Thesis Thursday

OK, so in the last post on lecture 14, I quoted what I saw as Walther’s legitimate (although Lutheran-biased) beefs with Calvinism. Here I’ll quote some straw-mannery in which Walther confuses “The Reformed” with “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.”


As regards the difference between the Lutheran and the Reformed Church, my friends, the Lutheran people, at least in former times, imagined that the whole difference was this, that in reciting the Lord’s Prayer in German, the Lutheran put the word “Father” first, the Reformed the word “Our” and that in the Lord’s Supper, wafers, which are not broken, are used in the Lutheran Church, while the Reformed churches use ordinary bread, which they break at the distribution or before. For this horrible ignorance the unfaithful ministers of our Church are to be blamed. They have shamefully neglected their people.

In view of this ignorance it is, of course, not surprising that these poor Lutherans finally yielded to overtures for a union with the Reformed. Recently, however, a change has taken place: the violently enforced establishment of the United Church in the very country where it was attempted first, in Prussia, has brought about a reconsideration by our beloved Lutheran people of the points of difference between the Reformed and the Lutheran Church. …

[insert last week’s quotes here]

What is the reason, then, that in spite of these facts many who claim to be Lutherans have allowed themselves to become enmeshed in the unionistic net and, while claiming to be Lutherans, calmly remain in the Union, which is nothing but an emergency device? They are in a Church that has not been established by Christ, but by an earthly king; a church in which not all speak the same things nor hold the same views, as the apostle requires in I Cor. 1; a Church in which there is not that one faith, one Baptism, one hope, which the apostle, Eph. 4, predicates of the Church of Jesus Christ. What is the reason? It is nothing else than the notion that, spite of the many and grave errors of the Reformed Church, there is an agreement between it and the Lutheran Church in the principal points. It is claimed that the relation between these two churches is entirely different from that existing between the Lutheran and the Romish Church. There is truth in the claim mentioned last; but if the Reformed Church were in agreement with us in the main points — a consummation devoutly to be wished! — it would speedily reach an agreement with us also in the few points of minor importance. 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.

The thesis which we are approaching tonight invites a discussion of this subject

Thesis IX.

In the fifth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law are directed, not to the Word and the Sacraments, but to their own prayers and wrestlings with God in order that they may win their way into a state of grace; in other words, when they are told to keep on praying and struggling until they feel that God has received them into grace.

The doctrine which is denounced in this thesis is common to all the Reformed and to 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. The pure evangelical doctrine of the way in which a poor, alarmed sinner arrives at the assurance that God is gracious to him is not heard among these people; this way is not shown by any of these sects….

We gather from what I have stated that the faulty practice under review is based on three awful errors.

In the first place, the sects neither believe nor teach a real and complete reconciliation of man with God because they regard our heavenly Father as being a God very hard to deal with, whose heart must be softened by passionate cries and bitter tears. That amounts to a denial of Jesus Christ, who has long ago turned the heart of God to men by reconciling the entire world with Him….

In the second place, the sects teach false doctrine concerning the Gospel. They regard it as nothing else than an instruction for man, teaching him what he must do to secure the grace of God, while in reality the Gospel is God’s proclamation to men: “Ye are redeemed from your sins; ye are reconciled to God; your sins are forgiven.” No sectarian preacher dare make this frank statement. If one of them, for instance, Spurgeon, does do it in some of his sermons, it is a Lutheran element in the teaching of the sects and an exception to the rule. Moreover, he is being severely criticized for it as going too far.

In the third place, the sects teach false doctrine concerning faith. They regard it as a quality in man by which he is improved. For that reason they consider faith such an extraordinarily important and salutary matter.

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5 Responses to Thesis Thursday

  1. RubeRad says:

    Again, I think Walther is guilty of lumping the Calvinists together with all the other branches off our great tree trunk. Although mid-1800’s, is Walter reacting against the 2GA as a whole? This stuff is not the “Modern Reformation” I am familiar with.

    And that reference to Spurgeon is pretty funny. You just can’t win if Walther’s gonna play that way…

  2. Zrim says:

    Kind of like lumping all unorthodox in with cults. But if we don’t like being called a sect and synonymous with Methodists and Baptists maybe we can begin to feel the Mormon’s pain a tad?

  3. John Yeazel says:

    Walther says this: “In the first place, the sects neither believe nor teach a real and complete reconciliation of man with God because they regard our heavenly Father as being a God very hard to deal with, whose heart must be softened by passionate cries and bitter tears. That amounts to a denial of Jesus Christ, who has long ago turned the heart of God to men by reconciling the entire world with Him….

    In the second place, the sects teach false doctrine concerning the Gospel. They regard it as nothing else than an instruction for man, teaching him what he must do to secure the grace of God, while in reality the Gospel is God’s proclamation to men: “Ye are redeemed from your sins; ye are reconciled to God; your sins are forgiven.” No sectarian preacher dare make this frank statement. If one of them, for instance, Spurgeon, does do it in some of his sermons, it is a Lutheran element in the teaching of the sects and an exception to the rule. Moreover, he is being severely criticized for it as going too far.

    In the third place, the sects teach false doctrine concerning faith. They regard it as a quality in man by which he is improved. For that reason they consider faith such an extraordinarily important and salutary matter.”

    Is there anything in these 3 points made by Walther that resembles what is taught in the Westminster confession of faith, the Heidelberg catechism or the Canons of Dort? The only conclusion one can come to is that he is misrepresenting the Reformed faith. His 3 points resemble what the revivalists of his age were teaching more than Reformed covenantal theology.

  4. RubeRad says:

    That is my point exactly; his shots fall far wide of the Westminster standards or 3 Forms of unity.

    Since he does speak of the “sects of Reformed origin”, I think it is more charitable to give him the benefit of the doubt and consider him confused about the distinctions between non-Lutheran protestants. In fact, if he changed his line to “the actual Reformed are pretty OK (apart from well-understood issues a,b,c), but here’s what I think of all those sects that have branched off from them”, then we would obviously have little issue. But by Walther’s words, he pretty clearly wants to just lump us all together.

    And who knows, maybe the situation in Walther’s day with the Reformed church was similar to today (i.e. in need of some semper Reformanda), where the true Reformed legacy is hard to find among the general evangellyfish/revivalistic/pietistic impulses.

  5. Echo_ohcE says:

    Or perhaps his point is to say, “Here’s where the Reformed error leads.”

    But in response, we could say that Lutheranism gave us pietism.

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