Lutherans, Calvinists, & Evangelicals on vocation

Tim Keller, the well-respected pastor of Redeemer Prebyterian Church in New York, City, has written a book about vocation entitled Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work.  I haven’t read it yet, though I’m ordering it, but from what I’ve heard and read on the preview at Amazon (click the link), it looks promising.  Also, he “gets” what Luther is saying and expresses warm appreciation for the Lutheran doctrine of vocation.  What intrigues me is what he says about the different emphases of Lutheran, Calvinist, Evangelical, and Mainline Protestant treatments of vocation and the Christian’s life in the world.  After the jump, see what he says in an interview in Christianity Today.From  Why Tim Keller Wants You to Stay in That Job You … | This Is Our City | Christianity Today:

Andy [Crouch]: What’s been missing from faith-and-work books that Every Good Endeavor was designed to address?

Tim [Keller]: When I read faith-and-work books, they tended to pass by each other. I had the sense that they were drawing on different streams of thought, maybe different biblical or historical themes. I tend to be a complexifier. I like to hold the different biblical themes in tension. I got the sense that most books on faith and work tended to isolate a certain idea. This book is trying to bring the different streams together.

What streams of thoughts have been most missing when we talk about faith and work?

It depends on who you’re talking about. It seems to me the evangelical tradition tends to talk a lot about how faith essentially spiritually helps you deal with the troubles and the stresses of work. You need help to face challenges.

Mainline churches tend to put more emphasis on social justice and basically did a critique of capitalism early on, so whenever the mainline churches or ecumenical movement did faith-and-work stuff, it was usually critiquing the market, not “how’s your heart?”

The Lutheran stream emphasizes that all work is God’s work. Worldview doesn’t matter. You make a good pair of shoes, then you’re doing God’s work, because work is God’s way of caring for creation.

The Calvinist stream was more like yes, it’s not just you are caring for creation through work, but you are shaping it. and therefore your beliefs have an impact.

When you put those four streams together, I think they’re very comprehensive. If you isolate them from each other, they can create idiosyncrasies at best and imbalances at worst.

I love that in the book you don’t just write about people in positions with a lot of authority and influence, although you do cover that. You also include people who, because of what stage of life they’re in or the shape their life has taken, don’t feel like they have a lot of power at work.

What do you have to say to people who just feel like, “Well, I’m kind of stuck in this job and there’s not a lot I can do to change the circumstances of my job right now”?

I would say the Lutheran stream and the evangelical stream [are helpful].

The evangelical stream puts the emphasis on the heart: How do you deal with frustrations? How do you deal with co-workers whom you want to strangle? How do you deal with the fact that nobody seems to see the good work you’re doing?

That gets into Ephesians 6—God sees. It’s pietistic, but in the best sense of the word. You’re Brother Lawrence, you’re practicing the presence of God. He cares whether I do a good job today. He’s watching me.

The Lutheran stream says that everyone on the earth is being fed by God. The simplest farm girl milking the cow, the truck driver bringing the milk, the grocer selling it are doing God’s work—which means there’s no such thing as menial labor, as long as the job is actually helping somebody, as long as you’re not selling internet porn or something like that. Luther gives this amazing amount of dignity to all kinds of work. Actually, I would go as far to say I don’t know that there’s a Christian way to land a plane but I do think there’s probably a Christian way to write plays. I think my faith automatically is going to affect how I write a play. I don’t think it automatically affects how I land a plane.  [Keep reading.]

Do you think these different “streams” are compatible?

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  • Abby

    Here is an article he wrote on his Redeemer church blog:

    He discusses each of the four points a little more.

  • Abby

    Matt Jamison has an interesting comment (first comment following article) regarding having previously been a member of Tim Keller’s church.

    “So I left Redeemer for a small, humble LCMS congregation where sins are forgiven and the sacrament is given every week and individual confession and absolution is encouraged.”

  • larry


    Bingo and good connecting post and I would agree with Matt whole heartedly having come from this stream myself. “true Calvinist and Lutherans should be on guard when reading or listening to him” always true because as Matt says correctly, “He says lots of nice things about Luther, especially as it regards “Bondage of the Will.” But he claims that Calvin understood Luther better than the Lutheran confessors did, in other words, he tries to twist Luther into his kind of Calvinist”, is ALWAYS the case. But they really don’t “get” bondage of the will and identify it with total depravity. They don’t “get” BOW because underpinning BOW in Luther is clearly the sacraments. Luther’s theology is never divorced one part from the other. They really don’t get original sin as Luther points out it is primarily the parts of the soul, not the sin acts that are really the effects of the previous. That original sin is “the loss of the knowledge of God” and “not trusting that God is forgiving”, so far Luther! Because that connects back to the sacraments giving, actually and for you (even if you don’t believe, I.e. the unbeliever receives the body and blood of Christ TOO!). I.e. that which causes one to trust that God IS INDEED forgiving. Thus, TD does not cover the real fallen ground the BOW does.

    This connects to their ideas of sanctification, vocation and third use of the Law. This is why Keller sees a difference in a Christ a “Christian way to write a book” but distinguishes that from “no Christian way to land a plane”. You see right there? There’s the poison Luther would say, there’s the confusion of Law and Gospel. In reality writing a moral book whether you base it Moses or Aristotle is no different (Luther), but Calvinist see a difference there hence Keller’s statement. The ONLY way you write a real Christian ONLY book is a pure (pro me) Gospel book. For example Sasse’s book on the real body and blood presence of Christ, that would be a Christian book because its proclaiming the Gospel. The “Law” is not Christian, the Law is unbeliever and believer alike. Thus, Aesop’s fables with a moral to the story are just as good (Luther makes this point concerning the value of moral lessons for this life).

    The fact that Keller makes a distinction between “a Christian way to write a book” but “not a Christian way to land a plane” betrays his Calvinism AND confusion of Law and Gospel. In reality NO Calvinist, without exception, can avoid eventually confusing Law and Gospel. Why? Their baseline doctrine, that which distinguishes it from the Augsburg confessions, that which is the sine quo none of IT so that IT IS Calvinism is intrinsically a confusion of Law and Gospel and an unchristian doctrine. And it will always manifest itself.

    Calvinism has always been this way, very tricky, and very crafty. The term crypto-calvinism, the crypto part, (though it refers to Lutherans who are such) is telling because its “hidden” more easily and Trojan horsed into Lutheranism more easily than say rank Arminianism. Why? Same exchange as it was between Calvin himself and early Lutherans fleshing him out, it mimics very closely Lutheran language and is quite subtle. Total depravity sounds a lot like bondage of the will, after all its “total” and its “depravity”. They use the term “sacraments” too, but they only drink wine. They say in some circles “real presence” but they do not mean the real and true body and blood of Christ (an old heresy of dividing the two natures, in a sense Calvin was worse than Zwingli on this, Zwingli at least said its only a nude sign and did not detach the two natures).

    And really there’s nothing at all new here with Keller, and I don’t dislike the guy its all about doctrine. This is just the same direction D James Kennedy went too, “a Christian way to renew the world, America, etc…”. This is intrinsic from way back in Presbyterianism and its rooted in a lot of their eschatological triumphantism (e.g. post mil. Perterism, etc…).

    Calvinism will ALWAYS, in order to remain in tact, throw the brakes on the Gospel and thus confound Law and Gospel at two major junctions: (1) the sacraments, (2) the sanctification/good works/fruit of the spirit/vocation complex.

  • Jon

    @3, Larry,
    You just keep on topping yourself! Great critique!

  • I for one have greatly appreciated the Lutheran doctrine of vocation, that bearing witness is to be a part of one’s regular overall life and not something that is “over and above” the rest of your life in a separate way (such as when people in my old Baptist church gave the impression that you had to be a missionary or a pastor, or you really weren’t making your life count for Jesus Christ).

  • Abby

    I know this particular subject is about vocation and not about the Sacraments. But the way that Keller has “blended” 4 different denominations’ perspectives into this doctrine made me think of the previous post about the “German State Church.” Which is where our LCMS policy regarding “syncretism and unionism” came from.

    “The United Protestants can be traced back to the early nineteenth century. At that time, King Frederick William III began instituting the unification of Lutheran and Reformed churches in Prussia. (For lack of a good online history of the Prussian Union, you can read the Wikipedia article here. Lutheran dissent over this forced union led, by the by, to Old Lutherans immigrating to Australia and the United States—laying the groundwork for today’s Lutheran Church of Australia and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.)

    The resulting Prussian Union represented a blending of Lutheran and Reformed traditions, and it’s out of this body that the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland comes. Indeed, they claim not only Lutheran documents like the Small Catechism and the Augsburg Confession as part of their heritage but also accept the Reformed Heidelberg Catechism.”

    Luther and Calvin (from what I have heard in the past) were friends except for the doctrine regarding the Sacraments. So how can you mix the two catechisms? Look at the New Catechism project developed by Tim Keller’s church:

    Look at questions 43-47 regarding baptism and communion. Do we receive forgiveness of sins from these Sacraments? Everyone after Luther took too many steps away from the original teachings of the apostles and Scripture.

    So, even in this topic regarding vocation, how can we really “blend” all of the main protestant categories and make it work? (Even if he does give credit to the Lutherans.) It doesn’t seem to fit to try to say that a menial job is honorable while also saying that we must go further to try to “change the world.” Keller is right — it creates an unresolvable tension. And makes for confusion and guilt regarding ‘am I doing enough’? I am also wondering if this confusion is aiding in the decline in church attendance. It seems like we were much stronger when our convictions of doctrine were strong.

    The Lutheran church (I’m speaking from LCMS perspective) is voluntarily absorbing a lot of evangelical thinking into its life these days. Especially when you hear a blending of Law and Gospel into moralistic and legalistic preaching. (This is a problem in some of the “contemporary worship” places.)

    However, I love to hear and read Tim Keller. The Reformed are with us regarding justification and grace alone. And I hear a lot more about Luther from them than I do our own people most of the time. Except regarding the Sacraments.

  • fjsteve


    They use the term “sacraments” too, but they only drink wine.

    Can you explain?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    fjsteve – that is baffling. In essence it would seem that Larry is saying that the Real Presence is dependent on the belief of the one taking it, ie, if you have 3 Lutherans and a Calvinist at the altar railing, the wine & bread would have the Real Presence when the Lutherans take it, and then disappear when the Calvinist take it. So, in essence, Larry is saying that Jesus is sitting in heaven and saying – oh, he’s orthodox, I can be there, but oh, he’s not orthodox, so I’m forced to skip him…. This is exactly what the baptists believe – namely that we can force God by our cognizant faith (we are saved by the right belief, not by Christ). A mechanistic understanding of theology.

  • Grace

    “This is exactly what the baptists believe – namely that we can force God by our cognizant faith (we are saved by the right belief, not by Christ). A mechanistic understanding of theology.”

    Your assumption is wrong.

    9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

    10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10

  • Grace,
    It is God’s work alone that causes us to confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Christ atoned for us.

  • Grace

    Mike @ 10

    I believe that we have FREE WILL, the Word of God is very clear:

    Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. Romans 13:2

    NOTE: Romans 13:2 you can see clearly the word “resisteth” used twice and the word “resist” used once. That would mean that a person can resist God, this would also mean that they had knowledge of what they were resisting, and FREE WILL to do so.

  • Tom Hering

    Nope. We have no choice but to resist – we are slaves to sin. And Romans 13:2 is correct – we will indeed receive damnation. So then, God must change us into slaves of God.

    But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. (Romans 6:22)

  • Tom B

    I’m a former Redemer member turned LCMS Lutheran. Tim Keller had a huge impact on my coming to understand the gospel as True since I was a hostile NYC agnostic previously.

    Interestingly, he was raised in the Lutheran church from what I understand and I believe this may have some influence on his thinking on vocation!

  • Abby

    TomB@13 If you don’t mind saying, how were you led to become LCMS?

  • FWS

    what Larry says.
    klassie, I have to assume that Larry didn´t mean it that way…. that wouldn´t be a very Lutheran viewpoint would it be?

  • larry

    Exactly Frank. In fact that’s a major difference. We would say if an unbeliever communes with us even a Calvinist unbelieving of the realbody and blood still has put in his mouth the very body and blood of Christ. Contra in Calvin’s church the unbeliever does not receive what they call the real presence because he does not ascend into the high heavens to spirit7lly eat and drink of a presence of Christ. This is tricky because some reformed lean zwingli and stick with pure sign pointing to the reality. Here Calvin is worse divorcing the two natures; Chemnitz points out this can never be done.

    But you don’t have to take my word the Calvinist spelll this out proudly that this is their doctrine. The only people that try to drag Calvinist from their own confessed doçtrine are lu5rans that wish to “fix it ” for them. Ie I’m not saying anything they don’t vigorously confess. In fact as a Calvinist Larry id be saying to the Lutheran Larry yes that is why we don’t partake with Rome or Lutherans. No reformed person WOULD desire or want to commune with body /blood rendering worship Lutherans or Catholics.

  • larry

    Ie what we are saying is that in the mouth is put the cheek that was slapped by soldiers…thus Jesus for real…thus God the son for real…and Gods blood thus worship is reaally rendered thus we bow…you don’t bow in worship unless it really is God and as the only revealed God the flesh that sweater God the blood that dripped from thrusters spear and thorns God.

    Because these sacraments are not confessed as THE sacraments that are…then the whole sanctification third use fruits etc become the law and gospel confounding ground of the reformed. Hence the reformed dichotomy of the christian writer but no way to christianly land a plane. This cannot be avoided and is a natural consequence of that doctrine.

  • larry

    Ironically the Lutheran answer to posting the ten commandments at the secular court house could be, “Well ok, what about instead Aristotle’s ethics. ” How might the atheist consider that I wonder. But not many Lutherans “get that “. Hence the deep encroachment of evangelical doctrine into the Augsburg churches.

  • Helen K.

    (subscribed to comments, just catching up on reading)

  • Just remember, all Reformed/Calvinists/Evangelicals will heap praise upon Martin Luther right up to the point that Luther goes all “Lutheran” on them.

    : )

  • larry

    Yep, they’ll read Luther where Luther appears to not “hurt their cause” but when he does go all Lutheran on them that’s it. Its why BOW is just about the ONLY book they read and they almost never read Chemnizt, Sasse or the others because they are always cutting too close to the bone. That too shows a doctrinal point though. Because when Luther does go all Lutheran on them, he’s really going all Gospel on them And right there is where goads get kicked against. E.g. if we say, “this is the Lutheran doctrine on the sacraments”, that’s all good and fine (i.e. one of many points of view). But if we say “this is the Christian doctrine on the sacraments”, “FOUL!” and a flag on the play is thrown.

  • larry

    Abby (and maybe some of this will help answer FJ too),

    You really cannot say they are with us regarding justification by faith alone. Because they pack different presents in those four words “justification_by_faith_alone”. Theoretically they desire to be, but their doctrine shackles them ultimately from their desire. Why, the sacraments. Because the sacraments are the Gospel, Luther particularly said that regarding the sacrament of the altar. In a way this is very simple if people are just honest about what their confessions confess.

    It’s very simple. What is the Gospel? Sounds like an obvious question right. But its huge to understand what the means. Let’s just put in the theoretical without saying X or Y is true, let’s just examine the differing paradigms (doctrines) as stand alone in and of themselves without saying “that one’s it and that one is not”. By doing this we will immediately find that they are not the same, not even close.

    Lutheran: If we say the Good News is to ultimately receive the forgiveness of sin and Christ’s righteousness, not just in promise, but ontologically; I.e. in reality, truth, fact and here’s the quicker substantively (your mouth of flesh eats and drinks the body and blood of the Son of God, literally salvation enfleshed). If that is the Gospel, then to deny that is to deny the Gospel. And that’s what happens in the reformed doctrine. The Gospel is not just “news” that is indeed good (Calvin agrees here) but rather God’s doing Word, his “let there be…” and there is. Lutherans make a HUGE mistake when they use the “check” analogy. That’s a Calvinistic analogy. I write you a check, a promissory note that is. Now the check is good, you just have to cash it (the faith part) to get the cash (the reality). That’s entirely Calvinistic. And you would not believe the number of really good Lutherans otherwise that miss this. I use to miss it a lot, because it does sound like a good analogy. The Lutheran analogy would be I actually give you the substantial reality, the money itself and not a promissory note. That’s the whole point of the unbeliever actually receiving the real and true body and blood of Christ in the communion, they would really receive literally and substantively salvation, literally and substantively the Gospel, literally and substantively the forgiveness of sin. The problem is they reject that very thing and to reject this substantive gift of God is in fact eternally dangerous and becoming the unforgivable sin if you are doing it KNOWINGLY (which I don’t think most Calvinist do, their doctrine is a kind of blind ignorance). Thus, one would be literally tossing the money on the ground as it were. Thus, ultimately the Calvinist doctrine is tossing to the ground the Gospel. Those in it may not realize this. I didn’t nor would have meant to. But you have to divorce the formal body of doctrine issue from the believer “in that” system as it were. The doctrine is to be condemned, not the people.

    If the Calvinist just for sake of an intellectual exercise says to himself, a “what if that is what it really is”, then he must conclude IF that is true, THEN indeed this dire to reject it. And any honest Christian would in general principle recognize that IF one rejected God’s forgiveness then the eternal peril is obvious. Now, just apply that to the hypothetical (from a neutral analyzing point of view), if this really is the real substantive and true body and blood of the Son of God, the One crucified on the actual cross and ascended to the right hand of God, the literal forgiveness and righteousness from God given to, baptism does forgive me…to reject that is to reject what it is…the forgiveness of sins (for me) and Christ’s righteousness (for me). To go back to the money analogy, the Calvinist doctrine is tossing 100 dollar bills on the ground saying, “this not money”. That sounds absurd to the one seeing and knowing, “Hey guy, you are in fact tossing real money away.”

    Conversely, again in the world of hypothetical to examine the “what if the other is true” – kind of like Paul saying if Christ did not rise from the dead we are the most pathetic of all men (and the opposite is true for the unbeliever…i.e. if he did – Paul’s point in using this – same thing here) – if it is not the substantive body and blood of Christ and if baptism does not forgive sins, then a Lutheran would have to say, IF that is so, THEN our hopes are entirely wrong and false and we are the most pitiful of men.

    So you see we don’t really say the same thing at all even if we both say the words Gospel, justification by faith alone and so forth. This was Luther’s point about doctrine being a whole. Luther would NEVER have sided with Calvin. That’s why Melancthon hid from the aging Luther Calvin’s doctrinal leanings. Though Luther detected it.

    It gets back to the revealed God versus the God in majesty speculated about (original sin). Morality, sexual things, theft are not examples of ORIGINAL sin, merely effects. But most would say they are examples of original sin. They are locked into Aristotle’s ideas whether they know it or not. Calvinism above most really is a bold example of original sin (we all do it, its just that it is a formalized, preached, taught and confessed system of it). Why? Because ultimately they keep it in the realm of the Law and abstraction. This is why Law and Gospel is not just simply imperatives and indicatives (about as far as the best Calvinist take it). They make the Gospel Law, not so much as commandments to be done, at least not at first, but in as much as they leave it in abstraction that then require action (law done) on your part to attain it. That abstraction, due to speculation, is the emboldened example of original sin. In fact the Calvinistic doctrine on election of double predestination or limited atonement, especially as it more logically plays out in the Puritans and Baptist that take hold of Calvin’s doctrine is nothing but PURE original sin. How so? In order to remain in tact as Calvinism, everything remains in abstraction and this really is God unclothed without His Words, Word-less, i.e. with out the Logos, i.e. without God the Son, i.e. without Christ. E.g. John 3:16. Here in order to remain in tact AS Calvinism it must be said that this does not mean “the world”. Note immediately what that does. It removes the actual Word spoken from the concrete speech and tosses it up into the speculative world of the abstracted God. Literally abstracted from His concreted Word. Once up there then immediately you must ask what of yourself? Where do I belong in this scheme, damned or saved, forgiven or not? I want to be saved and forgiven, so how do I get there? You must speculate because you have been taken away from the Word (i.e. Jesus) and into the realm of the hidden nude God. You might then stumble upon “this baptism saves you”, the Word, Jesus, and breath a sigh of relief. But then comes Calvinism, and in order to remain in tact AS Calvinism it must say, “but the sign is not the reality”. You see again God becomes abstracted from His concrete Words and tossed up into the abstracted or unrevealed or nude God in majesty. So you have to again ask the same questions, “what about me”. Then you stumble on the words of institution by Jesus on the Lord’s Supper. You breath a sigh of relief. But then comes the doctrine again, to remain in tact as Calvinism, it must then variously say, “Well again the sign is not the reality, “is” means “represents”, this is only the divine you have to lift yourself up into heaven by the mechanism of faith, etc…”. Note again what happened, God was abstracted from His concrete Words, or God is thus undressed from His Words and you find yourself in the same exact pickle. This IS original sin, this IS the loss of the knowledge of God (note how you loss Him every time He speaks when the doctrine speaks but….) Then what happens? You have make move for the Law in some form or another, be it directly the Law as morality, third use as sanctification or even faith as an “in principle” law that GETS you to God. Because He has been abstracted from you, pulled from His Words, unclothed from His Words/Word. This is the serpents original “hath God really SAID”. That “hath God really SAID” is the same as “If you are really the Son of God” and likewise “baptism saves you doesn’t really mean it saves you”, etc… And what is that really? Seeking God apart from the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Logos, the Son of God, the Divine second person (i.e. original sin). Because Christ, the Word is not the abstracted God but the concrete spoken God. The Trinity is saying, “You seek a God that is not, a Wordless, abstracted God, Aristotle’s God, a speculated God from your mind, i.e. a non-Trinitarian God and that God is not Me, nor does that God exist”. The sacraments are ultimately connected to the two natures and the trinity, they are not nice little side bar doctrines.

    All such false teachings at their root are always trying to unclothe God from His Word, and deny the Logos, then put God into abstraction (and law religion does this too, Law ultimately becomes abstract and thus a nude God or Wordless God) and this is original sin. This is as Luther points out in his lectures on Genesis the “loss of the knowledge of God” (Paul speaks of this in Romans) and to not “trust that He is forgiving”.

    Do you see why all heresies that divide, confound, confuse, mix up, separate the two natures of in one way or another, deny the Trinity, the sacraments, etc… are not just wrong because the test question on the doctrine demands the correct and true answer? We don’t just confess the Trinity only because that’s the right answer. No, all of these get to the heart of WHO God is and FOR US, and the GREAT immeasurable eternal comfort that is. That’s why these doctrines are defended. I think in our day and age this has been largely lost. E.g. even all protestant denominations confess and defend the Trinity but few grasp the reason other than “that’s the right answer when refuting a Mormon”, they don’t grasp the comfort part. Why? Well most denominations don’t really “get” the Gospel (as in above) and thus loose why the Trinity is a tremendous comfort to saved, why the two natures should be deeply understood and the connection to the sacraments. Chemnitz in his “The Two Natures of Christ” does not miss this at all on that doctrine and is not too shy in pointing this out as the root reason behind all such heresies and really the bottom line effort of the devil through them…i.e. to rob the saints of the immeasurable comfort these doctrines give us, and give us not just in undoing promissory form of words, but God’s DO Words that deliver in reality, truth and substance….the goods themselves.

    If Christians see that, then they will begin to really question these confessions they belong too. It’s not an issue of “right versus wrong” if you will (although only one is right), but it is not “getting the test question correct”. That’s the realm of Law and when we argue that way, then the old Adam puffs up and takes his stand. It’s nearly impossible to avoid this as both sinner/saint, we always want to be (legally/justified) as having the right answer. No, but in the realm of the Gospel, the immense comforting realm of the needy person, this is why we ultimately defend these doctrines. Back to the money analogy; You are not saying in my hand is REAL money because you want to be right and show me how wrong I am (a Law battle), rather you are trying to say to me, “No really look, its money, seriously, you know you need money, there it is…why are you throwing it to the ground?” If I’d just pause long enough to stop and see this, then I just might say, “Oh wow!”

  • Stephen


    And yet we use plastic cups and throw them in the trash, even at the most “closed” altars. Maybe ought to insist on the common cup. It’s inconsistent, maybe even damning. How am I supposed to tell my kids that we bow because that is God up there on the altar and then they see His blood land in a basket like garbage?

  • larry

    Yep I know, I’m with you. We struggle with the same issue at ours. I think it speaks to the degree that sacramentarian doctrine has slipped in covertly.

  • Abby

    Larry @22: — Exactly why I could never make it through a seminary! :)But I know and agree with what you said.

    “[Real Presence] If that is the Gospel, then to deny that is to deny the Gospel.”

    I attended a retreat at a Reformed church in St Louis once not long ago. At the very end, we were to go up with our group and take Communion. I went up with my group. There on the table were loaves (not unleavened) of bread and cups of wine. There was no consecration done with the Word – at least in our presence. We were just to help ourselves and be seated. I did not think I received the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It was as if I only took a little piece of bread and a sip of wine. There were no words of forgiveness pronounced either. And I questioned myself, was it because of the ritual that was missing that I was used to? I don’t think so – it was because the Word was completely missing.

    So, if we mean different things when we say “justified by faith alone,” and the Reformed/Calvinist/Evangelicals say that forgiveness of sins are not actually present in Baptism and Holy Communion – then how are they saved?

    All the time I cannot wait to receive Communion. I can’t wait for confession and absolution. When I receive the Bread and Wine, I know I receive the Real Presence of Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. It is real to me.

    If Baptism and Communion are not real – for the forgiveness of sins — for the Reformed/Calvinist/Evangelicals – then, you say, they are denying the Gospel altogether? Then really, how are they saved? That they believe in Jesus has to be enough?

  • Stephen

    I was part of a community once that used very nice, handmade nickel individual cups for Communion. You took one from a wooden box and went up to the altar where the wine was poured for you from a communal pitcher as the “for you” was announced. Then you returned the cup to the same kind of box with little dividers on the other side as you left the altar. The sacristans cleaned them in the sink in the sacristy. I know the sacristans took it and everything else they did very seriously, but I don’t know if there was some sort of formal way that they cleaned the cups or not.

    Anyway, it seems like there ought to be for the sake of not only good order, but for what it proclaims. If we are going to take it so seriously, then it seems like we ought to do so all the way through. I can imagine cleaning individual cups with water in special large vessels perhaps and then taking the water to a garden – something like that. But the basket! Even though it is lined with white linen, it still looks like a pile of trash that the elder is toting around. It also encourages, I think, the idea that it really is just wine and we are only playing at this whole “this is my . . .” business.

    The plastic cup thing keeps nagging at me. I have found it problematic as I try to introduce my wife to Lutheranism, and now I can see my daughter already picking up on stuff. Neither one of them will let any inconsistencies go by. And they shouldn’t. If the sacraments really are the dividing line between orthodoxy and heterodoxy (and I agree that they are) then what the heck?!

    Oh well, just ranting a bit. Love what you offer Larry. It always reminds me of why I go to church and why I need to bring my family there too.

  • Tom Hering

    What’s the difference between a bit of wine in a plastic cup ending up in the trash, and the wine from a common cup traveling through your digestive system and ending up in the toilet? The atoms your urine is composed of are the same atoms that the wine was composed of. So maybe it’s all in the act of drinking the wine by faith. After the act, it’s just wine again.

  • Abby

    Stephen @26 I agree about the cups. If there is a choice between the common cup and the individual cups, I will always use the common cup. I have only attended one church that used the plastic cups. Before that the Altar Guilds functioned under strict rules regarding cleaning the cups and disposal. The same with the Baptismal water. One Baptismal font was built over a hole directly to the ground below for the emptying of the water. In an Orthodox church I know they put a small piece of bread into the common cup of wine, when you approach they use a plastic spoon to dip into the cup to pick up a piece of bread with some wine and give it to you. Then a new spoon for the next person. There is no residual bread or wine left on the spoon. But even so, I’m not sure how they handle the disposal of the spoons. I believe that it is a practice that any consecrated elements left over are consumed by the priests and deacons. That is an issue too.

  • Abby

    These things should be up to the Pastor and NOT the Altar Guild ladies. My mother was an Altar Guild president for many years. She was very good at it. They practiced Holy Communion every week. She trained her ladies very well. I was in a church where the Pastor wanted to switch from twice a month to every week Communion — it was the Altar Guild that opposed it because of the work involved. He made the switch anyway. And everything worked out fine. Maybe it is the individual cups that should be abolished altogether. I know CPH has some books for guidelines for Altar Guilds. But, bottom line, the Altar Guild should not do the dictating.

  • fws

    Tim @27

    yeah tom. I guess we could use pages of old bibles as toilet paper as well… After all, its all paper. Just paper.

  • Tom Hering

    Frank @ 30, that’s right, apart from reading it by faith, it is indeed just paper. Unless you believe supernatural power resides in the physical object of the book at all times. But that would be superstition, not faith – and that’s what I think is going on here with some views of the wine: superstition. Like eucharistic adoration.

  • Stephen


    I think you miss my concern. It is really about how the act of putting the plastic cups in the trash speaks the act of receiving communion. After all, don’t we say that it is the elements with the Word that faith clings to? So they matter a lot in their very particularity, or Jesus would not have ordained them at all it seems to me. I wouldn’t even drink a good Burgundy out of plastic if I could help it. It would be offensive (and probably make the wine taste off) simply because good wine like that is worthy of a proper glass. And I would drain that glass to the dregs.

    I think you would agree that even though it is true that Bibles are actually just paper, glue and ink, we still ought to handle them with care and a degree of reverence. These things send messages. And if we want to say that both believer and unbeliever actually do receive Christ’s body and blood, it seems to me that we ought to at least make an effort to keep up appearances for the sake of the weaker brother (which may be me for all I know). As I said, my kids will catch on to such inconsistencies like this and that’s not good. I did when I was growing up. We are so serious about Communion in every other way and this practice seems like a real slap in the face to what we confess about the sacrament.

  • Tom Hering

    Stephen, a degree of reverence, yes. But I think hyper-reverence toward the elements teaches magical thinking about the elements. When what we want to teach instead is that faith receives the body and blood, and faith believes it’s the body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, and a lack of faith eats and drinks judgment upon itself for not believing. Even in the case of baptism, we say that apart from the Word and faith, the water is just water. Now, with the common cup, it’s wiped with a cloth when done. How do we treat the few micro-droplets of wine that stain the cloth? How far do we go with reverence before it becomes ridiculous? And misses the truth of the matter entirely?

  • larry

    The definition of superstition is something that is not true, not “magic”. People confuse that all the time, especially in our modern era.

    It seems to me, and maybe I’m missing something, I don’t see a disagreement between Stephen and Tom. Tom’s protecting against a hyper view that approaches some of the errors Rome introduced, while Stephen is saying actions though not necessary can cover up as it where what we wish to communicate. Like the account of when Luther spilled the blood/wine, his aged arms giving out, he then knelt down and licked it up from the floor. I’d say seeing that was a strong visual confession of what it is to those attending. Could they have just cleaned it up with a white garment reverently and it had been fine. I suppose so. But the former was kind of an inadvertent impromptu “liturgy” by the shepherd, if you will, that rather strongly confessed what was in that cup.

    It kind is similar to us having an altar and heterodoxy having a table emphasizing “memory”. Liturgy and actions, can speak louder than words. One is free in these but remember we are in a worship setting, so, they should be done so that they highly compliment the Gospel being confessed. It would be like the pastor at the end of the absolution instead of saying amen snickering and saying, “yea right”. It affect the absolution but it would definitely affect the sheep.

    Really the best way for Lutherans to address the multiple cups verses the single chalice is through the teaching of the real body and blood of Christ being there. Yea we preach, teach and confess this but I think we get sleepy eyed over it and we cannot deny we are in an atmosphere that confesses, preaches and teaches against that (i.e. proximity of heterodoxy around us). In some sense a Lutheran church in an isolated land where it is alone the church and around it is nothing but other rank false religions is in a better way, though the sword is often employed more against her, than we are surrounded not so much by other religions and such but heterodoxy. We are not persecuted by the sword in America, but it is worse by the laughter and sarcasm of false heterodoxy. Paul points this principle out that Ishmael persecuted Isaiah not by the sword but his laughter in that Isaiah trusted His God’s Word for his soul. The worse persecution Jesus received was not the betrayal of Judas nor the beatings but when they laughed and scorned him saying he trusted in His God (the Father) but he cannot come to get him off of the cross. That struck His suffering soul more than the nails. Nothing is worse, nothing at all, not even the sword than the laughing, scoffing, countering words that does so to that very thing which your faith and soul clings to for eternal life and washing of your dirty conscience. Though we tend to only think of persecution in this modern way, the sword on the neck. But the sword on the neck is trivial and really designed to get where the laughter and scoffing at the doctrine gets, against faith’s object, the Word and promises of God.

    There’s a scene in a movie I saw a bit back that well illustrates this. An orphaned boy had been promised by his surviving parent, father I think it was, that he’d come back for him. The bullies in the orphanage would beat him up for this daily. They would then proceed to laugh and mock his father’s promises to him saying they were not true. He took the beatings and didn’t like them but what really hurt him was later when he would go to bed and hear their laughter at his father’s promises. THAT broke him down into tears. It is the same way with doctrine. The persecuting false heterodoxies hit the conscience of the believers and hurt infinitely MORE than any fist in the gut would hurt the body. Saying baptism does not save or forgive one, persecutes the believer MORE than even physical death itself.

  • Abby

    Tom @33
    “I think hyper-reverence toward the elements teaches magical thinking about the elements . . . How do we treat the few micro-droplets of wine that stain the cloth? How far do we go with reverence before it becomes ridiculous?”

    I, for one, am not speaking of hyper-anything, or paranoid fear regarding any “micro-droplets.” I was only speaking of care and respect with regard to left-over remnants of consecrated elements.

    You are right — Lutherans believe in “in, with, and under” — not consubstantiation. The Body and Blood are present with the bread and wine. I know you know that. I don’t mean to be telling you anything new. Without a certain level of respect regarding our Sacrament, people can begin to see with their eyes, and assume with their reason, that the bread and wine are merely representational and not “real.” And then not take it seriously as anything which actually bestows forgiveness of sins.

  • larry


    You bring up some real good points. And some that show the difference between baptism and the LS. When said forgiveness of sin is not there I was speaking broadly and due to the doctrine – I probably should have expanded that a bit I apologize about that. Their baptism is baptism, that’s of course where I was baptized myself and I didn’t get rebaptized upon becoming a Lutheran or “just get saved” by the same. Think of this way, why does not any Christian confession accept Mormon baptism? Because they don’t give as Christ instituted much less confess it in their doctrines as such. With the heterodox they do. So forgiveness of sin is there in THAT baptism. When I today as a Lutheran look at my baptism in time of trial I’m looking at the one I was given and is still in the present that baptism. Now, if you belong to heterodoxy you may believe in faith in the Word in baptism saving you, but you are swimming against the tide of the doctrine you are in. More than likely if you’ve been there long enough you’ve learned per the doctrine that “baptism does not save you” (Baptist explicitly state this) and even though your baptism is there and you are (present tense) baptized, you’ve been taught that’s of no avail so you have doctrinally deceived and don’t use it help your conscience. It’s really a sad and deplorable thing. It makes one cry for those in that, but at the same time hate the false teachings. Back to the money analogy. It’s like you see a guy starving to death with 100 dollar bills hanging out of his pockets (baptism) and he says, “I’m starving to death but cannot afford any food”. You want to say, “Look at all the money you have in your pockets!” And he replies, “My accountant (his pastor/teacher/doctrine) says this really is not real money so it won’t work.” They are literally mesmerized by the false words.

    You story on the LS brings up another good point a bit different from baptism. I had similar experiences and bunch of variations in my journey from Baptist to Reformed before Lutheran. One to this date a fairly predominant practice in many SB churches, like my hometown one of my mom and dad the practice before Christmas to have a “silent Lords Supper”. No words ever spoken just the passing out of crackers and grape juice, the pastor will elevate them to the sky, you eat and drink. What did you receive? Which brings up the point, in sacramentarian churches you don’t know what you are receiving half the time due to the doctrine. Reformed churches are usually worse. The one I was member too would always do the whole distribution (crackers and grape juice) then say the words of institution and with them say the reformed doctrine in clarity, “…now this is not the real body and blood of Jesus Christ, it is up in heaven…etc…sign not the reality that we eat in faith….etc…”. Again, what did you receive? But note how they explain and clarify their preached, confessed and taught doctrine with the other words. Just like we have to do, due to them out there, clarify we mean to express exactly what Jesus expressed and thus we say during it “the true and real body…blood”.

    The sum is this in their baptisms, heterodoxy, they have a real baptism and forgiveness of sin, the Holy Spirit, etc… but in their suppers we don’t know what they have because they don’t institute it, teach, confess or proclaim the Word’s of Jesus institution but their doctrines labeled as the “Lord’s Supper”. Even the liturgical difference confesses the opposing doctrines. We have an altar, there’s a table. It’s always in front and always emphasizing what? Recall what it says on the wooden table? “This do in remembrance of Me”. Emphasizing that it is only a sign and only really an act of memory/mind. Liturgy does matter, it too preaches, teaches and confesses something. Liturgy is no more “neutral” than is doctrine. In fact liturgy is informed by doctrine and expresses it.

    But even narrowly within say the reformed churches you don’t have a clear what is the LS church to church. Some it’s raw Zwingli, nude sign only, Christ is up in heaven (place). Others a ‘real presence’ of the divinity but not the humanity of Christ (you see very crassly the heresy there of dividing the two natures – Chemnitz points out this is never to be done for the two natures are never to be spoken of this way, never are one without the other and not even in eternity will this happen. That really was an eye opener for me!). Others your faith lifts you up into the heights of the high heaven where you then eat with faith, not your mouth, the spiritual body and blood of Jesus (This was John Calvin the man himself). It’s like the old Lutherans said that the sacramentarian doctrines cannot agree on what IS the Lord’s Supper, they only agree on what it is not. And you read that explicitly in all their confessions (WCF, Dort, Heidelberg, SB Faith & Message, LBCF, Chicago, etc…).

    This is the reason Luther could and did say, “I’d rather drink blood with the Pope than wine with the enthusiast.” Unfortunately today I think many Lutherans would reverse that, as is plain in the visiting practices show, “I’ll drink just wine with my reformed/Baptist brothers, before I’ll drink Rome’s blood.” So far Luther! Of course Luther is making a clear doctrinal statement there. And even though the office of the Pope is antichrist, what goes along with Luthers/Lutheran doctrine on that and puts an emphasis on that is that the antichristic office, as the single predicted entity, does in fact sit in the church, not somewhere else. Hence Rome does have and retain the sacraments in spite of bad speculative philosophical explanations on “how” it comes about. I.e. if it was not part of the church, Rome, the Lutheran confession and doctrine on the antichrist, the Pope, would fall apart and be wrong. Scripture says that the antichrist will sit in the place where he ought not be, the church. But anthichrist(S) and antichristic doctrine manifoldly expresses itself in other false doctrines (heterodoxy) and can rear its head in the Lutheran church even with the orthodox confessions. This is why the watch and constant clarity on doctrine is, well, incessantly constant.

    And there seems to be, in heterodoxy, I’ve been noting over the years, a divorce between “getting saved” and “forgiveness of sins” or even the lack of the later while the former is stated as so. Here’s what I mean. They never really speak of how or if their sins are forgiven per their doctrine and confession. Like “how do you know your sins are forgiven”. I think there is a reason for that. Because their doctrines does not allow them to say, “I know I am forgiven because I’m baptized, receive the absolution, or at the LS”. And its tough to say and not sound like works, “I know God has forgiven me because I’ve changed, do good works now, show signs of salvation via my faith-works, etc…”. And so the whole language of “forgiveness” is all but vanquished from their preaching, teaching and confessing. The emphasis is always on a pseudo humble sounding, “I’m a work in progress”.

  • larry

    If one must “err” it is better error either hot or cold, because the luke warm is what God vomits out of His mouth. At least those who shake their fist at God are sending it to the right address. Sasse in his “We Confess the Sacraments” even alludes to this in that the errors and excesses of Rome are far preferred to the yawning of the heterodox. It goes back to Luther saying he’d rather drink blood with the Pope than wine with the enthusiast. And again, most modern Lutherans it would seem would rather invert that idea. They’d rather yawn with the heterodox over the doctrine of the sacraments and spray paint over essential doctrines for the sake of staying together with the heterodox than even think of drinking blood with the Pope let alone drink it. This is of course the mixed affects of rationalism, enlightenment thinking, modern science acting as religion and heterodoxy doctrines – all designed to push God out of time and space. Thus, it is little wonder it has created are people that yawn, laugh, scoff and generally just don’t care about the reality of the Word of God creating and penetrating into time and space for real and truly. This is in no small part due to the plethora of philosophical as well as actual aphrodisiacs out there designed to hide the reality of death and with it the idea of eternal death, hell and judgment. If this were not true the doors of the church would be beaten upon to receive the Word and Sacrament, and those inside would not yawn at what they have.

  • Abby

    Larry @37 ” This is in no small part due to the plethora of philosophical as well as actual aphrodisiacs out there designed to hide the reality of death and with it the idea of eternal death, hell and judgment. If this were not true the doors of the church would be beaten upon to receive the Word and Sacrament, and those inside would not yawn at what they have.”

    And God wishes this were so even more than we do.

    I love your understanding and explanations. Thank you.

  • Abby

    Larry, if you get a chance look at this (21 min.). Really good definition between Lutheran/Calvinism (Geneva Effect — this is Pt.2 of a series on Sanctification). It didn’t go into the Sacraments this time though. I just finished watching it. See what you think:

  • Stephen


    To clarify-it’s about decorum and order,outward things we do so that the gospel may be preached. Plastic cups seem like shoddy proclamation to me. I am not obsessed with molecules. I am concerned about the lesson that is being taught. We are so reverent up until the point of encountering the element and then what? Throw away plastic cups. Huh?

  • larry


    I will. I love Rev. Fisk. I have to get to a faster internet location. Here in the sticks we are still stuck with turtle internet…we transmit and receive our megabits via snail mail!

  • larry


    I got to briefly hear it, though I’d like to see it again to digest, it was great. He nails in that Calvinism really centers its gravity on the “greater glory of God”. One only need to read the works of all Calvinist, Reformed reformed and/or the various melanges of baptistic reformed/calvinist/conservative types. The past and present, e.g. Piper, MacArthur, luminaries all emphasize this.

    But this again gets around to speculative theology, Calvin, of God in the nude and without or naked as Luther put it not clothed in His Word/Words. And the exclamation point on that is that THAT is in reality saying without the Incarnate Word. I.e. the revelation of God. Now we see why Luther so explicitly stayed with the Word no matter what. His famous saying, “Loose the revealed God and you loose the hidden God too”. Man simply cannot speculate for a single second on God, even using the Bible as the diving board, and not loose God all together.

    Calvinist speculate regarding the “greater glory of God” because they wish to “sustain” His sovereignty, and that’s where it starts…it sounds so piously pious. In doing so they “eliminate” the sacraments. See just what Luther predicted, “loose the revealed God and you loose the hidden God too”. How so? How IS God’s sovereignty revealed? It is paradoxically revealed in weakness, God born a baby, God walking and talking, God touching with a hand, God crucified, God dead, God buried, God in water, God in bread and wine. That’s the reverse of Calvin and so far Luther! “keep the revealed God and you have the hidden God.” This they never get.

  • Abby

    Larry, Unfortunately I don’t know Calvinism enough to really get the “God in the nude/hidden God.” But the words that kept coming to my mind when I heard this segment was “New Phariseeism.” Especially with regard to their societal structure. They carried out penalties of death on their own people! They had their own “police” force to watch people for violations of the Law! It reminded me of the Temple in Jerusalem. Right inside the Temple were prison cells. The Pharisees walked around and watched for “lawbreakers.” But the Jews couldn’t commit a person to death. I’m surprised the Calvinists went that far. Even the Puritans did it. A lot I don’t understand. And you were right, their “justification by faith alone” does seem to mean something different from us (according to Fisk). Also, you were right again, a confusion of Law and Gospel.

    “Now we see why Luther so explicitly stayed with the Word no matter what. His famous saying, “Loose the revealed God and you loose the hidden God too”. Man simply cannot speculate for a single second on God, even using the Bible as the diving board, and not loose God all together.” Yes. Actually, much easier it seems to me.

    I like this saying of Luther (but I don’t have source, but person quoting it was reputable) — Someone asked Luther how he could defend the Bible? He said, “Defend the Bible?! That is like defending a lion. You don’t defend a lion, you turn him loose!”

  • Tom Hering

    Stephen @ 40, Oh, I don’t know. Cheap plastic cups do a pretty good job of proclaiming that Christ cane all the way down to us, to become one of us, and to live and die in the most common of ways, among the most common of men, in the most common of circumstances. We might not think such cheap things are worthy of Him, but I believe He would have been just fine with them.

  • larry

    Of course Tom you do realize that is just one gigantic speculation on your part, “…but I believe…” which really doesn’t help the conscience of anyone.

    The real best way to relieve this debate is to point back to the sacrament itself. “Can we use this or might we be able to use that” are inherently law questions. We are not talking about the law. I.e. Single chalice or small cups, the blood of the Son of God is in both, thus, there is nothing but forgiveness of sin there, that is to say no law and not guilt either way. Remember Luther even said one could receive the sacrament from the steaming claw of the devil himself. Ultimately the reciprocal of the blood of Christ is worse than either plastic cups or a single silver chalice…namely my sinners mouth, body and soul. Nothing could be worse than that, not a single element in all of creation. So it’s a good thing that the cup is FULL of nothing but the forgiveness of sins. And that is a good point to concur upon.

  • Stephen


    Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. And maybe we should trade in all the fancy dresses, candles, and other liturgical what not too, maybe go with gym shorts and t-shirts, or just show up in a our pajamas, and get some of those frozen pizza crusts for bread. God meets us where we we are, in all our human mundane unsightliness. That is you point in defending the use of plastic cups, right?

    Put yourself in the shoes of someone who is trying to convince another that this thing we do at the altar is really, really important, really unique and yes, sacred above all other things – that it is in fact the Savior himself given for them. Then see how your spin works out when they ask you why it has all the appearances of a sample table in the grocery store. The thing is, it’s really tough to convince other Christians who have been taught poorly about the sacraments that they do indeed matter, that something, some One, is actually given there. How do plastic cups tossed in a heap or tumbling around on an altar rail like so much trash after a rock concert express that? Would you really choose that, because it is a choice.

    I agree that God has come to meet us in the soup of our own sin, and it isn’t pretty. So if we behave like philistines, then who cares? Is that what you mean? It is in keeping with the message of the cross, right? It was pure, unspeakable pornography in the 1st c. Maybe we ought to get even more gritty to get the point across. Or maybe just get some MD 20/20 and some Dixie cups and get ‘er done. That would get your theological point across perhaps. After all, Jesus was a peasant and ate with the rabble.

    The thing is though, it’s not about what I know or what kind theological massaging I can do to justify the suitableness of it. It matters how others “hear” it as a liturgical practice. Is it important or not? If it is, then there are ways, customary ways, “formalities” if you like, and they are pretty much built in to every culture, practices that are employed to show when something is indeed special, sacred, valued, etc. I’m even willing to say that there is some theater going on. Nothing magical, just good form. You ought to have some sense of that since you’re a designer. I think plastic cups have all the formality of left over trash from a 4th of July picnic that blows across the parking lot the next day.

    Suit yourself, but I don’t think it is suited for what we say is holy.

  • Abby

    “Calvinists view the Law as necessary in securing justification. To secure is to establish, to make sure one’s status. The Law-keeping of sanctification is the basis on which the justified person receives benefits from the relationship he or she has with God. Calvinists say that “holiness, or conformity to the divine law, is the indispensable condition for securing favor, attaining peace of conscience, and enjoying fellowship with God” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1941, p. 472).
    This, they say, is the meaning of Heb. 12:14: “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

    “Calvinist writers call the Law a means of grace—for securing one’s justification, strengthening one’s personal assurance of being justified, and for coming into possession of the blessings of the covenant that one enjoys with God. Calvinism teaches three uses of the Law. Unlike Lutheran theology, which sees the Law as a mirror, curb, and rule, their Third Use of the Law spurs or stimulates one to attain moral righteousness. Thus, the indispensable condition for securing God’s favor can be fulfilled. The Law becomes a means of sanctification by exciting and directing spiritual activity. By calling forth obedience the Law brings about sanctification and leads people in the way of life and salvation.”
    Thomas Manteufel and Arnold E. Schmidt, Churches in America, electronic ed., 40 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2000).

    Like Luther said, “The default mode of the human heart is legalism.”

  • larry


    Yep, and those (Berkof, etc.) are Calvinist luminaries. That’s why Calvinism really is overtly works salvation. It’s like I’ve said a hundered times, remove the sacraments, the “pro me” and one cannot help but have “saved by works” even if you deny it with the left hand while the right affirms is to the ignorance of the left.

    And that scripture, “This, they say, is the meaning of Heb. 12:14: “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.”, ironically is EXACTLY the quote John Wesley used.

    Works salvation and synergism is works salvation and synergism by any other name. That’s why we (Lutherans and Reformed) are not ever really saying the same thing. They can quote sola’s all they want but they pack a whole other theology (and religion) in those words the “sola” part limits.

  • Stephen


    Just so you know, no hard feelings. I almost said that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, but I thought that would be in bad taste considering . . . oops!

    I take it seriously because I have heard the same kind of reasoning that you seem to be using to justify all kinds of sloppy behavior. It shows up a lot especially in catechetical situations, youth ministry, etc. and that is exactly where, I think, we ought not let our guard down. It is good teaching that I learned long ago that has pulled me out of a lot of theologically fuzzy places and back to what I “first received.” Anyway, we liberals need to stick together.

  • Abby

    Larry, (if you still read this):

    Since: “Calvinist writers call the Law a means of grace—for securing one’s justification, strengthening one’s personal assurance of being justified . . .”; (don’t Reformed/evangelicals also hold same?)

    And the Roman Catholics still say we are “anathema” for holding to justification by faith alone;

    And the Eastern Orthodox believe this regarding justification: “Justification is not a once-for-all, instantaneous pronouncement guarantee­ing eternal salvation. . .Neither is it merely a legal declaration that an unrighteous person is righteous. . . ” (They reject “passive righteousness” and hold to “active righteousness”)

    And this is their (Orthodox) “ladder” theology: “On this 4th Sunday of the Great Fast, a 6th century monastic saint known as St. John of the Ladder (Climacus) is commemorated. Although we know little about his personal life, St. John will forever be remembered for his powerful spiritual writing – The Ladder of Divine Ascent – which maps out for us in great detail a “battle plan” for attaining eternal life.

    Take a close look at the icon depicted on the front of this morning’s bulletin – it is rather frightening, isn’t it? The icon very graphically shows the battle between the forces of good and evil that has gone on in the world since the fall of Adam and Eve. The Church gives a solid foundation with her sacred teachings – a foundation that should provide an excellent start for us on our lifelong climb to reach our ultimate destination: the Kingdom of Heaven. Along the way, the angels are there to assist us and help us as we struggle at each rung of our heavenly ascent. But the demons are there also – tempting us and doing anything in their power to weaken that foundation that our Faith has provided for us. Sadly, as the icon shows us, at times they are successful, for many fall from the ladder and fall from grace before their journey is completed, plunging forever “ . . . into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and the gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 22:13)

    But while that climb to Heaven is an arduous one, it is not an impossible one. As we see in today’s icon, the saints who have gone before us are on our side as well, praying and interceding in our behalf. No matter what, we can never give up or let down our guard. Christ’s own words should offer us comfort and hope in all of our spiritual struggles: “He who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)
    The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin Vestal, Cliffwood, New Jersey April 14, 2013

    Then we are the ONLY ones holding to this?: “Therefore the afflicted conscience has no remedy against despair and eternal death except to take hold of the promise of grace offered in Christ, that is, the righteousness of faith, this passive or Christian righteousness, which says with confidence: ‘I do not seek active righteousness.’ I ought to have and perform it; but I declare that even if I did have it and perform it, I cannot trust in it or stand up before the judgment of God on the basis of it. Thus I put myself beyond all active righteousness, all righteousness of my own or of the divine Law, and I embrace only that passive righteousness which is the righteousness of grace, mercy, and the forgiveness of sins. . . In other words, this is the righteousness of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, which we do not perform but receive, which we do not have but accept, when God the Father grants it to us through Jesus Christ.” Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians

    Only the Lutherans have the “pure” justification by faith? It certainly seems like it from these readings.

    But, I have to say, I was just at a meeting at my church and as I listened to different people talk — I am more and more aware that our own people don’t even know what we believe and are absorbing the “legalistic/moralistic” thinking from everywhere else. Also, I believe, there are simple believers in the RC/EO/Calvinist/Reformed/Evangelical churches who don’t know really what they believe either. They are just simply believing in Jesus and His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of their sins.

    But what they have to hear to weigh down their poor consciences! And assurance! — can’t possibly exist! I heard once that even the Pope does not know if he’s going to get to heaven until he gets there!

    It boggles my mind that they can read the same Scripture verses and reason away Christ’s full and complete work — to which we add Nothing. And we wonder why the church is so messed up?!