The Marburg Colloquy online

Noack_1869_MR-ReligionsgesprächDid you know that a transcript survives of the Marburg Colloquy (1529), in which Luther and Zwingli debated the presence of Christ in the elements of Holy Communion?  Did you know that it is posted online?

This meeting, attended by virtually all of the major figures of the early Reformation, was an attempt to settle the Reformation’s sacramental teachings once and for all.  Phillip of Hesse organized the event in an attempt to unify the Reformation side in the face of imminent military threat from the Holy Roman Emperor.  But Luther would not water down his teaching for pragmatic reasons. With the Marburg Colloquy, the Lutherans and the Reformed went their separate ways, with most subsequent Protestants following, in effect, a non-sacramental approach to Christianity.

The transcript reads like a play, or a screenplay.  (Suggestion:  Somebody perform this!)  For all of its theological give and take, it has quite a few dramatic moments:  Luther writing “This is my body” in chalk on the table beneath a tablecloth, continually referring to it in the course of Zwingli’s rationalistic arguments.  Luther at more than one point saying, “I’m tired–Phillip [Melanchthon], you take over,” only to erupt at the next thing Zwingli says without letting Phillip get a word in edgewise.  The emotional moments on both sides.  The ending with its pleas for reconciliation and Luther’s devastating “we are not of the same spirit.”

Read the beginning after the jump and go to the link to read it all.  Notice the different approaches not just to the Sacrament but to the Bible and, above all, to Christology. [Read more…]

The candidates and the Two Kingdoms

I’ve been studying the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, which has some interesting applications to our controversies today.  Christian defenders of Donald Trump are saying that his sexual transgressions show that he isn’t a saint.  But he is well-suited to the pragmatic, rough-and-tumble world of secular government, and that’s what we need in a presidential candidate.

Well, according to the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, God’s spiritual Kingdom is ruled by the Gospel, but His earthly Kingdom is ruled by the Law.  That is to say, morality does apply precisely to secular government.

UPDATE:  Specifically, the first use of the Law, the civil use, which curbs external vices.  Though it cannot justify or get at our internal sinfulness, it restrains the outward expression of that sinfulness.  Such restraint and self-control can be practiced, to a certain extent, by all members of society, which depends on some kind of moral order.

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Ben Sasse is a “Lutero-Calvinist” 

Nebraska Senator and rising conservative star Ben Sasse describes himself as a “Lutero-Calvinist.”  Though he grew up and came to faith in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and says he is “in love with the Lutheran tradition,” he is now a member of a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) congregation.  He talks about his faith and his Reformed theology with World Magazine, excerpted and linked after the jump.  I then raise some questions. [Read more…]

“Common grace”? 

Steven Peterson sent me a link to an article by the Reformed theologian Richard J. Louw.  It deals with vocation and the Two Kingdoms, but he comes at it from a completely different perspective than Lutherans do.  He uses the concept of “common grace,” as well as Kuyper’s “sphere sovereignty.”

In the early days of my Lutheranism, I referred to “common grace” and was chastized for it by a colleague in Concordia’s theology department, who explained that Lutherans reserve “grace” to refer to God’s unmerited favor by which He justifies sinners.  For God’s blessings that He bestows on entire His creation, Lutherans use other terms, such as “God’s First Article gifts,” a term referring to the exposition of the Creation article of the creed in the Small Catechism.  (But aren’t those gifts unmerited, and thus proceeding from a kind of grace?)

Read the article by Prof. Louw, linked after the jump.  Does he arrive at the same place that Lutherans do, arriving at an objective truth from a different angle?  Or is there a difference, however subtle, between the Lutheran and the Reformed view on these issues, one that comes from their different approaches and terminology?

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“God suffered, God died”

Some of the deepest waters of Lutheran theology and where it makes some of its greatest contributions are in the realm of Christology.  For Lent I have been reading The Two Natures in Christ by Martin Chemnitz, that master of Biblical, Medieval, and Patristic (not only Latin but also Greek) sources and the principal author of the Formula of Concord.

Studying all of this has given me some new understanding and appreciation for the magnitude of what happened on that first Good Friday.   Article VIII of the Formula of Concord turns an assertion that was highly controversial at the time into a matter of confessional subscription:  That we are to understand the Incarnation and the Atonement in such a way that we can affirm that “God suffered” and “God died.” [Read more…]

A Reformed & a Lutheran take on Lent

The online periodical the Federalist has two articles on Lent–specifically, on observances such as giving things up for Lent.  One is by a Reformed pastor, Rev. Brian Lee, entitled  Repent of Lent:  How Spiritual Disciplines Can Be Bad for Your Soul.  The other is by a Lutheran pastor, my friend, Rev. Todd Peperkorn, entitled  Why Lent Should Matter to Everyone.

Read them both.  What did you learn from the two articles?  Which one, in your opinion, makes the best case?

HT:  Reg & Abby