Guy and the Lutherans

Certainly we have our differences with confessional Lutherans. It seems evident that they determined long ago to view the confessional Reformed as Schwärmer. (fanatics, Anabaptists) disguised as Protestants or evangelicals (in the old, 16th-century sense). I must say that, in turn, it appears that some Presbyterians (as distinct from the continental Reformed) seem bound to reciprocate by finding ways in which we disagree with the Lutherans even where we don’t. Some seem bound to construct a distinctly “Reformed” doctrine of justification and the like. Frankly this is more prejudice than history. As a counterbalance we might consider an interesting ecumenical adventure in which the author of of the Belgic Confession was involved. Wes has the story. It’s only circumstantial evidence but it’s interesting. We might also look at Jill Raitt’s brilliant account of the dialogues between Beza and the Lutherans at Montbeliard to get a clearer sense of where we actually disagreed in the late 16th century.

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  1. I think that you are right that some are seeking to argue that the Reformed doctrine of justification is different in substance than the Lutheran view. (Shepard!) However, I also think that some like Gaffin and Garcia are not trying to posit the two (Lutheran and Reformed) as antithetical or substantially different, but rather, not identical. That is, Gaffin and Garcia want to emphasize that the way that Calvin and subsequent RT went about formulating the doctrine of justification with respect to other doctrines (regeneration/sanctification and union etc…) were slightly different. I just posted on my blog a lecture by Dr. Ferguson where he points out that Luther had some slightly different emphases than did Calvin (Luther emphasized the 2nd use Calvin because of his view of the covenant emphasized the 3rd use) This is the same type of thing going on when I read Gaffin and Garcia. They want to say that Calvin formulated and subsequently emphasized different aspects of the ordo salutis because of the other theological (albeit slight) differences between the two (Calvin and Luther). Of course there is the whole other question as to how Calvin matched up with Concord or Concord to post-reformed dogmatics or Luther to post-reformation dogmatics. In general however, Gaffin and Garcia etc.. are just seeking to emphasize the nuances or discontinuity whereas Dr. Godfrey and yourself want to emphasize the continuities… I don’t think that Gaffin and Garcia, and I have read both extensively, are arguing that the doctrines (Reformed and Lutheran) are substantially different.

    Just some thoughts…


  2. just a short note in order to improve your german (lutheran) vocabulary:

    it should read Schwärmer (the noun to describe persons = fanatic), instead of Schwärmerei (description of an action / behavior = fanaticism)

    greetings from germany,

  3. Hi Michael,

    Well, I just re-read Dick Gaffin’s Resurrection and Redemption and also read his By Faith in both books but in the latter especially Dick makes a point of juxtaposing his view of union with “the Reformation tradition” 5-6 times. He uses several other synonymous expressions. I’m still waiting for Garcia’s book to arrive but judging by his WTJ essay and his review of CJPM, I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say that it’s merely a matter of differing emphases. I think there competing interpretations of the Reformation here. This is especially true if we throw Pete Lillback’s book on Calvin into the mix. One of his chief arguments is not just that Calvin developed Luther (which I argue in Caspar Olevian but that they had distinct hermeneutics.

    Further, I hear this from American Presbyterians and I’ve read from others in the Scots/Irish Presbyterian tradition. There’s a sort of animus against Luther and Lutherans that I don’t fully understand. Based on the argumentation I’ve seen thus far it seems more like prejudice than a carefully argued position.

    If you’ll read my Olevian book you’ll see that I discuss the differences between the Reformed the Lutherans over Christology, the Supper and there were real differences on baptism (more with orthodox Lutheranism than Luther himself especially if we recognize the fluidity of the doctrine of regeneration in the 16th century), perseverance, reprobation and worship. These are genuine differences.

    At the same time as far as I can tell, the Reformed were conscious of no profound differences with the Lutherans over the article on which the faith stands or falls. I don’t see them drawing the sorts of lines that folks draw today between the alleged Reformed view of law/gospel and the Lutheran or the alleged Reformed view of justification and the Lutheran view.

    Much of Dick’s argument for his construction of union with Christ in BFNBS is fine. I like his threefold distinction in union. I like the way he relates it to faith but his argument that there is no logical priority of justification to sanctification seems very thin indeed.

    There’s far too much evidence in Calvin and the Reformed orthodox to the contrary to make me agree with him. Further, Dick is quite open about his dissatisfaction with the “reformation tradition” to let me think that he’s following Calvin and the orthodox. Frankly, his arguments (e.g. his essay in the Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes) almost read a bit like the old fashioned “Calvin v the Calvinists.”

    I really wish people would read Cornel Venema’s book on this. He rejects Garcia’s and Carpenter’s approach to Calvin. I don’t see any interaction with my Olevian book. It’s not like the Gaffin school is the first group ever to work with the duplex gratia Dei or the duplex beneficium. See also the essay in the Spear Festschrift.

    Just as the Barthians need to stop reading Barth into Calvin the folks who want to follow Dick on union (esp. the simultaneity line of argumentation and his use of justification to refer to justification and vindication and his exegesis of Rom 2:5ff) need to let their argument stand on its own two exegetical and theological feet. I doubt it will stand.

    For starters as a matter of exegesis and theology, God doesn’t justify the godly but the ungodly. I don’t see how the “simultaneity” argument can address this problem. If existential union (to use Dick’s language) precedes justification and sanctification and if both benefits flow directly to the elect and are absolutely logically parallel, if there is no logical priority to justification, then it is the godly who are justified not the ungodly.

    As I understand the Reformed ordo salutis we teach that progressive sanctification is the logical result of justification. This seems to be the logical order of Rom 8:30. Remember, we’re not talking about chronological or temporal issues but logical issues.

    As a matter of history, in response to the Roman claim that God justifies the godly, i.e. those who have been infused with grace and who have cooperated sufficiently with that grace, the Reformed and Lutherans were very clear that sanctification is the logically and morally necessary consequence of justification.

    Guilt, grace, and gratitude – it’s not just for breakfast any more.

  4. Oh no, let me go get my helmet on and put my mouthpiece in. Man, you gotta warn a brother Dr. Clark! You already got 231 posts on GB.

  5. Dr. Clark,

    I don’t doubt that there are different interpretations going on. As a matter of fact, I feel most inadequate to debate those sorts of things. After all, I haven’t taken your reformation class yet (Moody’s didn’t cut it!). However, I do think that Garcia in his dissertation is interpreting Calvin correctly (whether he interprets Melanchthon or Luther is a different question which I don’t have the knowledge to evaluate.

    As for the simul of just and sanct. It would be clear to note that both Gaffin and Garcia would agree that existentially justification is logically prior to progressive sanc. As a matter of fact Garcia writes, “In the Report[OPC], the relevant language speaks specifically of justification as the prerequisite to sanctification understood as a process. Because justification is in its very nature definitive (i.e., non-progressive), its being prior to progressive sanctification is self-evident and beyond dispute. However, what Garcia/Gaffin want to say is that the definitive aspect of sanctification (You have died to the power of sin; Rom 6) is simul with imputed righteousness (and thus being declared righteous) when we are united with the risen Christ who is our justification and sanctification (1 Cor 1:30) (understood both definitively and progressively).

    Anyhow, I have Venema’s book and I plan to read it. I look forward to buying and reading your book.


  6. Well, Dick is pretty clear that the logical simultaneity of the two benefits is essential to his view as propounded in BFNBS. It’s been too long since I read Garcia’s WTJ essay but did you see his review of CJPM and the response by Godfrey and VanDrunen?

    I’ve had lengthy private conversations with folks who adhere to what they hear Dick saying and they insist on simultaneity. I’ve asked that question directly: what about the logical priority of justification to progressive sanctification and have been told unequivocally that the Reformed view is absolute simultaneity.

    As to definitive sanctification, I think we need to re-think that. I think I recall Murray saying that he was revising the tradition here. There are better ways of understanding most of the evidence to which Mr Murray appealed. The history of the last 30 years makes me very wary. The same folks who’ve embraced definitive sanctification have also been actively revising justification.

    If we can all agree that justification is logically prior to sanctification and if we can agree to set aside definitive sanctification as an experimental expression then what are we arguing about?

    I have no interest in logomachy — fighting over words. That said, a proper form of words is important. I agree in substance with what Gaffin says in BFNBS on vindication but I think it’s a terminological mistake to call that “justification.” We call it vindication. Those are two distinct things. I think it’s mistake to try to use the Already…Not Yet construction to explain everything. It’s a mistake to speak of justification as, in any way, “not yet.” Clearly that experiment has not helped the Reformed churches and community speak and think more clearly about justification. Clearly some have missed the nuance present in Dick’s book and have embraced something like a Roman doctrine of a two-stage doctrine of justification. This is dreadful.

    As a matter of exegesis, Dick’s exposition of Rom 2:5 was completely unconvincing. I think that before we posit a radical re-reading of that passage the case should be made that the traditional Reformed reading (as say in Olevian’s Romans commentary) is problematic. That hasn’t been shown.

    I’m not against doctrinal progress. To be progress, however, it has to help and not hurt. It has to fix a problem. Our old view of the state was confused. It needed fixing. Fine. Our old view of science was wrong. It needed fixing. Our old view of justification, however, wasn’t broken. Our old view distinguishing justification in this life and vindication at the judgment wasn’t wrong or broken.

    The duplex gratia Dei or the duplex beneficium worked quite well. Does that wheel really need re-inventing? God sanctifies the justified. He justifies us in order to sanctify us (which some confessional Lutherans at least won’t say). There is a double benefit of Christ but it is the justified whom he sanctifies. It is the justified whom he glorifies.

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