post. I would ask the following questions:

1) Does James agree with the quote cited, or is he simply posting it for a point of discussion?

2) Does Geerhardus Vos provide any documentation for his conclusions?

The answer to #1 is it was posted as a point of discussion. The answer to #2 is no he doesn't.

I think I could document the Reformed conclusions he reaches, but not the Lutheran conclusions. If Vos has caricatured the Lutheran position, I would be interested in how. But, without a solid basis in Lutheran theology, it would take me a long time to do. I knew you would comment on this post (:

For Nick: One of the reasons I'm never tempted to deep interaction with you is you skip what's in front of you, and move on to something else. Your strategy should be this:

"James, here's the Roman Catholic perspective on man's fall and restoration. It differs from the Lutheran view in this way, and is similar in this way. It differs from the Reformed view in this way, and is similar in this way."

Brigitte said...

James, ? what according to this view, whether you agree or not, is supposed to be this that Adam might have achieved?

Nick said...

James,

I could have gone on a tangent about how Catholicism differs, but I chose to stick with the main subject and topic.

I didn't "skip" what was in front of me, I read it, and I pointed out how the quote failed to address a more fundamental point where Lutherans and Calvinists do 'clash' in reality.

By your own admission, you are not well studied on these subjects (at least not Lutheranism, though I've not seen much in the way of Reformed theology presented in your work either). I'm not saying this to toot my own horn, but I have studied the 'core issues' like these in depth and interacted frequently on them.

Ryan said...

A very interesting post. The state of prelapsarian man is something I've been meaning to study. Vos is a great place to start. He summarizes the Reformed position succinctly. I'm not well versed in Lutheranism, what Vos says makes sense if true.

James Swan said...

Nick, by your admission a few days (or perhaps a week or so) ago, I noticed on a blog somewhere (Green Baggins? I don't recall) that you had slam dunked beat James White on a similar topic. So my chances against you are so slim, I'd rather just admit I don't anything as compared to you. Let me know when your book is published, or when you'll be lecturing somewhere.

James Swan said...

Nick, by your admission a few days (or perhaps a week or so) ago, I noticed on a blog somewhere (Green Baggins? I don't recall) that you had slam dunk beat James White on a similar topic. So my chances against you are so slim, I'd rather just admit I don't know anything as compared to you. Let me know when your book is published, or when you'll be lecturing somewhere.

Nick said...

James,

I vaguely remember the comment you're talking about. If I remember right, I was talking about This Article where White made some dubious claims that were never backed up. For example, he insisted that Abraham was justified in Genesis 15:6, not before, and that the faith he had from Gen 12 onward was non-saving faith (contra Hebrews 11:8 and Gal 3:8 and his Pelagian ramifications).

I'm not sure why you're backing off all of the sudden: I didn't present anything controversial or false in response to your post. And I specifically said I'm not tooting my horn in pointing out I've studied these things while you admit you haven't. There's nothing wrong here.

James Swan said...

Brigitte said... James, ? what according to this view, whether you agree or not, is supposed to be this that Adam might have achieved?

Vos states, "he has not yet attained the highest freedom which can do good only. The latter is placed before him as an ideal."

This concept is rooted at least as far back Augustine. Adam had the posse non peccare (the ability not to sin), but not the non posse peccare (the inability to sin). What Vos is getting at, is that Adam's teleological goal included having the non posse peccare.

But remember according to our Romanist friend Nick, I'm not very good at Reformed theology, so be careful with anything I post.

James Swan said...

And I specifically said I'm not tooting my horn in pointing out I've studied these things while you admit you haven't. There's nothing wrong here.

I stated I only have a cursory knowledge of Lutheran theology and its historical development.

If you know Lutheranism so well, you can begin by either substantiating or denying Vos's description as posted. I'm sure if you did know, you would've posted something by now. There's always Google. I'm sure you could cobble something together quickly, and attempt to demonstrate you've known all along.

LPC said...

Hi James,

I wish to offer a reply. Notice that Vos uses presumed premises and makes deductions from there. This is not the way Luteherans do it. They are up for Biblical Theology rather than Systematic Theology. One stricking premise or assumption is this
What we inherit in the second Adam is not restricted to what we lost in the first Adam: it is much rather the full realization of what the first Adam would have achieved for us had he remained unfallen and been confirmed in his state. Someone placed in that state can never again fall from it


This is correct if it matches the Biblical data, but that is the issue. You are astute enough to know the apostasy passages and I won't go into them for now but it is clear the Lutheran has a different exegesis from these than the Calvinist. The theological method of the two are not the same. Hence, though Nick may say the Lutheran view is inconsistent, but inconsistent with what? Of course I should say yes may be inconsistent philosophically but not biblically.

Another thing, Vos speaks of covenant of works. Lutherans do not buy into covenant theology, their theology should be called testamental not covenantal, there is a difference since the first is an execution of a will and is a gift while the latter seems to be a pack (sorry if I am caricaturing). Like you in the reverse I am not knowledgeable on covenant theology. In effect, do this and you shall live.

Just for the record, the Lutheran belief of salvation being lost is found in Smalcald Articles authored by Luther himself...
43] It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost]. For the Holy Ghost does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so as to be accomplished, but represses and restrains it so that it must not do what it wishes. But if it does what it wishes, the Holy Ghost and faith are [certainly] not present. For St. John says, 1 John 3:9: Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, ... and he cannot sin. And yet it is also the truth when the same St. John says, 1:8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

Lutheran doctrine should be called the Perseverance of the Spirit rather than the Saints. From the Lutheran perspective, it has something to do with the Means of Grace (not the same as the Reformed means of grace, please), otherwise known as Means of the Spirit - Word and Sacrament. That is - the same Word and Sacrament that was used to create faith is the same Means the HS uses to keep the Christian in the Faith.

This is compatible with John 16(abiding in the vine) and John 6 (bread of life) and John 3:16. There the word "believes" is a continous verb. The one who does not perish is the one who continuous to believe and not the one who believed in the past, it is a present state.

What Vos ignored or maybe is not aware of is the Lutheran view of Means of the Spirit (Grace).

LPC

Rhology said...

the Reformed doctrine of Eternal Security was unheard of before Calvin

Except for that whole The Bible teaches it thing.

Brigitte said...

I read on Wikipedia (sorry that's where I get info on Calvin) that Calving did not teach perseverance of the saints either, that this was formulated afterward in response to Arminianism.

Rhology, what the Bible teaches everywhere is that God is faithful. Our gaze always needs to go there.

Rhology said...

Yep.

Brigitte said...

Rhology, thanks, I'll read that. Right now headed on a trip to Rocky Mountains, internet questionable.

Thanks for providing pertinent quotes, LP.

James Swan said...

Hi LPC,

Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. Overall, I appreciate the way you outlined your response. I only have a few tangential comments.

This is not the way Luteherans do it. They are up for Biblical Theology rather than Systematic Theology.

But, the Book of Concord presents... a system of theology, as do all in-depth creedal statements!

One stricking premise or assumption is this

Do you agree than that Vos has correctly described a point of contention between Lutherans and the Reformed?

This is correct if it matches the Biblical data, but that is the issue.

I appreciate that you can seperate the paradigm from the interpretations put forth by both traditions.

Nick may say the Lutheran view is inconsistent,

Nick doesn't really factor in here, because I didn't post this to have a Roman Catholic describe to me what Lutherans believe. That he never commented on the thrust of this post leads me to suspect he probably doesn't know as much as he thinks he does about either Lutheranism or Reformed theology.

Another thing, Vos speaks of covenant of works. Lutherans do not buy into covenant theology

Vos actually gets into this, but I don't have it in front of me at the moment. Perhaps I can post it later if I remember.

the latter seems to be a pack (sorry if I am caricaturing).

Well according to Nick, I don't really know Reformed theology, so you're taking your chances asking me about covenant theology (:. I don't know exactly what you mean by "pask"- but keep in mind, one of the difficulties of understanding the reformed on covenant theology is that it can be quite confusing depending on who you're reading. I'm sure Ryan can back me up on this point if he is following this.

Just for the record, the Lutheran belief of salvation being lost is found in Smalcald Articles authored by Luther himself...

Thanks. I've mentioned this as well about Luther over the years here on the blog. I recently finished up a 30 page paper on Luther and his relationship (or lack thereof) to Reformed theology, and I covered this topic. I'll be posting sections of it over the next few weeks (I had to wait for my professor to return it to me, it arrived yesterday).

Thanks again for the comments.

James Swan said...

I read on Wikipedia (sorry that's where I get info on Calvin) that Calving did not teach perseverance of the saints either,

Brigitte, I spent about 10 minutes looking through wiki pages for what you're referring to. Now, I know there's a debate about Calvin's view of the atonement, but I've never heard he did not teach the perseverance of the saints.

“A fine confidence of salvation is left to us, if by moral conjecture we judge that at the present moment we are in grace, but we know not what will become of us tomorrow! The apostle speaks far otherwise: “I am surely convinced that neither angels, nor powers, nor principalities, nor death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come…will separate us from the love by which the Lord embraces us in Christ” [Romans 8:38-39 p.].John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, (3:2:40).

James Swan said...

Rhology, thanks, I'll read that.

Thanks Rho!

LPC said...

Hi James,


But, the Book of Concord presents... a system of theology, as do all in-depth creedal statements!

Have a read again, you would notice that not all statements about God or Creation etc are lumped in the same spot, far from it so it is not really systematic. For example, Formula and Solid re: Freewill, it gets to mention again Justification or Regeneration etc. So it is not a systematic book but it is a confession, an apologetic and polemic statement.

It does not make an assertion in one place and carry it through to a deduction in another.

Do you agree than that Vos has correctly described a point of contention between Lutherans and the Reformed?

I am skeptical of Vos' analysis as I do not know where he got those conclusions. There is no reference to the BoC so I could not say.

One example of difference is on how the two take the biblical data and what conclusions they go away with it. As case, Calvinists explain 1 John passages as people who never really believed, that to me is correct for hypocrites come to mind here. However, that is not the only data, the Sower and the Field parable of Jesus with his explanation is another. There Jesus said for a while the person did believe but had no root. Luther IIRC even used this in one of his sermons.

The biblical theology focus of Lutherans is something they inherited from Luther. His doctorate was on it and not on systematics, so that seemed to have trickled down to Lutherans. Also Lutheranism does not answer everything and is at home in admitting ignorance on some issues. This is not something people can be at home with.

That he(Nick) never commented on the thrust of this post leads me to suspect he probably doesn't know as much as he thinks he does about either Lutheranism or Reformed theology.

No offense to Nick but I think he claims too much. That is my present impression too.

Brigitte said...

This is what I had read under "Calvinism". Since I am not familiar with anything Calvin wrote, I can't judge the extent to which the tulip is implied by what he wrote.

Quote wikipedia:

"Calvinist theology is sometimes identified with the five points of Calvinism, also called the doctrines of grace, which are a point-by-point response to the five points of the Arminian Remonstrance (see History of Calvinist-Arminian debate) and which serve as a summation of the judgments rendered by the Synod of Dort in 1619.[5] Calvin himself never used such a model and never combated Arminianism directly. In fact, Calvin died in 1564 and Jacob Arminias was born in 1560, and so the men were not contemporaries. The Articles of Remonstrance were authored by opponents of reformed doctrine and Biblical Monergism. They were rejected in 1619 at the Synod of Dort, more than 50 years after the death of Calvin.
The five points therefore function as a summary of the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, but not as a complete summation of Calvin's writings or of the theology of the Reformed churches in general. In English, they are sometimes referred to by the acronym TULIP[6] (see below), though this puts them in a different order than the Canons of Dort."

James Swan quoted Calvin:

“A fine confidence of salvation is left to us, if by moral conjecture we judge that at the present moment we are in grace, but we know not what will become of us tomorrow! The apostle speaks far otherwise: “I am surely convinced that neither angels, nor powers, nor principalities, nor death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come…will separate us from the love by which the Lord embraces us in Christ” [Romans 8:38-39 p.].John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, (3:2:40).

Personally, I don't know what to do with this Calvin quote. What does it mean? What does this mean, for example: "A fine confidence of salvation is left to us, if by moral conjecture we judge that at the present moment we are in grace"

I judge nothing about myself other than that I am a stinking sinner. I am in grace indeed because it has been announced to me that Jesus died for stinking sinners. !!!!!!! This means me!!!!!!! (Sorry about the exclamation points. But Yes!!!!!!)

What exactly is Calvin saying? It starts out kind of muddled for me.

James Swan said...

Brigitte said...This is what I had read under "Calvinism". Since I am not familiar with anything Calvin wrote, I can't judge the extent to which the tulip is implied by what he wrote.

Thanks for the clarification. In an earlier comment you mentioned, "I read on Wikipedia (sorry that's where I get info on Calvin) that Calving did not teach perseverance of the saints either." There was nothing in the snippet you went on to quote from Wikipedia that infers or suggests Calvin did not teach the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Perhaps the confusion as to our mutual discussion on this is that the actual heads of doctrine later summarized by Dort were simply a systematic summary of Calvin's earlier teachings. That is, Calvin didn't exactly summarize his doctrines in the same way later Reformed theologians did. The only debate that I'm aware of in this area is whether or not limited atonement was held by Calvin, but was rather a later development heavily influenced by Calvin's successor Beza. I used to have an article on this on Eric Svensen old Ntrmin website. I don't recall if it's still available. I would argue in essence, Calvin did limite the extent of the atonement, but would also grant the pool of his writings to scrutinize on this are sparse, and i can understand why some take the contrary position.

Personally, I don't know what to do with this Calvin quote. What does it mean? What does this mean, for example: "A fine confidence of salvation is left to us, if by moral conjecture we judge that at the present moment we are in grace"

Calvin is saying (probably opposing Romanism), that if someone thinks they are saved today, but has doubts as to whether they'll be in the same state of grace tomorrow, this uncertainty is contrary to Paul's words (thus cited by Calvin).

Brigitte said...

if by moral conjecture we judge that at the present moment we are in grace

What does this mean?

James Swan said...

Brigitte said...if by moral conjecture we judge that at the present moment we are in grace.... What does this mean?


Earlier Calvin argued against scholastic theology, that insisted God is favorable to us if our lives are pure. In essence, if one has a pure life, one merits God's favor. Calvin says that his view rests on no such "moral conjecture."

Brigitte said...

Is this quote the most direct thing you have on Calvin teaching "perseverance of saints"?

The doctrine here is supposed to be one to give you: "confidence of salvation". That is what this is about.

This phrase is strange because biblically speaking your confidence is in the LORD, as the Bible verse it cites shows. "Where does my help come from?" "My help comes from the Lord." The help, the confidence, the salvation is always from the Lord, hence always the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have forgiveness of sins and a clean dress. Our confidence is in Christ's work and this every day new, as I need forgiveness of sins through his mediation again.

Through his good gifts, I can grow in love and confidence towards Him.

James Swan said...

Is this quote the most direct thing you have on Calvin teaching "perseverance of saints"?

There are a multitude of Calvin quotes.

Keep in mind, the actual heading under which the quote I posted falls is under the section entitled, "THE ALLEGED UNCERTAINTY AS TO WHETHER WE WILL PERSEVERE TO THE END"

As the introduction to the Battles edition of the Institutes points out, "The translation is furnished with headings of two sorts. (a) The chapters, excepting only a few very short ones, are subdivided into several parts with headings (here original) supplied. (b) Subordinate to these are headings for each of the sections separately numbered in the 1559 edition." I therefore have no good reason to believe the quote posted is not about the perseverance of saints.

However. I would suggest looking up (via Google) Institutes III.24:6-11

I can't post the entirety here.

Snippets as follows:

"...the firmness of our election is joined to our calling is another means of establishing our assurance. For those whom Christ has illumined with the knowledge of his name and has introduced
into the bosom of his church, he is said to receive into his care and keeping. All whom he receives, the Father is said to have entrusted and committed to him to keep unto eternal life."

"Christ proclaims aloud that he has taken under his protection all whom the Father wishes to be saved [cf. John 6:37,39; 17:6,12]. Therefore, if we desire to know whether God cares for our salvation, let us inquire whether he has entrusted us to Christ, whom he has established as the sole Savior of all his people. If we still doubt whether we have been received by Christ into his care and protection, he meets that doubt when he willingly offers himself as shepherd, and declares that we shall be numbered among his flock if we hear his voice [John 10:3]."

Finally, we are taught by this very experience that call and faith are of little account unless perseverance be added; and this does not happen to all. But Christ has freed us from this anxiety, for these promises surely apply to the future: “All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who will come to me I will not cast out.” Likewise: “This is the will of him who sent me, the Father, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me but should raise it up again at the last day.” [John 6:39, cf. Vg.] Again: “My sheep hear my voice... and they follow me. I know them, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” [John 10:27- 29 p.] Now when he declares, “Every tree that my Father has not planted will be uprooted” [Matthew 15:13], he conversely implies that those rooted in God can never be pulled up from salvation. With this John’s statement agrees: “If they had been of us, they would not have gone out from us” [1 John 2:19 p.]. And here is why Paul magnificently lords it over life and death, things present and to come [Romans 8:38]; and this boasting must be grounded upon the gift of perseverance. There is no doubt that he applies this idea to all the elect. Elsewhere, Paul says the same thing: “He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Let me know if you need more, or have trouble locating the sections mentioned via Google.

Brigitte said...

Thank you, I will think about this. I am afraid that being unfamiliar with Calvin I don't know what he means by certain terms such as "assurance", etc.

"Assurance" and "confidence" seems to be what Calvin is after.

The basic problem with all this is that the "assurance", whatever exactly is meant, does not simply come from "Christ died for your sins." Since it is hard to be assured that you are "in", so perseverance is of little consequence, if you are not sure if you belong to him.



But it's like: how do I know a cheque is really for me to keep, if I haven't received one. Nor can I praise the giver.

The "assurance" is the one Christ himself gives: "Shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." And then he says to do this often. This is how he keeps us: by his word and promises and touch of love. We have daily reason to love him.

It all turns on God himself. As Luther said, he needed to know that he had a "merciful" God.

Last night I opened my Bible at random and ended up reading Ezekiel 18 and 19, which finishes like this:

"Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereing Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and spirit. Why will you die O house of Israel?--For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

The Lord gives himself assurances of his intention to save all, thus drawing the adulterous to himself.

Anyhow, Calvin is after "assurance" and thus since we have such passages in the Bible, he fits them into his systematics. That's how it looks to me.

I'll get to the Institutes.

Brigitte said...

I read a little Calvin, Institutes III and found this, but now I have to cook supper.

"As Christ previously bore testimony to their faith, we cannot say that they were altogether devoid of it; nay, had they not been persuaded that Christ would rise again, all their zeal would have been extinguished. Nor was it superstition that led the women to prepare spices to embalm a dead body of whose revival they had no expectation; but, although they gave credit to the words of one whom they knew to be true, yet the ignorance which still possessed their minds involved their faith in darkness, and left them in amazement. Hence they are said to have believed only when, by the reality, they perceive the truth of what Christ had spoken; not that they then began to believe, but the seed of a hidden faith, which lay as it were dead in their hearts, then burst forth in vigor. They had, therefore, a true but implicit faith, having reverently embraced Christ as the only teacher. Then, being taught by him, they felt assured that he was the author of salvation: in fine, believed that he had come from heaven to gather disciples, and take them thither through the grace of the Father. There cannot be a more familiar proof of this, than that in all men faith is always mingled with incredulity."

Here we are talking about the disciples and their "loss of faith" at Easter time, as we did several posts ago. I made the point that not only Judas lost faith, then.

Here we have Calvin proposing that true faith is mixed with "incredulity."

Brigitte said...

A little more Calvin on the subject.

"Simon Magus is said to have believed, though he soon after gave proof of his unbelief (Acts 8:13-18). In regard to the faith attributed to him, we do not understand with some, that he merely pretended a belief which had no existence in his heart: we rather think that, overcome by the majesty of the Gospel, he yielded some kind of assent, and so far acknowledged Christ to be the author of life and salvation, as willingly to assume his name. In like manner, in the Gospel of Luke, those in whom the seed of the word is choked before it brings forth fruit, or in whom, from having no depth of earth, it soon withereth away, are said to believe for a time. Such, we doubt not, eagerly receive the word with a kind of relish, and have some feeling of its divine power, so as not only to impose upon men by a false semblance of faith, but even to impose upon themselves.
478
They imagine that the reverence which they give to the word is genuine piety, because they have no idea of any impiety but that which consists in open and avowed contempt. But whatever that assent may be, it by no means penetrates to the heart, so as to have a fixed seat there. Although it sometimes seems to have planted its roots, these have no life in them. The human heart has so many recesses for vanity, so many lurking places for falsehood, is so shrouded by fraud and hypocrisy, that it often deceives itself."

We have now an "implicit faith" which can be mixed with "incredulity", and, also, we can have a temporary kind of faith which deceives itself that it is faith even though it is not; it has roots but the roots have no life. "Whatever that assent may be" says Calvin, it does not have "fixed seat in the heart."

Are the Institutes normative for the Reformed?

Nick said...

Brigitte,

You will probably enjoy this short article on Reformed so-called "Assurance".

LPC said...

One reason why I disagree with Calvin, he does some deductions under some premises or assumptions which for example never categorized by Scripture. For example in the comment about Simon Magus, the Scripture does not give any more details, it simply said - he believed and was baptized. But Calvin over analyzes the situation and when you do that you are already bordering on speculation that gets compounded with more deductions (from speculation).

LPC

Brigitte said...

Nick, your link makes sense. When we look to anything besides Christ we are sinking. I am thinking about Peter coming out to walk on the water. The waves were there the whole time. Your own emotions are something like the waves. They go up and down and they are no firm ground whatsoever. Abandon your emotions. Often we have a wonderful joy, often not. It does not matter. Faith is something different. Faith is hearing God's word and believing it. "Your sins are forgiven." Period.

In Calvin's system, you can't win, because faith is by the spirit, yes, but in this unknowable way. Yes, he moves where he will, but he works through the word and the word is: "Your sins are forgiven."

Since I sin every day, I need to hear and believe every day: "Your sins are forgiven."

Watching a little Piper this week, I notice his railing against sacraments. He does not want them to be "under management". This is where we Lutherans find ourselves in the middle. The sacraments are the most precious gift to give us this assurance. "Your sins are forgiven." But the theology is one of abundant grace, not one "under management."

And from what I read, under the RC system: "Your sins are forgiven", is not something that is given to the one confessing his sins either. It is usually, go and do this penance, go do this or that. It is not a clear declaration of grace. So we have something of the kettle calling the pot black. ? XO Sorry, but true.

Calvin, however, seems to not want anyone to trust in the efficacy of sacraments, since many fall away or don't believe, though they have been to the sacrament. Well, there we have the fact that God's grace can be spurned. This does not change the gift. It is still there.

Brigitte said...

LPC's deduction appears obvious to me, too.

Having slept on this, I have four thoughts. My Calvinist friends must forgive my forwardness, but they say they believe in free speech and I trust them. (This is "faith" by the way.) (God says: I forgive you, and he is true.)

1. My first thought about Calvin was: spoken like a true "lawyer" (in the unflattering sense). This is in line with what LPC said.

2. In our discussion of differences in understanding between Lutherans and Calvinists, James gave us this Vos quote, which seems like a foreign particle to this discussion. It does not go to the heart of the issues, nor to their origins. It is some kind of tertiary discussion or further down the road. Why speculate about what Adam might have done, etc. It is a red herring. (No offense to James. I am sure he had a reason to use this.) (This is "faith", too.)

3. I am sorry to say, but have to condemn what Calvin says about "faith" in the strongest terms. He is a disaster, and he has caused many shipwrecks. Yesterday someone linked this in my FB:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/music/interviews/2010/davidbazan-jan10-1.html?start=1

"I never wanted to have a hard heart" -- what kind of comment is this? If you don't "want" a hard heart it shows you that you don't have one. Someone like this should receive encouragement. The hardened one has done so much rejecting that he does not care. The one with a little faith, still has faith in God. Don't look to your stupid heart.

I'll quite here, while I can't think of the fourth point. I think I combined them somehow.

Thanks for your indulgence, though some might be angry.

I just want to say that to everyone once more that Jesus loves and saves them and forgives their sins, too, no matter the messed up state of their heart. Look out and up not in yourself. God is good to you, too. It is the day of salvation and grace. It abounds fully and freely. And he wants you to believe this even if "theologians" tell you differently. Keep your eyes on the crucified one.

I'm sorry, but this is no small matter.

That salvation and faith can still be lost is just an admonishment to live your faith daily, to fight boldly sin, death and the devil, daily, to find your solace in Christ, daily. Life has on-going battles. We fight them moment by moment. Our trust is in God. We are in a battle and the devil is about like the roaring lion. For this we have the weapons God provides.

Constantine said...

Bridgette,

I am surprised by your post.

Please don’t believe that link that Nick sent you to. What that author did was take the anthropocentricity of Romanism and cast it on Calvin. Because Calvin’s theology is God-centered it’s no wonder the author finds it foreign. The article is very poor throughout so I hope you won’t let it sway you.


Here is what Calvin had to say about faith: “We shall now have a full definition of faith if we say that it is a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds, and sealed on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit.” (Institutes, Book II.2.7)

What is so bad about that?

Peace.

P.S. Of course, the truly great irony, is that the first “pope” of the Catholic church – St. Peter himself – believed that you cannot lose your salvation. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

Brigitte said...

Constantine, I read Calvin for myself and I am really sad.

Constantine said...

Brigitte,

I'm sorry that you are sad....but let not your heart be troubled. :)

I hope Calvin is not the cause of your sadness. After all, he recovered the beautiful, assuring, God honoring doctrine of predestination:

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." Eph. 1:4.

That, I hope, will buoy your spirits!

Blessings to you.

Brigitte said...

Constantine, I appreciate your efforts. If I may, I have two things to say just now and a story to tell.

1. Explain how "beautiful, assuring, God honoring doctrine of predestination" is to give me any "assurance" and exactly "assurance of what". Thank you.

2. And yes, it should be clear that it is Calvin who depressed me. We have his teaching as heresy in our confessions and this hit home with me after occupying myself with him. It also hit home how this impacted the teachings I grew up with and the teachings I was deprived of.

It was Calvin, and have chopped the rhubarb quite firmly over this.

Well, and thirdly, I will tell a story. There was a moment in my later childhood where my mother related something to me while she was driving. I think it was around Darmstadt close to Frankfurt; this is how it still sticks out to me. I have always remembered this quick incident.

We were heavily involved with the pietistic circle within the state church. In pietism you learn quite a bit about the Bible, which was great, but you are left on your own figure out if you really are a child of God, and, of course, these Pietists were the really "serious" Christians as opposed to the state church people, (who by corollary were not.) I never felt that I was a serious enough Christian, though I was a serious child, and I think you can still tell, that I'm still pretty serious about such things of faith.

Anyhow, somehow one always felt inferior to those who were "really" Christians,or said or thought they were, those with good "testimonies", etc. and one always had to obtain some sort of Christ truly at the center of you life experience to be sure. This is deceiving because the need to know that Christ is at the center of your life, is really a question about me, and when I look at me, I have no "assurance". And since I am a sinner every day, I knock him off from there constantly.

Christ is the center when he becomes the center when we accept his word of acceptance and forgiveness.

Back to what my mother said that day. She said that she had heard a talk that we need not look for and pray always for the coming of the holy spirit in ourselves, but that this happens through the reading and trusting of the word! Bingo. The external word. (It is still the Holy Spirit who effects faith, but VIA the word and not via my knowing myself.)

And by corollary, the sacraments are a visible word. Same here.

Piper said that he does not want to have the sacraments "under management". This indeed happens in the RC church and that is where it is wrong. The sacraments are gifts of the free and super-abundant grace of God, given for you. Extra Nos. Extra Nos. Extra Nos. (Thanks be to God).

(Do you think Calvin knew he was elect?)

Ken said...

Brigitte wrote:
We have his teaching as heresy in our confessions and this hit home with me after occupying myself with him.

"his teaching" (Calvin) ? which teaching - Total depravity? (Luther taught that clearly in he Bondage of the Will. Predestination/Election? is a heresy in Lutheran confessions?

It seems that Luther was close to Calvin on Total Depravity and Election.

I have often heard that Melanchthon softened Luther's earlier belief in Predestination and Election.

Is it really explicitly called a "heresy" in the Lutheran confessions?

Or just “we disagree” ?

Brigitte said...

I'll have to look it up. When it comes to the BOC, I'm a bit of an imposter. I don't know it inside out. I'd rather read straight Luther, like James.

LPC is much better. Maybe he has it handy. I'll look.

Rhology said...

Really? Heresy?

Brigitte said...

In any case, let's start by reading the Formula of Concord or else the epitome of the Formula of Concord. This is where you have the main differences discussed.

Brigitte said...

Article XI of the Formula of Concord, solid declaration deals with "God's eternal foreknowledge and election."

http://bookofconcord.org/fc-ep.php#XI. Election.

Constantine said...

Hi Brigitte,

You wrote, “Explain how "beautiful, assuring, God honoring doctrine of predestination" is to give me any "assurance" and exactly "assurance of what". Thank you.”

The assurance of predestination lies in the nature of God and His ability to do what He wills. It has always been fascinating to me that when Christ explains the Father’s plan for our salvation, there is no mention of any action on our part (John 6:37-40). The beauty lies in the fact that your assurance is secure in Him. Assurance of what? The last part of the passage mentioned answers it well: “And I will raise them up on the last day.” In sum, the assurance you have is based on God’s will – not any human feeling or lack thereof – which He is able to do (Isaiah 46:10). And the “what” of the matter is our resurrection from the dead into glory.

Brigitte, once again: “And yes, it should be clear that it is Calvin who depressed me.”

Aside from the accusation of heresy against Calvin, what made you depressed? I have found Calvin to be the most joy inspiring theologian I have ever read. Maybe you can give me some specifics that are bothering you. Is it the following?

Brigitte writes once more: “This is deceiving because the need to know that Christ is at the center of your life, is really a question about me, and when I look at me, I have no "assurance".

That’s the real beauty of Calvin. Since he rediscovered the Pauline concept of God’s sovereignty, it’s no longer “a question about me”. Assurance rests in God. There’s no question about God. Hence, assurance.

Brigitte, again: “Christ is the center when he becomes the center when we accept his word of acceptance and forgiveness.”


Christ’s actions are never dependent upon ours. So Christ becomes the center when, by grace through faith, He enables us to accept Him. (Eph. 2:8-10). Therefore, no matter how we feel or think, He remains the center because the strength of His will is determinative – not our fallen perceptions.

As a former Roman Catholic I can empathize with your feelings, Brigitte. The beauty that God displays through Calvin is that these decisions rest on God and not us. They are therefore assured in the highest sense.

Peace.

Brigitte said...

http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/carysolafide.pdf

Differences between Luther and Calvin. VERY well done and fitting to our discussion.

LPC said...

Ken,

What I am going to say is a matter of historical record and I hope we meet this topic soberly.

Please read the Saxon or Christian Visitation Articles appendi

Lutheran Fathers after Luther became quite bitter with the style and the way the Calvinists penetrated their camp. The problem was that Calvinism adopted their language and terms but giving it their own spin. For example Calvin himself signed one of our documents, the Augsburg Confession but he said, he signed it under the meanings attached by Melanchton (you see they were friends and they corresponded with one another). However, the AC was not Melanchton's document it was the Lutheran Church's document.

An example of a Lutheran who became Calvinist was Ursinus the author of the Reformed Confession called Heidelberg Catechism.

The BoC does not condemn nor use the word Calvinism or Calvinist by name. However, what they did condemn at least explicitly is their doctrine of the Lord's Supper. Simply put to the Lutherans, Jesus is not just there around you doing the Supper but there with you physically and that bread is his body and that wine is his blood for the forgiveness of your sins by virtue of the Cross (that is a nutshell).

Incidentally, in the BoC when it is condemned then it is by default false doctrine. Whether or not you or anyone else agree with the condemnation, that is another matter.



Lutherans do not subscribe to everything that Luther wrote, only to the ones that made it through the Book of Concord.

At any rate it would really be a curious scenario to see a Calvinist TULIPian agreeing in the Lutheran doctrine of the Supper. The closest I have seen were the Federal Visionarist but they never made it to the finish line.

LPC

Brigitte said...

Constantine, you are right that it is supposed to be a consolation. However, if you read the link to the Luther/Calvin differences and the BOC on election you will note how the doctrine can exactly NOT be comforting to people.

But this is what the BOC says about the comfort that should be in it. I thought you would enjoy it. Someone just Facebooked it to me. It is very nice.


This is how much of the mystery of predestination is revealed to us in God’s Word. If we abide by this teaching and cling to it, is a very useful, saving, consoling teaching. It establishes very effectively the article that we are justified and saved without any works and merits of ours, purely out of grace alone, for Christ’s sake. Before the time of the world, before we existed, yes, even before the foundation of the world was laid--when, of course, we could do nothing good--we were chosen by grace in Christ to salvation, according to God’s purpose. Furthermore, all opinions and erroneous teachings about the powers of our natural will are overthrown by this. God in His counsel, before the time of the world, decided and ordained that He Himself would produce and work in us by His Holy Spirit’s power. Through the Word, He would do everything that belongs to our conversion.

This doctrine also provides the excellent glorious consolation that God was greatly concerned about the conversion, righteousness, and salvation of every Christian. He so faithfully provided for it that even before the foundation of the world was laid, He considered it, and in His purpose ordained how He would bring me to salvation and preserve me in salvation. He wanted to secure my salvation so well and so certainly, since through the weakness and wickedness of our flesh salvation could easily be lost from our hands or through the devil’s and the world’s craft and might it could be snatched and taken from us. Therefore He ordained in His eternal purpose what cannot fail or be overthrown. He placed salvation for safekeeping in this almighty hand of our Savior, Jesus Christ, from which no one can snatch us. Therefore, Paul asks in Romans, because we “are called according to his purpose” (8:28), who “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”? (8:39).

Furthermore, this doctrine provides glorious consolation under the cross and amid temptations. In other words, God in His counsel before the time of the world, determined and decreed that He would assist us in all distresses. He determined to grant patience, give consolation, nourish and encourage hope, and produce an outcome for us that would contribute to our salvation. Also, Paul teaches this in a very consoling way. He explains that God in His purpose has ordained before the time of the world by what crosses and sufferings He would conform every one of His elect to the image of His Son. His cross shall and must work together for good for everyone, because they are called according to God’s purpose. Therefore Paul has concluded that it certain and beyond doubt that neither “tribulation, or distress,” neither “death nor life,” or other such things “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our lord.” [BOC, FSD, XI 43-49]

Brigitte said...

False teaching on election, however, is also condemned as a teaching of the devil:

If anyone presents the teaching about God's gracious election in such a way that troubled Christians cannot get comfort out of it, but are pushed to despair, or if anyone teaches it so the the impenitent are confirmed in their sinfulness, then it is undoubtedly sure and true that such a doctrine is not taught according to God's Word and will. It is taught according to reason and the instigation of the devil. For, as the apostle testifies: "Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4)

But when this consolation and hope are weakened or entirely removed by Scripture, it is certain that it is understood and explained contrary to the Holy Spirit's will and meaning.

This simple, correct, useful explanation has a firm and good foundation in God's revealed will. We abide by it. We flee from, and shun, all lofty, difficult questions and disputes. We reject and condemn whatever is contrary to these simple, useful explanations.
[BOC, FSC,XI 91-93]

In the same section FSC, XI we find statements such as these:

God's foreknowledge foresees and foreknows what is evil, yet not in the sense that it is God's gracious will that evil should happen. (6)

This eternal election or ordination of God to eternal life must not be considered in God's secret, mysterious counsel in a simple-minded way. It is not as though election included nothing further, or nothing more belonged to it, or nothing more were to be considered in it, than that God foresaw who and how many were to be saved and who and how many were to be damned. Nor should we think that he only held a sort of military muster, such as, "This one shall be saved, that one shall be damned; this one shall remain steadfast, that one shall not remain steadfast." (9)

In fact, even when godly hearts have repentance, faith, and good intentions to live by God's grace, thoughts like these arise: "If you are not foreknown from eternity to salvation, your every effort and entire labor is no help." This happens especially when they see their weakness and the examples of those who have not persevered, but have fallen away again.

Brigitte said...

Against this false delusion and thought we should set up the following clear argument, which is sure and cannot fail: All Scripture is inspired by God. It is not for self-confidence and lack of repentance, but "for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). Also, everything in God's Word has been written for us, not so that we should be driven to despair by it, but so that "through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4) Therefore, there is no question that lack of repentance or despair should not in any way be caused or strengthened by the sound sense or right use of this teaching about God's eternal foreknowledge. The Scriptures teach this doctrine only to direct us to the Word (Ephesians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 1:7), to encourage repentance (2 Timothy 3:16) and godliness (Ephesians 1:14; John 15:3F), and to strengthen faith and assure us of our salvation (Ephesians 1:14; John 15:3), and to strengthen faith and assure us of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13; John 10:27-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). (11,12)

This is just to show how a teaching about predestination can be used to discourage people, and this would be from the devil. This is the kind of language employed in this context.

The following issue also belongs to the further explanation and saving use of the teaching about God's foreknowledge to salvation: Only the elect, whose names are written in the book of life [Revelation 21:27], are saved. Therefore, how can we know or why and how can we perceive who the elect are and who can and should receive this teaching for comfort?

In this matter we should not judge according to our reason, or according to the law or from any outward appearance. Neither should we attempt to investigate the secret, concealed depth of divine predestination. Instead, we should listen to God's revealed will. For he has made "know to us the mystery of His will" (Ephesians 1:9) and made it clear through Christ so that it might be preached (2 Timothy 1:9). (25,26)

Brigitte said...

If we want to think about our eternal election to salvation helpfully, we must in every way hold strongly and firmly to this truth: just as the preaching of repentance is universal, so also the promise of the gospel is universal, that is, it belongs to all people. For this reason Christ has given these commands: (Luke 24:47; John 3:16; John 1:29; John 6:51; 1 John 1:7; 1 John 2:2; Matthew 11:28; Romans 11:32; 2 Peter 3:9; Romans 10:12; Romans 3:22; John 6:40) [they are all printed out in the BOC] It is Christ's command that this promise of the Gospel also should be offered to everyone in common to whom repentance is preached (Luke 24:47; mark 16:15)... The Holy Spirit wants to be effective through the Word, and to strengthen and give power and ability. It is God's will that we should receive the Word, believe it , and obey it. (28,29)

We should conern ourselves with this revealed will of God. We should follow and diligently think about it. through the Word, by which he calls us, the Holy Spirit bestows grace, power, and ability for this purpose. We should hot sound the depths of God's hidden predestination, as it is written in Luke 13:23-24, where one asks, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" and Christ answers, "Strive to enter through the narrow door." (33)

For we are daily reminded and encouraged that we are to learn and conclude what His will toward us is only from God's Word, through which h works with us and calls us. We should believe and not doubt what it affirms to us and promises.

For this reason Christ causes the promise of the Gospel not only to be offered in general, but he also seals it through the Sacraments. he attaches them like seals of the promise, and by them He confirms that Gospel to every believer in particular. On this account, as the Augsburg Confession in Article XI says, we also keep private Absolution. We teach that it is God's command that we believe such Absolution. We should regard it as sure that, when we believe the word of Absolution, we are as truly reconciled to God as though we had heard a voice from heaven (John 12:28-30), as the Apology also explains this article. The consolation would be entirely taken from us if we did not understand God's will toward us from the call that is made through the Word and through the Sacraments. The Holy Spirit certainly wants to be present with the Word preached, heard, and considered, and he wants to be effective and work through it. Yet this foundation would be overthrown and taken from us if we misunderstand election. (37-39)

Brigitte said...

Few receive the Word and follow it. Most despise the Word and will not come to the wedding. the cause for this contempt for the Word is not God's foreknowledge, but the perverse human will. the human will rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Spirit, which God offers it through the call. It resists the Holy Spirit, who wants to be effective, and who works through the Word, as Christ says: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Matthew 23:37)

Many "hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away" (Luke 8:13). The reason is not that God was unwilling to grant grace for perseverance to those in whom He "began a good work," for that is contrary to St. Paul (Philippians 1:6). The reason is that they willfully turn away again from the holy commandment, grieve and embitter the Holy Spirit, involve themselves again in the world's filth, and redecorate their hearts as homes for the devil For them their last situation is worse than the first. (2 Peter 2:10-20; Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 10:26; Luke 11:24-26) (41,42)


So we have ended up with perseverance after all that.
We confess that it is not God's will that people do not persevere, but man's own evil will is the cause.

That this is beyond human reason, is stated repeatedly. In any case, the doctrine must confirm that God's will toward people is to save them, that they should believe the word of forgiveness for themselves, that they should watch out that they enter through the narrow gate and not return to the world's filth... This is wholesome teaching which builds people up and proclaims God's salvation.

I've overdone it. But we see that teaching which does not build up is considered "from the devil". This is to respond to whether contrary teaching is considered "heresy".

Constantine said...

Hi Brigitte,

If you continue to submerge me in so much data, I may have to abstain from our conversations! (Just kidding!)

Thanks for sharing the F'Book posting you received. It was beautifully written.

Thanks, too, for the Cary article which was also beautifully written, although I think somewhat confused. It's late here so I can't give you anything like a fully orbed response, just some random thoughts.

1.Cary obviously assumes that a completely comprehensible understanding of salvation is necessary. Because he is more comfortable with the Lutheran explanation he goes there, which is natural. That is something that Calvin would never do. One thing we must always bear in mind about Calvin is his view of the absolute supremacy of the Scriptures. So, for example, when God says through Isaiah, “my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9) Calvin can rest on that. That means that Calvin does not require that human beings fully understand or reconcile the promises in God's word. In fact, in treating of predestination Calvin says the very best that we can hope to achieve is “learned ignorance” which is as far as our reason can take us. To venture beyond that – to certainty in our minds, for example – would be sinful. I think that may be captured beautifully in what you quote here: ”This eternal election or ordination of God to eternal life must not be considered in God's secret, mysterious counsel in a simple-minded way.”


2.Cary's reliance on logic. Again, Calvin would not care one whit if God's truths were logically sound because logic is not the ultimate standard that leads to understanding. Logic, being part of God's creation, is something that is subject to Him and not vice versa.


3.I'm confused by this statement of yours: “This is just to show how a teaching about predestination can be used to discourage people, and this would be from the devil. This is the kind of language employed in this context.” All of the Scriptures you quoted were written to believing communities so they would not have been meant as discouragement, but rather encouragement.


4.You wrote, “The following issue also belongs to the further explanation and saving use of the teaching about God's foreknowledge to salvation: Only the elect, whose names are written in the book of life [Revelation 21:27 ], are saved. Therefore, how can we know or why and how can we perceive who the elect are and who can and should receive this teaching for comfort? (You remind me of a Spurgeon sermon where he hoped that God would paint a yellow stripe down the backs of all the elect so he could, in order to know to whom to preach to, go around lifting up shirts!) So the question is why do you think you must know who the elect are? God commanded that the Gospel preached everywhere and to all men without distinction as to their election.


5.You wrote, “That this is beyond human reason, is stated repeatedly.” which is why Cary's reliance on human reason is in error and Calvin's doctrine of “learned ignorance” is more appropriate.


6.Brigitte opines, “In any case, the doctrine must confirm that God's will toward people is to save them...” That is only God's will for the elect.

This is all very interesting, Brigitte. Thanks for the material you posted. I hope we can interact more later.

Peace.

Carrie said...

Constantine,

Thanks for trying to bring the discussion back to scripture. In trying to understand how Lutheranism deals with the standard election texts I realized there are far more documents to sift through than I care to.

But I did find this history of BoC on Predestination interesting. After skimming through that link and following the discussion here, it seems that there may be some confusion on the Lutheran part as to how a Calvinist views predestination and assurance in that a Calvinist's assurance is in Christ and not in predestination per se.

The link also mentioned a section from Luther in his commentary on Romans that I liked found here:

"In chapters 9, 10 and 11, St. Paul teaches us about the eternal providence of God. It is the original source which determines who would believe and who wouldn't, who can be set free from sin and who cannot. Such matters have been taken out of our hands and are put into God's hands so that we might become virtuous. It is absolutely necessary that it be so, for we are so weak and unsure of ourselves that, if it depended on us, no human being would be saved. The devil would overpower all of us. But God is steadfast; his providence will not fail, and no one can prevent its realization. Therefore we have hope against sin.

But here we must shut the mouths of those sacriligeous and arrogant spirits who, mere beginners that they are, bring their reason to bear on this matter and commence, from their exalted position, to probe the abyss of divine providence and uselessly trouble themselves about whether they are predestined or not. These people must surely plunge to their ruin, since they will either despair or abandon themselves to a life of chance.

You, however, follow the reasoning of this letter in the order in which it is presented. Fix your attention first of all on Christ and the Gospel, so that you may recognize your sin and his grace. Then struggle against sin, as chapters 1-8 have taught you to. Finally, when you have come, in chapter 8, under the shadow of the cross and suffering, they will teach you, in chapters 9-11, about providence and what a comfort it is. [The context here and in St. Paul's letter makes it clear that this is the cross and passion, not only of Christ, but of each Christian.] Apart from suffering, the cross and the pangs of death, you cannot come to grips with providence without harm to yourself and secret anger against God. The old Adam must be quite dead before you can endure this matter and drink this strong wine. Therefore make sure you don't drink wine while you are still a babe at the breast. There is a proper measure, time and age for understanding every doctrine."

Brigitte said...

For Carrie, nice links. The Romans commentary is also included in part in the BOC, FSD.

In terms of bringing things around the scripture, though, you will see Carrie, though that a lot of this is about the pastoral concern, and the BOC, FSD looks at it this way, also.

For Constatine, just to say this, the epistles were addressed to "believing" communities is too simplistic. For one worship and reading of scripture is public (at least in our church), and second, in line with the teaching about the hidden church, we always have hypocrites mixed in. And last, not least, being sinner and saint at the same time (simul justus et peccator), there is always in me the old Adam, who struggles with believing.

I think I will try and conclude this discussion from my end, seeing that we have listed the pertinent confessions and scriptures.

LPC said...

Lutheran part as to how a Calvinist views predestination and assurance in that a Calvinist's assurance is in Christ and not in predestination per se

That may be possible but quite unlikely if you take some of its theologians like Hermann Sasse who studied Calvinism thoroughly.

The problem is that one should not go to a Calvinist's exposition but to the Calvinist's documented confession and compared to the BoC, a.) there are many regional Calvinist confessions, which one do we go to? b.) if they do say something about election, their confessions in general are thin on the subject and not as loaded like the BoC.

I know when I was Calvinistic I concluded that the only logical position to be in if I was to be a faithful Calvinist is to be a Supralapsarian.

Lastly, grab a book by H O J Brown, Heresies. There he, a Reformed theologian, marveled that 8000 pastors and theologians signed the BoC when the Formula and Epitome came out.


LPC

Brigitte said...

Just to come back to the Vos quote: it seems a more and more strange explanation in the light of the very plain and open confession of the BOC.