Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lutherans vs. the Reformed

This is typically how it goes:

Lutherans (at least the ones who care), try painstakingly to distance themselves from anything that smells Reformed. Example: http://cyberbrethren.com/2012/12/12/brace-yourselves-grace-is-not-irresistible/

The Reformed (at least the ones who care), try painstakingly to show how much we have in common in Lutherans, and how we need to better understand each other: http://heidelblog.net/2012/12/resources-on-understanding-the-differences-between-the-lutheran-and-reformed-traditions/

This sort of reminds me of my first Rubik's Cube. I think I eventually gave up trying to make it the same color on each side. Once I would get one side to be all the same color, the other sides would cease being all the same color.



25 comments:

Jordan Cooper said...

I'm not sure that it is exactly fair to say that the Reformed emphasize unity between the two theological traditions. This may be true of yourself, Dr. Clark, and Horton, but others are much more critical. The podcast Christ the Center has often defined Reformed theology by its differentiation from Lutheranism. Lane Tipton, Richard Gaffin, and others take this approach. I was recently accused of being a "closet Arminian" by a Reformed pastor, and have often heard similar claims about Lutherans. I have also seen certain popular Calvinistic bloggers attack Lutherans for supposedly denying the third use of the Law. (Mind you, the particular blogger in mind had once told me that he has never read Lutherans, but still took the time to critique them.)

As a former Reformed Christian, I understand the desire for unity. However, as a Lutheran, I understand why that is impossible. Sacramental Christianity is much different than any form of Protestantism. As much respect as I have for Reformed Christians, and can rejoice in the areas we do agree on, we ultimately are and need to be divided. I say this with a heavy heart, as many of my closest friends are Reformed seminarians/pastors.

I would like to think that there are Lutherans who engage in respectful and thoughtful dialogue with our Reformed brethren. I attempt to do this with my own blog, website, and podcast. (http://www.justandsinner.com/)I did, for example, two recent programs on the doctrine of limited atonement and why I believe it is exegetically untenable. I try to do so with respect and understanding. There are many others out there like myself who engage in this type of dialogue.

Ken said...

Jordan,
Just listened (while working on Christmas Cards and letters) to your part 2 response to Jason Stellman - very good.

I appreciated what you said.

Ken T.

Ken said...

Jordan wrote:
As much respect as I have for Reformed Christians, and can rejoice in the areas we do agree on, we ultimately are and need to be divided.

Though as far as I can tell, Reformed Protestants would agree with most, if not all, of what you said in regard to Jason Stellman; it is difficult to understand the division between Luther and the Calvin/Reformed side of the Reformation.

Luther's "Bondage of the Will" seems very Reformed and consistent with Predestination/Election, Effectual Grace, etc. and hard to understand why there is much of a division.

Bruce said...

James,
You have to remember that that Lutherans explicitly Confess that we Reformed are sneaky and untrustworthy, and only pretend to love the Faith as much as they do.

When they've subscribed (literally) to that view, there's a limit to how far they can fake a smile our direction, and not deny their official doctrine.

Cooper,
Were you really a Reformed Christian? It's an honest question, because I hear a lot of Lutheran talk about "the Reformed" which is just a catch-all for anyone to the left of the Lutherans. Did you believe in the Reformed Faith as it is Confessed in its most essential forms, the 3FU or the Westminster Standards? Were you catechized in the Reformed Faith? What did it mean to you to be identified as a Reformed believer?

Or were you a Baptist, with certain Calvinist soteriological affinities? The Baptist hermeneutic is the source of everything that is distinctive about them, and severs them completely from the Reformed.

The few Baptists who Confess anything substantial deny the Reformed sacraments (they often refuse even the word 'sacrament' and the idea of 'means of grace'); they deny Reformed ecclesiology, beginning with membership, to officers, to connectionalism; they deny a robust covenant theology (they have to, or else they risk embracing infant-baptism).

So, on both the right administration of the sacraments and church discipline: two of the three marks of the church according to the Reformed Confessions--the Baptists are deficient with respect to the Reformed Faith Confessed. Of course they disagree that these are their errors, but that's the reason they separated from the Reformed churches in the first place. They have a contrary hermeneutic to the Reformed understanding, which (unless it is thoroughly revised) forever prevents them from embracing the Reformed Confession.

When you were "Reformed," what did you Confess; and who taught you that Faith; and what was your hermeneutic?

Jordan Cooper said...

Bruce,

I was a member of the EPC, attended Geneva college (an RPCNA school) and intended on becoming a PCA minister. I held to the three forms of unity and the Westminster. You ask what my hermeneutic was; I would say primarily influenced by Vos, Ridderbos, and Kline, and others in the Biblical Theology school of thinking. This includes Van Tillian apologetics as well. I was a five point, infralapsarian, Amillenial, paedo baptist, Presbyterian Calvinist.

It is certainly frustrating to hear so many Lutherans call anyone who is not Lutheran "reformed." I am constantly reminding people of this. I am aware that baptists are not Reformed, at least in the narrow sense of the term.

Jordan Cooper said...

Ken,

Thanks for listening to my podcast. I'm glad that you agree with most of what I said, and I take a lot of good things from Reformed theologians as well. However, the concept of sacramental grace does divide us. For a Lutheran, baptism regenerate, and the Eucharist brings us the true body and blood of Christ. This is at the center of our piety, and frames our view of grace. Grace is universal because it is given through the sacraments, rather than a spontaneous act of regeneration. Yes, we do agree on a lot of things, including divine monergism, but ultimately our differences are far too great for the kind of unity that some desire.

Martin Yee said...

This "divide" if emphasised is saddening to me. I always regarded the Reformed as my fellow Christians contending for the Gospel agaginst the Romanist errors. But it is not surprising as even my own Lutheran Church here in Singapore is not regarded by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod as "truly Lutheran" just because we are planted by the ELCA in the past and we ordain women although otherwise we are conservative. See discussions here
http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=22291&cpage=1#comment-531828
They do not recognise us and have fellowship with us.

To me it does not really matter, as I think it is a human divide. Let God and the Scripture be the judge. Anyway no church and nobody have perfect knowledge.

James Swan said...

Bruce said...James,
You have to remember that that Lutherans explicitly Confess that we Reformed are sneaky and untrustworthy, and only pretend to love the Faith as much as they do.


Maybe this is pride on my part- but what has bothered me personally is that very few Internet Lutherans overall take the time to do the tedium of looking up the obscure Luther quotes that I've done over the years. I've gotten very little Lutheran feedback over the years as well. I'm speculating this is because I'm Reformed. It probably just seems outside of the realm of possibility that a non-Lutheran could actually treat Luther fairly. I would posit that if I suddenly went "Lutheran" I'd have a bunch of Lutheran bloggers linking over here. I guess I sometimes feel like I'm cleaning up a mess very few Lutherans care about.

On the other hand, I truly am grateful to the handful of online Lutheran friends I've made. You folks know who you are. I link to your blogs, and read them regularly.

After about 10 years of online interactions, I've come to usually avoid hostile Lutheran vs. Reformed interactions. Sort of like how I finally (like many other people in the late 1970's) put the Rubik's Cube in a drawer somewhere.

Jordan Cooper said...

James,

I do, as a Lutheran, follow your blog. I know that others do as well. You are right that if you became Lutheran you would have more Lutheran readers. I'm sure that if I became Reformed again I would have more Reformed readers too. Such is the nature of things.

I know that a while ago you mentioned not having much knowledge of Luther's view of baptism. Maybe that has changed, but for a Lutheran, if one does not understand Luther's view of the sacraments, one does not understand Luther.

Many Lutherans are willing to dialogue with Calvinists in my experience. I am part of a Lutheran and Reformed discussion group, for example, where the majority of people are Lutherans because most Reformed don't want to dialogue. I am not sure that you are seeing the other side of the fence. To us, the Reformed (with some exceptions) seem to dismiss us and misrepresent us as well.

Bruce said...

Thanks, Jordan, for sharing a bit of your pilgrimage.

You are right, of course, that there are doctrinal divisions that are insuperable, unless one ceases to be what he is, and becomes the other.

I'll not speak gently to those with a passion for the "halfway-house," who think they can be successful at taking a bit of this, and a bit of that, and cobbling together some hybrid belief system. There is an internal logic to well-done theology, even if the instance isn't all that (you or I think) it ought to be.

My acquaintance with Lutheranism comes mainly from years of listening to IE. It is one of the best radio programs anywhere, and I can say that honestly while flatly disagreeing with certain cardinal tenets of the Lutheran system as that program openly defends them.

It is very clear to me that the Lutherans confessionally are gospel-people. They are undeniably Protestant, even if their ways of expressing the faith seem (to some observers) too Medieval and developed.

Because I recognize the faith you Confess as the same as mine at the root, you could commune at my church's Table if you were willing, as could a Baptist who confessed the heart of the gospel.

The strict Baptist would exclude us from their church's Table, as not having been baptized, in their opinion; and the strict Lutheran would also exclude us, for affirming a different MODE of receiving the Lord's true and proper body and blood in the Supper.

So, in the end, I think that's where the matter of "emphasizing unity" shows its big difference. I am happy to discuss where I think the Lutherans differ (and err IMO) without ad hominem, and a cry for genuine understanding, not spouting ignorance. Honesty demands recognizing where the lines are drawn. The same holds true toward the Baptists.

But both of those traditions declare, in some sense, that the Reformed aren't even Christians--the Baptists by saying we have no Baptism, the Lutherans by saying we have no Supper. So there it is.

Mark Henderson said...

Bruce said, "I hear a lot of Lutheran talk about "the Reformed" which is just a catch-all for anyone to the left of the Lutherans".
Bruce, by way of explanation, that Lutherans regard all those "to their left" as "Reformed" is because by the lights of our theology we detect certain common doctrinal themes in otherwise disparate church bodies, such as Baptists and Presbyterians. One of these doctrinal themes is that the Holy Spirit ordinarily works apart from the preached/read Word. To be perfectly fair, I don't believe all Presbyterians or Baptists would fall into that error, and I admit that Lutherans should be more discerning in their criticisms of the Reformed in light of some movement towards self-criticism and self-correction, but that is the explanation for the tendency you have correctly noted and therer exists plenty of doctrinal evidence to support the claim.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

You wrote:

==Though as far as I can tell, Reformed Protestants would agree with most, if not all, of what you said in regard to Jason Stellman; it is difficult to understand the division between Luther and the Calvin/Reformed side of the Reformation.==

Don't you think the Reformed camp should truly unify amongst themselves before challenging Lutherans on the issue of unity ???


Grace and peace,

David

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Lutherans (at least the ones who care), try painstakingly to distance themselves from anything that smells Reformed.

The Reformed (at least the ones who care), try painstakingly to show how much we have in common in Lutherans, and how we need to better understand each other."


Just another reason why I'm glad I'm not Lutheran.

RPV said...

FWIW from a reformed perspective, the Lutherans only reformed on doctrine/sola Scriptura and got stuck halfway on transubstantiation when it came to the sacraments. The reformed reformed the doctrine,worship and government of the church.

I am glad the evangelical lutherans preach the gospel, but when I visited the same - while still attending a roman church after I came to some kind of knowledge of the gospel - I was surprised to see so much of romanism still in the service. I ended up later P&R after a six month bout in Calvary Chapel.

And as much as I enjoy G. Veith's stuff, was always bummed that his bio on his journey of a faith never talked about why he wasn't a calvinist when the promo blurbs talked about it.

Rubik's cube? Easy. Start from a corner, look at the three colors represented and work from there. If you just concentrate on one side at a time, you'll just get frustrated.

Ken said...

David Waltz wrote:
Don't you think the Reformed camp should truly unify amongst themselves before challenging Lutherans on the issue of unity ???

We have a pretty good showing of gospel unity - look at "Together for the Gospel" - www.t4g.org

Bruce said...

"Bruce, by way of explanation, that Lutherans regard all those "to their left" as "Reformed" is because by the lights of our theology we detect certain common doctrinal themes in otherwise disparate church bodies, such as Baptists and Presbyterians. One of these doctrinal themes is that the Holy Spirit ordinarily works apart from the preached/read Word."

Mark,
I frankly don't need your self-justifying explanation. You haven't informed me of any of your mistaken ideas I didn't already know about. I actually am a student of these things. I've made it my business to CARE to understand Lutherans, so I can treat them with respect, even when I think they are mistaken.

Your statement about Presbyterians, and our alleged belief that Holy Spirit "ordinarily" works apart from means only shows how uninformed, clueless, and generally ignorant you are about people whose beliefs you somehow feel competent to comment on.

Face it: you've never read so much as a page of our Confession. All you have to back up your statement is bad-mouthing you've picked up from your own self-reinforcing circle of back-patters.

I resent that you mindlessly associate people like myself--who have a public Confession (2Cor.4:2) signed in the blood of our Reformation martyrs--with people who have no such confession, formal or informal.

How dare you. How dare you allege that my publicly accessible and open-to-criticism theology, and the theology of a non-confessional or even contra-confessional Christian, are essentially the same, whether on the topic of "the due use of the ordinary means" (WCF 1.7) or any other. Prove it.

Show it from any Reformed Confession. Don't waste my time with unofficial statements, and unaccountable vague "observations" about the Other. I've heard plenty of Lutherans say, "Don't judge me by any old thing Luther himself said or wrote; only by my public Confession as a Lutheran." Well, I demand the same satisfaction from you, pal.

Muddled American evangelicalism isn't just some sorry, further-than-Reformed defection "leftward" from the Faithful Deposit, that pure-Lutheranism contains. How very "linear-continuum" of you. How very convenient, and you never have to figure out if those errors plug-in to Lutheranism from any other direction than ours.

I won't be holding my breath, waiting for you to set forth "plenty of doctrinal evidence to support the claim." It ain't easy to gather hard evidence from non-confessing Christians. It's even harder to gather anecdotal evidence and tie it to some ethereal commonality that "must be" because ALL of us aren't Lutheran.

Mark Henderson said...

Bruce,
If you really knew the first thing about theology, you wouldn't have responded in that way.

David Waltz said...

Hello again Ken,

Thanks for responding; yesterday, you posted:

==We have a pretty good showing of gospel unity - look at "Together for the Gospel" - www.t4g.org==

Hmmmm...at least one, conservative, Reformed scholar differs with your assessment. In the Spring 2010 (Vol. 72.1) issue of The Westminster Theological Journal Dr. Evan's wrote:

"Those familiar with the conservative Reformed subculture in the United States have likely noticed considerable recent debate on matters soteriological (i.e. issues having to do with the doctrine of salvation). Issues long thought settled have emerged with new vigor, new questions have emerged, and long-forgotten or even suppressed aspects of the Reformed tradition have been brought to light. For example, the doctrine of justification by faith, thought by many to be the material principle of the Reformation and a hallmark of Reformed Christianity, is now under intense discussion in a variety of circles. (Page 135)

Reformed soteriology, particularly in America, has been anything but monolithic." (Page 135 - bold emphasis mine)

More selections from Dr. Evan's article can be accessed HERE.


Grace and peace,

David

Bruce said...

Mark,
"Bruce,
If you really knew the first thing about theology, you wouldn't have responded in that way."

What are you implying? Be a man, and spell it out.

You made a indefensible accusation against a Christian, I identified it, and publicly called you out.

You don't think a Christian can be angry? You don't think I have any right to be angry?

Mk.3:5 "And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts..."

No. If you indict my polemic against your baseless, self-serving attack for nothing more than that it was strongly worded; then you've indicted Luther and the rest of the Reformation.

What is "the first thing" about theology anyway? A good candidate might be a concern for Truth (1Ths.2:13; Tit.1:2; Jn.14:6). Until you start caring about accuracy, there's really no point in taking your advice.

Physician, heal thyself.

Ken said...

David,
I remember your blog post and at the time read some of it. Without having to go back and read a whole lot, it seems that the debates and the "Reformed civil War" that you refer to is within some Presbyterian/Covenant / paedobaptist church circles with the New Perspectives on Paul; the Federal Vision; and Auburn Avenue, Norman Shepherd, etc. - right?

To be honest with you, I don't really care much about the details of those debates, because I have tried to understand the Federal Vision/Douglas Wilson issue and it is just not comprehendible to me. Arguments based on the covenant-community don't persuade credo/believers/disciple's baptism much. I listened to Dr. White's debate with Douglas Wilson purchased the DVD and watched and listened to the debate twice; and Dr. White won that debate in my opinion.

But, aside from that puzzle over Douglas Wilson, his debates against atheists and homosexuals are some of the best that any Christian has done. I consider him a brother in Christ, but I confess the whole Federal Vision stuff is a puzzle to me.

I read Piper's critique of N. T. Wright, and it seemed to me that Piper demolished his arguments. (The Future of Justification).

Ken said...

sorry the last post, for some reason, posted twice.

Joe said...

Hi James.

You said: On the other hand, I truly am grateful to the handful of online Lutheran friends I've made. You folks know who you are. I link to your blogs, and read them regularly.

Me: I do not have a blog, and assume you are not familiar with me all that much...but, I do thank you and appreciate the work you have done on Luther, his quotes, and his critics. You have even directly dealt with a few of my specific requests on some Luther quotes a few Romans have threw at me.

As one who has more recently been persuaded to the Lutheran view on things, contrasted with Reformed...I just wanted to let you know that this Lutheran certainly appreciates the work you have done...and do visit your blog regularly.

in Him,

Joe

Brigitte said...

I would posit that if I suddenly went "Lutheran" I'd have a bunch of Lutheran bloggers linking over here. I guess I sometimes feel like I'm cleaning up a mess very few Lutherans care about.

Dear James, it comes down to the question: if Luther was so right, why a Calvin? Does it not? -- ???

If you read the introduction to the Formula of Concord in the current Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord, there is the historical context of what it took to defend the gospel from "the other reformers". You will also remember the context of forced united churches in Prussia and such and the religious migrations that occurred just so people need not surrender their sacramental understandings and violate their consciences.

I, myself, have come under pretty considerable pressures and ridicule on this blog from people like TUAD and Rhology, regarding baptism, etc. And then strangely enough had long threads of dialogue pasted to Gene Veith's blog, a forum supportive of my views, ironically, without being notified of it.

It is only by James' indulgence and tacit support that any Lutherans can state their views here, at all. BeggarsAll is in actuality a hostile forum, and as somebody said above, if we don't agree on the confessions and Luther's understanding of baptism, etc. there is a divide. It just is. But we can talk.

And all the messes James is cleaning up, are just not as interesting to Lutherans who want to be more interested in the gospel than in Luther. Having got the gospel through Luther, myself, I see how these things can go together, however. Personally, I am somewhat impassioned by an Lutheran apologetic, too. But still, as the best people I know say: it is only the gospel that changes hearts.

LPC said...

James,

I for one as you know time and again, have said that you are my favorite Lutheran scholar.

Bruce, by way of explanation, that Lutherans regard all those "to their left" as "Reformed" is because by the lights of our theology we detect certain common doctrinal themes in otherwise disparate church bodies, such as Baptists and Presbyterians

Yet this is unfortunate and shows at times the narrowness of modern Lutheran seminary education. I observe this too but I observe this phenomenon from US Lutherans who are quick to lump any Evangelical to the Reformed bucket. They really are simply repeating their seminary professors' talking points.
Few Lutheran pastors are not even familiar with at least the major themes of Calvinism. I am speaking of today.

However, old Lutheran criticizers of Calvinism were not like that, the old German Lutherans of the Post-Concordian era were quite conversant at what they opposed and right on the mark. They were extremely knowledgeable of Calvinism.


As to cleaning up the mess, like why are Lutherans not coming up to plate when Romanists attack Luther -- well there are many reasons for this. From my perspective, the truth of what Luther discovered is never negated by what an embarrasing thing he might have said in other areas. That is a Romanists theory, they think that Luther is the Protestant's pope and if a pope is proven wrong, the rest should crumble.

Luther followed his own dictum who said in some place, you can get many things in the Bible right, but if you get the Doctrine of Justification wrong you are still stuffed (excuse my paraphrase).

As human beings and as Christians, we can still accord each other respect even while we passionately disagree with each other.

LPC

LPC said...

I would posit that if I suddenly went "Lutheran" I'd have a bunch of Lutheran bloggers linking over here. I guess I sometimes feel like I'm cleaning up a mess very few Lutherans care about.

There are two kinds of Lutherans, one is Synodical, the other is "confessional" however this latter description is a polluted word just like the word "Reformed".

LPC