Why is Calvinism so influential and not Lutheranism?

There are lots more Lutherans than Calvinists.  And Calvinism has all of those scary doctrines like double predestination and the limited atonement, whereas Lutheranism is, well, happier, with its emphasis on the certainty of grace, Christian freedom, and its affirmation of the secular realm as God’s hidden kingdom.  And yet it’s Calvinism that has been so influential in English and American Christianity and the culture as a whole.  So marvels D. G. Hart, himself a confessional Calvinist and a perceptive scholar of American Christianity.  Read his ruminations after the jump, and then offer your own theories about why this is.

UPDATE:  Anthony Sacramone, former Calvinist who is now a Lutheran, has a very helpful response.

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Reformational Catholicism

Calvinist theologian Peter Leithhart is calling for “The End of Protestantism.”  It should be replaced, he says, by “Reformational Catholicism,” which he goes on to describe.  Much of what he is calling for sounds like Lutheranism.  Is it?  His essay and questions from me after the jump. [Read more...]

The Nadia Bolz-Weber phenomenon

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a tattooed, non-conformist, cutting-edge kind of person.  She’s also a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, two strikes against her for us Missouri-Synod Lutherans.  But she has the ear of “progressive Christians.”  And the thing is, she preaches the Gospel.

For all of her ministry to gays, the poor, and other outcasts, she does not approve of the leftwing social gospel that dominates most mainline liberal churches.  She is supernaturalist.  She proclaims Jesus.  She focuses on the theology of the Cross, not theologies of glory.  She teaches salvation by grace through faith.  She quotes Martin Luther.  She is having an impact.

Can we bracket all of the ELCA things we disapprove of?  Can we refrain from simply attacking her?  How can you account for the Nadia Bolz-Weber phenomenon?  Her audience is mainly “progressive Christians” who haven’t heard this sort of thing in a long time.  Does she illustrate my thesis that Lutheranism is the true emergent Christianity?  That is, that the way to reach postmoderns is not to water down faith (which was the tactic, mostly unsuccessful, to reach modernists), but to emphasize faith as Lutheranism does, in a way that is different from much of contemporary Christianity? [Read more...]

New controversies in Evangelical theology

Evangelicals today are being torn by some major theological controversies.  The debate between Calvinists and Wesleyans is getting more and more heated.  Then there is a related debate between “Traditionists,” who believe Christians should hold onto the traditions of the historic church (particularly the decisions of the early church councils0 and the “Meliorists,” who reject holding onto traditions and believe the church can get better and better.  The Calvinists tend to be Traditionists (who themselves can be divided between “Biblicists” and “Paleo-Conservatives”) and the Wesleyans tend to be Meliorists.

We confessional Lutherans have our own theology worked out, of course, and in many ways might think of ourselves as above this particular fray.  And none of the debates, as far as I can tell, even bring Luther into the picture at all.  And yet I would suggest to the contending parties of both sides that they study how Lutheranism resolves Wesley and Calvin, the Bible and Tradition, Orthodoxy and Reformation.

After the jump, a sample and a link to a detailed account of what is going on in evangelical theology. [Read more...]

Calvinist Predestination vs. Lutheran Predestination

James R. Rogers has written a post for First Things entitled “Credit the Calvinists,” in which he asks why Calvinists are thought of in terms of the doctrine of predestination and not Lutherans, who also believe in predestination.  Well, as Mathew Block explains, there is a big difference between the Calvinist view of predestination and the Lutheran view. [Read more...]

The contemporary theologian we need?

Oswald Bayer,  emeritus professor of theology at the University of Tübingen, is a widely-respected thinker who engages with contemporary thought on a very sophisticated level.  As we’ve blogged, he is sometimes associated with the Radical Orthodox movement and he is considered a rather cutting-edged theologian.  But his emphasis is the Gospel and the Word of God. [Read more...]


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