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Posts Tagged ‘Luther’

I know one of the issues which comes up sometimes is the fundamental differences between Reformed theology and Lutheran theology.  Certain doctrines such as ‘law and gospel’ or ‘justification by faith alone’ are said to be particularly Lutheran, and that Reformed theology maintains a significantly variant version.

But it appears to me that this distinction may have been overdone. Let me quote the historic Reformed theologians B. B. Warfield:

“It is unfortunate that a great body of the scientific discussion which, since Max Goebel […] first clearly posited the problem, has been carried on somewhat vigorously with a view to determining the fundamental principle of Calvinism, has sought particularly to bring out its contrast with some other theological tendency, commonly with the sister Protestant tendency of Lutheranism. Undoubtedly somewhat different spirits inform Calvinism and Lutheranism.”(1)

“But it is gravely misleading to identify the formative principle of either type of Protestantism with its prominent points of difference from the others. They have vastly more in common than in distinction. And nothing could be more misleading than to trace all their differences, as to their roots, to the fundamental place given in the two systems respectively to the principles of predestination and justification by faith.”

“Just as little can the doctrine of justification by faith be represented as specifically Lutheran. It is as central to the Reformed as to the Lutheran system. Nay, it is only in the Reformed system that it retains the purity of its conception and resists the tendency to make it a doctrine of justification on account of; instead of by, faith. It is true that Lutheranism is prone to rest in faith as a kind of ultimate fact, while Calvinism penetrates to its causes, and places faith in its due relation to the other products of God’s activity looking to the salvation of man. And this difference may, on due consideration, conduct us back to the formative principle of each type of thought. But it, too, is rather an outgrowth of the divergent formative principles than the embodiment of them. Lutheranism, sprung from the throes of a guilt-burdened soul seeking peace with God, finds peace in faith, and stops right there. It is so absorbed in rejoicing in the blessings which flow from faith that it refuses or neglects to inquire whence faith itself flows. It thus loses itself in a sort of divine euthumia, and knows, and will know nothing beyond the peace of the justified soul. Calvinism asks with the same eagerness as Lutheranism the great question, “What shall I do to be saved?” and answers it precisely as Lutheranism answers it. But it cannot stop there. The deeper question presses upon it, “Whence this faith by which I am justified?” And the deeper response suffuses all the chambers of the soul with praise, “From the free gift of God alone, to the praise of the glory of His grace.” Thus Calvinism withdraws the eye from the soul and its destiny and fixes it on God and His glory. It has zeal, no doubt, for salvation but its highest zeal is for the honour of God, and it is this that quickens its emotions and vitalizes its efforts. It begins, it centres and it ends with the vision of God in His glory and it sets itself; before all things, to render to God His rights in every sphere of life-activity.”

So clearly, there are differences, between the two traditions; Reformed Theology seeks to dig deeper and give all the glory everywhere to God.  But it is essential to realize that they both start at the same point! The same doctrine.  They don’t fundamentally disagree. Calvinism just goes further in explaining it.

So, this begs the question: why would some want to maintain a distance between the Reformed and Lutheran positions? Why would we want to draw separation between these two Protestant traditions which, when regarding these fundamental doctrines, have historically seemed merely to emphasize their solidarity?

_____________

(1) B. B. Warfield Collection, found at: http://www.agessoftware.com/ages_warfield_collection_excerpt_1.html

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“One obvious effect of psalm-singing was that Reformed worshipers had the psalms well planted in their minds and hearts. If we should hide God’s Word in our hearts that we might not sin against him (Ps. 119:11), singing the Word is one of the best ways to do that. Early Reformed leaders did not so much argue that we may sing only psalms as they argued that the psalms are the best songs to sing because they are divinely inspired.

The principle argument used to promote hymn-singing from the eighteenth century on has been that hymns are more clearly centered on Christ than are the psalms. This argument was known before the eighteenth century, but was not very persuasive among early Reformed people. Calvin and Luther believed that the psalms were filled with Christ. They also believed that if our prayers and sermons and sacraments are filled with Christ, then we will see Christ in the Psalter. But as the Lord’s supper became infrequent and the sermons were too often moralistic, a great push developed to use hymns that preached the gospel. This impulse was strengthened by the increasingly revivalist spirit of much of American religion since the eighteenth century.”

Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, President of Westminster Seminary California
Taken from ‘An Unexpected Journey’ pg. 141

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John Calvin:

By the term Law, Paul frequently understands that rule of holy living in which God exacts what is his due, giving no hope of life unless we obey in every respect; and, on the other hand, denouncing a curse for the slightest failure. This Paul does when showing that we are freely accepted of God, and accounted righteous by being pardoned, because that obedience of the Law to which the reward is promised is nowhere to be found. Hence he appropriately represents the righteousness of the Law and the Gospel as opposed to each other. But the Gospel has not succeeded the whole Law in such a sense as to introduce a different method of salvation. It rather confirms the Law, and proves that every thing which it promised is fulfilled. What was shadow, it has made substance…”(Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.9.4).

“This is confirmed by the testimony of Paul, when he observes that the Gospel holds forth salvation to us, not under the harsh arduous, and impossible terms on which the Law treats with us, (namely, that those shall obtain it who fulfill all its demands,) but on terms easy, expeditious, and readily obtained” (Institutes, 2.5.12).

“But they observe not that in the antithesis between Legal and Gospel righteousness, which Paul elsewhere introduces, all kinds of works, with whatever name adorned, are excluded, (Galatians 3:11, 12. For he says that the righteousness of the Law consists in obtaining salvation by doing what the Law requires, but that the righteousness of faith consists in believing that Christ died and rose again, (Romans 10:5-9.) Moreover, we shall afterwards see, at the proper place, that the blessings of sanctification and justification, which we derive from Christ, are different. Hence it follows, that not even spiritual works are taken into account when the power of justifying is ascribed to faith “(Institutes, 3.11.14).

“The Law, he says, is different from faith. Why? Because to obtain justification by it, works are required; and hence it follows, that to obtain justification by the Gospel they are not required. From this statement, it appears that those who are justified by faith are justified independent of, nay, in the absence of the merit of works, because faith receives that righteousness which the Gospel bestows. But the Gospel differs from the Law in this, that it does not confine justification to works, but places it entirely in the mercy of God” (Institutes, 3.11.18).

“For the words of Paul always hold true, that the difference between the Law and the Gospel lies in this, that the latter does not like the former promise life under the condition of works, but from faith. What can be clearer than the antithesis — “The righteousness of the law is in this wise, The man who doeth these things shall live in them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh thus, Whoso believeth,” etc. ( Romans 10:5.) To the same effect is this other passage, “If the inheritance were of the law, faith would be made void and the promise abolished. Therefore it is of faith that in respect of grace the promise might be sure to every one that believeth.” ( Romans 4:14.) As to ecclesiastical laws, they must themselves see to them: we acknowledge one Legislator, to whom it belongs to deliver the rule of life, as from him we have life (Antidote to the Council of Trent, 1547).”

“For faith totters if it pays attention to works, since no one, even of the most holy, will find there anything on which to rely.” (Institutes, 3.11.11)

“In short, whoever wraps up two kinds of righteousness in order that miserable souls may not repose wholly in God’s mere mercy, crowns Christ in mockery with a wreath of thorns [Mark 15:17, etc.].” (Institutes, 3.11.12).

Sacharius Ursinus:

“The doctrine of the church consists of two parts: the Law, and the Gospel, in which we have comprehended the sum and substance of the sacred Scriptures.”

“The duties of the ministers of the church include in general, 1) A faithful and correct exposition of the true and uncorrupted doctrine of the law and gospel, so that the church may be able to understand it” (Zacharius Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism

“This question contains the statement and division of the whole catechism and at the same time accordes with the division of the Scriptures into the Law and Gospel.” (Commentary on the Catechism, p. 20)

“Hence it is manifest that we must commence with the preaching of the law, after the example of the Prophets and Apostles, that men may thus be cast down from the conceit of their own righteousness, and may obtain a knowledge of themselves, and be led to true repentance. Unless this be done, men will become, through the preaching of grace, more careless and obstinate, and pearls will be cast before swine to be trodden under foot.” (Commentary, pg. 21)

John Bradford (1548):

“He that is ignorant of [the division of the places of the Law and of the Gospel] cannot, though he were a great doctor of divinity, and could rehearse every text of the bible without book, but both be deceived, and deceive others; as the experience hereof (the more pity) hath taught, nay, seduced the whole world….Therefore, I say, take to thee the glass of God’s law; look therein, and thou shalt see thy just damnation, and God’s wrath for sin, which, if thou dreadest, will drive thee not only to an amendment, but also to a sorrow and hatred of thy wickedness, and even to the brim of despair, out of which nothing can bring thee but the glad tidings of Christ, that is, the gospel: for as God’s word doth bind thee, so can nothing but God’s word unbind thee; and until thou comest to this point, thou knowest nothing of Christ.”

Caspar Olevianus (1536-87):

“For this reason the distinction between law and Gospel is retained. The law does not promise freely, but under the condition that you keep it completely. And if someone should transgress it once, the law or legal covenant does not have the promise of the remission of sins. On the other hand, the Gospel promises freely the remission of sins and life, not if we keep the law, but for the sake of the Son of God, through faith” (Ad Romanos Notae, 148; Geneva, 1579).

Theodore Beza (1534-1605):

“We divide this Word into two principal parts or kinds: the one is called the ‘Law,’ the other the ‘Gospel.’ For all the rest can be gathered under the one or other of these two headings…Ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel is one of the principal sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity” [The Christian Faith, 1558]

Frances Turretin

“He [Paul] disputes against the false apostles who confounded the law and the gospel.” (IET II, p. 236)

There is not the same opposition throughout between the Old and New Testaments as there is between the law and the gospel. The opposition of the law and the gospel (in as far as they are taken properly and strictly for the covenant of works and of grace and are considered in their absolute being) is contrary. They are opposed as the letter killing and the Spirit quickening; as Hagar gendering to bondage and Sarah gendering to freedom, although the law more broadly taken and in its relative being is subordinated to the gospel. (IET II, pp. 236-237).”

William Perkins (1558-1602):

The basic principle in application is to know whether the passage is a statement of the law or of the gospel. For when the Word is preached, the law and the gospel operate differently. The law exposes the disease of sin, and as a side-effect, stimulates and stirs it up. But it provides no remedy for it. However the gospel not only teaches us what is to be done, it also has the power of the Holy Spirit joined to it….A statement of the law indicates the need for a perfect inherent righteousness, of eternal life given through the works of the law, of the sins which are contrary to the law and of the curse that is due them…. By contrast, a statement of the gospel speaks of Christ and his benefits, and of faith being fruitful in good works (The Art of Prophesying, 1592, repr. Banner of Truth Trust,1996, 54-55).

Marrow of Modern Divinity:

“Now, the law is a doctrine partly known by nature, teaching us that there is a God, and what God is, and what he requires us to do, binding all reasonable creatures to perfect obedience, both internal and external, promising the favour of God, and everlasting life to all those who yield perfect obedience thereunto, and denouncing the curse of God and everlasting damnation to all those who are not perfectly correspondent thereunto. But the gospel is a doctrine revealed from heaven by the Son of God, presently after the fall of mankind into sin and death, and afterwards manifested more clearly and fully to the patriarchs and prophets, to the evangelists and apostles, and by them spread abroad to others; wherein freedom from sin, from the curse of the law, the wrath of God, death, and hell, is freely promised for Christ’s sake unto all who truly believe on his name” (The Marrow of Modern Divinity; 1645, repr. 1978, 337-38. NB: The author of the Marrow was designated only as E.F. Therefore some scholars doubt whether Edward Fisher was actually the author).

William Twisse (1578-1646):

“How many ways does the Word of God teach us to come to the Kingdom of heaven? Two. Which are they? The Law and the Gospel. What says the Law? Do this and live. What says the Gospel? Believe in Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. Can we come to the Kingdom of God by the way of God’s Law? No.Why so? Because we cannot do it. Why can we not do it? Because we are all born in sin. What is it to be none in sin? To be naturally prone to evil and …that that which is good. How did it come to pass that we are all borne in sin? By reason of our first father Adam. Which way then do you hope to come tot he Kingdom of Heaven? By the Gospel? What is the Gospel? The glad tidings of salvation by Jesus Christ. To whom is the glad tidings brought: to the righteousness? No. Why so? For two reasons. What is the first? Because there is none that is righteous and sin not. What is the other reason? Because if we were righteous, i.e., without sin we should have no need of Christ Jesus. To whom then is this glad tiding brought? To sinners. What, to all sinners? To whom then? To such as believe and repent. This is the first lesson, to know the right way to the Kingdom of Heaven.: and this consists in knowing the difference between the Law and the Gospel. What does the Law require? That we should be without sin. What does the Gospel require? That we should confess our sins, amend our lives, and then through faith in Christ we shall be saved. The Law requires what? Perfect obedience. The Gospel what? Faith and true repentance.” (A Brief Catechetical Exposition of Christian Doctrine, 1633).

Martin Luther:

“This difference between the Law and the Gospel is the height of knowledge in Christendom. Every person and all persons who assume or glory in the name of Christian should know and be able to state this difference. If this ability is lacking, one cannot tell a Christian from a heathen or a Jew; of such supreme importance is this differentiation. This is why St. Paul so strongly insists on a clean-cut and proper differentiating of these two doctrines.”

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This I just read by Horatius Bonar (the well known hymn writer and yet also pastor and theologian of the 19th century). This was good.  Quite well worth the read.  Found in his preface to:

The Everlasting Righteousness;

Or,

How Shall Man Be Just With God?

The awakened conscience of the sixteenth century betook itself to “the righteousness of God.” There it found refuge, at once from condemnation and from impurity. Only by “righteousness” could it be pacified; and nothing less than that which is divine could meet the case. At the cross this “righteousness” was found; human, yet divine: provided for man, and presented to him by God, for relief of conscience and justification of life. On the one word τετέλεσται, “It is finished,” as on a heavenly resting place, weary souls sat down and were refreshed. The voice from the tree did not summon them to do, but to be satisfied with what was done. Millions of bruised consciences there found healing and peace.

The belief of that finished work brought the sinner into favour with God; nor did it leave him in uncertainty as to this. The justifying work of Calvary was God’s way, not only of bringing pardon, but of securing certainty. It was the only perfect thing which had ever been presented to God in man’s behalf; and so peculiar was this perfection, that it might be
used by man in his transactions with God, as if it were his own.

The knowledge of this sure justification was life from the dead to multitudes. All over Europe, from the Apennines to the Grampians, from the Pyrenees to the Carpathians, went the glad tidings that man is justified freely, and that God wishes him to know he is justified. It was not merely a new thought for man’s intellect, but a new discovery for his soul, (1) As to the true source of spiritual health, viz. the setting of man’s conscience right with God; (2) As to the continuation of that health, viz. the keeping of the conscience right.

The fruit of this was not merely a healthy personal religion, but a renovated intellect and a noble literature, and, above all, a pure worship. It was an era of resurrection. The graves were opened; and the congregation of the dead became the church of the living. Christendom awoke and arose. The resurrection-dew fell far and wide; nor has it yet ceased to fall.

For ages Christianity had groveled in the dust, smothered with semipagan rites; ready to die, if not already dead; bound hand and foot by a semi-idolatrous priesthood, unable to do aught for a world which it had been sent to regenerate. Now “it was lifted up from the earth, and made

to stand upon its feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.” A new conscience was born; and with a new conscience came in new life and power. Nothing had been seen like this since the age of apostles.

The doctrine of another’s righteousness reckoned to us for justification before God is one of the links that knot together the first and the sixteenth centuries, the Apostles and the Reformers. The creeds of the Reformation overleap fifteen centuries, and land us at once in the Epistle to the Romans. Judicial and moral cleansing was what man needed; and in that epistle we have both the imputed and imparted righteousness; the former the root or foundation of the latter. Not the one without the other; both together, inseparable; but each in its own order.

It was not Luther merely who took up the old watchword, “The just shall live by faith,” and thus found the answer of a good conscience toward God. To thousands of hearts it came like a voice from heaven, they knew not how. Sunshine from above had fallen upon one grand text; the text which the age needed: men recognized the truth thus supernaturally lighted up. “The nations came to its light, and kings to the brightness of its rising.” The inquiring men of that age, though not borrowing from each other, betook themselves to this truth and text.
From every kingdom of Europe came the same voice; and every Protestant Confession bore witness to the unanimity of awakened Christendom. The long-needed, long-missing truth had been found; and eureka was the cry of gladness were heard announcing its discovery.

Our fathers saw that this truth was the basis of all real spiritual life. That which was superficial, and morbid, and puny, and second-rate, might do with some less deep, less broad foundation; but all that is healthy, and noble, and daring, and happy, and successful in religion must rest here. “The just shall live by faith.”

Religion is fashionable in our age. But is it that which sprang up, after centuries of darkness, among our fathers in Europe? Is it that of apostles and prophets? Is it the calm yet thorough religion which did such great deeds in other days? Has it gone deep into the conscience? Has it filled the heart? Has it pervaded the man? Or has it left the conscience unpacified, the heart unfilled, the man unchanged, save with some external appliances of religiousness, which leaves him hollow as before? There is at this moment many an aching spirit, bitterly
conscious of this hollowness. The doctrine, the profession, the good
report of others, the bustle of work, will not fill the soul. God Himself
must be there, with His covering righteousness, His cleansing blood, His
quickening Spirit. Without this, religion is but a shell: holy services are
dull and irksome. Joy in God, which is the soul and essence of worship,
is unknown. Sacraments, prayer-meetings, religious services, labours of
charity, will not make up for the living God.

How much of unreality there may be in the religious life of our age, it
is for each individual to determine for himself, that he may not be
deceived nor lose his reward.[1]

All unreality is weakness as well as irksomeness; and the sooner that
we are stripped of unreality the better, both for peace and for usefulness.

Men with their feet firmly set on Luther’s rock, “the righteousness of God,” filled with the Spirit, and pervaded with the peace of God, do the great things in the church; others do the little. The men of robust spiritual health are they who, like Luther, have made sure of their filial relationship to God. They shrink from no battle, nor succumb to any toil. The men who go to work with an unascertained relationship give way in the warfare, and faint under the labour: their life is not perhaps a failure or defeat; but it is not a victory, it is not a triumph.

“We do not war after the flesh,” and “our weapons are not carnal” (2 Corinthians 10:3, 4). Our battle is not fought in the way that the old man would have us to fight it. It is “the fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). It is not by doubting but by believing that we are saved; it is not by doubting but by believing that we overcome. Faith leads us first of all to Abel’s “more excellent sacrifice” (Hebrews 11:4). By faith we quit Ur and Egypt and Babylon, setting our face to the eternal city (Hebrews 11:16). By faith we offer up our Isaacs, and worship “leaning on the top of our staffs,” and “give commandment concerning our bones.” By faith we choose affliction with the people of God, and despise Egypt’s treasures. By faith we keep our passover; pass through the Red Sea; overthrow Jerichos; subdue kingdoms; work righteousness; stop the mouth of lions; quench the violence of fire; turn to flight the armies of the aliens, and
refuse deliverance in the day of trial, that we may obtain a better resurrection (Hebrews 11:35).

It is “believing” from first to last. We begin, we go on, we end in faith.
The faith that justifies is the faith that overcomes (1 John 5:4). By faith
we obtain the “good report” both with God and man. By faith we receive
forgiveness; by faith we live; by faith we work, and endure, and suffer; by
faith we win the crown,a crown of righteousness, which shall be ours
in the day of the appearing of Him who is OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

THE GRANGE, EDINBURGH,
November, 1872.

Read the entire work here.  I’m reading more of it right now!  Oh man, read this!

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