Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sovereignty of God and the Lutherites

MetaLutheran is being interviewed here on the role of the Sovereignty of God and how Lutherans view it. I think it is an excellent presentation why that doctrine is secondary in our approach towards the Christian life. Naturally it is being compared to Calvin and Calvinism since that doctrine is quite prominent in that tradition.

Now, I admire Calvin, I believe he is a very good exegete. He is astute, warm and perceptive. Calvin however, can be confusing. For example his view of Baptismal Regeneration can be spot on, but in other places, he seemed to have the left hand take what the right hand has given away. Hence, people in the Reformed world can appeal to him to muster their (non)-regenerative views of Baptism. This does not happen with Luther and the Lutherans when it comes to that subject.

Hence, in one blog that I visited, I commented that Calvin compared to Luther is less experienced. The brother, laughed when I said that. He said he has never heard anyone suggested that. Now, ain't I the first, that rather made me 'proud'.

Seriously, I knew that would be the reaction for I was a Calvinist before and I knew that to some, Calvin is viewed as more impressive than Luther. They think that Calvin's systematization proves him to be more superior in mind than the latter. The truth in history is that the former dipped on the smelly monk's insights. Just compare the two from top. The Sovereignty of God prevails in Calvin while the Cross captured Luther.

Here is the thing, when you see the Cross as everything and you take that as your worldview, all other doctrines will be governed by that and soli Deo gloria is true for the reason it is solus Christus too.


William Weedon said...

Oh, amen! With Luther we see the absolute sovereignty of God in Christ upon the cross, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life. He wipes out sin by forgiving it. THAT'S almighty power at work!

Augustinian Successor said...

Bro. Lito, I've added your blog to mine! Long overdue, I'd say.

L P Cruz said...

Pr. Will,

If I look at God without the Cross, I really wonder (and I often do), about God's love and good will towards me. That kind of thinking gets knocked down to the floor when my eyes get back to where God demonstrated his love for me.

Bro. Jason,

Thank you, I am a bit disorganized but I will get on to my links of you friends out there.

Walking you on the Wittenberg trail,


J. K. Jones said...


Good post. Honest question: why would we not see Calvin and Luther as complimentary? Taken together, they form a formidable team for Christ's Cross and God's Glory.

J. K.

L P Cruz said...


Thank your bro.

They should be but the cue should be from the senior more experienced Luther I think. Calvin's insights in some areas are helpful. I treat them as Church Fathers which themselves are normed or ought to be normed by Scripture.

There are a few observations though... Calvin's take on faith being formed by love is a compromise with the establishment. When one presses Calvinism to its conclusion one should see that its main thrust becomes sanctification not justification which is like the Roman system.

People fault Lutherans for its tendency to sound anti-nomian, but it was Lloyd-Jones a Calvinist who said that if you are not being charged of antinomianism in your preaching the Gospel then you have not preached the Gospel.

Also Calvin and Melanchton were friends and both of them were prone to revise their expositions on the Christian faith that is why Calvin's view of baptism is confusing - ie both believers in baptismal regeneration and anti-baptismal regeneration can find support from him. Then there is also un/Limited Atonement - I read his exposition on the relevant verses and he sounded more like believing in unLimited Atonement.

Hence, you may observe that people would question if Calvin was indeed a Calvinist.

This does not happen in Luther, Luther was a Lutheran. The latter group for example followed his advice, predestinarian speculations should be thrown into the secret will of God. Yet if you notice the WCF, notice how the word 'elect' is tacked on and how often that word surfaces again and again in its exposition. That is why when I was toying with Calvinism, I was more at home with Heidelberg/Belgic confession rather than WCF. WCF tended to be circular to me. I could never sign it.

Luther was more consistent with the Biblical data and with the Fathers than Calvin who was more philosophically appealing.

Blessings in your studies,


J. K. Jones said...


"...Calvin's take on faith being formed by love..."

Do you have a reference on that? I have not read Calvin in a while.

I thought the issue was that faith alone leads to salvation and salvation is accompanied by non-meritorious works. Not perfection, just a change in attitude and action. Follows Romans 3, 4, 6, and 7.

It’s an important issue for a Southern Baptist who has seen unashamed ‘easy-believism’ reek havoc on his own denomination. Walking an aisle and / or mouthing an insincere prayer does not save. Saving faith is more than just assent to facts. It’s real trust.

“…that is why Calvin's view of baptism is confusing…”

You keep bringing up baptism. I don’t discuss this often. I’d rater argue about things that will keep someone from heaven’s felicity.

Those who are covered by the “new covenant” are those of whom God says: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people … for they shall all know me … I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8). It seems that members of this new covenant are Christians. Only Christians know the Lord and have their sins forgotten. Baptism performs a real work of the Spirit done for the spiritual benefit of covenant members. If baptism is a real work of the Spirit with real effects, that benefit can only extend to believers who have faith to receive it. We are saved “by grace…through faith” (Ep. 2:8-9). [This is not necessarily the majority report of current or historic Baptists. So sue me.]

“… I read his exposition on the relevant verses and he sounded more like believing in unLimited Atonement.”

I think Calvin's seeming vacillation on pre-destination has more to do with the fact that many readers have caricatured Calvinism (e. g. Norman Geisler and Page Patterson). The type of Calvinism Geisler discusses is what my grandfather taught. He was a Primitive Baptist Elder. Think ‘supralapsarian to the fifth power.’

Election is God’s way of saying we have nothing to brag about. We do the sinning, and He does the saving. Christ alone saves. It’s a relationship, but a one sided relationship. Christ does all the work. The believer is like an adulterous partner. We are humbled before Him and in front of others.

Christ’s perfect life and meritorious sacrifice could save everyone, but it does not because some do not repent and believe. The free offer of salvation in the gospel is a real offer to be shared with everyone in every possible way.

Speaking to the unbeliever:

There is nothing outside of you that prevents you from repenting of your sins and trusting in Christ’s work to save you right now. Christ’s command requires you to repent and believe. You know in your heart of heart’s that Christ’s message is true.

If you reject this message, you have done exactly what you wanted to do. You alone are responsible. Therefore, you should expect eternal conscious torment as a punishment for your rejection. I pray that God would grant you repentance.

That’s “five-point Calvinism” the way it was explained to me by John H. Gerstner in his teaching on the WCF.

“…predestinarian speculations should be thrown into the secret will of God…”

I do like Luther’s approach. I also find his approach, as stated in “The Bondage of the Will,” more “Calvinist” than John Calvin’s, if that makes any sense.

Is it true that Luther was supralapsarian? I have heard this said of him. I don’t think so, but I’m not sure.

This supra- / infra- lapsarian thing is the part where I fall out of the ‘TULIP bud.’ What does a logical order of thought have to do with a Being who knows everything with immediate and perfect knowledge? How does this being learn through induction or deduction? If it does have meaning for Him, how would He explain it to us?

Sorry for the ranting and raving. I’ll keep studying…

J. K.

L P Cruz said...


Firstly, do not ever apologize for your comments even though they are long (and I would not call such a ranting). If you look at comments made in other entries, you will find that people who comment here do not necessarily agree with me. I respect people's opinions no matter how much they differ, I have not yet attained as Phil 3:12.

This is not the best quote I could get so don't sue me too OK? (John Calvin, Institutes, III, 11, 20. “Indeed, we confess with Paul that no other faith justifies ‘but faith working through love’ [Gal. 5:6]. But it does not take its power to justify from that working of love. Indeed, it justifies in no other way but in that it leads us into fellowship with the righteousness of Christ.”

Now he quotes Gal 5:6 properly, now what is unfortunate? I think he equates justifying faith with a faith that works through love. Now there is some truth to this but as you can see, some sections of Calvinism like that who follow Dr. Shepherd has taken the notion that faith is not simple trust but love.

Another, and more stronger accusation I would say is in Calvin's and Melanchton's participation in the Regensburg Colloquy. Article 5,(3) But this happens to no one unless also at the same time love is infused, which heals the will so that the healed will may begin to fulfill the law, just as Saint Augustine said Calvin was party to this document.

Now the Lutherans rejected Regensburg Book. The document describes too much what simple trust should be. The Lutherans are careful not to go beyond scripture and they are happy to plead ignorance.

As far as I know, Luther though he wrote a strong view of predestination in the Bondage of the Will, did not use it to interpret the Scripture. It plays very little part in his works. I do not recall Luther expounding a SupraLapsarian formulation, that is again a Calvinistic idea of trying to ride on Luther's reputation by painting him as if he is one of them. Luther believed that a saved person may be lost, he believed in universal atonement and does not circularize the believer is the one Jesus died for, and Jesus died for the believer. In fact that reflexivity is damaging.

See his Smalcald Articles (part of the BoC).

Note the wording of Scripture (my suggestion) ---Christ died for sinners (not believers) the Scripture says that. Yes those who are eventually saved are those believing sinners. Thus he died for those who even would not believe in him. He is rich, he is the sower in the parable, he throws the seed everywhere. He does not throw the seed only on good ground but also on the thorny and rocky ground etc.

Jesus did die for his enemies even those who would eventually reject him. He followed his own law - love your enemies. In Calvinism, this does not happen, Jesus does not die for some of his enemies. There are enemies of his he would not die for and those that he would. Hence, a different Jesus is painted in Calvinism, somewhat different from a Lutheran Jesus who is merciful, more merciful because he would even die for those who would not believe in him. Of course, they are not eventually saved, but it was not because he did not die for them.


J. K. Jones said...


Thanks for the Calvin quote.

Again, I'll keep studying...

J. K.