Sunday, February 24, 2019

Did the Calvinists invent Quia VS Quatenus Forms of Subscription?

Frequent visitors of this blog would know that I toyed with Calvinism when I was a Charismatic Evangelical. Before, coming to the Lutheran Confessions, I was seriously studying the Westminster Confession of Faith. Time and again, I could not dare myself to sign it.

Having the Book of Concord for many years in my library, I begun studying the documents found in it. With a Bible on one hand, I begun to warm to it and today I can heartily say I can sign my name on it. In fact, this is what is meant by subscription.

Not shortly after belonging to a Lutheran congregation and through my readings I learned about what Lutherans call quia (because of) vs quatenus (in so far as) , meaning do you subscribe to the BoC? But what kind? Quia or Quatenus?

I am going to be honest here. Being a former Calvinist, I was quite amazed that the Lutherans were into this debate, for I have always had the lingering suspicion that they were Calvinist categories. For example read this work of Rev Dr Clark's book of how he discusses quia vs quatenus in the context of Calvinistic confessions.

Just a week or so ago, I had the chance to track this down having some time on my sleeves and now being less distracted. So I had more time to chase up my theory and test it.

Here are my findings.

According to Dr. Robert P. Swierenga, a Dutch Reformed layman himself, as early as 1568-1571, the idea of quia vs quatenus subscription came into focus in the Reformed Church because they wanted to know the disposition of ministers who are being ordained in their churches. The actual labels of quia and quatenus were introduced in the Dutch Reformed National Synod of 1816. 

This date overlaps with the many goings on with what is happening in US Lutheranism term by historians as Neo-Lutheranism of which the personalities were Hengstenberg, Caspari, Hoenecke, Phillippi and most of all, the venerated and considered by US "confessional" Lutherans as their church father - the Rev. C F W Walther.

Because of the timing, there is a high chance that quia vs quatenus distinctions flowed into Neo Lutheranism for after all for example, Walther was fond of intruding into Calvinistic problems, see his work on predestination that caused a storm in US Lutheranism.

If one notices, either you are doing a quia or a quatenus subscription to the Confessions. This is an all or nothing position. In other words, if you are subjected to only either of this categories, you are not being allowed a middle position. According to Dr. Swierenga, the Reformed in the late 1500s did not like this subjugation. It is too Roman Catholic - a type of zero sum game. However, they reluctantly went for it because they saw the need.

I hope by now, this has made you think and do some reflection. As a former Calvinist,  my testimony is that Calvinists do borrow ideas from Lutheranism after all Calvin signed a version of the Augsburg Confession. In the idea of quia or quatenus, could it be the reverse happened this time? Could it be that the Neo-Lutherans borrowed from Calvinism this time? A good question to ask is this, do we have documentary evidence that the Old Lutherans got into this debate in their circle? For if we have, the likelihood, the Reformed borrowed from Lutherans is high since they have often done that. Or could the reverse be true with the Neo Lutherans?