Thesis Thursday

Oh no he di’n’t! Arriving at lecture 14, Walther wheels his artillery around to attack “The Reformed” (and he stays on this topic for six lectures)! I think it’s fair to say that we Reformed view the religious landscape as having Arminians/Anabaptists/Revivalists on one side, Romans on the other, and we brothers (or at least cousins) of the Reformation, both Lutherans and Calvinists, standing in the middle. Not so Walther. As we shall see, he has a hard time distinguishing “The Reformed” from “the sects of Reformed origin, including the Baptists, the Methodists, the Evangelical Alliance, the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians. All these are only branches of the great tree of the Reformed Church.” (If he can’t even tell that Presbyterians belong with “The Reformed” rather than “the sects of Reformed origin”, so many more grains of salt should we apply when we feel he is attacking us)

So, without even getting to the next Thesis yet, here is the closest I can find to a legitimate beef with The Reformed (although of course presented with Walther’s Lutheran bias). Hold on to your hats…

Nowadays any Lutheran child that has received at least a passable instruction in the Christian doctrine knows that there is indeed a great difference, involving the principal articles of Christian doctrine, between the Lutheran and the Reformed Church. To-day the Lutheran people are well informed on this point: Lutherans adhere firmly to the words of Christ, forever true: “This is My body; this is My blood.” Lutherans, accordingly, believe that the body and blood of Christ are substantially and truly present in the Holy Supper and are administered to, and received by, the communicants, while those clear words, plain as daylight, are interpreted by the Reformed to mean: “This signifies the body of Christ; this signifies His blood.” Accordingly, the Reformed contend that the body and blood of Christ are removed from the Holy Supper as far as the heavens are from the earth, because they are limited to the heavenly mansions and His return to earth is not to be expected until the Last Day.

Nowadays all Lutheran people know that according to Scripture, the Book of eternal truth, Holy Baptism is the washing of regeneration, a means by which regeneration is effected from on high through the Holy Spirit; while the Reformed contend that Baptism is merely a sign, symbol, or representation of something that has previously taken place in a person.

Nowadays all Lutheran people know that the human nature of Christ, through its union with the divine nature, has received also divine attributes, namely, that omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and the honor of adoration have been communicated to it; while the Reformed contend that between the man Christ and other men there is a difference only of degree, namely, that Christ has received greater gifts. However, even the highest gifts which His human nature possesses are claimed to be creature gifts, the same as in other creatures.

Nowadays all Lutheran people know that according to the Holy Scriptures the saving grace of the Father is universal; so is the redemption of the Son, and likewise the effective calling of the Holy Spirit through the Word; while the teaching of the Reformed Church on these three points is particularistic, because the Reformed most emphatically contend that God has created the greater part of the human race unto eternal damnation and has accordingly assigned them even in eternity to everlasting death. In the clear light of the precious, saving Gospel this is an appalling, a horrible doctrine.

To be brief, every Lutheran knows nowadays that the difference between the Lutheran and the Reformed Church is fundamental: it lies, not on the circumference, but in the very center of the Christian doctrine.

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36 Responses to Thesis Thursday

  1. "Michael Mann" says:

    “Lutherans adhere firmly to the words of Christ, forever true: “This is My body; this is My blood….the Reformed contend that the body and blood of Christ are removed from the Holy Supper as far as the heavens are from the earth, because they are limited to the heavenly mansions””

    On the level of silliness, this claim to obvious superiority is right next to the Roman Catholic claim that they’ve played tag all the way back to Peter. Christ also said he was the door, but I’m prrretty sure Lutherans don’t believe he is wooden.

    So, that’s my vent of the day on Lutheran rhetoric.

  2. RubeRad says:

    Yes, you can go here to hear a great debate on the topic.

    A couple misrepresentations I also noted:

    “Baptism is merely a sign, symbol, or representation of something that has previously taken place in a person” — no, not necessarily “previous”, which is kind of the point of infant baptism.

    “the Reformed most emphatically contend that God has created the greater part of the human race unto eternal damnation” — do we really insist on “greater part”? There are plenty of postmils who would certainly object to that, and even as an amil I would prefer to express an agnosticism rather than a pessimism about the number of the elect.

    Also, I don’t know what to make of “the Reformed contend that between the man Christ and other men there is a difference only of degree”. I don’t see how that fits at all with our orthodox doctrine of the incarnation.

  3. "Michael Mann" says:

    I guess the Reformed, with an overabundance of human logic, are supposed to corrupt the simplicity of the Word in holding to no more than a spiritual presence in the Supper, but aren’t Lutherans doing that very thing in making all the scriptures on limited atonement and election bow the knee to a concept of universal love, thus rejecting the simplicity of the Word?

    I’m pretty sure the Lutheran view of the atonement is more nuanced than the Arminian view. Could someone give me a brief refresher on how it differs?

  4. RubeRad says:

    I guess the Reformed, with an overabundance of human logic…

    Lutherans always accuse Reformed of Rationalism when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. I’ve always wanted to ask a Lutheran, aren’t they guilty of the same thing in rejecting R.C. Transubstantiation? If the goal is rationality-free blind acceptance of the bare words of scripture, don’t the catholics win here?

    Lutheran view of the atonement

    We have had some discussion of Lutheran Universal “Objective Atonement” (vs. limited “Subjective Atonement”), if you go to this one or that one and scan the comment trails you’ll find some links to other resources as well.

  5. Zrim says:

    We might be able to overcome the suggestion of slouching toward memorialism if we reconsidered frequency. Mathison’s “Given for You” is a good start to that end. Maybe weekly communion plus etching “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” into the Table instead of merely “Do this in remembrance of me.” For, after all, as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

  6. John Yeazel says:

    Walther says: “But what the Reformed Church lacks is just this — it cannot correctly answer the question, “What must I do to be saved?” In the very doctrine of justification, the cardinal doctrine of the Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church is not in agreement with us; it does not point the right way to grace and salvation. Few there are in our day who perceive this point. All the Reformed, and the sects that are derived from the Reformed Church, affirm that a person is saved by grace alone. But the moment you examine their practise, you immediately discover that, while they hold this truth in theory, they do not put it into effect, but rather point in the opposite direction.”

    This is not the belief of Michael Horton, Scott Clark, Rod Rosenbladt and Kim Riddlebarger (at least I think that it is not). Walther does not lay out his argument very well yet. He may be passing on caricatures of each others positions. I will be curious to see how he fleshes this severe accusation out in future lectures. I read a long essay that Scott Clark wrote and linked to me on the positions of Luther and Calvin in regards to the doctrine of justification. The essay was published in a Lutheran theological journal. Clark maintained that Luther and Calvin were in agreement in regards to justification by faith alone in that paper; it was backed up by primary sources too. The key to what Walther may be saying here is the remark: “while they hold this truth in theory, they do not put it into effect, but rather point in the opposite direction.” I have not read the rest of the lecture yet, so, I cannot comment on it further.

    Here is what another person I have dialogued with thinks is a problem with the Lutheran doctrine of justification:


    1. They teach universal atonement but not universal salvation so therefore they don’t think Christ’s death is what saves. If Christ died for everybody, then some other reason must be why people are saved. John, this is number one problem. Salvation depends not on the righeousness of Christ, but on “faith” (however we define it)
    2. Water regeneration and eucharistic real presence
    cause folks to put their trust in “sacraments” instead of the atonement. But of course you can’t trust the atonement to save you because it was for everybody and we know that not everybody. So thus silly assurance: the pope has baptised me, thus I am safe, even though both you and the pope agree that the regeneration the water gave you can be lost.

    Now, John, we can argue about that. But I don’t think you can say that you don’t know where and why I disagree with Lutherans!
    I agree that Stellman is not good on “theology of the cross”. Theology of the cross gets used to mean many different things. Forde is good on trusting good works and sanctification, but his view of the atonement is Socinian. Forde denies that God satisfies his wrath by Christ’s death. Even Preus denies that the reconciliation has anything to do with God’s wrath.

  7. John Yeazel says:

    I was having trouble with the “Leave a Reply” box. It would not let me continue with my comment so I posted early. The comment by the person critiquing Lutheran doctrine was not expanded on very well but it does show how caricatures can be passed on. You really have to go back to primary sources, like Clark did, to come to any conclusions on the differences between the Reformed and Lutheran doctrines of justification. The Atonement is an issue, but how this correlates and logically adheres with each others positions on justification and grace is something which certainly has befuddled me.

    The issue of grace during the Reformation was whether grace was infused (a change in our ontological being brought about by various means like the sacraments in Catholic thought) or imputed by forensic declaration by God to the individual. Then the issue of synergism and monergism was brought up on the basis of infused or imputed grace. When this imputation of our sin being imputed to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness imputed to us takes place, was another matter of heated debate; was it before our union to Christ or after? How does regeneration, faith and repentance fit into this ordo salutis? I doubt if Walther gets into these issues very heavily- we shall see I guess.

  8. RubeRad says:

    The quote you add I was going to start to dive into for next week. Part of the issue is I believe Walther’s conflation of Reformed with all other non-Lutheran protestants; part is actual Lutheran sentiment towards the Reformed. Recall this discussion…

  9. John Yeazel says:

    I agree Rube- there is a lot of confusion on these issues- especially on what each tradition does actually teach on the matters at hand. Walther does combine the various Reformed offshoots into one whole; that really is not accurate. The issues discussed are critical gospel related issues, so I would think one would want to make it as clear as possible in one’s thinking, and know for sure what the scriptures teach. The ultimate question we all have to face is, What shall I do to be saved? And, what do I need saving from? Of course, we tend to suppress these truth’s (or need’s) in unrighteousness and act like we are really not that concerned about it.

  10. John Yeazel says:

    I found that Scott Clark essay in the Lutheran theological journal:

  11. John Yeazel says:

    I re-read that Clark essay and found this quote in it:

    “In theses 31,34, and 35, Luther was quite clear about the logical necessity of good works flowing from justification, and equally clear that they belong to a category of righteousness distinct from that which commends the sinner to God. Luther gave his definition of justification in thesis 33 when he said, “to be justified includes the following: namely, our being
    reputed just, by faith, on account of Christ. The forensic theme in his
    doctrine of justification in the October disputation was unmistakable. His
    logic and categorical distinctions were clear. In this disputation, as in the
    1535 lectures on Galatians, Luther was indistinguishable from his
    orthodox, confessional successors in the Formula of Concord and in the
    Westminster Confession of Faith.”

  12. John Yeazel says:

    And, one more quote from the Clark essay:

    “At the outset of the disputation, Melanchthon raised the
    fundamental question of the Reformation: “Do you understand man to be
    righteous whether by intrinsic renewal as Augustine, or by truly gracious
    imputation, which is outside of us, and by faith, i.e., by trust, that has
    arisen from the Word?”173 Luther’s response was unequivocal: “I think
    this, and am most persuaded and certain that this is the true opinion of the
    Gospel and of the Apostles, that only by gracious imputation are we
    righteous with God.”17*

  13. John Yeazel says:

    Another good quote:

    “Melanchthon then raised the question whether man is righteous “sola illa
    misericordia . . .” or whether our iustitia is grounded partly in “a good
    conscience in works.”175 The questioning continued to probe Luther’s
    resoluteness on forensic justification. Melanchthon asked whether, since
    Luther had preached (in 1518) a “double justice” (duplicem iustitiam) and
    conceded in previous disputations the logical and moral necessity of good
    works as the fruit of justification, and since it is understood that the
    perfection is not required but that faith supplies what is lacking, Luther
    will concede that “a man is righteous principally by faith, and less
    principally by works . . . .” In other words, since works are necessary and
    you have already conceded double justification, is it not true that we are
    not justified solajide?l76

    Luther responded unequivocally. To “become just, to be, and to remain
    just is sola misericordia.”ln What justifies us is perfect righteousness that
    opposes death and absorbs God’s wrath for us. No mere human is capable
    of such righteousness and it could never be intrinsic to us. Therefore it is
    by God’s gracious reputation that the sinner is righteous. Only after that
    reputation, is one righteous and said to produce the fruits of righteousness.
    Even these fruits are only external work and righteousness, which God
    requires and rewards, but this is not righteousness before God but
    evidence of justification before others.
    Melanchthon pressed Luther by asking whether, in the case of Paul, his
    rebirth was the ground of his acceptance before God. Luther replied in the
    negative: faith brings renewal and faith justified him.ln Melanchthon
    asked again whether virtues or works could be less principally grounds of
    justification? Again, Luther answered that one’s virtues and works are
    righteous only because one’s person is righteous (which is righteous by
    imputation only). Melanchthon followed by asking again how Luther can
    say that works are necessary but not justifying. Luther answered that they
    are necessary, “but not of legal necessity, or of co-action, but of gracious
    necessity, or consequence, or of immutability.” He continued to explain
    that they are as necessary and immutable as sunshine is necessary from the
    sun. The sunshine does not flow “of law, but of nature.” No one has to tellsome intrinsic ground of righteousness, accepted not as propriam
    obedientiam but only propter mispricordiam. No, Luther replied, Paul’s
    obedience only pleases God because Paul believes, and by faith his person
    is just in perpetuity. He rejected as an evil division the premise of the
    question, that the principium, medium et finem of a just person can be
    divided. The beginning and end of justification is gracious imputation of
    alien righteousness.181 If justification were by anything other than faith, its
    glory would be eclipsed.
    the sun to shine. That is its nature. So, too, the Christian, because he is a
    “creatura nova,” created “unto good works,” produces sanctity.179
    Melanchthon replied by raising the specter of the Roman critic Cardinal
    Sadolet (1477-1547) who accused the Protestants of being inconsistent in
    contending for sola fide and the logical necessity of good works. Luther
    replied that “falsifrateres et hypocritae” are often confounded just as it was
    in Elijah’s day with the priest of Baal.lm Melanchthon again asked whether,
    in view of our renewal, one could say that Paul was renewed in order to be
    pleasing to God, so that our works (not because they are ours) to the
    degree (tanturn) that one could be said to be pleasing (placeat) on account of
    mercy? Luther would not even accept this very subtle attempt to wedge in

  14. John Yeazel says:

    Last one:

    some intrinsic ground of righteousness, accepted not as propriam
    obedientiam but only propter mispricordiam. No, Luther replied, Paul’s
    obedience only pleases God because Paul believes, and by faith his person
    is just in perpetuity. He rejected as an evil division the premise of the
    question, that the principium, medium et finem of a just person can be
    divided. The beginning and end of justification is gracious imputation of
    alien righteousness.181 If justification were by anything other than faith, its
    glory would be eclipsed.

  15. John Yeazel says:

    Last one:

    In this disputation, Melanchthon dutifully played the magisfer and
    Luther the respondms. Melanchthon poked and probed throughout the
    disputation looking for any place Luther might concede the point that
    intrinsic sanctity might be a part of the ground or instrument of
    justification, and from the outset Luther repudiated any such notions using
    the same sorts of metaphors and language found in the earlier disputation.
    For Luther in 1536, the ground of justification is Christ’s alien
    righteousness reputed to the sinner, and faith is the medium by which one
    apprehends Christ and his alien righteousness. In both disputes, he turned
    to intrinsic categories only when considering the sanctity that flows from

  16. John Yeazel says:

    A well done hour long documentary on the main events in Luther’s life:

  17. Pingback: He Doth Protest Too Much? | The Confessional Outhouse

  18. Echo_ohcE says:

    Best way to understand Lutheran soteriology: grace is always given, but can always be resisted. So if you’re an unbeliever taking the Lord’s Supper, for example, grace is given in it necessarily (universal), but you can resist it, so that it won’t save you. So the atonement works kind of the same way, I think (Lutheranism is a difficult nut to crack sometimes). It’s out there for everybody, but you can resist it. It’s not really different from Arminianism, even if it seems more complicated and thus sounds better.

  19. Echo_ohcE says:

    Rube, it may be that Walther (and pretty much all Lutherans) simply lump lots of people into a huge category called “Reformed”. After all, if I tried to understand all the different nuances of how different kinds of Lutherans think, I might have a lot of trouble distinguishing between them. So sure, if his understanding of “Reformed” comes from wacky congregationalists, he might come to the wrong conclusions about Reformed doctrine, such as it is (mis)stated here. But I think that he might come to these very same conclusions, even after a careful study of Berkhof’s Systematic Theology.

    See, you’re assuming that Walther is able to see theology clearly and can thus objectively evaluate both systems of doctrine and compare them, but unfortunately he has simply chosen to prefer the wrong one. But this is not the case. He is a committed Lutheran wearing Lutheran colored glasses on his eyes.

    There are two different kinds of theological thoughts that men can have. Our thoughts are either true or in error. (Obviously, even our truest understanding is tainted with error, but stay with me.) If our thoughts are true, then it is because they correspond to reality and to what Scripture is actually saying. If our thoughts are erroneous, then they do not correspond to reality. Rather, as Paul said, these thoughts flow from a mind that seeks to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. This is the source of theological errors: sinful men whose sinful hearts strive to suppress the truth for the sake of their sin. Those who embrace errors not only misunderstand theology, but have a distorted view of reality, however slight it might be.

    I’ll illustrate. Suppose I’m an antinomian. I don’t think we need to obey the law at all, that it doesn’t really matter whether we obey or not. Now suppose you come along and say, “Echo, Francis Turretin taught that the covenant of grace is conditional, but in two different ways. Faith is an antecedent condition to obtaining the blessings of the covenant, because faith is instrumental in obtaining the grace of Christ by which we are saved. Works are NOT an antecedent condition, but they are nevertheless a concomitant condition to salvation. This means that if one has obtained grace by faith alone (the antecedent condition), that person will necessarily begin to perform good works. If those works are not present, grace has not been obtained. Faith without works is dead. You cannot be saved apart from faith in Christ. But if you do not have good works, you ARE not saved.”

    How will an antinomian respond to such a speech? Get behind me, papist dog! You’re trying to make my good works necessary to obtain salvation! You’re trying to tell me that justification is by faith and works! Go bow to your Pope, you papal pig! Worship the antichrist for all I care! You shall not make good works a requirement for salvation, Pharisee! Woe to you!

    An antinomian will view what I said that way. A body of Reformed presbyters, on the other hand, will smile ear to ear, ask no further questions and vote to approve your licensure. 🙂

  20. John Yeazel says:

    I would beg to differ about that Echo- I think you are caracterizing. Have you ever read The Bondage of the Will or Luther’s commentary on Galatians? That amazes me that people (mostly reformed types who have a shallow understanding of Lutheran theology) call Lutheran theology arminian. You cannot read the Bondage of the Will and really believe that. Or, even read the book of Concord and come to that conclusion. It seems to me that Calvinists critique Lutherans not by scripture but by their logical reasoning. They also don’t agree with how Lutherans constantly interplay the Law and the Gospel. You have already stated that you do not agree with that Echo and want to mix elements of Law and Gospel together.

  21. "Michael Mann" says:

    True, JY, Bondage of the Will is powerful, and, to the best of my recollection, could have been written by a Calvinist. But, then we might be back to the Luther vs. the Lutherans issue. Has the spirit of Bondage of the Will persevered in Lutheranism?

  22. John Yeazel says:

    Yes it has MM in confessional Lutheran churches- definitely not in all Lutheran offshoots. It is back strongly in the LCMS and WELS churches. It has been gone a long time in the ELCA.

  23. John Yeazel says:

    I would really encourage those who want to know the real differences between Lutherans and Calvinists in regards to the Lord’s Supper to listen to this debate. I listened to again this weekend and was struck by how forcefully and passionate each debater argued their positions. They both did a really good job and one scratches his head after listening to the debate wondering if this will ever get resolved this side of the second advent of Christ.

  24. Echo_ohcE says:

    John, your response is discouraging. I didn’t mean to say that Lutheranism simply “is” Arminianism. I recognize that they are two different systems. My point was that, with regard to the atonement, the Lutheran system amounts to the same thing as the Arminian system, namely that the atonement is available to all but effectual only to those who decide to accept it. If you don’t think that’s a fair assessment of the Lutheran view of the atonement, I’m open to correction.

    I also recognize that the works of Martin Luther are pretty good stuff. Without Luther, we’d all still be worshiping the Pope. Thank God for Martin Luther! But come on, when you read this stuff Walther has written against the Reformed, do you feel like you’re reading Bondage of the Will? Could Luther have written those words? I don’t think so.

    Your statement that Calvinists critique Lutherans based not on Scripture but by logical reasoning is unfortunate. I find it unfortunate that you believe that. I’m not sure why you believe that. Are you basing this assertion solely on your experiences in blogs on the internet?

    I not only find your assertion to be unfortunate, but also quite ironic. In fact, I think that in how you’ve characterized my own view of “Law and Gospel”, you actually do the very thing you’re charging the Reformed with. On other threads, I’ve presented a much more nuanced argument than you’ve made here about Law and Gospel. I backed those discussions up with Scripture. I sought (whether successfully or not) to show how my understanding of things arose from my reading of Scripture.

    Now, as a refutation of what I have said, you simply assert your categories (how exactly you understand them is as yet a mystery to me), and then assert that I wish to blend them. You make no Scriptural argument, but only a “logical” one – and by that I do not mean that you laid out a logical argument, but that you merely referred to logical categories and made unsupported assertions about them. Is this the kind of thing you are charging Calvinists with? (By the way, I’m not making a counter-charge here. I’m just asking if you aren’t actually violating your own rule, which by the way is not my rule.)

    However, I might be wrong here, and probably out of line, but perhaps it’s the case that you want to see the world in two categories only: those who believe precisely the same thing about the Law/Gospel distinction as you do on the one hand, and people who want to undermine the finished works of Christ by making our works count towards salvation on the other. Friend or foe, with me or against me. If this is true, then believe me, no one understands that kind of thinking better than I do. But I would urge you to stop and examine this and ask yourself if it’s wise. Isn’t it at least theoretically possible that someone might disagree with you without being a papist in sheep’s clothing? I know anyone would answer “yes” to that question verbally, but is that what you really believe deep down?

    If you are anything like me, your initial reaction to people who disagree with you is suspicion. But if that’s the case, then how will you ever learn anything? You can’t learn anything from someone who only knows exactly what you know. To be suspicious of people just because they disagree with you implies that you think you know everything there is to know, so other people have nothing to teach you. To others it just looks like arrogance. Trust me, that kind of reputation is very difficult to overcome and is a huge obstacle to the gospel.

    But I hope you’re nothing like me. I hope I’m wrong and that you don’t think that anyone who doesn’t see Law/Gospel just exactly like you do is a papist sleeper agent. I’m sure that while you may be confident in your beliefs, you also recognize that they might just be wrong, or at least a little off, and that allows a little bit of room for people to disagree with you.

  25. John Yeazel says:

    Fair enough Echo- my remark was off the cuff. I enjoy the Calvinists I dialog with, let’s wait Walther out a bit and see where he goes with his arguments. Walther does come across as almost revivalistic at times- that might be the result of being somewhat influenced by the times he lived in. The era was rife with revivalism and many in the Presbyterian and Lutheran churches at that time had to deal with it- it probably rubbed off on them in ways they might not have been aware of.

    Still being influenced by the noetic effects of sin I am more than capable of being seduced into error. I appreciate those who remind me of this.

  26. John Yeazel says:

    Echo said: “My point was that, with regard to the atonement, the Lutheran system amounts to the same thing as the Arminian system, namely that the atonement is available to all but effectual only to those who decide to accept it. If you don’t think that’s a fair assessment of the Lutheran view of the atonement, I’m open to correction.”

    I do not think this is a fair assessment of the Lutheran system because of your words, “but effectual only to those who decide to accept it.” That sounds like decisional regeneration to me. It you read the Scott Clark article, Luther pointed out that we are unable to “decide to accept” Christ’s atonement until God imputes our sin to Christ and Christ’s righteouness to us. Without that happening we would never decide to accept it.

    Lutherans also have a harder time dealing with and dismissing scriptural passages like John 3:16 which seem to describe a universal atonement by Christ: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life.” Or, Romans 5:18: “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” One could also look at John 1:29, Rom. 8:32 and many other passages of scripture that seem inclusive rather than exclusive. Lutherans have difficulty explaining away passages like that even when they believe in predestination and are obvious monergists. If you listen to that debate on the Lord’s Supper between the Lutheran pastor and the Reformed pastor that Rube linked you will understand that this has always been a point of contention between Lutherans and all forms of Calvinists in how they handle the scriptures. So, the Lutherans had to deal with these varying passages of scripture and they came up with the objective and subjective distinctions of the atonement.

  27. RubeRad says:

    Best way to understand Lutheran soteriology: grace is always given, but can always be resisted.

    That is an important point. I heard on Table Talk Radio once Brian Wolfmueller advocating that Christ’s incarnation and mission is all about resistability; although Lutherans at times sound as mongergistic as we Calvinists, he seemed to be saying that Christ’s humiliation continues even now after the ascension, and he would never push back against our resistance. I’d have to look it up again to get the exact wording, but it was very interesting.

    My point was that, with regard to the atonement, the Lutheran system amounts to the same thing as the Arminian system,…If you don’t think that’s a fair assessment of the Lutheran view of the atonement, I’m open to correction.

    Maybe you will take correction from Horton?

    let’s wait Walther out a bit and see where he goes with his arguments.

    I don’t know that he’s heading in the right direction

  28. Echo_ohcE says:

    John, with all due respect, you didn’t correct what I said about the Lutheran view of the atonement, but only said what it sounds like to you, as if that settled the matter. It doesn’t. I still don’t understand how what I said about the Lutheran view of the atonement is wrong.

    I’m not sure how you’re interpreting John 3:16, but it says, “whoever believes” gets eternal life. True, it says that God loves the world, and unlike many who try to explain how this doesn’t actually mean the whole world but only the elect, I acknowledge that it says that God loves the whole world. God loves all his creatures, is good and kind to them, sending the rain on the just and the unjust alike. And the message of salvation in Christ is to be proclaimed to all mankind.

    This doesn’t mean he doesn’t hate the reprobate, the wicked, just as Scripture says (e.g., Ps 11). Suppose you came home from work and found your wife in bed with another man. You’d be angry, you’d probably feel hatred toward her, loathing the very sight of her in that moment. Why? Because you love her. The hatred is only possible because of the prior foundation of love. If you walked in on two strangers in bed that you didn’t know, it wouldn’t invoke any feelings in you at all of love or hate because you have no vested interest in the affair. So too, God hates the wicked (children of wrath, as they are called in Eph 2) precisely because he first loved them and then they betrayed him, getting into bed with Satan, figuratively speaking.

    So rightly does Scripture say that God loves the world, that he loves ALL his creatures. He is kind to them and cares for them and has provided a way for their sins to be atoned for, namely in the death of his Son, Jesus Christ.

    And this is also how to understand Rom 5:18. It is absolutely true that no matter who you are, if you claim the blood of Christ by faith, you will be saved. Period, no exceptions.

    But no one will repent and claim the blood of Christ by faith without the Spirit first working in their hearts, which work we call regeneration. If that work doesn’t take place, the sinner cannot – because he WILL not but refuses – turn to Christ for salvation. To be a sinner means to be at war with God, to rage against him and to hate him. Such a person cannot repent and turn to Christ in faith. The Holy Spirit must first soften his heart.

    Where is this work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinners PRIOR to any repentance, prior to any faith in the Lutheran system? You mention that Luther said something similar to this, but you did not mention the Holy Spirit. But at any rate, you cannot quote Luther as if that’s what all Lutherans believe any more than I can quote Calvin as if it’s what all Reformed people believe. If I want to talk about what Reformed people believe, I have to quote from the confessions currently in use in the Reformed churches. If you want to talk about what Lutherans believe today, don’t quote Luther, because you know that Luther’s works don’t speak for all Lutherans today. Let the Lutherans speak for themselves. Quote from the currently used confession if you want to convince me of what Lutherans believe today.

    And please explain the objective/subjective distinction you mention. I have not (and honestly probably will not) listened to the debate you mentioned.

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  31. John Yeazel says:

    objective- Christ’s general objective death on the cross for the sin of the whole world
    subjective- Christ’s particular death for the individual applied when God imputes the individuals sin to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to the individual;

    If you want to go the ordo salutis route:
    1) God’s election of the individual in the divine decree’s
    2) The effectual call of the individual- God imputes the individuals sin to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to the individual (this has to be the first step, although the effectual call happens simultaneously, because God justifies the ungodly); the individual is regenerated by the Holy Spirit; the individual is given the gifts of repentance and faith; the individual believes; the individual is justified by grace alone (forensic imputation not ontological infusion) through faith alone on the account of Christ alone for God’s glory alone. This is all taught clearly in the scriptures alone.

    You will have to give me some time to back up these things in the Lutheran confessions.

  32. John Yeazel says:


    In the meantime, I would still encourage you to read the Scott Clark article in the Lutheran theololgical journal that I linked and the debate on the Lord’s Supper that Rube linked. They both are worth taking the time to read and listen to.

  33. RubeRad says:

    Note: I do recommend listening to that debate, but it is not on the topic of universal objective atonement vs subjective particular atonement, it is on the topic of real physical/local presence vs. real spiritual presence of Christ in communion.

  34. Echo_ohcE says:

    Dear John,

    Thanks, that’s helpful. I’m putting my reply at the bottom, because it’s just too confusing with all the various threads.

    I’m speaking of this:

    (John said) “objective- Christ’s general objective death on the cross for the sin of the whole world. Subjective- Christ’s particular death for the individual applied when God imputes the individuals sin to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to the individual.”

    Here’s where I think the rubber meets the road. The Reformed distinguish between the revealed will of God and the secret (decretive – related to the decree) will of God.

    For example, God can say that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Eze 18:23, 33:11) on the one hand. But he can also say to Pharaoh that God raised him up just to strike him down, to use him to show his power, for he has mercy on whoever he wants and hardens whoever he wants (Rom 9:17-18).

    We know that Scripture cannot contradict itself, yet it appears that these passages (along with countless others that we could have chosen) do in fact portray contradictory messages. How will we reconcile these seemingly contradictory passages of Scripture? We have to confess that we believe what the Bible says, not just our favorite passages, but ALL of it. So we can’t just accept the one and reject the other. We have to embrace all of what Scripture says.

    So we distinguish and say that Ezekiel speaks of God’s revealed will, while Paul speaks of God’s secret divine decree.

    Jonah provides a perfect illustration of the revealed vs. secret will of God. He tells Jonah to tell the people of Nineveh that in 40 days the city will be destroyed. The fact is, the city was not destroyed. So was Jonah LYING to them? And if so, wasn’t he lying precisely by saying what God told him to say? After all, if we believe that God is sovereign, that he decreed all things that come to pass, then we have to also believe that it was never God’s intent to destroy Nineveh, but rather to bring the city to repentance through Jonah’s preaching.

    God’s secret decree was that the city would be spared. That was always his intent. But he SAID through his prophet that the city would be destroyed. It was a threat. But it was no empty threat. The city TRULY would have been destroyed had they ignored the prophet’s words. God truly meant it when he said that they would be destroyed. It was a very sincere threat. This is his revealed will. This is how God revealed himself to the people of Nineveh, as the God of heaven and earth who was furious at their sin and was about to crush their city out of existence.

    But all along, God knew that that self revelation – that very sincere self revelation as the Judge of all the earth – would drive these wicked sinners to repentance and he would spare the city.

    It helps to distinguish between the temporal and the eternal.

    The decree of God is from all eternity, before the foundation of the world. It’s the plan for all of history, every little detail that takes place. As Jesus said, even a sparrow can’t fall to the ground apart from the will of the Father. And when I say everything, I mean everything. The very hairs of our head are numbered. Even our sin and the fall were decreed by God.

    But the revealed will of God is how God reveals himself within time and space (temporal). Here, God reveals himself to unrepentant sinners as being angry at their sin, and then showing his kindness and mercy when they repent (as a result of being exposed to his wrath). While from the standpoint of his eternal decree, God brings about everything that happens on the one hand, on the other, from the standpoint of his revealed will, God REACTS to the actions of his creatures: now as furious Judge, now as Merciful Forgiver.

    In fact, the distinction between his revealed will and secret will flows from the fact that God HAS acted from all eternity, yet IS acting within time and space. Since he is eternal, he transcends time and space. He is not bound by time and space, but exists apart from it, not bound by past, present and future, not divided in his existence, but rather experiencing one all encompassing eternal present – all times and all places all at once. But even this is only a shadowy, human understanding of the nature of God. And while he is outside of time and not bound by it and has decreed all that will come to pass from his time-transcendent standpoint, he also acts within time, revealing himself to us in certain ways in order to help us to understand him with our finite and fallen minds.

    Thus we say that whatever we know about God can only ever arise to the level of analogy. If we say God is angry, it’s analogous to our anger, but different in a way that’s a mystery to us. We can talk about his transcending time, yet we can never truly grasp the significance of this. We can say that the Trinity is three persons yet one God, but the harder we try to wrap our minds around this, the more confused we get. We can sort of describe these things, but we can’t understand them the way God understands them.

    To some, this distinction between the secret and revealed will of God just looks like rational gymnastics. But actually we have to make these kinds of distinctions, because to understand the eternal, time-transcendent God, we have to say certain things, but to understand the God who acts within time we have to say OTHER things. We cannot talk about the one without also talking about the other, lest we become imbalanced in our thinking. The Bible speaks of both, so we must always speak of both, keeping both in tension and remembering that there is much mystery to God and his ways.

  35. Bill says:

    It is very dangerous to be tied to denominations. Paul chastise the Corinthians because some boasted of following Paul and some Apollos..Today we have the same problem with calvinists, and lutherans.. I’d like to hear christians saying they are christians, it is harmful to unity of the body of Christ for anybody to claim to be a lutheran, or calvinist / reformed.and thus set up a barrier against another christian brother for whom Christ died. I have no doubt that there are christian believers in both the lutheran and reformed traditions, so why attack a christian brother or even highlight doctrinal differences that are irrelevant to the salvation of a sinner?

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