Calvin’s Birthday

On this day 500 years ago, John Calvin was born.

Calvinism is quite popular these days in the theology a great many Christians.

Why do you think this is so?  Do Calvinists have a bchosen. by johnblack!etter understanding of the Christian faith than do the rest of us?

What is the main difference between Calvinists and Lutherans?

50 Responses

  1. Why do you think this is so?

    It has an intellectual non-emotional appeal to it & is not a fluffy religion. It initially seems to get away from decision based theology, but in reality it is the father of decision based theology.

    Do Calvinists have a better understanding of the Christian faith than do the rest of us?

    No. Calvinism has more heterodoxy in it than any other block group. There are more under the broad umbrella of Calvinist than any other. E.g. There are Calvinistic/Reformed Baptist as well as Reformed Reformed, Calvinistic Methodist, etc… There is no such thing as a Lutheran Baptist, there’s a reason for that – its orthodoxy versus heterodoxy, and heterodoxy by its very definition does not “have a better understanding of the Christian faith”, in fact it is wrought with errors and heresy.

    What is the main difference between Calvinists and Lutherans?

    In an nutshell: Theology of Glory versus Theology of Cross.

  2. The difference is simple, Steve…us Calvinists are right while you guys…I’M KIDDING.

    If you ask many of your Lutheran readers what a Calvinist is you will get a pretty consistent definition. However, if you ask a group of like-minded evangelicals from a Church of Christ, Methodist church, Free-Will Baptist, etc. you’ll get a different definition of what a Calvinist is. Calvin seems to be a target for many different churches and I find that interesting.

  3. Larry, I’d like to know more about your Glory vs. Cross notion.

  4. Roger,

    Read Forde’s treatment on the subject. That’s the best I can point you too. Also, a new one by Deuschlander.

    That should help.



  5. Roger,

    I also forgot, go to the root of the subject and read Luther’s HD. That’s the BEST starting place.


  6. No such thing as a Lutheran Baptist. I love it Larry! I think I will use it. Really does go to show that Lutherans are much more concerned about the sacraments doesn’t it.
    Now, could you please give me the three page response to why Baptists and Mormons seem to be kissing cousins?

  7. Roger,

    I think you are right, Calvin is the target for a great many churches.

    Lutheranism really has never caught on. It is a radical grace that leaves many feeling too free. Nothing to grasp a hold of that will cement their Christianity, their faith, but a Word and some pieces of bread and sips of wine, and a bowl of water.

    For many, that just doesn’t cut it.

  8. I’ve actually thought of writing a book called, “Why Do You Want Grace to Be So Hard?” For some reason, there are folks out there who will tell you what grace is…and then tell you what you need to do in order to get it.

  9. Steve wrote:
    “It is a radical grace that leaves many feeling too free”

    My, those are sweet words!
    Who the Son sets free, is FREE INDEED!

    Roger Wrote:
    “I’ve actually thought of writing a book called, “Why Do You Want Grace to Be So Hard?” For some reason, there are folks out there who will tell you what grace is…and then tell you what you need to do in order to get it”.

    Bullseye! I spent years, like the Israelites in the wilderness, not getting why church was full of that, the text of the New Testament ceaselessly arguing with what I was being told. Then I read Luther’s commentary on Galatians, and realized why there had been such a problem. Sadly, so much ‘christian’ theology amounts to no more than a snare to prevent us from walking in His amazing Grace.

  10. I’ve written on this before, but try as I might, I still cannot realy understand Calvinists. Calvin (and other reformed folks) take much of Augustine literally, and sometimes to extremes. The focus in Calvinism – besides the obvious predestination thing – is that Calvinists believe that God’s chief motivation is to protect his own glory.

    Luther, on the other hand, not only moved away from Augustine (while keeping some Augustinian thought, as everyone in the west has) but moved further than Augustine, and discovered God’s love. Luther took an approach similar to the Eastern Orthodox in discovering that simply God is love; that is his motivation. God’s plan is to redeem creation, not just a select few “chosen.” And, in Luther there is the concept of deification (theosis) – that many is destined to become Christ-like, not just rescued from depravity.

    So, is my inability to comprehend the attraction of Calvinism due to my Lutheran upbringing?

  11. Most calvinists will at times quote Luther as supporting their ideas. It is true they are both “reformed” in nature but they have subtle but major differences. One major difference is some of the hills that Calvinists die on… some of the hills calvinists will die on Luther is completely silent on because he does not think they mean a hill of beans to the application of Christ in man.

    Also, they are major areas of emphasis that Calvinists ignore about Luther has at his core..

    In theory, they are maybe not all that far apart… in practice and application they are light years apart.

  12. Just to support that Calvinism produced and still is producing more heterodox ideas even today, please read H. O. J. Brown’s Heresies.

    Brown who himself was Reformed was quite impressed that it is very rare for Lutherans to produce innovative heretical ideas. When the BoC came up, 8000 pastors/theologians signed it.

    Just look at the number of confessions the Calvinist camp has produced. You get Belgian, Heidelberg, Westminster, Helvetic etc. etc. Not to mention the Calvinistic Baptist side which has London, Philadelphia etc. et.c This shows you the flux which American Evangelicalism has inherited. And it is still in a state of flux. Still unstable after all these years.


  13. The largest difference I see having been a Calvinist is the focus in making a study or discussion of scripture.

    To a person a Calvinist will go on at length on the Sovereignty of God. He or she will go for hours and the only time Jesus crucified is mentioned is to point out it was not for all sinners.

    Far be it for a Lutheran to doubt the Sovereignty of God. However, instead of that being the focused we have Christ and him crucified. It is important to point out to our Calvinists that Jesus did that Soveriegnly. This shows God’s mercy and grace on sinners which of course noone forced him to have this attitude toward sinners.

    Sovereignty is an important attribute for a god to have. It is not at all good news for the Turk proclaim their god allah as having sovereignty. But their invented deity is neither merciful or gracious. Unfortunately to listen the way some of my Calvinists put it YHWH is not all that merciful or gracious in choosing who would go to hell.

    Christ have mercy!

  14. I consider myself a Calvinist and Christ certainly died for all sinners. Christs death was sufficient for all. In fact one drop of His blood was sufficient for the sins of every human that ever lived. However, His death is only effective for those that believe. If Christ death was effective for every sinner, no one would go to hell. Since Christ death is sufficient for…and available for all people…all people are sincerely offered the gospel and can have their sins forgiven if they wanted too. This is a muli-intention view of the atonement. Christ is savior of the world…. especially the elect (1Tim 4:10). His death provided complete atonement for those He chose, and also provides common grace and a sincere offer to the world.

  15. This conversation is above my head. I say that so it is known that I’m not trying to trap with my question, which is using absurdity to clarify, but trying to understand.

    Howard said:

    It is a radical grace that leaves many feeling too free”

    My, those are sweet words!
    Who the Son sets free, is FREE INDEED!

    Does this mean I’m free to kill my neighbor? Remember I’m not asking if it is a sin, and I’m also not doing it so that grace can abound but, in the end can I rest in the grace of the work accomplished on the cross?

  16. The synergism of Calvinism becomes increasingly obvious, and why only Luther truly understood the true and real depth of the bondage of the will. At the end of the day Calvinism’s view of God and man’s ability is functionally no different than all semi-pelagians including Rome herself. This is precisely why Luther saw antichrist in both the Pope and the enthusiasts (God within-ism) which the later includes all protestants outside of Lutheranism. This is how Calvin withholds the Gospel from people and the root of his Gnosticism in which grace is signified and sealed or shown forth only in the sacraments, a grace that somewhere else takes place.

    Two parts:

    Part One:

    1. Let’s start with the basic reason why Luther stood on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper the way he did and rejected Zwingli (and Calvin by extension as is clear in Luther’s last confession and condemnation shortly before his death. It boils down to the Word. The question is “why did Luther see the Pope and the enthusiasts (like Zwingli and Bucer, and Calvin by extension) as the same? Because both groups see the Holy Spirit operating without the Word (and Sacrament which is Word in the element). The issue is where is the Holy Spirit really operating. Luther would say only in the Word and Sacrament which is a physical Word, the Word is put into it, primarily the Gospel. And on face value, the Pope and Calvin would agree, in fact all Christians would say “yes” to that on its face value. But this is another issue of you cannot just leave it at face value, like asking ANY Christian named group, “do you believe the bible is the Word of God and the Gospel”, “yes well of course”…even a Mormon answers yes to that. The Arians of the arian heresy even spoke of God the son being human and deity on face value – but it was deception because once you pealed apart their idea of deity one finds that they meant “holds the title of Lord” but not really in essence and substance God. This is how ALL heresy operates, it cloaks itself under “similar sounding language” but when pealed apart is utterly opposite and the enemy of that which it is cloaking under. E.g. Rome WILL say to you we are saved by grace. Peal it apart, but not by “grace alone” and not by “grace as the disposition of God toward sinners alone” but a substance or infusa of grace (not all that different than most baptistic ideas of grace). So we have to peal apart what it means that the Holy Spirit operates ALONE and ALWAYS and SINGULARLY in the Word and Sacraments, ESPECIALLY with Calvin, he’s the most tricky here.

    Luther saw in the Pope and other reformers that “enthusiasm” or literally “God within-ness” that is signatory of all false religions and the devil. It is the marker of the fall of man. Adam and Eve were the first enthusiast. Rather than attend to the Word of God and the sacramental things of God (the trees that had the Word attached to them) they left the Word for the serpents false word to seek within their own reasoning and emotions God, to know good and evil for themselves, what is God hiding from us, a seeking of the secrets of God within to see the unrevealed mysteries of God, the original Gnosticism if you will, hence the “enthused” turn from the extra nos inward and based upon reason and/or emotions seek “God” within. As a side the term enthusiasm originates from the Greek terms “en” “theos”, “god within”. So they turned FROM the Word to WITHIN themselves.

    The tie to the Pope and the other reformed. The Pope and the college of cardinals see that they are the source of the Holy Spirit ultimately. He “interprets” scripture and issues its understanding via the “Spirit” ex cathedra. So you see that there is a kind of plausible deniability here, he can say he does so via the Word of God, it is used as a kind of prop or excuse to insert his own interpretations. He really leaves the word of God, calls his interpretation “of the Holy Spirit” and bingo, the enthusiasm. This is of course once seen Satan, antichrist and fairly obvious. There’s the cloak of the Bible but the real interpretation is the enthusiasm via the fallen nature from Satan. We see this in its most gross forms say with Mormonism and gross Charisma and Pentecostalism. It’s more obvious in those, they take the Bible and say “by the Spirit” and in that disconnected amalgamation come up with “from God”. Pentecostalism and the Pope are no different. Where it gets harder to see is with Zwingli and Calvin because they “come closer” to the Word. Yet the KEY thing is the disconnect, not just how far or close one is to the Word on this. Where it reveals itself most strongly with Zwingli and Calvin is in the Sacraments and predestination and the whole “sufficient/efficient” enthusiasm talk. Here’s how it is discovered. Luther said the Spirit NEVER operates without the Word (and that means the sacraments too). What he means is the Holy Spirit ALWAYS operates there, whether anyone believes it or not! If the ENTIRE world rejects it, the Holy Spirit is never-the-less really and truly there ALWAYS, in both the Word and Sacrament. He’s ALWAYS in the Gospel preached, the Gospel of baptism, and the Gospel of the Lord’s Supper…it matters not one wit if anyone believes it or even rejects it. In fact to reject it is not proof that the Spirit didn’t decide to operate then, but a FACT that the Spirit REALLY DID operate and was there. Unbelief has one thing in common with belief, an objective true and real object in which it rejects and not just an idea or “offer” (to use Calvinistic language). Yet the enthusiast sees that X person did not convert in baptism, which Calvin explicitly reasoned, and therefore concludes the Spirit operates “elsewhere”. Here is the subtle disconnect between the Word and the Spirit that Luther saw as common between the Pope and the other reformed, and indeed the hallmark of antichrist from the very first fall. While many can see the disconnect most clearly with say Mormons, it becomes a little harder under Pentecostalism/charisma, a little more difficult under the Pope and yet a little more difficult under Zwingli/Calvin. Because each of these has a more or less closer of further away disconnect between the Word and the Spirit. Yet, again, the KEY common factor is the disconnect not the distance! This is how the devil gets men at varying levels of disconnect to steer away from the Word and Sacraments and back INTO themselves to find God. Hence we hear of in Calvin and his successors which includes both Reformed and Baptist and Methodist to name a few that the sacraments are some kind of sign and seal only of the offer of a grace elsewhere given. Thus, they place rebirth and regeneration somewhere else than in the Sacraments, and since the sacraments are simply physical Word, physical Gospel they place conversion, rebirth, regeneration and election for that matter somewhere else than in the actual Word itself where the Spirit truly and really is ALWAYS, even if that Word comes from the mouth of Judas or the devil himself. A point Luther makes as an analogy to drive this home is that he is commanded by the Word itself to reject even Peter, John and Paul if they give another Word or another Gospel which is not, and accept the real Gospel EVEN if it comes from the mouth of Judas himself. Here we see how Luther holds forth the Word ALONE and the Spirit always in that Word ALONE, and truly “stays in the Word of God” and not in front of, in back of nor to the side of it where the devil’s false word hangs out. The Spirit thus does not work nakedly immediately on the soul (Calvin et. al.) but ALWAYS via the means of grace. When the seed of the Word is cast indiscriminately, it is in fact ALWAYS the Word, ALWAYS the Spirit and ALWAYS effective, even when the ‘birds of the air (demons)’ take it away, even when the ground ultimately rejects it. And faith is utterly LOCKED up and with that Word and the Holy Spirit, there is not nor ever is initially or 50 years down the road a “faith” without the Word.

  17. Part Two:

    2. The Gospel REALLY is truly the power, the dynamite. Paul is not being metaphorical when he says in the beginning of Romans 1 “I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of life”. No he is being deadly literal. E.g. if you ask me, “What is the power for that car over there”. I would reply, “the engine is the power”. I am not being metaphorical, I am being literally, the ENGINE IS the power. This is Paul concerning the Gospel, and make no mistake he means the critical “for you”, as Luther said if you have not heard that if that “for you” is not there, you have not heard the Gospel nor are you converted.

    The blessing of suffering! No wonder Paul lauded suffering, not in and of itself but what it brings, to show the Gospel and thus GIVE the power, literally, unto eternal life. What Calvin and other theologies cannot do is answer the ultimate form of suffering. That suffering? When God appears to be the enemy. Calvin would have been the false friends and deluded councilors in Job’s case, the enthusiasts in Job’s situation! When God is the enemy to one, Calvin is nothing but a pond of crickets and frogs! Why? Because his sacramental theology, which is really not sacramental theology, is at the end of the day empty signage of a grace elsewhere that was given (the enthusiasm). But under this kind of suffering, when God appears to be the enemy who pursues the worm (me/you) to hell, to the very brink of utter despair and thus the gates of true hell from which there is no escape, when this happens, Calvin is thrown down utterly. AND we see just why Paul could laud in suffering, find this paradoxical joy in the midst of immense pain! For when in this suffering a man or woman is brought unto this utter despair, to the door step of the chasm of hell itself, THEN the Gospel is seen as the what Paul ecstatically hardly able to contain himself, “…for the Gospel is the POWER”, literally, “unto ETERNAL life”. Here we see why Luther said ‘where there is forgiveness of sin there is also salvation and eternal life’.

    E.g. Many ex-baptist and ex-reformed will see this. When under these false words one is brought to the very brink of utter despair. And for example in Baptist doctrine on baptism one cannot find the Gospel in baptism. For in such it is ultimately nothing more than an “obedience toward God”, God does not work, or always work (the Holy Spirit) in baptism (the enthusiasm disconnect from the Word, that is the sacrament that has the water and the Word). But recall Luther’s small catechism. What is baptism? It is the Word put into the water and thus we have, ALWAYS, a baptism and this is literally life giving water thus combined. Without the Word we only have mere water. And with the Word we ALWAYS have the Holy Spirit really and truly operating, not just “sometimes” (Calvin). Now the Word is really there in the water in Baptist baptism, but it is glossed over with the foul doctrine of demons that basically says, “no it is not, baptism does not regenerate, baptism does not bring the Spirit, baptism is merely an ordinance, etc…” So to THAT suffering believer, God appears to be the enemy pursuing the worm to hell, no hope of conversion or salvation but utter despair, baptism has been glossed over by the devil’s tongue and too appears to be another enemy. And thus thoughts of rebaptism, rededication and so forth come up. Then along comes Luther with the PURE Word, who chisels off the Satanic scum that has glossed over the life giving Word of Gospel in the waters of baptism and says, “God WORKS in baptism, HE GIVES you (every time objectively, whether you have faith or not) His mighty name, when you were baptized HE CALLED you specifically by your name…”, when one hears that Word, the Gospel it literally GIVES eternal life. It really gave it to start with before you heard, but the Gospel’s power revealed under that intense suffering of God appearing to be the enemy is literal power unto life, a “let there be light”! Here we see the suffering and joy of Job otherwise hidden. Here we see how God’s alien work of wrath, bring low down to hell, killing before making alive works in this life giving Word. Here we see why Abraham, Job and a whole host of other saints could cling to the naked Gospel (in Word and Sacrament) EVEN when God seemed to be the enemy. Even when God sends Satan, as in Job, or via heterodoxy false doctrine be the Pope, Baptist, Zwingli or Calvin, He sends them as a loving Father and gift.


  18. Dan,

    If you kill your neighbor (and you are in Christ), you are free from God’s condemnation.

    You are not free to comit sins, though. But you are free from your having to obey God’s Law FOR your righteousness.

    The price will be paid for that sin in the here and now, no one is exempt from that, including Christians. But God will not hold that sin against you because Christ died for that sin along with all the others you will comitt.

    We are not to sin, but if we do we have an Advocate.

    Thanks for stopping by and contributing, Dan.

    – Steve

  19. I’m new here for the first time. Where to start?

    I’m not Calvinist nor Lutheran, though I’m familiar with both faith traditions. I am very much a supporter of John Wesley’s teachings and yet am very drawn to the Eastern Orthodox faith at this time.

    Wesley’s sermons on Predestination (sermon 58) and Free Grace (sermon 128) strenuously oppose Calvinism. I know the danger of Calvinism having been in a Reformed Baptist church for a decade.

    Why are folks attracted to Calvinism? I think because the TULIP ties everything into a concise package without any need to deviate or think outside that box. There’s a security in that somehow.

    Another reason I think some are drawn to C, has to do with the same kind of thinking in Manifest Destiny. The folks who believed in that philosophical/sociological system were able to ignore the native Americans and confidently stride forth toward their goals without any pangs of conscience. Calvinists (or should I say CONVINCED Calvinists) can unabashedly and without a twinge of doubt or guilt, spout forth their doctrine and believe that it glorifies God more than any other Christian doctrine. They can stand on the ‘L’ of Limited Atonement and take some sort of pleasure as if they are sharing in the pleasure of God, that the love, grace, and mercy of God are limited and Christ was damning the non-elect who never had a chance for redemption to begin with. And those who are not prone to scrupulosity can be consoled that God did not choose to damn them to hell for eternity. Those prone to scrupulosity, however, may think that even if it should be that their faith is false and they are revealed to be a reprobate, that they should still give God the glory in their own damnation.

    I could never be a Calvinist inwardly, and NOW I can say whole-heartedly that I cannot be a Calvinist in any fashion, for I could not tell ANYONE the good news that, “For God so loves YOU that He gave His only-begotten Son that if YOU believe in Him, YOU will not perish, but have everlasting life.”

    In Christ’s Immeasurable Love,


  20. Steve,

    You said, “If you kill your neighbor (and you are in Christ), you are free from God’s comdemnation.”

    I think a murdering Christian, or an adulterous Christian, or a pedophile Christian, are oxymorons. Unlike a Calvinist, I think Scripture makes it clear that a Christian, one who has tasted of the Holy Spirit and been regenerated can resist the Holy Spirit and grieve the Holy Spirit to the point of falling away from the faith.

    One who commits such a serious sin as murder cannot be IN CHRIST when he is committing such a wicked deed. It is not God, nor the nor the Spirit-filled believer in Christ who murders. Rather, it is the devil who is at work WITHIN this person, regardless if he/she professed a faith in Christ at one time.

    Therefore, unless such a one who commits murder does not repent, (and this means truly turn from his wicked ways) then he indeed is under condemnation by his own choosing. For such mortal (deadly) sin as murder cannot be committed with any assurance by one who calls themselves a “Christian” supposing that Christ will condone such behavior. Will not this person outrage the spirit of grace and risk the loss of his salvation? What is fear of God but that we should RUN from wicked deeds that imperil our souls?

    And so it is that I pray often, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.


  21. Darlene,

    Welcome to the blog and thanks for your thoughtful comments!

    Do you think that a Christian could ever be angry at their brother?

    The Lord equates this with murder.

    I think you are right about repentance. But all of us committ sins on a regular basis. While murder may be a really bad one as far as society goes, for righteousness sake it is on par with gossiping, or any other sin.

    My point was that Christ died for ALL our sins, and that in Him “there is now no condemnation”.

    I like your prayer, Darlene, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner”. That is one prayer that ought never go out of usage.

    Thanks, my friend!

    – Steve M.

  22. I think it’s key to remind ourselves of the teaching of Romans 1& 2, where we are ALL concluded, without exception, as Sinners, unregenerate and woefully beyond any hope except via the route of totally unmerited mercy. The JOY of the Gospel is that is EXACTLY the manner of mercy God has given to us and our world in the Redemption that is in Jesus Christ – that is what saves us and frees us to live, by grace, and to know that we have peace with God through that redemptive work, and through that ALONE. The propensity of religion is to take our attention from that liberty, to become bewitched by a falsehood of ‘good’ or righteousness by some other means, but such misery divorces us from the truth once delivered in order to focus upon Christ, the one author and finisher of our faith, by means of HIS Incarnation, life, death and resurrection. Now we, the rescued, my come and find that mercy, in this, our time of need.

  23. There is an inherent liability built into all our efforts to explain our reading of Scripture, including our placing this or that reading under a given title (Calvinist/Lutheran). Personally, I find value in both, and yet I’m neither.

    All have a shallow end in their pool of knowledge.


  24. Darlene,

    Whosoever believes will be saved according to Scripture. So I don’t understand why you cannot use John 3:16. I’m not certain you understand Calvinism. Can you tell me in your own words where the Bible teaches libertarian free-will?

    Election does not send anyone to hell. Instead, election saves a great multitude of people who would of otherwise have gone to hell. To these people, God gives grace. To the sinners who go to hell, God gives justice. God owes sinners no mercy of any kind, only condemnation; so it’s a wonder that He should choose to save any of us.

  25. Having actually been a Reformed confessor a point should be made. “Calvinism” in the broad sense of the term is ALL over the maps with no ubiquitous confession, it is highly heterdox, the broad sense, and chalked full of heresies. In the truest narrow sense, as in John Calvin whose name the brand is, such folks as “reformed” or “calvinistic” Baptist are not truly Calvinist and they themselves do not truly understand Calvinism. They are more or less TULIP lovers and at that a greatly reduced version of the full “TULIP” as it where. John Calvin himself would have never admitted any Baptist, not even the most “reformed” of their brand as anything less than heresy. The LBCF would have been to Calvin, and rightly so, a heretical confession of faith and primarily based on the issue of the sacrament. As the WCF states very plainly, for example, “it is a GREAT sin (not mild or small, but GREAT sin) to not baptize your children”. Why today that in many WC-ing churches such as PCA Baptist are permitted membership and communion is a sign of not perceiving the Word of God correctly and rather than calling heresy heresy and fleeing from it, coming out from such men as Scripture demands and commands is really a sign of the times of the great falling away growing as time continues to march onward toward the end or last day (which no man knows when). Rome is not the only “Great Whore of Babylon”.

    The problem with Calvinism and in Calvin himself (the logical conclusion his excessive focus makes) is that it ascends high flying by way of fallen human reason into the deep mysterious of God and thus attempts escape the Cross and as Luther says “looses the Revealed God and thus looses the Hidden God”. It also has a gross failure to see that the primary condition of man, his fallen nature in Adam as the real sin and sin nature to which all acted out sins in all of humanity in all of time without exception to any one single human being is acted out from that very nature for which Christ’s death utterly effectually expatiated. All men were created in and from Adam and no other, there is not another category of man created. In its high flights into the deep mysteries of God it looses the fact that Christ died for all the world and that very much means that very original sin and sin nature to which the acted out sins come. Thus, Christ DID DIE IN FACT for the sins of the world, His death was utterly effectual and not just hypothetically so, nor sufficiently so only theoretically for all. It is as Luther says when God’s grace saves, it is God’s grace alone that does so, and when men do not believe this it is based upon men alone. The paradox is left as is and not attempted to be resolved by fallen human reasoning usurping the Word of God. In fact the Cross by its very nature DEMANDS faith in the face of human reason. Further, ALL articles of faith are hidden from reason or emotion without exception, and likewise without exception receive, perceived and apprehended by faith alone. All attempts to “resolve the tension” are nothing less than men not bearing their cross and throwing off of the Cross of Christ which demands strict faith alone to be lived by, in the face of human reason, nature, and emotions or affections. Thus, all explanations of “efficiency” versus “sufficiency” are nothing more the Crossless false christs and men not desiring to bear their cross given them so that they live in that naked tension of faith alone in the Word alone.

    The Hidden God is utterly hidden to all but faith, as is the church and all articles of faith as Sasse points out.


  26. Larry, m friend, I need the 3 sentence summary still. :-).

    • CoG,

      1. Sure, in a paraphrase of Sasse, “If one goes wrong with the Sacraments, one will (necessarily) get the rest of Scripture wrong.

      2. Luther saw that the tapestry of Scripture is one unit, get as much as a thread wrong and it all falls apart. (this is the same as #1).

      3. Any theology, ANY, that separates the Holy Spirit from the Word (which includes necessarily the Sacraments), such is as revealed when one states the Holy Spirit operates sometime in the Word and Sacrament and sometimes not is a tearing asunder what God has bound together and thus #1 and #2 result.

      Three sentences.



  27. I am going to attempt to summarize Larry in my own words since he has some good points.

    “The problem with Calvinism and in Calvin himself (the logical conclusion his excessive focus makes) is that it ascends high flying by way of fallen human reason into the deep mysterious of God and thus attempts escape the Cross and as Luther says “looses the Revealed God and thus looses the Hidden God”.”

    What Larry is saying here that quite often Calvinism leaves the cross behind. In my experience this may not be true in theory of the calvinist but it seems to be very true in application of some, but not all, calvinists. Steve and I were on a BLOG and making comments where the theoretical part we could probably agree with but as soon as they tried to apply it they joined the common theological, religious ranks in leaving Christ behind in application. As steve once said the “Devil is always in the details” when this happens. I dont think Steve or myself are allowed to make BLOG comments there anymore because we don’t agree with them fully. But then again, when it comes to religious elitism its usually a one-sided conversation anyways.

    Here is my take on it. I know some calvinists (5 point TULIPers) that can maintain a Lutheresque theology of the cross and continue to do so. Tim Keller is a good example– Tim is bringing back a Lutheresue view of the Presbyterian Church but is also a 5 point TULIP guy — he just does not make it his main focus. I also know some high Christology of the Cross Arminians. I could probably attend Churches of any theology of the Cross preacher, but they are unfortunately hard to find in the Lutheran, Calvinist, or Arminian camps these days.

  28. Howard, you hit the nail on the head — or at least eluded to it when you said “ALL included without exception”. Romans is being spoken to by Paul as a mature Christian Church or common body of believers. Many people want to separate the mature and immature as they see themselves as more mature, more sanctified than other believers when they interpret scripture. Others misinterpret Romans as they see some scripture for justification and some for sanctification. When they do this they miss the points Paul was trying to make for the entire Christian Church in the book or Romans.

    Luther saw this religious problem and called it religious adultery. He saw both worldly and religious sin in man and called people out in it. The net output of Luthers was a focus on the new Covenant because the old covenant of the law was weak and powerless (Heb 7:8)

  29. Sorry, the verse I quoted above was Heb 7:18, not Heb 7:8.

  30. Hey Darlene,

    Thanks for coming to Steves BLOG, You make some great points.

    I think it is scripturally true that Christ died for very atrocious sins of men. Unfortunately, man sees some sins as socially worse than others where God sees the sins of all men as very bad. For example he says even looking at a woman lustfully is considered adultery. All sins are absolutely against the holy character of God. But Jesus came to rescue sinners and this is how God shows grace and Mercy. The Gospel, the good news of Christ, is seen as the power of God for all growth in the Christian life (Galatians when Paul confronts Peter for not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel).

    However, man has a social singradation scale making some sins, and some idolatry socially more acceptable than other sins. For example engaging in the elder brother sin (religious pride or pharasaical sin) usually goes overlooked in Christian circles.

    Thanks be to Christ for what He did for us because I know I can’t do it on my own.

  31. I just like to make a comment on Lutheranequing Calvinist.

    Indeed, the Calvinist I like is the one who is a functioning Lutheran.

    But here is my point, well, if you are a Calvinist picking up cues from the Lutherans, then why not subscribe to a confession you can confess?

    What is the point of being a Calvinist but here and there you are making modifications or putting a slant or spin in your Calvinism?

    Ever since Calvin tried to modify Lutheran theology, his followers have been in the business of modification. Take the case of Federal Vision folk, they see the vapidness of Calvinistic take on the sacraments and they try to correct that but they just want to go a hairs breath to the finish line and not cross it. The finish line is where Lutheran doctrine is, hence, if and when they do cross, they really have to become Lutheran. Attachments are hard to break.

    I say this as someone who used to confess the Heidelberg catechism. What made me unhappy with it was its weak take on the Sacraments, yet Scripture is more strong and firm when it comes to these subjects.


  32. Hey LP, Good comments. Forgetting about the sacrament vs ordinance thing here.

    Tuned in Lutheran purists like to confess a theology of the cross and keep a Christocentric view of scripture and keep that central. Calvinist purists like to profess the providence or glory or sovereignty of God and keep that central. The calvinist would never say they do not have a theology centered on Jesus and the Lutheran would never say they deny the sovereignty of God.

    In my opinion, the real issue comes in when you apply your theoloical MO (mode of operation). The problem with the BLOGS I have encountered that are calvinistic, professing Gods sovereignty is they use Gods sovereignty as a coersion to change a persons behavior in a legallistic way. These coersions never work because they never affect the heart and they never go after idoloatry or replace worldly idols with something better,,,, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    The Gospel changes people top-down, inside-out or God down, affecting the heart, affecting behavior. Man will twist his theological stance to try to change people outside in. Mans method is power over others, The gospel method is power under and the method of Jesus Christ.

    Some, not all, of the calvinistic BLOGS I have encountered have been an interesting mix of using Gods sovereignty to have a power over others.

  33. Larry, Larry , Larry!!!!!!!!

    2. The Gospel REALLY is truly the power, the dynamite. Paul is not being metaphorical when he says in the beginning of Romans 1 “I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of life”. No he is being deadly literal. E.g. if you ask me, “What is the power for that car over there”. I would reply, “the engine is the power”. I am not being metaphorical, I am being literally, the ENGINE IS the power. This is Paul concerning the Gospel, and make no mistake he means the critical “for you”, as Luther said if you have not heard that if that “for you” is not there, you have not heard the Gospel nor are you converted.

    Gospel is seen as the what Paul ecstatically hardly able to contain himself, “…for the Gospel is the POWER”, literally, “unto ETERNAL life”. Here we see why Luther said ‘where there is forgiveness of sin there is also salvation and eternal life’.

    Amen Amen Amen!!!!!!

    The Gospel is “The power of God”

  34. Did I say Amen to Larry!

  35. Ahem… “I am of Luther!” “I am of Calvin!” (:

    What typically sours both is their ‘Third Use’ of the Law and mingling of the Two Kingdoms, as is the majority view within every other tradition.


  36. Matthew,

    I think the 3rd use was a Melancthon thing.

    This is one Lutheran who thinks the 3rd use is bunk.

    There is no need for it since the 1st and second uses of the law inform us (the Christian, and everyone else) what we ought be ‘doing’.

    We know exactly what to do. The law is written upon our hearts.

    We just flat out refuse to do it!

    • Exactly, it was Melancthon and it is not surprising that it is rooted in the sacraments. Melancthon really betrayed Luther after his death as has been shown on the sacraments. This is why he, Calvin and Bucer (Calvin’s teacher) were so close. Thus, it is not a surprise at all that third use shows up in Melancthon just like it did with Calvin. Bucer, Calvin’s infuence, was fairly well known for his pietism. AND not surprisingly the famous (antichristic) “Ordo Salutis” of the Puritans can be directly traced back to Bucer himself.

      It goes back to the saying of Sasse in which he observes prophetically that if you get the sacraments wrong YOU WILL get the rest of Scripture wrong. Get these wrong, ever how small it is, and works righteousness is soon to follow.

      And as usual it’s not “because Luther said so”, but WHAT he said, the Gospel, theology of Cross in all things. If Benny Hinn preached, confessed and taught what Luther taught (which is code for what the Bible proclaims), then we’d be quoting Hinn. He doesn’t so we don’t.

      One cannot have the pure Gospel BE PURE and not have the Sacraments as instituted by Christ simultaneously. Since Calvin et. al. do not have the sacraments as instituted by Christ, ultimately their Gospel is not pure and reveals itself somewhere (usually in predestination or somewhere there about).


  37. CoG, thanks for the welcome.

    I seriously considered becoming Lutheran (Missouri Synod….is there any other?) in ’07. However, I backtracked in history and ecclesiology and have since been drawn to the Orthodox faith.

    I have journeyed through many waters in search of the faith tradition that seemed to represent the Apostolic Tradition most fully. It has been a painful process of inner turmoil and angst, yet at the same time a discovery of the incarnational life and deeper understanding of the Holy Mysteries (sacraments). Theosis is so closely connected to the Methodist teaching on imparted grace and entire sanctification, which I find refreshing. I believe Wesley would have become an Eastern Orthodox Christian had he traveled to the East.

    The Reformation and what has developed from that has become a disillusionment for me on many levels. Try as I may, I cannot be a Reformed Baptist (though once I was a member of one of these churches). Try as I may, I cannot be an Assemblies of God Christian, though I attended one of these churches at one time. And to find a Methodist Church that truly reflects the teachings and zeal of its founder is nearly impossible! No matter what the listing under Protestantism, I find it is lacking in the Apostolic teaching and in Apostolic succession. Yet, so much of me is still culturally and traditionally Protestant.

    The sad truth is that schisms abound within Protestantism at a phenominally rapid rate. This dilemma is one that confounded me to the core. It came to pass that I wondered when the church I was attending would have their split,…next month, next year, when? And over what – praise bands versus traditional hymns, taking Communion with wine and a wafer or grape juice and a loaf of bread, teaching the Sunday school lesson from Warren’s Purpose Driven nonsense or William Young’s emergent Shack?

    I cannot but help to be drawn to the ancient church, the one that uses St. John Chrysostom’s Liturgy. The one that honors St. Irenaeus, St. Athanasius, St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Jerome, the blessed Martyrs, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through the Church.

    And so it is that at one and the same time I am compelled to go forward and yet am stuck in my tracks. I cannot be a Protestant of any flavor in good conscience and yet shedding the misconceptions and errors that have accumulated over the years is not an easy endeavor.

    Sometimes prayer and fasting are the only recourse. And yet it should be that prayer and fasting are the initial impetus that spurs one on to godliness.


  38. Darlene, I have a great respect for the Eastern Orthodox Church, and see one of the great benefits of the Orthodox church is that it remains free of Augustinian influence; in fact, it is the only Christian tradition where Augustine is not a controlling influence (and Descartes, too, for that matter).

    I have a great respect for Luther as well; he isn’t “protestant” enough for most current-day evangelicals, and if I recall, he was influenced by some Eastern theology as well, also teaching theosis (which leads some fundamentalists to question whether he was Mormon!).

    That being said, I believe every tradition has some error (some much more than others!). The challenge is to find a tradition that you can deal with, not necessarily one that you will agree with 100%. I know many converts to the Orthodox who are happy there; for sure, there is much to appreciate.

  39. Alden: “I believe every tradition has some error (some much more than others!).”

    Reply: Of course…it’s people like us building such structures. (: The best is a mix of gold and straw.

    Steve: “I think the 3rd use was a Melancthon thing. This is one Lutheran who thinks the 3rd use is bunk.”

    Reply: Yes, I’ve heard he played some part in this. I’m with you on this one, brother! In things redemptive…it’s ALL Gospel (A to Z).

    Sadly, we all too easily turn our eyes, with confidence and hope, unto something other than Christ, even those things that pertain to Him but are not Him. Believers too tend to messiahnize most everything, including our systems.


    • And…let us remember our stay here is always within something of a glass structure (house). And…the Lord knows we are all REAL good at throwing the first stone!

      Damn those Calv-erans! (:

  40. Thanks Matthew!

    I guess I am a pretty good rock thrower, too.

    • Yeah, and if you toss one my way…I’ll be sure to rocket it back at you! (:

      I know debate counts for something, but you know…I get real sick of it sometimes! ):

      From where I’m sit’in…there’s more reason to have confidence in Christ alone, than in my figuring out who else to listen to (in lock-step!). Much of this gets old after a while, regardless of how important our knowing the specifics of Truth is.

      Funny thing is…the more talk doesn’t necessarily equal the more heard, especially for those of us who are rather settled in this way or that. I’d much rather spend the bulk of my efforts trying to convey “whatever” to those who have found reason enough to genuinely listen, rather than speaking past one who fares well enough without my beating him over the head with some ‘fine point.’

      “Will you disown me if I fumble about in a thing or two?” I have to ask myself this when either I or someone else has an ax to grind. And this become particularly revealing (ax grinding) when we resort to “Well you know…I once was one of those and ain’t no longer. Thus, you’d do well to be like me, regardless of whether or not you are able to read the Scriptures in this way or that. Now, just drop that talk about conscience and do what I tell ya. ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?!”

      Steve, I appreciate the charity that accompanies most of what I’ve read of yours here. Thank you! That’s one of the reasons I keep coming back…even if I think you’re wrong about one or two things. (;

  41. Matthew,

    I imagine I get a few things wrong, now and then. Once in awhile I’ll say something to my pastor about the faith and he’ll give me a look like ‘where did you get that from?’

    Thanks ve to God that we are not saved by our good doctrine! (But it is important, nonetheless).

    Yeah, we’ve got a pretty good bunch of folk that stop by here and lend their thoughts. Once in awhile somebody’ll get a little rough (including me) but it is rare.

    We appreciate you stopping by and adding to the discussions, Matthew!

  42. The greatest sign of the over all dreadful apostasy of our day and age is this idea that defending the truth is the evil, in spite of Scriptures clear clarion call to do so.

    The Scripture NEVER ONCE calls us to “find the tradition you can deal with” in fact not only does it not positively allow for it, it negatively damns that kind of thought thoroughly and rebukes in the harshest of terms from the OT through the NT. Rather it calls us to discern the truth, defend the truth, separate out from divisive spirits who do not hold to the sound doctrine (which presupposes orthodoxy as opposed to heterodoxy), and to utterly avoid such heresies.

    Here again one cannot let fallen affections and emotions, any more than fallen human reason over throw the revealed Word. There is an acute difference in “throwing a stone” in judgment over sin versus defending the faith. The former presupposes that the Gospel is not sufficient and thus the stone is thrown in judgment over sin. The very context that verse is used in demands no less in which a woman is accused of adultery and about to be stoned, Christ comes and says, “I forgive you” (absolution by the way is the Gospel) and says, “he without sin may cast…etc…”. While the latter defends to the death that which gives the forgiveness that comes from for THAT VERY REASON, for without it, the pure Gospel and the Gospel that can ONLY be found in the sacraments instituted according to Christ cannot allow for the very “I forgive you” from Jesus whereby the stone throwing is halted. If the Gospel is not thus defended then the former, “throwing a stone”, must and will ensue.

    It is as Luther said (and Paul, and all of Scripture for that matter), faith NEVER gives in, it draws the sword immediately and fights immediately, it is instantaneously utterly against all that is against Christ and Him crucified. Love on the other hand never fights and gives all. The former here is done (faith’s utter war) so the later here (love’s utter giving) may and can happen. And the later cannot occur as long as the former gives in by any means including “find the tradition you can deal with”. There were many so called traditions in the new testament church and NONE of which Paul ever said “find the tradition you can deal with”, rather he and the other Apostles said of such heresies that arise from within to get out of them, depart from them, do not allow them into your house.

    One MUST understand that denominations only exist because heresy exists, but that does not translate into there being no church out there that is orthodox in her confession which is against what Christ said that the gates of hell will not prevail over His church. That, the later, does not mean that battle will not ensue, in fact it is promised the church until the end of time, peace is not. Those who say “peace, peace” are not from God nor do they speak for Him as He Himself indicates in the OT. As soon as the Gospel bears light, Satan readies his forces to stamp it out. Where there is no battle one may well assume the devil holds the keys to the door of that church.


  43. Thanks for being welcoming to others who are not Lutheran, Steve, and trusting the Lord to open ears and eyes.

    Larry’s comments here make my point…one’s thinking they are heard for their much speaking. Enough said. (:


  44. Larry, you mentioned the synergisms of calvinism. Man cooperating with God to create a certain holiness would be my definition of synergism. I think your right it creates a VERY obvious opening and avenue for works based righteoussness.

    Scripture contrasts sin with “being in the spirit”. The synergist wants to contrasts sin with manly efforts of obedience. These might be subtle differences with major implications. One completely loses the power of the gospel and the other captures the power of the gospel.

  45. I forgot to say RIGHT ON Larry!

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