Saturday, April 24, 2010

Some Tips to the Calvinist Becoming Lutheran

If you were like me, I was a Charismaniac Calvinistic Evangelical - who had no confession. Deep down inside I knew the problem was this - what should I confess? Because frankly, my confession at that time came from the kitchen. It did not come from the study room.

If you are one of those who walked the same path as I did, here are some tips for the trip, based on my experience.

Don't start off reading some Lutheran theologian like Walther and Pieper. Not that they do not have useful things to say, and not that one can not learn from them, but the issue for you is not what this or that theologian said. Because at the end of the day, you will not be signing your name on the books they have written. At the end of the day, you will have to sign your name to a confessional statement.

I know, I know, some give you the impression that Walther's and Pieper's books etc are part of the BoC, and they appear as if they have signed thier names on the Synodical Father's books. But let us be honest, their books are not part of the Book of Concord.

Most Calvinists who turn Lutheran almost invariably become a fan of the Synodical Fathers, they get loved and get considered to be their hero. For after all why would a Calvinist read a Lutheran theologian if in the first place, he/she did not have anything already bothering the conscience? Mind you these Fathers do have a lot to say about the perils of Calvinistic theology. They pinpoint well the ills of Calvinism. Saying they are anti-Calvinists is an under statement. So for a Calvinist who is already sad about the uncertainty brought about by that theology, reading the Fathers seems like having a liberator releasing you from the jail of mental anguish, and depression, the misery induced by uncertainty . Their reputation of being anti-Calvinists are so strong amongst (what is called - repeat-after-me) Lutherans that a Lutheran questioning these Fathers is immediately branded - guess what - a Calvinists! (I wanted to say I laugh my ___ off, but this blog is rated G).

There was a time when I was bothering more with some books other than the BoC, finally I slapped myself in the head and I said - you must go through the process. The process is the BoC first! Is the Lutheran confession Biblical? That is the question on the table. I said to myself I have no right reading this or that book if I have not answered the question about the BoC. That is why today I do not have lots of books authored by Lutheran theologians. I got delayed by the BoC. I have a few but not a lot.

So as you read and listen to say Issues Etc. never forget to take the Bible in your left hand and take the BoC on your right. Then start scrutinizing what the BoC says compared to Scripture. Spend time doing that. For my case I went to the heart of the whole thing - Justification like that found in the Apology Article IV. I would also read what the BoC says on Original Sin, Repentance, Free Will, Election etc. I cannot part with my Tappert BoC because it is heavily annotated with my notes, incidentally the red covering has turned to white, due to handling.

Why do I say go to the BoC first? Because IMHO if we do not go to the Confession, then we will be repeating the mess we found ourselves in and then all over again. It is again sailing through the high seas with a ship that has no rudder. Also when controversies explode, and they will, you will not know where to stand. You will have a pastor dictating to you and ruling over your conscience. So we are back again, in the same mess.

It is a great shame, if someone can quote what the Synodical Fathers said, but that someone does not have a clue as to what the BoC said. It is a great shame too is to endorse the BoC and not have read it. That would be terrible too.

Let me share with you what the late Reformed theologian H O J Brown said. He said that between Calvinism and Lutheranism, Calvinism has produced more heresies than Lutheranism (but who knows, it may be catching up). You can read this in his book - Heresies. Brown was impressed that when the BoC came out 8,000 pastors and thelogians signed it.

One more thing. Whereas in Calvinism, you see regional confessions, you won't find that in Lutheranism. In Calvinism you have confessions like Heidelberg, Belgic, Helvetic, Westminster, Savoy Confessions. Notice how many confessions there are? You have none of this in Lutheranism. There is no such thing. It does not matter which country you come from, if you cannot in good conscience endorse the BoC as correct exposition of Scripture - then you are not a Lutheran (at least not Confessional that is).

Lastly, where does the BoC shine? In its exposition of Justification By Faith Alone.

God bless.


David Cochrane said...

St. Lito,

Yes indeed! The small cat got me going on the boc. 10 years later I am still in the BOC loving the daylights out of peeling that onion. More and more layers.

The BOC is a great place to refer one who is attacking Lutheranism. They hear some Lutheran say this or that. Then they look at what the confessions say. It may change minds or at least it is harder for them to keep attacking strawmen. They can attack bona fide Lutheranism.

God's peace. †

Rev. M.A. Henderson said...

Holy Scripture in one hand, BoC in the other, and in that order too; Amen to that, Lito! I don't think Walther or Pieper would disagree either. They wanted nothing more than to be scriptural and confessional theologians, but no-one is perfect - there is always a temptation to take a short-cut by mouthing what tradition says rather than returning to the sources - 'ad fontes', 'to the sources' should always be our motto.

Steve Newell said...

In the men's bible study at my church, we are working through the Formula of Concord. This has been great so far since it is really challenging us both spiritually and mentally. Many of us are familiar with Luther's Small Catechism, but the rest of the Book of Concord is a "black box".

Since our group has those from other traditions (Baptist, Roman Catholic, etc), this is a great study because it helps us to truly understand what it means to call oneself "Lutheran".

Dizma said...

**Fathers seems like having a liberator releasing you from the jail of mental anguish, and depression, the misery induced by uncertainty . ** Unfortunatelly I don't feel being in jail of mental anguish, or depression or the misery induced by uncertainty... Does this mean that I am not a *normal* Calvinist? Soli Deo Gloria!

David Cochrane said...

Dizma, If you truly believe Jesus died for fewer than all sinners how is it you are certain he died for you? Objectively speaking that is.

Dizma said...

David, I just consulted Rom 10:9-10, 1John 5:13, John 3:16 etc. :)

L P said...


*normal*? What about happy inconsistency? LOL.

In my hunt for a confession, what gave me problem with TULIP, was the L.

This boils down to the object of faith. Scripture says to believe in Christ, but what does this mean? That was my question when I was reviewing my stance prior to me becoming Lutheran.

I found the definition of what it is about Jesus one is to believe or trust so one might be saved was greatly muddled.

If the object of faith is Jesus' atonement yet that atonement is not for all, how could I believe it is for me too?


Dizma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dizma said...

If you claim that atonement is unlimited you will have to introduce either universalism or free will.

My answer to your question: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Rom 10:9 (ESV)
Being saved is a consequence of being among God's elected people.

Brigitte said...

Walther would agree with you. All below from the "At Home in the House of my Fathers". p. 307 a. 308.

One thing more. During our discussion of the first thesis, we spoke a great deal about the Confessions. The Book of Concord should also be in every Lutheran home. For that reason, Synod should provide a good, inexpensive copy, and pastors should see to it that every home has one. Because "What I'm not told, leaves me cold." If a person isn't familiar with this book, he'll think, "That old book is just for pastors. I don't have to preach. After plowing all day, I can't sit down and study in the evening. If I read my morning and evening devotions, that's enough." No, that is not enough! The Lord doesn't want us to remain children, who are blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine; instead of that, He wants us to grow in knowledge so that we can teach others, contradict heretics--in short, become capable of doing the work of the office through which the body of Christ will be edified and built up" (Ephesians 4:12-14)

When a pastor first arrives in a new congregation, one of the first questions he should ask in the course of his visits with the members is this: "Dear friends, what kind of religious books do you have?" They may have only a Bible, a hymnal, and a catechism. Then you ask, "What kind of a Bible do you have? Do you know where it is?" They may answer, "Sadly, that's a good question; where is it anyway?" They may have to dig it out of a junk room and blow the dust off of it, since no one has used it for who knows how long. Then the pastor should say, "My, it sure is dusty! You know, it doesn't do any good just lying around, or using it only when you have a bad headache or something! You need to read it regularly. But in addition to that, you really need to get some more books. You don't just eat bread all the time, do you? No doubt you have all kinds of good food and drink in your kitchen, cellar, and the pantry. Why, then, would just one kind of food be enough for the soul?" You see, when our body needs something we can readily feel that. But it's very difficult to "feel" what the soul needs. The Holy Spirit has to create that feeling of need and number for different kinds of spiritual food. Of course, the various kinds of spiritual foods are the Bible, followed by the Book of Concord, Luther's writing,a biography of Luther, a booklet for confirmands such as our Timotheus, etc. These are books Christians should buy. And to facilitate that, pastors should take such books with them on their home visits and read interesting portions to the families. When the families listen to such excerpts, they will say, "If the book has wonderful parts like that, I'll buy it." That is how you must try to get them to make the joyful decision to buy a publication like the Altenburg Bible, even if it means sacrificing a few dollars. That will be effective even with those who are a bit reluctant at first, thinking that this will cost them another half-dollar. A number of American book dealers have even said that the price for such a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated book like the Altenburg Bible is more reasonable than any other publication in their store. (pp. 307, 308)

David Cochrane said...


No we dont have to introduce free will acceptanct of Jesus. Scripture does not teach that in anyway shape or form. In addition the idea that all will someday be saved is also foreign to scripture.

We maintain all scripture is true. The ones that say Jesus died for all and the ones that say Jesus died for the sheep. Sheep are included in all although all are not sheep for those lost are lost due to rejection. That is the only will we have in and of ourselves: "The will to reject and cast off our faith."

The only thing that forces one to conclude either is the desire for it all to make sense. Wanting to make sense of the scripture we fall flat out of the gate with 6 day creation. Why did it take 6 days? Could not God have done it instantaneously? No answer for those questions.

God's peace. †

Gregory L. Jackson said...

LP - I commended this post to someone who anonymously called me a Calvinist. The comment was posted on the Steadfast Lutherans blog, and I quoted it on Ichabod.

L P said...


If you claim that atonement is unlimited you will have to introduce either universalism or free will.

Please consider.

This is the blunder in Calvinism, a tertium non datur fallacy. They equate the Atonement with Justification! Notice to my Lutheran friends who are into UOJ. Notice how Calvinism is similar to you. UOJ also equates the Atonement with Justification. The two are differentiated this way. In Calvinism since they equate the Atonement to be equivalent to Justification and seeing that Justification is not universal, they pull the atonement to the right concluding that the Atonement must be limited. To the UOJ, since the Atonement and Justfication are equivalent, pulls justification to the left and judges that Justification must be universal.

The BoC and Lutheran exegetes differentiate the Atonement from Justification. The First is universal/objective but the Second is particular and subjective. The Reformation was proper distinction - it was about Justification differentiated from Sanctification. Today it is about Justification differentiated from the Atonement.

The link between the too is Justification By Faith Alone and through the Means of Grace. If one takes out the means of grace (and this is where Lutheran theology makes sense to Scripture) all goes hay wire.


L P said...

Pr Greg,

Thank you for linking this post.

I responded to mbw and since I am not sure they will publish it. This is what I said.

But first apologies to Dizma - since I referred to his comment as illustrative understanding of the Atonement and Justification from the Calvinistic side.

One more thing. We don’t need blog posts for doctrine!

What doctrine is that which says that “We don’t need blog posts for doctrine!”?

If you look in that post and one of the comments there from a Calvinist you will detect from that Calvinist that Calvinism equates the Atonement with Justification. Does that not ring a bell?

UOJ does the same, it equates the Atonement with Justification stating that at the Atonement all have been Justified. See Brief Statement 1932 Article 17.

I should have added that for UOJers, what is left is for people to believe it (that all have been justified).


L P said...


I am glad Walther would approve.

I have stacks and stacks of Reformed books and I even have an antique copy of Charles Hodges Systematic Theology. I got John Owens and GC Berkower et. I wanted to give them all away when I became Lutheran, but for the record, I kept them, perhaps for future reference should I get to a discussion. I hope the Hodges' copy one day may cost a fortune (LOL) - it is an 1880 copy.

I have read Walther as I said - his Law and Gospel and other essays I found in the internet.

But Walther would have to wait in the queue at the tail end of Luther. Since I have read Calvin and some of Luther and I judge Luther to be far far superior in experience, wisdom and intellect than Calvin, I would have to give Luther more attention.

In fact this is my discovery. If only the Evangelicals and Pentecostals read Luther, they would not be so much in a mess. They sell themselves short by ignoring Luther. I really felt short changed by my former Pentecostal pastor who spoke about Luther but never read him nor followed his theology.

Heck even my Presbyterian ex-Pastor read Luther.

Now how many Lutherans read him? I can count with my fingers people in my local church who has read Luther or the BoC.


L P said...

Pr. Mark,

Evangelicalism is marked by expediency and the short cuts.

I judge there is no short cut when it comes to judging a confession. Before becoming Lutheran I worshipped in a fine Presbyterian church for 4 years. The pastor is solid and faithful.

Yet I told him for the life of me, I could not sign my name on the WCF.

We are still good friends and he respected my decision to be Lutheran.


Steve said...

I have many wonderful Calvinist friends.

I wish they would go all the way (to Lutheranism) and have some assurance of their salvation.

I wish they would properly understand that Christ died for the sins of the whole world (the Bible clearly says that).

When we are saved, God gets ALL the credit. When we reject God we ought get ALL the blame. That's biblical... that's Lutheran theology.

M.A. Henderson said...


Presbyterians usually love Luther, even going to the extent of claiming him as one of their own. Good on them, I say, it can't be a bad thing to read Luther. There are even some confessional Presbyterians who have been accused of "Lutheranizing" Presbyterianism. Of course, we need to press them hard on the sacraments, but by and large they are headed in a good direction. Btw, do you know the PCA in Australia have a clause in their constitution which seems to allow some disagreement with the WCF on the extent of the atonement?

L P said...


Keep them as friends to keep the conversation going. People do not get it the first time.


L P said...

Pr. Mark,

I did not know that PCA has that caveat. However I got other problems with WCF aside from L in the TULIP.

I would be more like a continental calvinist before I became Lutheran.

The Federal Vision people are almost getting Lutheran but not quite. Heard of them?


Nathalie Uy said...

When one shines, it's possible for us all to shine so let's shine together. Keep on sharing your thoughts :)

Shea Kang said...