A Great God and A Great Goal: Reformation2Germany

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Check out this interview with Sebastian and Will Traub about the work in Germany.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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36 comments

  1. If that does not get anyone excited about Reformation theology I do not know what will. Perhaps this will get Lutherans motivated to do the same thing the Reformed are doing there too. Please keep us informed on the goings on there. Will look forward to hearing how the October conference went.

  2. Dear Friends of the Heidelblog,

    There are two simple ways to get behind this extraordinary work of reformation. First of all, PRAY. Pray in your church prayer meetings, public worship services, family worship and during seasons of personal prayer. Commit to pray for Sebastian Heck and his family. Pray for God to raise up leaders / ministers. Pray for financial stability. Secondly, GIVE. The work is still in need of support. Speak to your session/consistory or missions committee about this important ministry in Germany, and show them this video. Perhaps your own family would like to get behind R2G.

    May God bless His work – through His means – in a country that once sounded forth the trumpet of His Gospel!

    JDP

    • Thanks to God for raising up this work and establishing it in a wonderful and unexpected way (but through the due use of ordinary means!) and thanks Jon and Sebastian for all you’ve done.

      We are praying and will continue to pray for God’s rich blessing on his work in Heidelberg and beyond.

  3. No wonder Lutherans and Calvinists stay away from each other- come on Pastor McCain Lutherans and Calvinists have their differences but they do agree on the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone on the account of Christ alone. Why would you take such a negative stance on the Reformed planting Churches there? That seems pretty petty to me. And I am a member of a LCMS Church.

    Why don’t you try to expand on why you find this ridiculous- I would like to see you to try to defend your position around knowledgeable Calvinists-especially ones who are well versed in Luther too; like those who frequent the Heidelblog.

  4. John,

    Thanks for saying this. I was baptized in the LCMS, now a member of the PCA. Some of the remarks of LCMS pastors on the Reformed leave me pretty staggered; this is one of them. Instead of praying for the spread of the Gospel, the Reformed get blasted–it leaves me pretty mystified.

  5. Richard,

    I agree, Lutherans and Calvinists certainly have their clear differences but we do agree on many things too; the main one being the doctrine of justification by faith alone. This puts us (Lutherans and Calvinists) in stark contrast to most Churches in America these days- although most do not admit it or see it. Both also separate and distinguish the Law and Gospel properly too. Those are two pretty critical issues to the historical Christian faith.

    What Pastor McCain said actually sickens me without any clear explanation on his part.

  6. John,

    In addition to the Selbstaendige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche (SELK), the LCMS’s sister church in Germany, the Mo. Synod has devoted much time and treasure recently to building a ministry center in Wittenberg itself, which is in the largely de-Christianized former East Germany. I don’t really want to get into discussions here about who truly preaches Luther’s doctrine or the Reformed teaching on the Lord’s Supper, but did want to point out that confessional Lutherans already exist and are spreading the Gospel in Germany, whether the former West or former East.

    Adam

  7. Dr. Clark: I came across a message board post from early 2009 in which you remarked that you hoped to have something published either last or this year that would address what you termed “Calvino-phobia” amongst Lutherans. Did this work come to fruition? Seems it would address the subject under current consideration.

    • Hi Ken,

      Yes, I wrote an essay on the way Calvin came to be viewed among confessional Lutherans as part of the formation of the LCMS:

      “Calvin as Negative Boundary Marker in American Lutheran Self-Identity 1871–1934” in Johan de Niet, Herman Paul, and Bart Wallet, ed., Sober, Strict, and Scriptural: Collective Memories of John Calvin, 1800-2000 (Leiden: Brill, 2009).

  8. Adam,

    I have seen your name bandied about on the internet (or somewhere else- have you written anything I might have read?) but am not placing you. Have I had any internet exchanges with you before?

    I knew Lutherans were involved in Germany but from what I have heard the theology they proclaim is not of the reformation type. Perhaps you know more about the theological condition of the Lutheran Church there. I occasionally hear some things from that guy who is a guest on Issues etc from Germany (I forget his name though). That is about the extent of my awareness.

    Thanks for the post though

  9. John,

    I’m not sure. I believe I’ve commented on Heidelblog before, but as of now, I try to stay away from personal involvement in Internet dustups, of which there are all too many on both confessional Lutheran and Calvinist blogs.

    The SELK is a confessional Lutheran church body, as is the LCMS, although I would describe the SELK’s struggle with theological liberalism as similar to the LCMS’s with the Church Growth movement. While both bodies have past and current debate about their respective outside influences on confessional Lutheranism, I don’t think they’ve forfeited their confessional character. Two excellent professors here at our Fort Wayne seminary where I’m studying, Rev. Ziegler and Dr. Schulz, were both trained at the SELK seminary in Oberursel. I know that both have been on Issues, Etc., if you want a sample; Dr. Schulz’s Mission from the Cross is an excellent book on the mission of God and the spread of His Kingdom of grace.

    I guess my point was just that the Reformation’s passing rain shower of the Gospel is not completely gone from Germany. From a Lutheran viewpoint, it’s really just the SELK at this point that can even claim to be constitutionally Lutheran, though, as even the state churches that claim the name “Lutheran” are in communion with Union (Lutheran + Reformed) or Reformed state churches. I think the “Reformation 2 Germany” video is correct in saying that there are no Reformed communions preaching the Gospel in Germany, but with the SELK, this is not the case for Lutherans. We’re still hanging around.

  10. I’ve heard that there is a German-speaking Reformed ministry in Switzerland: http://www.newlife.ch

    They should really check these guys out and coordinate if the Swiss folk are indeed Reformed too. The “New Life” name is suspicious, but I wonder if Sebastian has a take on what they are doing.

  11. A MESSAGE TO LUTHERAN MINISTER PAUL McCAIN – IN RESPONSE TO HIS HARSH AND UNFAIR CRITICISMS OF THE R2G VIDEO (ALSO POSTED ON HIS BLOG):

    Dear Rev. McCain,

    Our congregation (Grace PCA in Douglasville, GA) and presbytery (Northwest Georgia Presbytery) are – by God’s sovereign grace and power – joyfully committed to the proclamation of the Gospel of our crucified and risen Savior in our own region and “to the ends of the earth.” We believe that the Great Commission commands us to go forth into all the world to preach the Gospel, to baptize, to make disciples and to trumpet forth the entirety of God’s Law and Promises in Scripture. We believe – unlike many well-intentioned, but misguided evangelicals – that this Great Commission should not have as its ethos a kind of “big tent” revivalistic bent, but rather the planting of faithful churches, churches where God’s law and promises, judgement and salvation are clearly and faithfully set forth every Lord’s Day through the simple, ordinary and “foolish” means of preaching, water, bread and wine. Our goal, as suggested by one of your readers, is not to proselytize Christians from other churches. On the contrary, our goal is to preach the gospel to all who will listen, pray that the Spirit attends His Word and brings life to the spiritually dead, and establish churches where Christ’s redeemed will receive life-long spiritual nourishment and oversight.

    Pastor McCain, I was baptized, catechized and confirmed in the LCMS in Santa Clara, California. I also attended an LCMS school for most of my youth. Very often I thank God for my baptism, and for the foundational doctrine that I learned from my parents and my pastors/teachers in the Lutheran Church. And though I now firmly and joyfully hold to the Reformed and Presbyterian Confession (expressed in the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity, which, as you may know, includes the Heidelberg Catechism, 1563), I continue to read, learn from, and greatly admire the life and theology of Martin Luther. In fact, peering down from the walls of my study – and our Elders’ meeting room – are not only portraits of Calvin, Knox, Owen and Westminster Abby, but also Luther before the Council at Worms, Luther with friends standing over his translation of the Bible, and a 16th c. cartoon of Luther preaching the Gospel before a teetering Pope Leo X. In addition, my little boy is affectionately named Hans Martin. Suffice it to say, as a Bible believing Protestant, who – by grace through God-given faith – rejoices in the recovery of the doctrine of justification during the early days of the 16th c., I claim Luther as a Father and hero of the Faith. … though not an infallible one. As you know, the first 14 points of doctrine were agreed upon at Marburg. There is also much for us to agree upon and rejoice in as Lutherans and Reformed today, even if our ecclesiology may never be reconciled in this life. It’s my opinion that Luther’s Philip was, in some ways, a unifying, healing agent in those days of Protestant discord, attempting to bring Lutherans, Calvinists and Zwinglians together. Even though the Gnesio-Lutherans – and others – chose not to follow, I appreciated his efforts nonetheless.

    Dear brother, the video that was produced for Reformation 2 Germany never stated that there were “no denominations in Germany that can legitimately claim to be an heir of the Protestant Reformation.” Rather, if you – and some of your readers – would have listened more carefully, you would have heard Pastor Heck state rightly that there are “no REFORMED churches / denominations (i.e. Connectional Reformed Churches in a denomination) in Germany that can legitimately claim to be an heir of the Protestant Reformation.” Perhaps asking for clarification before unnecessarily attacking our ministry would have been a better approach.

    If the 200 congregations of the SELK are, as you say, faithfully proclaiming the Gospel, then that certainly gives us reason to rejoice. However, in a country of almost 83 million people, where the State Church is extraordinarily liberal and the roots of secularism have spread deep and wide, there is plenty of room, I believe, for both Bible believing Lutherans AND Bible believing Reformed to reach out to the lost and establish Gospel-heralding churches.

    The reformation work of Fredrick III, Ursinus and Olevianus may have missed your historical radar. Or perhaps you’ve forgotten that the Reformed have a precious heritage in the Palatinate, and elsewhere in Germany? In other words, Germany has more than just a Lutheran heritage. The Heidelberg Catechism, published in 1563, it could be argued, defines the gospel as well as any 16th or 17th c. Protestant confession of faith. If you’ve never read it, I would warmly encourage you to do so. Also, this may help you to show more Christian charity towards us in the future … unless, that is, our differences over the sacraments will forever make it impossible for you to give us the sincere right hand of fellowship this side of heaven.

    Finally, I would like to address your uncharitable and hyper-critical words concerning the fact that we did not “expound upon the gospel” in the video presentation. The R2G presentation was not created to be an outreach tool, but rather as an informational resource for sister confessional churches to learn about the work of R2G. Pastor Heck’s faithful, Gospel-trumpeting sermons are on the website for all German speakers to hear — by the way, preached by a German, for Germans – with no plan to “import the idiosyncrasies of American Presbyterianism.” The video is not a sermon. Even so, we do hope and pray that it will communicate our commitment to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is also the Gospel of Luther, Ursinus, & Calvin, in Heidelberg and beyond.

    My brother in Christ, there is so much more that could be said here. But I will close with this: 1) I am disheartened by some of the abrasive rhetoric and uncharitable assumptions that have been posted on this space by both Lutherans and the Reformed. 2) I would sincerely like for this “conversation” to end on a positive note, that is, with Christian love, humility, and charity, in the Spirit of our Lord.

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Rev. Jon D. Payne

  12. Baus, yes, I know the brothers behind the “New Life” movement (if it can be called that!). The direction is Baptistic and (midly) charismatic. Certainly not confessionally Reformed. It’s a shame!

  13. Sebastian,

    We are praying for you and your church. Having lived in Germany for a number of years, I know how tough the atmosphere can be for proclaiming the Gospel. There is a PCA English speaking-church in the Ramstein area ministering to the American community there. Maybe they can be of some help?

  14. Richard, perhaps we can get 147 people together to chip-in a buck each, purchase the PDF (same price!), and then pass it around. 😉

  15. Baus,

    I will put in 10 bucks and if we find 13 more people we can each have the book for a month and then pass it on to the next guy. The last guy I guess is the lucky one who gets to keep the book. We should have an agreement though that if we want to reference it the last guy has to send it to the person who wants it again.

    • You can get the book through inter-library loan. Many libraries offer this service at no or little cost. It works through most public libraries and all academic libraries of any quality.

      If you want the article, you can usually get just that via ILL.

  16. Enjoyed reading the paper that Scott Clark wrote and that Baus has linked. I love this Lutheran and Calvinist stuff. I can’t get enough of it. The faults of both are similar- they are strong minded and have deep problems admitting that they might be wrong in certain areas. I have not quite figured out if the differences can ever be resolved- probably not in this life but it seems to me to be worth trying again.

  17. I think the differences lie in the different philosophical speculations that both Luther and Calvin brought into their theological thinking. Does not that always seem to be a problem with great theologians. I can think of Augustine with Plato, Aquinas with Aristotle, Edwards with the Empiricists and those who have tried to integrate existentialism with theological thinking. Is there any resolution to that problem? I can also think of Dooyeweerd with Hegel.

    I think Warfield might have been on to something when he centered his philosophical thinking in the Scottish Common Sense Realism of Thomas Reid. Although I have read some things that Nevin had problems with SCSR. Seems like a problem that someone should take up in a Phd dissertation.

    • John,

      See RRC on Edwards. It’s more likely that he was as deeply influenced by Cambridge Platonism as by empiricism.

      People have tried to track down Calvin’s philosophical influences but it’s more difficult than it looks. I find some evidence of mild Platonism but he was so widely read in the classics and it’s hard to nail him down.

      Neo-Platonism was also a major influence on Thomas (which fact usually gets overlooked).

      FWIW, Calvin wasn’t conscious of different with Luther fundamentally on anything. The differences appear more sharply between Reformed and Lutheran orthodoxy. For my part I’m fairly certain that the Lutherans smoothed out Luther on baptism for example. The Book of Concord and the early Lutheran orthodox are much clearer about baptism than Luther was. They’re with him on the Supper, I think. They’re not with him on perseverance, however.

      Some of the differences may be grounded in philosophy but not all. In my book on Olevianus I explored the differences between the Lutheran Christology (e.g., Chemnitz) and the Reformed. Interestingly, Olevianus’ approach to Christology was much less philosophical than Chemnitz’. Olevianus was more exegetical. It doesn’t fit the stereotype of “rationalist Reformed” v “biblical Lutheran.”

  18. Very good video. However my critique point would be that the video paints the picture that there are no believing Christians at all in Germany left. There are good bible believing (free) churches that are flourishing, and there are bible believing protestant churches (Landeskirche). I agree that these churches and believers are a minority, but they should still be honored and mentioned.

    Since we are asked again and again here in the States to share about the different church/believer situation in Germany, we might use parts of this video as a basis introduction next time we do a talk/presentation.

  19. Scott,

    What’s up with the Black Sox scandal video? Is there something to get there that I am missing?

    I do not know who or what RRC is. Thanks for the reply though. It seems that you know more about the Calvinist and Lutheran differences than anyone I know. Can you lead me to any good books, papers, web sites or people who can help me glean more information. I find the topic very interesting.

  20. Sebastian,

    Hey I am tired of footing the bill for Calvinists. I lived in Grand Rapids for many years and know the Dutch mentality about money. I also went to Calvin College. I have resolved never to be taken financially by a Calvinist again.

  21. RRC is Recovering the Reformed Confession I presume. I have read that section on Edwards, just recently again as a matter of fact. It certainly changed my mind about him, that is for sure. I was under the influence of Gerstner and Sproul’s take on him. I was not aware that he had been confronted by A. Alexander and others at the Princeton Seminary either. From what I can tell Warfield really had a distaste for his leanings towards the experiential. Can it be assumed that Warfield’s polemic against the supernatural was spurned by his disagreements with Edwards? I certainly am comfortable now with cessationism (was not always convinced of this). I know you dabbled with some charismatics for awhile yourself. I saw lots of weird stuff that turned me away from it. I’m thankful the Lord steered me in a different direction.

  22. @Yeazel, we wouldn’t need to pass around the hard copy book, we could just email the PDF to everyone who chipped-in. On the other hand, maybe there is some download prevention feature included.

    Then again, maybe Dr.Clark can post the 4 missing pages on his website. 😉

  23. @K. Lang, we never intended to convey that there are no believers in Germany. We don’t think we paint that picture at all. We are simply talking about a Reformed presence that is not there. What are the “good bible believing (free) churches” in Germany? Churches where the gospel is clearly preached, where the sacraments are administered properly and where church discipline is practiced? I just don’t see them…

  24. @Sebastian Heck: the FeG is one of these churches, and we know out of our own experience that the Heidelberg and WieWa FeG are preaching and teaching the gospel faithfully. And there are others around the Rhein-Neckar-region. And there are still faithful landeskirchl. Gemeinden as well, more so in Wuerttemberg for example, but also in the Heidelberg region (eg Ziegelhausen).
    But I’m not out to discuss this just wanted to leave the remark that I had before: the video is great and – like I said before – I have the impressn’ion that you do not convey that there are a few active Christians left.
    God bless your church planting and ministry.

  25. Hallo K. Lang – Kerstin?
    well, sorry to say, but since you brought it up, I have to strongly disagree about the FeG (Ev Free) in Heidelberg (and in many other places). I have known (and worked in) the FeG for years and I can say from first hand experience: it is just broadly evangelical, but in no sense of the term is it a church concerned with the heritage, the message and the practice of the Reformation – Reformed or otherwise. Of course, it all comes down to the question: what is the gospel? And here, I would certainly have to take exception to what is being preached in many FeGs in Germany today.

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