Thesis Thursday

Last time, we finished the fourth lecture, and the bigger “half” of:


Thesis II.

Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguished from each other the Law and the Gospel.


I was about to skip over Lecture 5 entirely (because it spends all its time discussing Johann Gerhard quotes, and as Walther admits, “True, he cannot speak of facts of experience with that divine rhetoric that was granted to Luther”), when I found this little gem about “our Predestinarian Controversy” near the end that could have come out of the mouth of the Calvinistest Calvinist:


Woe to him who says that he must contribute something towards his own salvation! He deprives Christ of His entire merit. For Jesus is called the Savior, not a helper towards salvation, such as preachers are. Jesus has achieved our entire salvation. That is why we were so determined in our Predestinarian Controversy. For the basic element in the controversy has been that we insisted on keeping Law and Gospel separate, while our opponents mingle the one with the other. When they hear from us this statement: “Out of pure mercy, God has elected us to the praise of the glory of His grace; God vindicates for Himself exclusively the glory of saving us,” etc., they say: “That is a horrible doctrine! If that were true, God would be partial. No, He must have beheld something in men that prompted Him to elect this or that particular man. When He beheld something good in a person, He elected him.” If that were so, man would really be the principal cause of his salvation. In that case man could say, “Thank God, I have done my share towards being saved.” However, when we shall have arrived in our heavenly fatherland, this is what we shall say: “If I had my own way, I should never have found salvation; and even supposing I had found it by myself, I should have lost it again. Thou, O God, didst come and draw me to Thy Word, partly by tribulation, partly by anguish of heart, partly by sickness, etc. All these things Thou hast used as means to bring me into heaven, while I was always striving for perdition.” Yonder we shall see — and marvel — that there has not been an hour when God did not work in us to save us, and that there has not been an hour when we wanted to be saved. Indeed, we are forced to say to God: “Thou alone hast redeemed me; Thou alone dost save me.” Verily, as sure as there is a living God in heaven, I cannot do anything towards my salvation. That is the point under discussion in this controversy.


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32 Responses to Thesis Thursday

  1. Pooka says:

    And even if their assertion that there musta been something already there for God to decide on whether to elect..
    Where’d that something come from? And how does it remain?
    As willing to let it slide as much as possible, drill down far enough and the assertion loses credibility.
    Might as well go with the simple version. God picked. His prerogative. Jesus saved entirely.
    Valley of Dry Bones Calvinism works for me.

  2. RubeRad says:

    Yeah, once you figger out that God is really sovereign, it all pretty much clicks into place.

  3. Pooka says:

    Or at least cross over from A Little Sovereign to Mostly Sovereign and then spend your life adding to the sovereignty pile. I think really grasping the idea of total sovereignty is for a different version of me. Like when He remakes me. Until then, I just keep workin’ on it.

  4. John Yeazel says:

    Walther stated this in his introduction to Lecture II: “Lastly, picture to yourselves what would have happened if Luther had made a slight concession in the doctrine of the Holy Supper. At the time of the Margburg Colloquy he could have made a compromise with Zwingli and put his conscience at ease, because the Zwinglians said: “We, too, believe in a certain presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, but not in the presence of Christ’s corporeal substance, because God does not set up such sublime, incomprehensible things for us to believe.” By this claim Zwingli made Christianity in its entirety a questionable matter, and even Melanchthon, who was usually greatly inclined to make concessions, declared that Zwingli had relapsed into paganism. Had Luther yielded, the Church would have become a prey to rationalism, which places man’s reason above the plain Word of God.”

    I guess Walther did not address Calvin’s reworking of this doctrine which, from what I understand, Melanchthon consented to. I am not positive about this though. Are there any historical theologians out there who know the sequence of events. I think Chemnitz did disagree with Melanchthon in his compromise with the Calvinists which found its way into the book of Concord. And this disagreement has never been resolved between the Lutherans and Calvinists since then.

  5. RubeRad says:

    Yeah, we covered that a few weeks ago. I am unfamiliar with the history though. I have heard the Table Talk Radio guys mention how Melancthon went off the rails in the end, but I don’t know if they just mean Calvinist, or something beyond.

  6. John Yeazel says:

    Thanks for posting these Rube- I will try to be more responsive to them in the future. It does take time to read these posts thoughfully and then respond in a hopefully intelligent manner. I think the issues here are important enough to take some time on. I will try to bring all the Lutheran resources I have at my disposal to bare on my responses in the future. I know Randall is not to keen on us Lutherans but there are historical reasons for our differences which often are caricatured by both sides of the equation. This is an issue I am interested in so I will try to do my homework in the process. I think the best way to go about this is to become familiar with each others confessions of faith and each other major systematic theological works. On the Lutheran side one has to become familiar with Peipers Dogmatics and on the Reformed side perhaps Michael Hortons new Systematic work would suffice- with much reference to Calvins Institutes and Berkoffs systematic theology. Sorry for the overly ambitions agenda- does anyone have to raise a family and fulfill his other vocational duties? Perhaps I am living in a pipedream. Anyways, I have always wanted to read Walthers Law and Gospel and it is better to get feedback from other thoughtful Christians who may not hold your own views of things but who are sympathetic towards them. The goal, I would hope, is that we would understand each other better and solidify our convictions about the truth of the Christian religion.

  7. RubeRad says:

    does anyone have to raise a family and fulfill his other vocational duties?

    I’m sure there’s nobody like that around here!

    But wanting to read Walther’s Law & Gospel, that was my idea too. Stick with us, and we’ll get through (snippets of) it, in due time. I hope you do stick around to answer some of our Lutheran questions!

  8. John Yeazel says:

    I will stick around Rube. I just read lecture 5 and could not find anything which I think Lutherans and the Reformed would disagree on in regards to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, or, as Michael Horton got me used to saying, “by grace alone through faith alone on the account of Christ alone for God’s glory alone.” That makes me want to do cartwheels everytime I write it or speak it (I stole that line from Darryl Hart). I know we do frame the doctrine of predistination differently than you Calvinists do but that is not relevant to the Law and Gospel issue so let’s agree to disagree on that one. I really do not want to go there but will listen to others with open ears.

    I can also live with the accusation that you Calvinists make with us Lutherans being universalists in regards to the atonement and justification. However, as was stated, we do believe in distinguishing between univeral objective atonement and specific subjective atonement through the instrumental cause of faith alone. If anyone would want to explain to me significant implications that could be drawn which would put us into the ranks of heretics in need of discipline then I would be all ears again. We do come to the same conclusions regarding the doctrine of justification- even though we go about it a bit differently.

    Distinguishing between Law and Gospel is the Lutheran way of distinquishing between the covenant with Moses and the covenant with Abraham. If one reads the gospel of Mathew critically it could be concluding that the Pharisee’s did not distinquish between these two covenants between God and man and therefore did not see the Gospel in the Old Covenant. This is exactly the point Christ was trying to make to his disciples throughout his time with them which to me is most clearly spelled out in the Gospel of Mathew. The Reformed after Luther and Calvin built on this revelation and came up with a more detailed covenant theology which included the cultural covenant with Noah. Lutheran theology does not draw this out as well as the Reformed did in the generations after the reformation. From what I have gathered the foundation of covenant theology was built upon the distinquishing between Law and Gospel. If one reads Luther’s commentary on Galatians this is pretty clear.

  9. John Yeazel says:

    Also, I do want to comment on Randall’s accusation that Lutherans could be considered evangelicals with an addition of a clerical collar is the way he put it I think. That is complete bogus nonsense. Anyone who reads lecture 5 could not in any way come to that conclusion. He jumps to his conclusion on one aspect of the doctrine of justification and disregards the complete consideration of the doctrine with all the elements involved in the doctrine. It always has to be remembered that the doctrine has the whole order of salvation involved in it, from predistination all the way to glorification. Lutherans are no way close to being evangelicals in the way that term is defined in the time we live in today.

  10. John Yeazel says:

    Sorry for the sloppy writing in that last post but I think you will get the gist of what I was trying to say.

  11. "Michael Mann" says:

    John, are there some Lutheran congregations of which this is more true than others? Certainly from my point of view, not all Presbyterian churches should be lumped together. I know of an ELCA which at least appears to be one evangelical church among others; from what I can tell you would not be comfortable there.

  12. John Yeazel says:

    Michael,

    ELCA is the liberal end of the Lutheran denomination. They are into contemporay theology, moralism (at least moralism as they are want to frame and understand it) and the social gospel. I am a confessional Lutheran of the Missouri synod type. There are also distinquishing features within the Missouri Synod. You have your neo-Cal type types and contempory worship types too. I think there are up to 25 different offshoots of Lutherans now. The biggest 3 are the ELCA, the LCMA (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) and the Wisconsin Synod- in that order.

  13. "Michael Mann" says:

    John, I am somewhat familiar with Missouri Synod as my daughter was educated in one of their schools for a couple years. You gave me the biggest three denominations – how about the best three?

  14. John Yeazel says:

    Michael, I would only recommend 2- the LCMS or the Wisconsin Synod. And I would make sure I respected the Pastor in the Church. I happened to find a good one with deep roots in Lutheran confessionalism. It took me awhile before I found one that I was comfortable with confiding in and trusting in. But I am a bit paranoid in that respect. I think the Issues etc web site has a list of Lutheran Churches in various cities throughout the country who adhere to Lutheran confessionalism. Lily would be a good source for this too. She told me that she played an integral role in helping get the Issues etc internet program back on the air after they were given the boot by the former President of the LCMS who was not privy to their confessionalism. It was an interesting story. Hope that helps.

  15. RubeRad says:

    I can also live with the accusation that you Calvinists make with us Lutherans being universalists in regards to the atonement and justification.

    Well, I can’t live with that any more than I can live with Lutherans calling Calvinists Zwinglian on communion. I’m sure “universal objective justification” is shocking terminology to a Calvinist, but I would say that “Universalist” means that everybody gets to heaven, or people get to heaven via any religion. Once the paired concept of subjective justification is also included, it becomes clear that Lutherans are definitely not universalists, and the doctrine is simply a not-quite-Arminian way of rejecting Limited Atonement. This way, the discussion can settle to where I think it ought to, which is how can the Lutherans call it objective/actual, instead of just potential? How can somebody who has been (objectively) atoned for, whose sins have been paid for and forgiven, end up in hell?

    But we’re not going to solve that here. If you can point me to any resources you know of where confessional LC[MW]S-types clearly explain this, I’d be interested to check it out.

  16. RubeRad says:

    I’m curious — what is keeping the Missouri and Wisconsin Synods apart? I’ve always thought it funny that the Missouri and Wisconsin Synods are not just in Missouri or Wisconsin. It would be cool if MS/WS could merge and get a better name, like Confessional Lutheran Chuch of America (CLCA). Then again, it also seems to many that it would make sense for the OPC and PCA to merge, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. I guess we just have to be content that we share the same umbrella (NAPARC) with CRC, URC, etc.

  17. John Yeazel says:

    I have talked to my Pastor about that very question and he gave me an answer about 2 years but I cannot remember the exact doctrinal differences that he explained. It may have more to do with church government and the independence of the each local congregation on certain issues than anything else. I will check with him again and report back. I believe the Wisconsin synod has more protection from a synod president who might cause some problems due to doctrinal differences than the Missouri synod does.

  18. John Yeazel says:

    I am using universal atonement in the sense that Christ died for the whole world (John 3:16) in an objective sense but that does not mean that everyone goes to heaven. It can only be applied to the individual who subjectively has faith. That is all that means from what I understand.

  19. John Yeazel says:

    ie., faith in what Christ did for him.

  20. RubeRad says:

    Yes, I get that, but I instinctively react against the terms ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ in this case; they seem backwards to their regular use. We are all against the Evangelical for their redefinition of Christianity as subjective (experience-based, individualistic), when it ought to be objective (outside of ourselves, concrete, historical). In these terms, people should be abandoning the subjective for the objective; don’t worry about the subjective, it is changeable, it is contingent, it is you; hitch your wagon to the objective, it is Christ.

    But then Lutherans come along with this objective/subjective justification, and that doesn’t work anymore. You can’t tell people “don’t worry about subjective justification; whether you personally have faith — all that matters is that, objectively, Christ atoned for all”. A more nuanced version of that may be helpful for a Christian who does have faith, and struggles with assurance, but it is wrong and poison for unbelievers. (And surely not what Lutherans are trying to say, but I’m not liking the mixed signals of the terms objective vs. subjective)

  21. Bruce Settergren says:

    ?? CRC ain’t in NAPARC. ?? The OPC doesn’t even have fraternal relations with the CRC.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Oopx, I got confused. Strike the CRC there.

  23. John Yeazel says:

    Rube,

    I would agree with you in your last post-the terms objective and subjective in regards to atonement and justification do get confusing in the Lutheran scheme. My point was that Calvinists wanted to retain the elect model, which a lot of other scripture verses convey, so they formulated their doctrine around that model. It made more sense than what the Lutherans had formulated and it allowed the Calvinists and Lutherans to argue about details for longer (ha, ha). Lutherans are more concerned about staying faithful to the scriptural text and all the verses involved in a doctrine than making sense. That is something that always has to be kept in mind when comparing and contrasting Lutheran and Calvinist doctrinal formulations and then make a judgment call on whether it really is worth arguing about or makes any significant difference.

  24. John Yeazel says:

    Or, there is no latent Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism or Arminianism in the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone. This is unlike the way evagelicals think of justification.

  25. John Yeazel says:

    The above got posted in the wrong place

  26. RubeRad says:

    more concerned about staying faithful to the scriptural text and all the verses involved in a doctrine than making sense

    But that presumes the Bible doesn’t make sense! Would you say that the Calvinist assumes the Bible makes sense, so he tries hard to make sense of it, but the Lutheran assumes it can’t be done, so he doesn’t try as hard?

  27. John Yeazel says:

    No, that means that Lutherans are less prone to try to make sense of paradox and mystery in scripture. It is also probably why there are more logicians in the Reformed world than there are in the Lutheran world. Lutherans believe the bible makes sense too- we just don’t try to reconcile paradox and mystery as readily as Calvinists do. One can use logic and come to faulty conclusions when all the data and comprehension is unavailable to us.

  28. RubeRad says:

    Maybe another way to say it, Lutherans believe the bible makes sense, but only to God? I mean, from the Calvinist perspective, sure there are things God has not revealed, but the Bible is God’s special revelation to his people. Isn’t it our duty to work it out?

  29. John Yeazel says:

    I did get a bit more information from my pastor on friday about the MS/WS dilemma. From what he said the new LCMS Presidant Matt Harrison is trying to be more agressive in bringing the MS/WS together. He has already planned some informal get togethers betweeen the two synods to get a feel for the possibilities of unifying them. They have not had any doctrinal discussions or church government discussions in many years. These informal get togethers are aimed at getting them talking about issues together again. My pastor also stated that Harrison has basically written off the ELCA as a lost cause in regards to hopes of any form of unity with them.

    He did give me more accurate numbers on how many members each branch of the Lutheran Church had. ELCA- 5 million; LCMS- 2.5 million; WELS- 400,000 and LMS (who are in fellowship with WELS and considered part of WELS)-100,000.

    The major problem between LCMS and WELS has to do with the nature of the Church and whether the congregants and pastors of individual local churches should have major governing power or the synod leaders should have this governing power in regards to doctrine, church property and the power to get rid of Pastors for disciplinary reasons. WELS puts more power in the syod than the LCMS does.

  30. John Yeazel says:

    I guess I would ask if you have been able to figure out the two natures of Christ or the Trinity through logic? How about the dilemma of the sovereignty of God versus the human responsibility debate? I know you guys think you have figured out the problems with the Lords Supper by saying that the Holy Spirit takes us into the heavenlies to where Christ is so we can actually eat and drink the Lord’s body but us Lutherans are not to sure you can come to that conclusion scripturally and prefer to think of eating and drinking the Lords body by Him coming down to us. So, where were you when Christ laid the foundations of creation? I was making a reference to the book of Job in jest. Whatever, Rube!!! That was suppossed to add a bit of humor.

  31. John Yeazel says:

    You Calvinists have still not come to terms with the Two Kingdoms and Natural Law which has befuddled and divided you guys for the last 100years. Perhaps it is logic that is causing the problems- can someone say Neo-Cals.

  32. RubeRad says:

    Ask Paul, he can surely explain better than I our responsibility and ability to untangle the mystery of the trinity, free will, etc.

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