Orthodoxy vs. Heterodoxy=Comfort vs. Doubt

We Lutherans have often talked about avoiding heterodox churches (see Pieper especially). We have often talked about "correct" doctrine. While the above is true so far as it goes, I submit it may be even more helpful to speak of heterodox churches as churches which lack the assurance of the complete Gospel, and which therefore lack comfort and cannot give proper pastoral care. It is more helpful to speak of churches which lack Gospel doctrine. Here is what I mean as some examples.

Many churches use the name "Lutheran" but differ over what that means. Even those churches that say they hold to our Confessions as expressed in the Book of Concord differ in the interpretation of our Confessions. So instead, consider what some are saying and practicing and instead hold up the litmus test of the Gospel and comfort and assurance. Consider:

*Some "Lutheran" churches hold to contemporary worship, saying that it is preferred by outsiders to draw them in. But this kind of "worship" manipulates the emotions instead of simply demonstrating our confession of the Gospel. Does this bring comfort? Or does it instead cause us to rest on our feelings? What if we do not "feel" God?

*Some "Lutheran" churches do not see the Pastoral Office as instituted by Christ specifically, but instead see it as on the same level as other offices where the church has freedom. Some of these have said that, in a group of women, a woman could give and consecrate the Sacrament. Does this give comfort, or doubt? How would a woman function in Persona Christi?

*Some "Lutheran" churches have the Sacrament every other week, or even only once a month. Does this give comfort? What are parishioners to think about the Sacrament?

Indeed, these are only a few examples. But we need a modern day Reformation in the Lutheran Church. 

Orthodoxy and comfort and assurance are hard to find. It is worth moving or driving far distances. The Gospel is often like a passing rainstorm.

If you find a solid, comforting, orthodox Lutheran parish, it is worth far more than gold. Cling to it like your life depended on it.

Because it does.


Response to Revealing Truth on baptismal regeneration Part 1

 Recently Sean Christie of a discernment ministry, Revealing Truth did a hit video aimed at discrediting the Lutheran understanding of baptismal regeneration in response to a video on the topic by my fellow Confessional Lutherans, Steven Kozar and Daniel Long. His video can be found here:


The video he was responding to can be found here:


Sean made the claim at the 35:24 mark of the video (almost at the end) that those who support baptismal regeneration hold to those who believe and are not baptized will not be saved view of Mark 16:16. Complete strawman of not only what Confessional Lutherans affirm but what historic baptismal regenerationists affirmed as well the first 1500 years of church history.

This article will deal with this strawman concerning Mark 16:16.

Confessional Lutherans (as well as historic baptismal regenerationists) do not teach that those who lack a chance to be baptized are lost even if they have faith. Lutherans  in regards to Mark 16:16 teach 1) baptism is a means of grace to save through faith 2) lack of chances to be baptized don’t damn, but only unbelief.

He knew that to be a false claim about us since he admitted at the 0:42-1:03 minute mark  that in the prior edition of this video, he falsely assumed Lutherans hold to this and apologized for that. Yet, right near the end of the video, he repeat that false claim about our beliefs as if we hold to lack of chances to be baptized damns even believers? A claim he knew to be false? Sad.

What Confessional Lutherans affirm is that baptism is normatively necessary to salvation but not absolutely so.

How can that be?

To begin with, Confessional Lutherans affirm saving grace is absolutely needed to cause conversion out of fallen sinners who are otherwise bound by sin.

And we as Confessional Lutherans affirm God promises to use baptism as a means of this saving grace to give faith and rebirth.

To affirm God uses baptism as means of saving grace to give faith and rebirth isn’t the same as saying God always uses baptism as such.

God’s saving grace is absolutely necessary. A certain means such as baptism isn’t since we also affirm the word preached is just as effectual to give faith and rebirth. God isn’t limited to any given means, even Baptism where He attaches saving promises to, in order to give saving grace. He doesn’t limit or bound Himself.

The Augsburg Confession Article V put it this way:

“1 That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, 2 the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear 3 the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.”

Note we affirm in this confession that God works when and where it pleases Him to give saving faith through Word and Sacrament. In other words, He isn’t limited to either Word or Sacrament to give saving faith.

Colossians 2:11-13 treats baptism as means God gives faith and rebirth:

11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.

Romans 10:14-15 speak of the word preached as means God gives faith and rebirth as well:

14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Nor does being saved prior to baptism in the cases of via word preached as means one is given faith makes baptism less saving afterwards.

Remember, Confessional Lutherans affirm saving faith continually receive Christ’s forgiveness and salvation in Word and Sacrament, always by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Salvation isn’t a one shot deal in our view. We are being saved, not just were saved. 

 That accounts for Paul still having his sins washed away in baptism, through faith in Acts 22:16, despite already converting prior to baptism:

16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

The point is that Sean failed to actually interact with what we actually believe but claim to debunk our baptismal regeneration view ot Mark 16:16 by falsely claiming we hold to lack of a chance to be baptized damns even believers. In truth, he didn’t debunk anything but a strawman.

Let’s consider various Confessional Lutheran denomination statements:


“Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned’ (Mark 16:16). It is faith that saves; it is unbelief—not the lack of baptism—that condemns.”


“The LCMS does not believe that Baptism is ABSOLUTELY necessary for salvation. All true believers in the Old Testament era were saved without baptism. Mark 16:16 implies that it is not the absence of Baptism that condemns a person but the absence of faith, and there are clearly other ways of coming to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit (reading or hearing the Word of God).”

Here we stand.


Intuitu Fidei and the Formula of Concord

The Lutheran Church has always battled with each other in-house regarding various theological topics. Historically, there were numerous "controversies" that arose in our history. Many of these arose in the 16th century which led to the writing of the Formula of Concord. However, other battles occurred later in history, as American Lutherans debated fiercely over Section XI of the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord regarding election and predestination. One side argued for an election in view of faith (intuitu fidei) whereas the other side argued for an election that is a cause of faith. Or we could term this, an election that is unconditional. To this day, Lutherans are split on this topic. Both sides of this discussion claim that the Formula of Concord is on their side, and both have reasons for doing so.

To answer which side is truly the one that agrees with the Lutheran Confessions, it is vitally important that we go to the framers of the Formula of Concord and see what they had to say on the topic. While it is certainly true that both sides of this debate have an historical basis in Lutheranism, which one has the actual Confessional basis? Let us look at some quotes on the topic from the Formula's writers as well as quotes from later Lutheran scholastics.

To begin, we will look at some of the authors of the Formula. These men are: Martin Chemnitz, Jacob Andreae, Nicholas Selnecker, David Chytraeus, Andrew Musculus, and Christopher Cornerus.

Martin Chemnitz, the principal author of the Formula, writes this in his 1574 Enchiridion, directed to the Lutheran ministers in the Duchy of Braunschweig:

But does predestination only encompass salvation and not at the same time the persons who should be saved? Scripture includes in this article at the same time also the persons of the elect. For it ought not be considered equally as though God only prepared in general with his predestination, but did not think about the persons themselves who should be saved but left it to them to strive and seek to attain salvation by their own natural powers and efforts. But God in grace considered and predestined unto salvation in his eternal decree of predestination and gracious purpose each and every individual elect person who should be saved through Christ while He at the same time foreordained how through His grace, gifts, and working He would bring and preserve them in the salvation prepared in Christ. Does that election first happen when men repent and believe the Gospel, or does it happen because of their salvation foreseen from eternity? Paul says in Ephesians 1:4: "He chose us in Christ" not in time, but "before the foundation of the world," and in 2 Timothy 1:9 he says: "He called us to a holy calling, not because of our own works, but because of His own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." For the election of God does not follow our faith and righteousness, but precedes it as the effective cause.

Dr. Marin Chemnitz, Enchiridion de pradecipuis doctrinae coelestis capitibus (Leipzig, 1554) 1600, p. 210ff. See also Martin Chemnitz, Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion (St. Louis: Concordia, 2009)

Chemnitz also continues:

For those whom He previously predestined and ordered (quos praedefinivit et praedestinavit) He also called and made righteous, Romans 8:29ff. Augustine diligently discussed what Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4, that "He chose us," not because we were holy or became holy, or because He foresaw that we would be holy, but "He chose us in Christ," he says, and indeed "before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and blameless before Him." For election and the decree of grace is the effective cause of everything that belongs to salvation, as Paul confirms in Ephesians 1:11-12, 19 by writing: "Through Christ we have come to the inheritance that we were previously ordered to according to according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will so that we might be to the praise of His glory through whose powerful working we also believe" etc. And this election occurred before the time of the world, not in regard to our works, whether they be earlier, or present, or in the future, according to God's purpose and the pleasure of His grace. Romans 9:11: "Not from the merit of works but from the grace of the one who calls." 2 Timothy 1:9: "He called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His purpose and grace."...Therefore Paul also says in 2 Timothy 2:19 that this is the seal: "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from unrighteousness." And from that it is evident with certainty (certo constat) that none of the elect remains in that which is called ultimate unrepentance and unbelief (in finali, ut dicitur, impoenitentia et incredulitate)

Dr. Chemnitz, Enchiridion, p.211. sq. 215)

Nicholas Selnecker, commenting on Acts 13:48, writes:

This is written because that is the state of the matter. For God knows His own from eternity and He endowed with faith those whom He predestined to eternal life, through the word that they hear, and justifies them. But that He did not predestine all and endow them with faith is the fault of man, not God. For many men hear the Word in vain and despise the grace of God offered in the Word. But although God could make all those who are not willing willing, He does not do this; and He has most just and wisest reasons why He does not do it, which is not our matter to investigate. On the contrary, we are to give thanks with our whole heart that He has called us unto fellowship of eternal life through the preaching of the Gospel and enlightened our hearts by faith. And since Luke 13 uses the specific word (ordered), we should know that we are bound to a (Greek Word), that is, that we ought to judge and speak of election according to the order appointed by God in the Church through Word and Sacrament. We ought to ever hold fast to the truths (sententias) of this in the most faithful way, namely, that there are no elect apart from the amount of those called and that all those who persevere in faith in the agonies of death and in appealing to the Son of God are elect.

Later, Selnecker continues, answering the question "Is foreseen faith the cause of election?" He writes:

If justifying faith were our work, our nature (qualitas) and virtue, then this question would obtain. But because that faith is a work of God in us, this question is not needed very much, however to answer this question is not difficult. Election is certainly God's eternal resolution regarding the saving of men. This resolution of God is subject to (subjictur) faith in Christ, which God also Himself gives according to the order established by Him. Therefore foreseen faith cannot be the cause of eternal election whose result and effect is faith, as it were, in those of us born in time and which in time ceases when we die. If, then, foreseen faith were to be called the cause of election, the false delusion of our foreseen worthiness and merits not only of faith, as our quality, but also our other good works would capture our minds. God knows those who are His own and elected them before the foundation of the world. And the cause of this election is nothing other than the mercy and gracious goodness of God through and for the sake of Christ, the mediator, and of His merits, which must be grasped and apprehended by faith alone. This faith, because it is the hand or the instrument by which God's grace and Christ's merits are grasped, cannot be the cause of grace and election, but it is that means and tool by which we apprehend the grace and merits of Christ.

Nicholas Selnecker, In omnes epistolas D. Pauli apostoli Commentarius. Published by the sobn of Georg Selnecker, Leipzig 1595, fol. 213ff.

This should all be enough to see that the authors of the Formula themselves did not hold to election intuitu fidei. That being said, let us look at some other Lutherans, namely, as it pertains to the intuitu fidei.

C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the LCMS, was a staunch defender of the single predestination of Luther, Chemnitz, and the Formula. That being said, here is what he has said about some other Lutheran theologians who thought differently:

Our theologians intended to go in the safest way when they here employed the expression "intuitu fidei," that is, "in view of faith." With it, they wanted to avoid and escape the Scylla of Calvin's absolute predestination, and on the other side the Charybdis of the predestination by the conduct of man of Pelagius and all synergists. They were far away from wanting to correct in any way the pure biblical and symbolical doctrine of gracious election with that use of the dubious term "intuitu fide." Indeed, they held onto it fast nonetheless with complete earnestness and rejected in the strongest way that Pelagian and synergistic notion in the notion of gracious election. Therefore it would be irresponsible heretification [Ketzermacherei] to want to make these pure, outstanding theologians in the development and defense of the doctrine of our Church into false teachers, namely into Pelagians, at least semi-Pelagians or synergists, on account of that expression that indeed all too easily leads to misunderstanding.

C.F.W. Walther, Predestination, St. Louis, Concordia, p. 21.

The most careful and orthodox expositor of the intuitu fidei, in my mind, was probably Johann Gerhard, the brilliant Lutheran dogmatician. Let us briefly see what he has to say.

We do not say that faith is the meritorious or effective cause of election, or that God elected us on account of faith. Gerhard, quoted in Hannekin, Verae th. Synopsis, p.170

We do not say that predestination has its basis in the foresight of faith, but that the foresight of faith belongs to the decree of election. But there is a big difference between these phrases. The first expresses the meritorious or initial cause, the latter indicates only the ordering. Gerhard, Ibid. p. 175

Since the decree of predestination, which nobody can preempt, is limited by God Himself with a certain order, nobody can in the ordinary manner believe if he does not observe that original order appointed by God. The result of this is that all grace originally flows out of God's hand as that which steadfastly appointed and prescribed that order, so that whoever desires to obtain faith and be saved through it would use Word and Sacraments, which were entrusted to the Church. Briefly, faith is a gift and effect of the grace of the electing God, who not only made the decree about the salvation of believers, but also first ordained certain means of faith and of salvation beforehand, without which order nobody would either believe or be saved. Gerhard, Disputatt. Isag. p.726

It is not denied that out of sheer grace God predestined to the final goal and to the means those who should be saved, but the gist of the controversy is whether God first predestined some to the final goal according to an absolute pleasure, to which absolutely elect ones He first decreed to give the means through which He would lead them to the final goal. Gerhard, Ibid. 175

Many more quotes could be provided from both sides. From where I sit, however, it would seem that the intuitu fidei, while not falling into synergism - much less into Pelagianism - is not what the Formula is speaking of. This is clearly defended by non-Confessional writings and quotes from the authors of the Formula itself. Chemnitz and Selnecker certainly did not affirm intuitu fidei. That said, Johann Gerhard, one of the best Lutheran theologians to ever live, did affirm it. Yet he was very cautious and careful in his handling of it. He saw the slippery slopes and expertly avoided them.

Therefore, let us avoid pinning any labels such as Pelagian, semi-Pelagian, synergist, Arminian, or free willers on these solid Lutheran dogmaticians.



A Thousand! Always Literally a Thousand?

The word "thousand" is used quite liberally in Scripture. The biggest battleground regarding the word occurs at the very end of Scripture, in Revelation 20. I will endeavor to show that this word, although it certainly is the word for a specific number, is not always used to signify that exact number, especially in Revelation 20.

The first example I will give is from the Ten Commandments. The finale of the first commandment reads as such:

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. -Exodus 20:4-6 (ESV)

The ESV gets the gist here. Other translations render Exodus 20:6 as such:

"...but showing love to a thousand generations to those who love me and keep my commandments." -NIV

"...And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments." -KJV

"...but showing favor to thousands, to those who love me and keep my commandments." -NASB

The point here is quite simple. God says that he will show love, mercy, or favor unto thousands or unto a thousand generations (NIV). This means, quite simply, that God's love, mercy, and favor are complete and endless. It does not mean that after these generations are past his love stops. It is eternal and endless. Here we see, quite clearly, that the term thousand is used in order to signify totality or completeness or perfection.

Deuteronomy 7:9 says much of the same: Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God that keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. (ESV)

God's covenant and steadfast love are eternal, complete, and total. What happens to the 1001st generation? See the point? Scripture is not using the word thousand in a rigid manner here, much like Exodus 20.

Psalm 50:10 is another good example, saying:

For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. (ESV)

I mean, surely there are more than 1000 hills with cattle. What about the rest? Are they not God's?

This brings us to Revelation chapter 20.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. -Revelation 20:1-3 (ESV)

There are, of course, various ideas regarding this passage. I think there are some very good reasons to see this as a usage of the word thousand that is not rigidly literal.

First of all, it is Christianity 101 to confess that Christ defeated and disarmed Satan by his death and resurrection. Colossians 2:15 is an example of this.

He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (ESV)

Second, the power of sin is the law (1Cor 15:56), and Satan stands and accuses all believers before God day and night (Rev 12:10). But thanks be to God, for Christ has taken the law's curse upon himself, rendering Satan helpless in this regard (Gal 3:13). So much so that Satan cannot bring a charge against us (Rom 8:33).

Third, as we have endeavored to show, the term thousand can and is used in Scripture to mean a completeness or totality.

Fourth, the book of Revelation is apocalyptic in genre. It is not a literal timeline or book.

The picture Scripture gives us in Revelation 20 is of a chain. Certainly Satan is not on a literal chain. Yet he definitely is bound and hindered. The image of a chain is very apropos. Don't get near him! Christ defeated him and has already won! Why return to filth?

Hence, the best interpretation of Revelation 20 is simply this, that Christ defeated Satan at Calvary and Satan is now bound for the completeness of time until Christ returns. He has no power over the believer because Jesus already won. He is bound but not gone. He is corralled and beaten but not dead. Stay away from him!

Rest in Christ, God Incarnate who has decisively beaten him.



Election and Predestination: Luther and Calvin

Election and predestination have, throughout church history, provided a fertile theological battle ground. Every church body has a doctrine of it in some way. For our purposes, we will focus on the two Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin. The two magisterial Reformers in question took quite a different route when treating this doctrine in Scripture. To grasp the differences between the two, it is imperative to understand how the two Reformers approached theology. Reformed theologians love to claim Luther as an ally in this debate, yet Lutheran theologians have no interest in claiming Calvin. Why is this? Simply put, the two Reformers had a very different way of looking at this oft debated doctrine.

For Calvin, everything flows from God's decree in eternity past. That is to say, God, in his infinite wisdom, predestined some to life and some to perdition. Predestination is a very central and controlling theological topic in Calvin and the later development of Reformed theology. For Luther and later Lutherans, election is a cause of our salvation, but not the central controlling cause. As we will see, this entails a recognition of the hidden God vs. the revealed God.

Calvin on Predestination

By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death. -Calvin, Institutes, 3.21.5

So, for Calvin, predestination is a central doctrine through which Scripture may be interpreted. The sovereign and all-powerful God determines everything that comes to pass, specifically when it comes to salvation. In Calvin's thought, God has predestined some to eternal life (the elect) and some to eternal damnation (the non-elect).

Therefore, in Reformed Theology, God's decree is the beginning point of theology. Other doctrines regarding salvation flow from this.

Thus, we can see the logical formulation of the famous Reformed acrostic, the TULIP. The formulation goes something like this.

1. God predestined some to life and others to perdition. (Unconditional election)
2. Therefore, the Son only ransoms those given to life. (limited atonement)
3. Therefore, the Spirit only regenerates those whom the Father gave to the Son. (Irresistible grace)
4. Therefore, all of these (the elect) and only these receive grace and are kept until the last day (perseverance of the saints)

In Reformed history, the Remonstrants challenged this, putting forth a free will decision in place of unconditional election, thereby formulating 5 differing points of soteriology. This was debated upon and rejected by the Reformed Synod of Dort (1618-1619), which is where the famous 5 points of Reformed soteriology originated.

The Reformed churches, with their heavy emphasis on God's decree, have also speculated as to the logical (not temporal!) order of God's decrees. Depending on how the decrees are ordered, the emphasis falls on different syllables. For the Reformed, there are multiple theories here: Supralapsarianism, Infralapsarianism, and to a lesser extent, Sublapsarianism (4-point Calvinism where the atonement is unlimited).

All of this sounds very foreign to the Lutheran ear, and rightfully so. The simple reason is that Luther -and Lutheran theology- sees the Reformed manner of systematizing these doctrines is, in a sense, backwards. Certainly, logically speaking, the Reformed will argue that God's decree came first and so on. But here Lutherans appeal to the distinction between the hidden God and the revealed God.

For Lutherans, peering into the hidden God is a fool's errand. Instead, we ought to set our focus squarely on the revealed God, shown to us clearly in the person of Christ, and read the words of Scripture and believe them without trying to cram them into our reasoning. Certainly, Lutherans are not against reason. But we are against reason as means to go over and above clear passages of Scripture. Therefore, when we see a passage such as Titus 2:11, which states "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people," we see in it a clear proclamation by St. Paul of the gratia universalis, or universal grace - something Reformed theology rejects. This grace is given to us in Christ and his work, the fountain of all grace.

We also see sola gratia (grace alone) clearly spoken of in Scripture. This is a safeguard against synergism, which denies sola gratia in the same manner that Reformed theology denies gratia universalis. We see this doctrine very clearly in passages such as Ephesians 2.

All of this is to say, Lutheranism centers theology in Christ. We have a phrase we like to use: All theology is Christology. In short, we start with the revealed God, who is Christ, breaking into history for us. 

And Christ, truly and actually, is for you. His atonement is universal and the grace that delivers Christ to you is universal.

We also have quite a robust doctrine of predestination which agrees neither with the Reformed or the Remonstrants (Arminians).

Two other terms that come up very often in this discussion monergism and synergism. Monergism on a theological basis means that God alone saves, by himself. It means one work. This work is God's alone. Monergism is what is affirmed by adherents of sola gratia - Reformed as well as Lutherans. Synergism is a collaboration or a working together. The Remonstrants added a free will choice into salvation, insofar that God saves, but only in response to a person positively deciding to believe in Christ. Rome goes further and posits that justification itself is a result of faith plus works. Both the Remonstrants as well as the Roman Church are synergists.

Often, the doctrine of predestination gets roped into discussions between monergism and synergism, but this is not necessarily so. This is evidenced in Lutheranism to an extent as there are some Lutheran churches out there who teach election intuitu fidei (in view of faith) but are still solid Word and Sacrament monergists.

Whereas the Remonstrants called into question the Reformed doctrine of election on the basis of synergism and opted for a view of intuitu fidei, the Lutheran church is monergist through and through, but it is on an objective, Christ for you temporally in Word and Sacrament basis - whether one holds to election and predestination to salvation only (LCMS, WELS) or one holds to election and predestination intuitu fidei (ELDoNA).

We (Lutherans) see the Reformed as well as the Remonstrants as starting in the wrong place. Ultimately, they end up going round and round about free will choice vs unconditional election. The one denies sola gratia (Remonstrants) and the other denies gratia universalis (Reformed). These two doctrines are clearly revealed in Scripture, so the Lutheran church affirms both of them. 

As goes predestination, we affirm it is for salvation only (As an LCMS member and adherent to the whole Book of Concord, I affirm this as well) and is so sure and certain that the gates of hell cannot overcome it. Yet, we start with the revealed Christ, who died for you. And this grace given in Word and Sacrament is also for you. We needn't peer into the hidden God or peer into our own navels to affirm our election. In the first case, one can never be certain of their election by peering into the hidden God. Second, peering into our own navels will either lead to pride or despair.

Likewise, a denial of gratia universalis also will cause doubt, since grace is only for certain persons. Whereas a denial of sola gratia, the synergistic error, will also cause doubt, since grace is made effective by the willing of the person.

However, if Christ died a universal death, and grace is universal to everyone, and we are saved by grace alone, two things jump forth. The first is that we can know with absolute certainty that Christ is for us. The second is that we can be sure about our salvation in that God alone does the saving. This truly is salvation extra nos (outside of us).

In light of these things, our election is so certain that the gates of hell cannot overcome it.



Luther's Reformation: The Word is Jesus

 505 years ago, a German monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses for debate to the Castle Church door of Wittenberg, Germany. This was quite normal, as the door functioned as a community bulletin board. But little did he know that these 95 theses would spark a change in the entire Western World.

Luther's theses were not his mature thought, as he still had allegiance to the Pope and was still a loyal Roman Catholic at the time. But over time he would see that the Roman Catholic Church had abandoned the pure Gospel, and God would be pleased to use this man to bring the Good News to the world. Indeed, before Luther Jan Hus had come, and when Rome burned Hus at the stake Hus correctly claimed that another one would come and they would not be able to silence the Gospel.

But as Luther was opposed by Rome on one end, he was opposed by the Anabaptists and the Calvinists and the Zwinglians on the other end. While for Luther Rome had added to the Gospel, the Calvinists and Baptists had taken away from it. Rome had added works of merit, and the Baptists had taken Christ out of the Sacraments and turned them into mere ordinances or commands from God to merely remember a past event. The Calvinists had taken the “for you” out of the Gospel and turned it into amorphous categories of “the elect.”

Indeed, Luther's Reformation was all about the fact that the Good News is that Christ is God's Word to mankind, God's final Word. We have a gracious God in Christ, gracious for you in Word and Sacrament.

Consider Psalm 15, for example. Is this Psalm about who we are before God, trying to be those things which no one can truly be if he is honest, or is it about Christ? Christ is the One Who is characterized by the traits of Psalm 15, and only Him.

Christ is on every page of the Bible. Christ is in the Sacraments. Christ is in the Sermon, and it is not a morality lesson for us to follow, but it preaches Christ.

This was Luther's Reformation.

It was all about Jesus Christ.

Happy Reformation Day my friends.


The Reformation - Monolithic?

The Protestant Reformation was indeed an enormous event in world history. It had - and has - far reaching effects in the Christian Church but also in the world as seen through secular eyes. This post will explore how Lutherans and Reformed Christians view and interpret the Reformation. As you will see, the two divergent theologies do not see things eye to eye. Clearly we do not see eye to eye doctrinally, but as we will endeavor to show, the two sides do not see eye to eye historically either.

Within the broader context of the entire Reformation era, we can see there are in essence five major groups in play. These groups are the Roman Catholics, Lutherans, the Reformed, the Anabaptists, and the Anglicans. For our purposes, we will focus mainly on the Lutherans and the Reformed, and how they relate to each other as well as the Roman Catholic church. This is not to say that there is nothing worth learning about the Anglicans or the Anabaptists. Both of these groups were also present during this era, one being more conservative than the other, as Anglicans are quite clearly closer (for lack of a better term) to the magisterial continental Reformers than the excessively radical Anabaptists.

This post is not intended to be a sort of overall summary of the Reformation era. It is meant to address how each of these two major theologies of the Reformation view not only each other historically and contemporarily, but also how they relate to and see the Papacy and the Roman Church.

My observation through the years has been that the Lutherans and the Reformed view the Reformation era very differently. This is, as we will endeavor to show, very much due to a divergence in doctrine.

Reformed Views

For the Reformed Christian, the Lutherans and the Reformed are the two great churches that trace their roots back to this historical period. The contemporary Reformed Christian tends to see the Reformation as one entire reform of the church. For this reason, nearly all Reformed teachers have a deep admiration for the magisterial Lutherans, and specifically for Dr. Martin Luther. This can be shown in many ways.

First, there are many Reformed teachers and believers that tend to see Luther (not to mention St. Augustine of Hippo of the 4th and 5th century) as, to put it crudely, as a sort of proto-Calvinist. It is argued that Luther laid the groundwork and then Calvin and his contemporaries completed it. It is argued that Luther did not reform far enough by some Reformed adherents. Nevertheless, Luther is regarded by many as the fountainhead of the Reformed Reformation. Modern Reformed Christians like to point to certain aspects of Luther's theology in an attempt to demonstrate that Luther was indeed, for the most part, the beginning of the Reformed Reformation. Specifically, they will point to works written by Luther such The Bondage of the Will. Modern Reformed efforts have been made to cast Luther as a Calvinist in some ways. Here is one such example: "Double or Nothing: Martin Luther's Doctrine of Predestination" by Brian Mattson (the-highway.com)

If the reader indulges us here and reads Mattson's paper, you will notice a few things. First, per Mattson, Luther was clearly a double predestinarian in the vein of St. Augustine, which agrees with Reformed Theology. Second, Luther's magnum opus was The Bondage of the Will. (As opposed to say, the Small or Large Catechism or all of his works on Scripture and Theology) Third, Lutheranism rejected Luther's teachings on some things and followed off in another direction. These ideas that Mattson is trying to defend are incorrect when we look at the life, theology, and work of Luther.

Very few Reformed scholars and teachers have a disdain for Luther, as they view him as the primary figure of the Reformation, which is culminated with Reformed Theology. R.C. Sproul, a big name in contemporary Reformed Theology, is quite normative for the Reformed when he counts Luther as his most admired and favorite Reformer. Sproul gave numerous lectures on Luther, nearly always casting Luther in an admiring and positive manner.

Not all Reformed believers attempt to turn Luther into a Calvinist or proto-Calvinist, although it would seem to be the prevailing treatment and stance on Luther in the Reformed camp. As an aside, James Swan, a Reformed blogger over at Beggars All: Reformation And Apologetics (beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com) is in many ways a breath of fresh air, as he allows Luther to be Luther for the most part. To wit, he does not try to make Luther a Calvinist.

Because of these things, the majority of Reformed Christians (not all, Reformed casts a big umbrella) tend to not only be very positive and fond of Luther, but they also tend to be very positive of Lutheran Theology and Lutherans in general. They see us as part of the same Reformation and on the same team, so to speak. It is commonly asserted by Reformed teachers that Calvin and Luther were not that far apart (Westminster West is big in this regard. See writings by contemporary Reformed Theologians such as Michael Horton and R. Scott Clark. Much of their work and ideas are readily accessed online. See The Heidelblog | Recovering the Reformed Confession for example) and efforts are made quite often to find commonalities and link the two theologies together. Ther Lutheran teachers, on the other hand, see things very differently.

Lutheran Views

For Lutherans, both teachers as well as laymen, the Reformation is viewed very differently, and in this lay blogger's opinion, given the historical and theological documents, rightfully so.

Therefore, it is surprise to many Reformed Christians that Lutherans do not see Lutheran and Reformed as the two great theologies that sprung from the Reformation. Rather, we see these as two totally different theological movements. We see Lutheranism as the conservative Reformation. On the contrary, we see Reformed Theology as a radical Reformation - more of a revolt and the beginning of a new strain of Christianity; a new theology that departs from catholicity on many key doctrines. That is not to say Reformed Theology is as radical as say, the Anabaptists, whose modern offspring today would be sects and cults such as the Amish or the Mennonites.

To see the Lutheran perspective, one needs only to look at the actual historical attempts at ecumenicism between the two camps. There were numerous major events as well as theological documents that took place in the Reformation era that lend creedence to how we see the relationship or lack thereof between the two.

It is unfair to claim that these two camps did not attempt to unify. Numerous attempts were made. We can point to the Marburg Colloquy of 1529, where Zwingli and Oecolampadius met with Luther and Melanchthon to discuss theology. Other big names from the era were also present, such as Martin Bucer and Justus Jonas. The Colloquy was called by Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who desired a unified Protestant theology, mainly for political purposes. Luther was skeptical of this right from the start. Zwingli, however, desired this union and attempted to find common ground even where there was none. How can I make a statement like that about Zwingli? Zwingli later wrote a document that backed off the Marburg articles of agreement. In short, Zwingli and the Swiss camp were of the opinion that differences on the Lord's Supper should not prevent an allied political front with the Lutherans, over against Charles V and the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy. Luther, on the other hand, found this arrangement repugnant. Luther's aim was always doctrinal purity. This is evidenced when, at the conclusion of Marburg, Luther refused to extend fellowship to Martin Bucer, saying that they were "of a different spirit." Bucer, in his efforts, tried to continually work at finding compromise. Luther would have none of it.

Enter Philip Melanchthon. Melanchthon, as we know, was the author of some of the Lutheran confessional documents found in the Book of Concord. Specifically, it was Melanchthon who penned the Augsburg Confession of 1530, as well as the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, a defense written in response to Rome's response to the Original Augsburg Confession. Melanchthon is also responsible for the Confessional document entitled The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope. Melanchthon was indeed a very large figure in Lutheranism as well as the Reformation considered as a whole.

Melanchthon, however, later in life, became quite the compromiser and also fell into some theological errors, which were rejected by the final Lutheran Confessional documents, the Epitome and Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord. These Confessional documents were put together by second generation Lutherans, led by Martin Chemnitz and Jacob Andreae, among others.

This brings us to a couple topics. Where did Melanchthon compromise and where did he err? There are, as we will point out, a lot of different things going on here.

Melanchthon desired Christian unity. Nobody can say this goal, when considered by itself, is a bad goal. It is a noble one. However, the manner in which Melanchthon went about this has been rejected completely by Confessional Lutheranism.

The first compromise we will point to is the Variata of 1540. The Variata was, to put it simply, a revision of the Augsburg Confession that was meant to promote unity and acceptance of Calvin and Reformed Theology. In the Variata, the rejection of the Calvinist doctrine on the Lord's Supper is removed. The Variata is viewed in Lutheran circles as non-Confessional as well as compromising and erroneous. In other words, Lutheranism flatly rejects the Variata. So here we see Melanchthon compromising the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord's Supper in order to bring about more unity with the Reformed.

The second compromise we can point to is Melanchthon's attempt to compromise with Rome. Melanchthon was, sadly, the author of the Leipzig Interim of 1548, a document designed to compromise with Rome.

Reverend A. Brian Flamme is quoted,

"Long story short, the Evangelicals looked to Philipp for guidance and stability amidst the coming onslaught, but his efforts fell short. The Reformation church broke apart and Philipp fell out of favor because of his compromises with the Papists and Reformed on matters of ceremonies, Christ's presence in the Supper, and the role of human will in conversion." (Philipp Melanchthon - Lutheran Reformation)

Philipp was opposed by a group of Lutherans that came to be known as the Gnesio (genuine) Lutherans, who were in the main correct, although they were not above error either. Quoting the Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord,

"Matthias Flacius maintained that original sin is not an accident, but the very substance of fallen humanity. The Lutherans (including the Philippists) were practically unanimous in opposing this error. Accident refers to something that 'just happens to be there.' It is a characteristic that is not essential to a person or thing...In the Augsburg Confession, Lutheranism insisted that original sin is so deep a corruption of human nature that it prevents a person from contributing anything to his or her own salvation. After Luther's death Melanchthon suggested that a person can, and in fact does, cooperate with God's grace in salvation."

"Article I of the Formula of Concord, therefore, had to make clear what the Bible teaches. Since the fall, human nature is not sin itself, but it is sinful. The Formula wisely points out that to suggest God created sin would mean that God's Son assumed sin itself into divinity in the Incarnation. What is more, if sin is part of a person's very substance, then it too will be resurrected on the Last Day to spend eternity in heaven, an absurd idea, in view of Scripture."

So, in response to Melanchthon's compromise and addition of a synergistic cause in salvation, Flacius responded with his own error - to make sin part of the actual substance of humanity. The Formula sets forth the proper teaching, rejecting both of these errors.

If one takes the time to study the history here, they will see clearly that the common Reformed argument, that Lutherans followed Melanchthon and not Luther, is patently false. Confessional Lutheranism rejects the compromises of Melanchthon as well as his later errors after Luther's death.

In actuality today, it is the Reformed who generally are the ones who attempt to do the compromising with the Lutherans, insisting that we are not really that far apart from each other, and that Luther and Calvin were mainly on the same team, so to speak. Confessional Lutheranism rejects this line of thought outright, pointing to the doctrinal history of the two churches as well as the historical data that has been discussed.

We can also point to other historical documents that show we are not incorrect here. The Consensus Tigurinus is one such document. The Consensus was composed by none other than John Calvin himself in 1549. It can be found here: Consensus Tigurinus (1549) · BookOfConcord.org

In the Consensus, we see the following ideas set forth:

In article 16, we see the idea that the elect alone receive Christ. The reprobate receive nothing but bread and wine. In article 17, Calvin rejects that idea that the Lord's Supper conveys grace. In article 20, Calvin separates the benefit of the Lord's Supper from the administration of it. In article 22, Calvin asserts that to read the Institution of the Lord's Supper is done by "preposterous interpreters" and that they are figurative.

All of this coming from a man who tried to concoct a via media between Luther and Zwingli. Clearly, Calvin sees and rejects the Lutheran position.

In Summation

What Calvin, and all other persons who attempt to create unity between the Reformed and the Lutherans miss, is that this doctrine is so essential to our life and salvation that we will never compromise it in any way, shape, or form. In practice, those who attempt compromise on this topic are guilty of reducing the Lord's Supper to a secondary doctrine. We utterly reject this view. In short, the Lord's Supper, and everything that entails, is absolutely essential in doctrine. Memorialism is not the Lord's Supper. Nor is Calvin's theory of spiritual eating by faith. Unless Christ's true body and blood is also received orally, in your mouth, it is not the Lord's Supper. 

There have been historical attempts to compromise on this doctrine and combine the two churches. One such example was the Prussian Union in Germany. In fact, the synod of which I am a member, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, is a result of Lutherans rejecting the Prussian Union and emigrating to the United States, where they were free to practice Lutheranism, apart from Reformed Theology in the church.

These things are why, when Reformed teachers attempt to say that the Reformed and Lutherans are not too far from each other, we say, not so fast. In fact, we are miles apart. Certainly, there are similarities. But, how can we compromise and be in communion with a church that does not have a valid Lord's Supper because they reject precisely what it is and what it does.

This point cannot be missed. When certain Reformed teachers say we are really close doctrinally, two major things are in play. First, they are expecting Lutherans to accept their stance on the Lord's Supper, which we see as completely false and invalid. Second, they are betraying the fact that they really aren't that familiar with Lutheran doctrine and teaching, and probably have never read Lutheran treatments of these topics. This is betrayed every time a Reformed teacher links the Lutheran doctrine on the Lord's Supper with consubstantiation, a theory we flatly reject.

At the end of the day, these two theologies are two different churches. They started in different places by different persons. They simply happened to occur in the same historical era. The attempt at ecumenicism has been done ad nauseum, especially in the 16th century. They failed then and they are bound to fail now, unless one side or the other compromises on doctrine. Seemingly, it always seems to be the Lutherans who are being asked to compromise on the Lord's Supper and accept the Reformed doctrine as a true expression of the real presence, which we adamantly reject.

In some ways it's a shame we are so different on these things. Yet, this is how it has to be and there is no way around it without compromise on numerous doctrines which we as Lutherans consider essential to Christianity. We simply cannot play kum-ba-ya with theology we see as erroneous. Nor will we ever relegate an essential truth such as the Lord's Supper to a secondary status. There is a reason why the Lord's Supper is one of the six chief parts in the Small Catechism. It is that important.

So how does ecumenism look? Well, we certainly can work together in civil society for the common good. We certainly can honor each other in our vocations. We definitely can discuss theology with each other and do so in a friendly and Christ-like manner. The White Horse Inn is a fantastic example of this.

But let us not pretend that we are really close theologically or that we should be in communion. That is just dishonest. Let's be honest with each other. We are a long way apart, and we should not pretend that we are not.

We are fortunate at this blog to have numerous people here who have been on both sides of this fence. Generally speaking, Reformed Christians are a bit shocked and taken aback when they see how Lutheranism views the Reformation. And in some ways, I too think like a Calvinist. I like logic. I like everything nice and neat. And Systematic Theology in Calvinism does that. The same applies to lifelong Lutherans when they see how the Reformed see the Reformation. A friend of mine made a good observation that he shared with me. In post-World War II America, there was and is a sentiment that we all just need to put our theological differences aside and bind together to fight the Communists. But historically, this is not how it has been, especially in light of the documents and Confessions of the 16th century. We are, as a whole, in very concrete ways, guilty of allowing our American ideals and individualism effect our doctrine. We still put American flags by our altar sometimes and it certainly does not belong there. We can still be thankful that we are allowed to freely worship without deifying the state. Other nations are not as fortunate. May we pray fervently to get past this!

We can start by being honest with each other. Softening our stances to be ecumenical, is, to put it bluntly - sin. We are bearing false witness and breaking the 8th commandment. Let us therefore strive for honesty in our discussions. That is where we need to start.



Christology and Communion: It Matters. Part III

In this final installment we will wrap up our series on Lutheran and Reformed Christology and their respective doctrines of the Lord's Supper. To properly understand this rather large difference, we must hearken back to the Marburg Colloquy of 1529. On one side were the Swiss Reformers, headed up by Zwingli. On the other side were the Wittenberg Reformers, lead by Martin Luther.

In charity, the Germans and the Swiss Reformers agreed on numerous articles of faith. However, the one major point of contention was the Lord's Supper. Luther would steadfastly insist that Christ is bodily present in thr Eucharist, whereas Zwingli and Oecolampadius would deny such, instead favoring a memorial meal. But why?

The Swiss group, headed by Zwingli, put forth two main arguments. First, they would argue on the basis of John 6:63, that Christ forbids us to eat his flesh. Second, on the basis of the Ascension, that Christ is seated at the right hand of God and that his body cannot possibly be in multiple places (in the Lord's Supper) at one time.

The German group, headed by Luther, would not budge, nor entertain philosophical or mathematical arguments from the Swiss party. Luther stood fast on the words "This is my body."

Theologically, there are a few things going on here, which would come to light down the road. As we have spoken of already, Lutheran theology holds to a doctrine called the genus maiestaticum. Reformed theology rejects this. Second, we also must understand that both camps saw the phrase "the right hand of God" differently. Third, Reformed theology holds to a doctrine that states "the finite cannot contain the infinite."

For Lutheranism, due to the communication of the attributes, Christ can be anywhere at any time, because Christ is God. Wherever Christ can be by way of his divinity, there you have the whole Christ, both bodily as well as divinity, because Christ is one person. His divine nature is not, therefore, present by itself apart from his humanity.

The Reformed, and this extrapolates to Calvin and his successors as well, deny this. They claim that by nature, a human body occupies a finite given space. This is to say, as a local mode of presence, a human body is very finite and has a definite size and shape. Therefore, the communication of the attributes is limited to Christ's local circumscribed human body, and this ends up being a flat denial of the true bodily presence of Christ in the Holy Supper.

For Lutheranism, the right hand of God is everywhere. Why is this? Simply put, the right hand of God is a position of authority and rule and dominion. Lutheranism at this juncture appeals to Scriptures such as this,

St. Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

This is of course the Great Commission. Notice a couple things. First, Jesus says to the Apostles that "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." To wit, Jesus is the reigning sovereign king of everything and everywhere. He has all authority in heaven as well as on earth. Second, Jesus says that "I am with you always, to the end of the age." Thus, not only does Jesus say he has all authority everywhere, he also says, right before he ascends to heaven, that he will be with us always, during this age. He does not say the Holy Spirit will be with us always, although that is true as well. He says HE will be with us always, even now.

For Reformed Theology, this is not the case. In that theology, the right hand of God is an actual place in heaven where Christ will stay until he returns in glory. Therefore, he cannot be bodily present in the Lord's Supper. The Reformed Theologians refer to this by the term "ubiquity," which essentially means omnipresence. Thus, Christ, having a human body, cannot be omnipresent, and therefore, not bodily present in the Lord's Supper. Later, John Calvin called this ubiquity of Christ a "monstrous phantasm."

However, what both Zwingli and Calvin both miss is that nowhere does Lutheran theology claim a local presence of Christ's body and blood. Hence Zwingli's accusation at Marburg that Luther held to a local presence of Christ in the Supper was an attack on a position Luther did not hold. By local, we mean simply put, as Christ was while Incarnate. We do not go to Jerusalem and shake Jesus' hand or pose for photo ops with him, because he certainly did ascend and will not return on a local basis until his return in glory. However, Christ is God and he says the bread is his body. In other words, Christ is God and if he wants to make himself present in some other mysterious way, he can do so. You know, perhaps in and with bread and wine?

When Christ gave us the Lord's Supper and said "this is my body...this is my blood" they are to be believed by faith and not explained (Rome) or denied (Zwingli, Calvin) by use of human reason and philosophy.

We stick to the words of Christ. This is my body. The bread is his body. He feeds himself to us in our mouths. We do not need philosophy, as we have the sure final will and testament of the Son of God. This doctrine is far too important and vital to our salvation to ever be compromised in any way, shape, or form, lest we deny the plain teaching and words of God Incarnate. Any human attempt at a philosophy to explain in favor of or deny these words are true is subtraction, not addition.

The later Reformed churches, headed by Calvin, attempted to create a via media (middle way) between Luther and Zwingli at Marburg, but there simply is not one. Calvin would posit that we do receive Christ's body and blood, but it is spiritually by faith where we are lifted to the right hand of God via the Holy Spirit to partake by faith of the absent Christ. But this, seen through Lutheran eyes, is nothing more than a fancy rejection of the real presence. Reformed theologians like to affirm the real presence these days, but unless Christ is truly there, in, with, and under the forms of bread and wine with his true body and blood, it is in reality an affirmation of a real absence with no presence. For Christ does not say "This is my Spirit" or "The Holy Spirit will lift you up to partake of me" or something along those lines. He says "This is my body." Either the bread and wine are Christ's body and blood and go in your mouth or Christ is not present according to his institution. The Book of Concord says,

Epitome: VIII:17

Hence He also is able and it is very easy for Him to impart, as one who is present, His true body and blood in the Holy Supper, not according to the mode or property of the human nature, but according to the mode and property of the right hand of God, as Dr. Luther says in accordance with our Christian faith for children, which presence (of Christ in the Holy Supper] is not [physical or] earthly, nor Capernaitic; nevertheless it is true and substantial, as the words of His testament read: This is, is, is My body, etc.

And earlier in the Epitome, regarding the Lord's Supper,

Epitome: VII:10-16

The grounds, however, on which we stand against the Sacramentarians in this matter are those which Dr. Luther has laid down in his Large Confession concerning the Lord’s Supper.

The first is this article of our Christian faith: Jesus Christ is true, essential, natural, perfect God and man in one person, undivided and inseparable.

The second: That God’s right hand is everywhere; at which Christ is placed in deed and in truth according to His human nature, [and therefore] being present, rules, and has in His hands and beneath His feet everything that is in heaven and on earth [as Scripture says, Eph. 1:22 ], where no man else, nor angel, but only the Son of Mary is placed; hence He can do this [those things which we have said].

The third: That God’s Word is not false, and does not deceive.

The fourth: That God has and knows of various modes of being in any place, and not only the one [is not bound to the one] which philosophers call localis (local) for circumscribed].

We believe, teach, and confess that the body and blood of Christ are received with the bread and wine, not only spiritually by faith, but also orally; yet not in a Capernaitic, but in a supernatural, heavenly mode, because of the sacramental union; as the words of Christ clearly show, when Christ gives direction to take, eat, and drink, as was also done by the apostles; for it is written Mark 14:23: And they all drank of it. St. Paul likewise says, 1 Cor. 10:16: The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? that is: He who eats this bread eats the body of Christ, which also the chief ancient teachers of the Church, Chrysostom, Cyprian, Leo I, Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine, unanimously testify.

We believe, teach, and confess that not only the true believers [in Christ] and the worthy, but also the unworthy and unbelievers, receive the true body and blood of Christ; however, not for life and consolation, but for judgment and condemnation, if they are not converted and do not repent, 1 Cor. 11:27-29.

Here we have a short summary of the Lutheran doctrine, which is roundly rejected by Reformed theology. For further reading regarding this topic, I recommend the following:

1. Epitome of the Formula of Concord, VII, regarding the Holy Supper, and VIII, regarding the person of Christ.

2. Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, VII and VIII, regarding the same, fleshed out in much more detail.

3. This Is My Body by Hermann Sasse. This book is an historical account pieced together using primary sources from the Marburg Colloquy of 1529.

4. The Institutes by John Calvin, Book Fourth, chapter 17 on the Lord's Supper, which lays forth the groundwork for the Reformed doctrine.

Sadly, our two traditions, while certainly having much in common, will never be in communion with each other. The Lutheran church sees this as a fundamental doctrine and will never compromise it. This may sound harsh, but our stance is that Reformed churches reject what the Lord's Supper is, and therefore do not have a valid Lord's Supper. This does not mean we see them as lost or heathen or something like that. But we certainly do see them as heterodox not only on the Lord's Supper, but less so on the person of Christ as well. We hesitate to use the word heresy in this regard. We do see Reformed Christology as leaning towards Nestorianism, but falls short of full blown Nestorianism - save for the late Gordon Clark, who flatly said Chalcedon did not define their terms well enough and said Christ is two persons. But I digress.

May the Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ, lead us into all truth.



Christology and Communion: It Matters. Part II

In our first installment of this three part series comparing and contrasting Lutheran and Reformed Christologies and how they affect each tradition's doctrine on the Lord's Supper, we laid out a brief sketch of Lutheran Christology, drawing mainly from the Epitome of the Formula of Concord, section VIII, on the person of Christ. In this second installment, we will cover Reformed Christology, drawing from the Westminster Confession of 1646 and the London Baptist Confession of 1689. Since these two great Reformed Confessions agree with each other, we will be able to quote from either and know what both state. We will also draw from John Calvin, Huldrich Zwingli, and other relevant Reformed fathers.

As stated in the first post, we do not agree on everything Christological, but we do agree on large amounts of it. Unfortunately, where we do disagree ends up in doctrines that Lutherans see as vital to our salvation, whereas the Reformed tend to treat them as secondary.


The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin: being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.

Here we have a very orthodox confession of the Hypostatic Union and the Person of Christ. Westminster and London are equivalent here. Westminster continues,


The Lord Jesus, in his human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure; having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell; to the end that, being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a mediator and surety. Which office he took not unto himself, but was thereunto called by his Father, who put all power and judgment into his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same.

This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which, that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it; endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified, and died; was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.

And finally,


Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures; by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes, in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.

Here is our largest area of difference, but it needs to be seen via the lens of the Lord's Supper to see why.

In essence, this is where the Reformed and the Lutherans part on Christology. For the Reformed, attributing the communication of the attributes here only applies within the local circumscribed body of Christ, which has ascended to heaven. However, this leads to many Reformed theologians claiming that Christ's divinity is omnipresent apart from his humanity. While it is true that his divinity is what makes it possible for Christ to be omnipresent, the Lutheran thinker immediately sees an issue here - that is, we see a splitting of the one person of Christ. For where his divinity is, there is the whole Christ. This is what Lutherans termed the extra calvinisticum, the Calvinist beyond, so to speak. It is at this point that the Reformed reject the genus maiestaticum and the Lutherans reject the extra calvinisticum.

We agree on many points of Christology. We disagree on one key point and it relates directly to our doctrines of the Lord's Supper. The final post in this three part series will cover that.


Christology and Communion: It Matters. Part I

As I embark on this post, I am reminded how imperative it is to use proper verbiage when tackling this topic. Christology is really important, and there are tons of different heresies running amok; not only in the church today, but also for the past 2000 years, which the early church dealt with by way of ecumenical councils for the most part. Hence, I will be drawing heavily in this post from mainly the Book of Concord. Specifically, from the Epitome and the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, Epitome VIII and Solid Declaration VIII, which both deal with the Person of Christ.

From the outset, let us define what our Christology is, and along the way, we will also define what it is not - especially over and against Christology as it is defined in Reformed Theology. Spoiler alert, we do not believe the same things in all cases. Once we have set forth an orthodox and robust Christology, we shall then discuss how it relates to the Lord's Supper and why it matters. We will also reference some historical events along the way.

Epitome VIII:2-3

The chief question, however, has been whether, because of the personal union, the divine and human natures, as also their properties, have realiter, that is, in deed and truth, a communion with one another in the person of Christ, and how far this communication extends.

The Sacramentarians have asserted that the divine and human natures in Christ are united personally in such a way that neither has realiter, that is, in deed and truth, in common with the other that which is peculiar to either nature, but that they have in common nothing more than the name alone. For unio, they plainly say, facit communia nomina, i.e., the personal union makes nothing more than the names common, namely, that God is called man, and man God, yet in such a way that God has nothing realiter, that is, in deed and truth, nothing in common with humanity, and humanity nothing in common with divinity, its majesty and properties. Dr. Luther, and those who held with him, have contended for the contrary against the Sacramentarians.

So here is a quote summarizing the controversy as laid out in the Epitome of the Formula of Concord. First, let us explain some terms. When the writers refer to "Sacramentarians" they refer to those who reject the true bodily presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper. Namely, this is aimed at memorialists, who believe that the Lord's Supper is nothing more than a memorial remembrance, such as Zwingli, and also to the Reformed Calvinists, who asserted not a true bodily presence in and with the bread and wine, but rather a spiritual reception by faith for the elect. This latter doctrine of the Reformed is mainly what this series will ultimately be arguing against, and as you will see, this doctrine was formulated as such precisely because of their Christology.

In essence, Lutheranism adheres to a doctrine known as the genus maiestaticum, which means that the attributes of the divine nature are communicated to the human nature in the one person of Christ. Reformed Theology rejects the genus maiestaticum altogether.

First of all, what exactly do we adhere to?

Epitome VIII:5

That the divine and human natures in Christ are personally united, so that there are not two Christs, one the Son of God, the other the Son of man, but that one and the same is the Son of God and Son of man, Luke 1:35; Rom. 9:5.

Here you will see that we, in essence, reject what is called Nestorianism. We affirm, with the Scriptures as well as the early church, that there is one Christ, not two. This is a clear affirmation of the hypostatic union.

Epitome VIII:6

We believe, teach, and confess that the divine and human natures are not mingled into one substance, nor the one changed into the other, but that each retains its own essential properties, which [can] never become the properties of the other nature.

In case somebody wants to fling a Eutychian card (which some Reformed thinkers have done), here is a clear rejection that the two natures are mixed or mingled together.

Epitome VIII:7-8

The properties of the divine nature are: to be almighty, eternal, infinite, and to be, according to the property of its nature and its natural essence, of itself, everywhere present, to know everything, etc.; which never become properties of the human nature.

The properties of the human nature are: to be a corporeal creature, to be flesh and blood, to be finite and circumscribed, to suffer, to die, to ascend and descend, to move from one place to another, to suffer hunger, thirst, cold, heat, and the like; which never become properties of the divine nature.

And the Lutheran fathers define what they mean. Each nature, united in the one person of Christ, retains their own essential properties. So far, the Reformed theologian is in agreement with the Epitome. Lutherans have been accused of Eutychianism by some Reformed teachers in the past. These paragraphs should shut that down. So, what is Eutychianism? 

Eutychianism is also called Real Monophysitism. It is the belief that the human nature and divine nature in Christ are so blended that in essence they constitute one new nature. Eutyches of Constantinople explained this as the divine nature deifying the human nature, or dissolving into it such as a drop of honey in the ocean. This was put forth as a response to Nestorianism, which basically said Christ's natures were so divided that he is essentially two persons. So in an attempt to combat Nestorianism, Eutychianism makes the opposite error. Both were deemed heretical by church councils.

Epitome VIII:9

As the two natures are united personally, i. e., in one person, we believe, teach, and confess that this union is not such a copulation and connection that neither nature has anything in common with the other personally, i.e . because of the personal union, as when two boards are glued together, where neither gives anything to the other or takes anything from the other. But here is the highest communion, which God truly has with the [assumed] man, from which personal union, and the highest and ineffable communion resulting therefrom, there flows everything human that is said and believed concerning God, and everything divine that is said and believed concerning the man Christ; as the ancient teachers of the Church explained this union and communion of the natures by the illustration of iron glowing with fire, and also by the union of body and soul in man.

Here is the crux between Reformed Christology and Lutheran Christology. The Epitome continues:

Epitome VIII:10-14

Hence we believe, teach, and confess that God is man and man is God, which could not be if the divine and human natures had in deed and truth absolutely no communion with one another.

For how could the man, the son of Mary, in truth be called or be God, or the Son of God the Most High, if His humanity were not personally united with the Son of God, and He thus had realiter, that is, in deed and truth, nothing in common with Him except only the name of God?

Hence we believe, teach, and confess that Mary conceived and bore not a mere man and no more, but the true Son of God; therefore she also is rightly called and truly is the mother of God.

Hence we also believe, teach, and confess that it was not a mere man who suffered, died, was buried, descended to hell, arose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and was raised to the majesty and almighty power of God for us, but a man whose human nature has such a profound [close], ineffable union and communion with the Son of God that it is [has become] one person with Him.

Therefore the Son of God truly suffered for us, however, according to the property of the human nature which He assumed into the unity of His divine person and made His own, so that He might be able to suffer and be our High Priest for our reconciliation with God, as it is written 1 Cor. 2:8: They have crucfied the Lord of glory. And Acts 20:28: We are purchased with God’s blood.

Epitome VIII:18

By this our doctrine, faith, and confession the person of Christ is not divided, as it was by Nestorius, who denied the communicatio idiomatum, that is, the true communion of the properties of both natures in Christ, and thus divided the person, as Luther has explained in his book Concerning Councils. Neither are the natures together with their properties confounded with one another [or mingled] into one essence (as Eutyches erred); nor is the human nature in the person of Christ denied or annihilated; nor is either nature changed into the other; but Christ is and remains to all eternity God and man in one undivided person, which, next to the Holy Trinity, is, as the Apostle testifies, 1 Tim. 3:16, the highest mystery, upon which our only consolation, life, and salvation depends.

Here is the summary given by the writers of the Formula. We believe and confess that,

1. The two natures of Christ retain all of their essential properties. The properties of one are never the properties of the other.

2. We believe and confess that Christ is one person with two natures.

3. Since Christ is one, the two natures, while certainly retaining their own attributes, communicate; the divine to the human. That is to say, Christ, the one person, can be fully God and die. Hence, we can say God died. Or, Christ, as one person, can raise Lazarus from the grave. This is to say, a man raised another man from the dead.

Here is what we are not saying.

That the divine nature is capable of dying. It isn't. Jesus death was made possible by his human nature. But to say that only his human nature died is to split Christ. Jesus died - the one person, both God and man. So a man died on the cross. So did God. Because Jesus is both.

We are also not saying that the human nature can multiply fish and bread exponentially or raise another man from the dead. Only God can do those things. Yet Jesus, being God and man, did them. It was a human voice in human language calling out "Lazarus! Come forth!" 

Therefore we reject the following as errors.

1. That Jesus' human nature alone is what died for us.

2. That Jesus' divine nature alone did the miracles.

Why do we reject these ideas? Because Jesus the one person did these things. Natures do not do things. Persons do. Thus we can see the communication of the attributes affirmed by orthodox Lutheran Christology.

Part II in this 3 part series will address Reformed Christology. We will wrap up with the doctrine of the Lord's Supper in Lutheranism and Reformed Theology and how Christology affects this in Part III.