Reformed sign on to “joint declaration” & find no theological differences with Lutherans

Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, & Pope Paul III

Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, & Pope Paul III

The World Communion of Reformed Churches–an association of liberal Calvinists–has signed on to the Joint Declaration on Justification, an accord between the Roman Catholic Church and liberal Lutherans.

The World Methodist Council has also agreed with the document.  The Anglican Communion is expected to do so in a later meeting.

We Confessional Lutherans in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, as well as some other smaller church bodies in that tradition, do not agree with the Joint Declaration.  (And I’m sure the Confessional Reformed folks in the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterians, and other conservative church bodies do not agree with what the WCRC does in the name of being “Reformed.”)

One criticism is that both sides have agreed to use the same language, while meaning different things with that language.  That is not agreement.  Also the accord confuses justification and sanctification, accepting the Roman Catholic understanding that since faith produces good works, we end up being saved by our good works after all.

But the World Communion of Reformed Churches did something else earth-shaking at their meeting in Wittenberg.  They signed an accord with the Lutheran World Federation (the organization of liberal and state church Lutherans) that states, in the words of a news report, “that nothing theological separated the Reformed and Lutheran churches.”

Nothing theological separates Lutherans from Reformed!  There are NO differences between the two on Christ’s presence in Holy Communion? Double-predestination?  The theology of worship?

One wonders which side gave up their distinctive beliefs.  The answer, of course, is that with liberal theology there are not really any distinctive supernatural beliefs, so that the ideology of Ecumenism trumps everything.

If there are no longer any differences, the Lutheran World Federation and the World Communion of Reformed Churches should merge–the accord encouraged them to stop meeting separately but to meet jointly–and cease using the “Lutheran” or the “Reformed” label.

In fact, if they both agree with Rome on the main issue of the Reformation, they should all join the Roman Catholic Church.

Oh, yes, there are still some differences with Rome that liberal Protestants will hold onto with all the zeal of the Reformation:  They won’t give up the ordination of women.  They won’t give up the acceptance of homosexuality and other tenets of the sexual revolution.  On those issues it’s still “Here I stand!”

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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…]

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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Tullian Tchividjian expelled for crypto-Lutheranism?

Tullian Tchividjian, the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian and the grandson of Billy Graham, was kicked out of the Gospel Coalition blogging community for what the GC folks are calling a doctrinal issue over sanctification.  Others claim other reasons, including Rev. Tchividijian’s criticism of how other GC members handled a sexual abuse scandal.  But I take the official statement from the Reformed organization seriously.

As we have posted, Rev. Tchividijian discovered the distinction between Law and Gospel in some Lutheran writers who helped him through a personal crisis in his ministry.  The complaints about “anti-nominanism,” being weak on sanctification,  and downplaying the role of moral improvement in salvation sound like common Calvinist misunderstandings of Lutheranism. [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