Luther and “Double Predestination”

So, my article on “election” was published in Christianity Today’s January/February issue (2013). Predictably, a letter responding was published in the current issue of CT (April). The letter writers (a Lutheran pastor in Iowa) takes issue with my claim that Martin Luther held a view of election similar to that of the Reformed theologians Zwingli and Calvin. The writer says (“The Way to Election,” pp. 55-56) that Luther did not believe in “double predestination” He describes my claim as “a serious mischaracterization” and argues that Luther “rejected the idea of God’s electing to condemnation.”

So, to refresh my memory, I have been reading Luther and Luther scholars for the last few days. Here is one article available on line that presents a persuasive argument that Luther did believe in double predestination: http://www.contra-mundum.org/essays/mattson/Luther-predestination.pdf . Here, as elsewhere on line, the following statement is attributed to Luther (and the sole source cited is Lorraine Boettner who doesn’t cite “chapter or verse” in Luther’s Commentary on Romans):

“All things whatever arise from, and depend on, the divine appointment; whereby it was foreordained who should receive the word of life, and who should disbelieve it; who should be delivered from their sins and who should be hardened in them; and who should be justified and who should be condemned.”

So, yesterday I read through Luther’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (trans., J. Theodore Mueller, Zondervan, 1954). I did not find that quote there. However, the volume lacks the all important Preface (!) so I read that at CCEL.org. Here is a statement I found there:

“St. Paul teaches us about the eternal providence of God. It is the original source which determines who would believe and who wouldn’t, who can be set free from sin and who cannot. Such matters have been taken out of our hands and are put into God’s hand….” (This may be found in the Preface where Luther is previewing Romans 9.)

However, in the main body of the Commentary Luther, in the chapter on chapter 8 and on page 115 of the volume cited above, Luther writes thus about predestination:

“A fourth objection [to the doctrine of election as Luther believes it is taught in Romans] is this: God hardens the will of man so that he desires to transgress the divine Law all the more. Hence, God is the cause of why men sin and are condemned. This is the strongest and most weighty objection. But the Apostle meets it by saying that so it is God’s will, and that if God so wills He does not act unjustly, for all things belong to Him as the clay belongs to the potter. He thus establishes His law in order that the elect may obey it, but the reprobates may be caught in it, and so He may show both His wrath and His mercy.”

Now, of course, someone (perhaps the letter writer) may argue that this was written in 1515 and therefore hardly represents the mature Luther’s thinking about the matter. Well, neither I nor the letter writer said anything about WHEN Luther believed in or didn’t believe in double predestination. In Table Talk Luther virtually forbids any discussion of predestination because it leads into all kinds of speculation and fear. So the issue is not WHEN Luther believed or did not believe in double predestination but whether Luther EVER believed in it.

Here is a quote from Alister McGrath: “Luther explicitly teaches a doctrine of double predestination….” (Iustitia Dei, Second Ed., p. 203)

I own this marvelous book entitled What Luther Says (Concordia Press, 1959). It contains pages of quotes from Luther about election. None of them explicitly express double predestination, but the editors (two Lutheran theologians) include a footnote that says “Luther had not always spoken like this. [viz., that there is no explanation for why God does not save everyone when he obviously could] While lecturing on Romans in 1515-1516, he was still teaching particular grace and predestinated reprobation…and his earlier lectures on the Psalms, 1513-1515, reveal the same point of view….” (p. 455)

Finally, I come to Luther’s debate with Erasmus in The Bondage of the Will. I don’t see how anyone can read this 1525 essay and not come away thinking Luther believed in “single predestination” rather than double predestination. Here Luther distinguishes between two aspects of God–God “hidden” and God “revealed.” It is imperative to pay attention to this distinction when talking about what Luther believed God does and does not will and do. It is part of God’s revealed will (“God revealed”) that all be saved. (All references here are to the following edition: Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation [The Library of Christian Classics] eds. Rupp, Marlow, Watson, Drewery [Westminster Press, 1969].) But the “hidden God” wills and works everything. Commenting on Ezekiel 33:11 (which Erasmus used to argue that God does not will the condemnation of anyone) Luther writes that “It is this that God as he is preached is concerned with, namely, that sin and death should be taken away and we should be saved. … But God hidden in his majesty neither deplores nor takes away death, but works life, death, and all in all. … God does many things that he does not disclose to us in his word; he also wills many things which he does not disclose himself as willing in his word. Thus he does not will the death of a sinner, according to his word; but he wills it according to that inscrutable will of his. It is our business, however, to pay attention to the word and leave that inscrutable will alone….” (p. 201) (Lest anyone quibble here, the context makes clear that by “death” in this passage Luther is referring to eternal death, condemnation, hell.)

Later Luther writes about why God does not change the wills of wicked people when he could. “It therefore remains for someone to ask why God does not cease from the very motion of omnipotence by which the will of the ungodly is moved to go on being evil and becoming worse. … Why does he not…change the evil wills that he moves?” (p. 236) Here is one place where Luther’s nominalism/voluntarism pops out: “He is God, and for his will there is no cause or reason….” (p. 236)

Throughout the essay Luther ridicules and blasts belief in free will. And he makes abundantly clear that everything that happens, no exceptions, are willed and brought about by the hidden God–even evil. HOWEVER, people can argue that Luther did NOT believe God foreordains evil or sin or condemnation BECAUSE (although they rarely mention this) Luther DID deny that to “God revealed.” At least some of the time, and certainly in his response to Erasmus, Luther viewed God as Janus-like–with two “faces.”

So, it seems right to me to say that, for Luther, when speaking about God hidden in his majesty, God the all-determining reality, nothing escapes God’s foreordaining will and power–including reprobation. When people who know Luther well claim that he did NOT believe in double predestination, they MUST be talking about Luther’s “God revealed in his word.”

When I say that Luther believed in double predestination I mean (!) he believed God hidden in his majesty, the deus absconditus, foreordains and brings about (even if only indirectly through withdrawing his preserving grace) every sin and evil will and act of every creature including the reprobates’ condemnation.

Admittedly, later in his career, Luther shied away from this and stopped talking in that way and came close to forbidding “speculation” about predestination.

  • http://deadheroesdontsave.com/ MikeB (@g1antfan)

    Thanks for sharing your research on Luther and his views.

    Luther seems to be a lot like many who hold to unconditional election and eternal decrees. When pressed to explain the view more fully in light of the condemned or the presence of evil there is a lot of ambiguous explanations. Usually this includes notions of multiple wills of God, paradoxes of responsibility, and a cryptic use of ordains/decrees that are the determinative cause of good but not evil which is only permitted. Rarely is it clear how in a theological system where God is meticulously sovereign how the permission of evil really works or how that differs from an Arminian who holds that view.

    • rogereolson

      I have settled on belief that for Luther and Calvin God’s “permission” of sin and evil is “effectual permission,” it makes sin and evil certain without entangling God in direct causation. To me that doesn’t work. It would be just like if I (as a teacher) withheld the help I knew a student needed to succeed in my class and that I normally offer to all and then said I wasn’t responsible for his failing the course. Who would take that seriously?

      • http://deadheroesdontsave.com/ MikeB (@g1antfan)

        Interesting illustration. Though I appreciate how you have distinguished where Calvinism leads logically and what Calvinists teach and claim. I have tried to follow that example.

      • David (NAS) Rogers

        And not only withholding the help but also at the same time announcing to all the students, “I love the student body and have made a sacrificial effort of my time to ensure their passing the course and desire all to pass and take no pleasure in any of them failing.”

  • M. 85

    Thanks for another interesting post Dr. Olson. I remember that all my life growing up in church and then right into my early twenties people would always speak about Luther in legendary terms, when i finally got around to studying him myself i was shocked! To be honest i was somewhat horrified by some of Luther’s teachings and aspects of his character. With all due respect for the man i would say that Luther has been my biggest theological disappointment. Is it wrong for a protestant/evangelical/pentecostal to really dislike Luther?

    • rogereolson

      I tell my students that Luther is to me a hero for his courage and strong emphasis on grace alone but that I regard his theology as often confused and contradictory. Even many Lutherans are not that thrilled with Luther’s theology at many points.

  • Tim Reisdorf

    It is our business, however, to pay attention to the word and leave that inscrutable will alone….”

    My esteem for Luther just took a hit. I’ve heard it said that Luther was more Calvinist than Calvin, but to see it put together like this is quite revealing. And then he says not to pay too close attention to it – as if that makes it less important!

  • http://theologyoutofbounds.wordpress.com/ Darren

    “The issue is not WHEN Luther believed or did not believe in double predestination but whether Luther EVER believed in it.”

    Isn’t this a bit like calling Karl Barth a nineteenth century liberal? Sure, in and immediately following his student days he self-identified in this way. But things changed … and that’s kind of important for how we talk about “Barth’s theology,” no? Certainly, with Luther, too, some priority ought to be given to his mature thought.

    As with many questions that arose from the second generation of the Reformation (and later), it seems that, while Luther may have had an opinion that scholars can detect hints of here and there, it wasn’t an issue that particularly preoccupied him. So would Luther affirm the predestination of the reprobate to damnation? Would Luther teach the predestination of the reprobate to damnation? Those two questions likely don’t have the same answer.

    • rogereolson

      I was simply responding to the letter published in CT which did not say anything about the fact that Luther did (at some time) teach the predestination of the reprobate (at least in 1515 and 1525). I am not aware of any time in Barth’s theological career when he publicly taught liberal theology. So, to me, that’s comparing apples and oranges.

  • rvs

    I read this with much interest–thanks. I am inclined to describe double predestination as a demonic concept. Is this criticism too harsh? That Luther flirts with the idea throughout his career seems clear, and Erasmus–among others–discerningly saw this as a weak spot in Luther’s thinking, of course.

  • http://www.alfredstation.sdb.org Kenneth D. Chroniger

    I have just been introduced to you a week ago.
    Finally a man whose “heart speaks to my heart?” so I say, “” I can give you my hand”.
    Pastor Ken R8:28

  • Steve Rogers

    Luther’s theology was shaped by life and a view through a “darkened glass”, as is mine. Thanks for demonstrating among other things that Luther was a great thinker and courageous leader, but human nonetheless. And, I would add, so were Paul, Peter, James, Augustine, Calvin, Barth, Olson, et al. They all had to mature and evolve in their understanding of God. When we cite writings, biographies, commentaries and epistles as sources for our own thinking, we must remember such writings are only “snap shots” of what they believed or were perceived to believe at the moment. If we seize upon isolated quotes and let them define us we run the risk of coming across as “theological Elvis impersonators” running around in white jump suits and sunglasses as if that’s all he was about. Of course it is advisable to study and draw from the thinking of key historical thinkers and influencers in our personal journeys. But just because Luther believed something doesn’t mean I should.

    • rogereolson

      Of course. My argument is that some (many?) Lutherans (including the letter writer to CT) seem unaware that at least sometimes Luther believed in double predestination.

  • http://GoodReportMinistries.com Ivan

    “Now, of course, someone (perhaps the letter writer) may argue that this was written in 1515 and therefore hardly represents the mature Luther’s thinking about the matter. ”

    Luther, like all students of God’s Word and will, evolved in his theology as the years progressed. He even came to accept the possibility of post-mortem conversion. On this he wrote:

    “God forbid that I should limit the time for acquiring faith to the present life. In the depths of divine mercy there may be opportunity to win it in the future state.” — Letter to Hansen von Rechenberg, 1523. (Luther’s Briefe, ii. 454).

    • rogereolson

      Ivan, Could you give us the full bibliographical citation for this–name of volume, publisher, date, etc.? Thanks!

    • rogereolson

      Ivan, Could you give us the full bibliographical citation for this–name of volume, publisher, date, etc.? Thanks.

      • http://GoodReportMinistries.com Ivan

        Roger: The best analysis of Luther’s comment regarding the “possibility” of post-mortem conversion may be found at this website: tentmaker.org/articles/martin_luther_universalist.html

        The writer and originator of the website, Gary Amirault, has done an extensive study on the authenticity of Luther’s statement. Amirault, like Luther, is German and has even studied many of Luther’s original German-language documents in an exhaustive attempt to determine if and when Luther is alleged to have made the statement as commonly reported. This is the best I could do in response to your request for a full biographical citation for Luther’s statement.

        • rogereolson

          Thanks, Ivan. I will have to look into that. I will be surprised if the quote is authentic (to Luther); in all my years as a historical theologian (including reading many of Luther’s works and books about Luther’s theology) I have never heard of it.

  • Jerome

    The single, unhidden face of God was seen in the face of his beloved Son. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Thank God for the simplicity that is in Christ. He gives me rest.

  • Harvey Stob

    As you finished your article in Christianity Today, you quoted Spurgeon’s “seemingly inconsistent prayer.” That reminded me of how Augustine put the whole matter in a wonderful and profound way: “I call you into my soul which you are preparing to receive you through the longing you have inspired in it.”

    • rogereolson

      Augustine’s prayer doesn’t seem inconsistent to me. “Oh God, save all the elect and then elect some more” is inconsistent given Spurgeon’s view of election (decretalism).

  • Craig Wright

    Roger, thank you for recommending books. This goes back a ways, but I have benefited from Laying Down the Sword by your colleague, Philip Jenkins. I am teaching a unit in adult Sunday school at church on the violence in the Bible. What is remarkable is to hear people give reasons and rationalizations for this problem. I have read about 5 books on the subject, and Jenkins’ is excellent, along with your recommendation of C.S.Cowles in Show Them No Mercy (4 views). I have to first of all get people to look at the violent passages, and accept the seriousness of them. After all, these parts were skipped over in their childhood Sunday schools. My motivation for dealing with this subject is that some of their teenage children asking about their view of God. It gets uncomfortable sometimes, in class. Thanks again.

  • John C.Gardner

    I really found this post quite clear and cogent. It explicated Luther’s beliefs without overstating any particular evidence and took into account the different stages of his writings. Thank you for clarity and a commitment to truth.

  • Bjr

    None of this matters, because Luther is not the test for any doctrine, but Scripture is, and Lutherans admit Luther was wrong on various issues. But on this issue, Luther’s doctrinal growth is well known, and it took years for him to work out how his insights on justification and law/gospel affected all the various strands of doctrine.

    Here’s what Luther himself says about his previous discussion in the Bondage of the Will:

    “Accordingly, this is how I have taught in my book On the Bondage of the Will and elsewhere, namely, that a distinction must be made when one deals with the knowledge, or rather with the subject, of the divinity. For one must debate either about the hidden God or about the revealed God. With regard to God, insofar as He has not been revealed, there is no faith, no knowledge, and no understanding. And here one must hold to the statement that what is above us is none of our concern. For thoughts of this kind, which investigate something more sublime above or outside the revelation of God, are altogether devilish.”

    • rogereolson

      What has this to do with what I wrote? I admitted that Luther’s views evolved and were sometimes inconsistent. What I said in my CT article was true–about what Luther believed about predestination (at some time). The responding letter was not true–that Luther did not believe in double predestination (without qualification).

  • Bjr

    In other words, for Luther, when speaking about God hidden in his majesty, it is sinful to say ANYTHING. We are to be satisfied with what is revealed in Christ, and that means single predestination.

    • rogereolson

      That may have been true of the later Luther, but earlier (and many people still put a lot of stock in what he wrote then–in The Bondage of the Will) he thought he knew a lot about the hidden God (viz., the all-determining reality including sin and evil).

  • MJL

    The big issue with citing the Romans commentary, as you rightly noted, was that it was at a time when he was advocating Medieval Scholasticism, not Lutheran or rightly Catholic teaching. You properly stated it was not an issue of when, but if he adhered to such a view, and it is still arguable in the context of his Romans commentary, his medieval thought, neo-augustiniansm, etc. that it was believed, but I accept it is a debated issue.

    However, he also submitted to papal authority, indulgences, etc. during this period, is it fair to characterize Luther with these doctrines? This is the lament Lutherans take, and I take, (especially as a former, and repentant Calvinist).

    I agree that Limited Atonement, Double-Predestination, etc. which are more Beza/Bucer/Puritanistic doctrines lead to very dangerous things, but as a Lutheran, there are a number of medieval doctrines we deny, and while Luther may have (debatable) issue, he also submitted to the bishop of Rome, performed indulgences, etc. I think with this in mind it is unfair as I noted, to characterize Luther.

    • rogereolson

      What about his 1925 On the Bondage of the Will, written five years after his excommunication? I find it entirely consistent with his Romans commentary of a decade earlier.

  • Alan House

    That aribiter of all truth, Wikipedia, says it was really 1525.

    • rogereolson

      What is “it?”

  • ron

    Luther believed in baptismal regeneration . Read his small and large catechism on the topic. Lutheran kids get the small catechism, and the Large he wrote for the clergy. It is not the gospel, it comes from the cath church. He never gave up the two sacraments of bapt. and communion. Read the Large catechism and you will see how he clearly used different definitions of terms .

  • Gary

    Is someone else’s Salvation dependent on YOU?

    One of the biggest criticisms of the Lutheran (and Calvinist) position on the Predestination of the Elect is that it removes the motivation to spread the Gospel/to do missionary work. “If God has already chosen who will be saved, why bother spending your time preaching the Gospel to sinners? God will take care of it, I don’t need to worry about it.”

    It is true that Lutherans believe that God has already chosen those who will be saved (but they do NOT believe that God has predestined anyone to hell, regardless of what some people believe Luther may have said at one point in his life). It is also true that we Lutheranws believe that sinners do not have a free will to choose God. So no matter how hard we try to convince sinners of their need for a Savior, if God has not predestined them for salvation, they will NOT believe, they will not be saved.

    The advocates of Free Will Theology say that a sinner IS capable of choosing God. Therefore, it is our job as Christians to witness to every human being with whom we come into contact in our daily lives, because our efforts may be the trigger for them to “accept” Christ.” These Christians base their belief on the passage of Scripture that states, “for whom he did foreknow, those he did predestine…”. They take this to mean that God’s predestination is based on God foreknowing that at some point in the future, that a particular person would make a free will decision to believe in Christ.

    Lutherans and Calvinists say that this is impossible since Romans chapter 3 tells us that no one seeks God. Making a decision for God is “seeking” God, and therefore an impossibility according to God’s Word.

    But are we Lutherans really off the hook when it comes to sharing the Gospel? It is true, we should do be out preaching the Gospel to our neighbors because Christ commands it, but, really, what are the consequences of our disobedience on this one issue? A slap on the wrist when we get to heaven, but no direct consequences for the “un-elect” person to whom we failed to share the Good News?

    We Lutherans state that we do not know what criteria God used to choose/predestine those who will be saved. But I would like to propose this idea: Yes, it is true that a particular person’s election is not dependent on HIS decision to believe since Romans chapter 3 states that this is impossible. But…is it possible that this person’s election is dependent on God foreknowing that YOU would obey his command to go out into the world and preach the Gospel, and in particular, he foresaw that YOU would share the Gospel with this individual, and based on YOU being faithful/obedient and sharing the Good News with that person, God chose/elected that person to be saved??

    To believe this would certainly increase our motivation as Lutherans to share the Gospel instead of sitting at home enjoying the blessings of salvation all to ourselves. (Maybe we should share this idea with our Calvinist Christian brothers and sisters to light the “evangelism fire” underneath their behinds also.

    What do you think?

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

    • Roger Olson

      Nice sermon. But you clearly don’t understand the Arminian view of prevenient grace. Sure, no one seeks after God, but God seeks after them and enables them through the gospel to respond freely to his offer of salvation. Not “free will” but “freed will.”

      • Gary

        I grew up Arminian. I was taught that when a sinner hears the Gospel, God convicts his soul and enables him to have the capacity to make a decision to believe or reject God. But how does that square with the second chapters of Ephesians and Colossians and the third chapter of Romans?
        If the sinner is spiritually dead, how does he make that decision? Does God quicken him half way so that he can make the decision, and if he rejects God, God takes that half-quickening away? Can someone really be half alive, half saved? Isn’t it the case that you are either fully alive and therefore SAVED, or you are fully dead, and therefore lost?
        How is a spiritually dead sinner able to make a decision? Is there anywhere in Scripture that says that God half quickens sinners so that they can make a choice?

        • Roger Olson

          I hope you’ll excuse me if I sound impatient. I’ve/we’ve been over this ground numerous times here and Arminians have explained this in so many ways so many times. Have you read any Arminian literature–about the Arminian view of salvation? See my book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. I explain it all there. Soon a very excellent book dedicated solely to exploring and explaining prevenient grace will be published by Francis Asbury Press. It’s by Brian Shelton. Watch for it. More to your specific questions, in brief, yes, God’s grace enables sinners to exercise their freed will (freed by grace from the bondage of the will to sin). The only alternative is irresistible grace which you seem to prefer. The downside of that is that (unless you adopt universalism) it makes God a monster–choosing to save some and not others. Of course, many Lutherans, following Luther, adopt nominalism with the “hidden God” idea that causes them to shrug and say “so what?” Whatever God does is automatically good just because God does it. Arminians (and many others including some Lutherans) are appalled at such a doctrine of God. I know I am.

          • Gary

            I understand that Predestination seems to make God a monster. But God has a history of doing things that confound our human minds as to his goodness and fairness.
            God did or ordered some pretty horrific things in the OT. He destroyed all of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire. There had to be small children in those cities. God burned to death small children and babies! He ordered Israel to destroy whole nations including their children and animals. Why kill the children and animals? God killed all the first born of the Egyptians including small children and infants. What evil had the Egyptian toddlers and infants committed?
            If we start changing our doctrines based on insisting that God conform to our standards of “goodness”, we might as well throw out the entire Bible!

          • Roger Olson

            We’ve been around that bush here many times before. I do not embrace biblical inerrancy and don’t know anyone who does. We all (who think about such matters) find ways of qualifying some biblical stories (e.g., “inerrant use of errant sources” as one leading conservative evangelical says!). I simply don’t know what to do with some of those OT stories; I wrestle with them, shake my head and then run to Jesus who is the most perfect revelation of the character of God.

          • Gary

            I hope that you are not saying that the Bible contains substantive error. Once you starting tearing out pages in your Bible that man does not deem divinely inspired, you will soon be left with nothing but the front and back covers.
            You say that you shake your head regarding some of the horrific passages in the OT, but then run to the arms of Jesus. I suggest you do the same with the doctrine of Predestination. Accept the plain, simple rendering of Scripture: God predestines those who will be saved. Man damns himself to hell. Then run to the loving arms of Jesus and trust that he is a just and loving Savior.

          • Roger Olson

            As the perfect revelation of God Jesus shows that God is a just and loving Savior. For God to predestine some to salvation unconditionally and save them irresistibly (monergism) is the same as saying he reprobates others. Double predestination is necessarily implied in “single predestination.” And double predestination portrays God as arbitrary and unloving.

          • Gary

            All the examples I gave you from the OT portray God as arbitrary and unloving. If you believe in the Trinity, which I’m sure you do, then we must accept that it was Jesus Christ who rained down fire on the children of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was Jesus who killed all the first born infants and toddlers in Egypt. And it was Jesus who ordered the Israelites to kill entire nations, including their little children and their animals. If we believe in the Trinity, we can’t make God the Father the “Big Meanie” and Jesus the loving, “good guy” of these seemingly brutal acts.
            Once again I say, we must look to God (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) with the faith of a little child. Little children trust their father unconditionally. They do not insist that their father’s actions meet the standards of human logic and reason.
            Just as it is incomprehensible for Christ to be a son but as old as his Father, without a beginning, so it is incomprehensible, unreasonable, illogical, and nonsensical that God would predestine some to be saved, but yet NOT predestined those who will go to hell. God desires ALL to be saved. Christ died for ALL. Man sins himself to hell, not God. This is the plain, simple rendering of Scripture. The Reformed (Calvinists and Arminians) try to make everything in the Bible make sense. Little children do not require everything to make sense. Christ commands us to have the faith of little children. All Christians need to accept God’s Word for what it says in its plain, simple rendering, not what they think God really meant to say.

          • Roger Olson

            When you say “this is the plain, simple rendering of Scripture” you are simply repeating a fundamentalist mantra and you lose my interest and attention.

          • Gary

            I’ m sorry that you feel that way, but let me show you some examples of accepting the plain, simple rendering of Scripture:

            “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”

            Simple, plain rendering (SPR): Believe and you are saved. You are saved when you believe.

            “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

            SPR: Confess and believe and you will be saved.

            “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins”

            SPR: When you repent and are baptized, your sins are forgiven.

            “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.”

            SPR: If you believe and are baptized God will save you.

            “Baptism now saves us.”

            SPR: We are saved in baptism.

            “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

            SPR: Christ will never leave the believer.

            “And some seeds began to grow but then withered and died.”

            SPR: Some believers’ faith will wither and their salvation will be lost.

            “I am THE door, THE good shepherd, THE way.”

            SPR: Obvious figurative language. Christ did not say, “I am THIS door….”

            “THIS bread is my body. THIS wine is my blood.”

            SPR: Obvious literal language. Christ did not say, “I am THE bread. I am THE wine.”

            “For by grace are you saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, so that no man may boast.”

            SPR: Faith and salvation are gifts. No work of man can save us. Making the decision to be baptized does not save you. Making a decision to “accept” Christ does not save you. Salvation and faith are gifts: Salvation is an act of God. Salvation is accomplished 100% by God.

            Some of these plain, simple renderings of Scripture seem contradictory. But that is why Christ asked us to believe him with the faith of a little child. Little children do not demand that everything make sense and is logical before they will believe what their father tells them is the truth.

            Which Church believes all these plain, simple renderings of Scripture: the orthodox (confessional) Lutheran Church.

          • Roger Olson

            You remind me of the author of one of my most prized books. I bought it at a used bookstore many years ago and take it down and look at it whenever I need a good chuckle. The book is Christian Truth and Religious Delusions by Caspar Nervig (North Dakota Lutheran pastor) and was published by Augsburg back in the 1940s. The table of contents goes like this: “The Evangelical Lutheran Church: The Church of Truth.” “Reformed Churches” (which includes virtually all non-Lutheran “mainline” Protestants): “Much Truth, Some Error.” Every chapter is about some religious group or movement. I grew up Pentecostals so, when I bought the book, I read the chapter on Pentecostalism eagerly and saw immediately that the author had no real acquaintance with it (e.g., Pentecostals believe you have to speak in tongues to be saved, etc.). The subtitle of that chapter: “Some Truth–Much Error.” And on and on. You know, I’m just not going to allow you or anyone to hijack my blog to claim that your church “The Church of Truth.” Why do I suspect your brand of Lutheranism is Missouri Synod? Or maybe Wisconsin Synod?

          • Chris

            The fear of God is a linchpin in Luther’s theology- see the Heidelberg Disputation of 1519- as well as an essential take away from Romans 9. We do not control God and he has chosen to deal with humanity graciously through his promises by grace alone.

          • Roger Olson

            I respect Luther but disagree strongly with his nominalistic, voluntaristic idea of God–especially his “hidden God.”

  • cowboybob

    Prof Olson, Dr. Luther was a German in the 1500′s and wrote and spoke, by our modern standards, rather rough and coarse. It was not uncommon for him to go from one side of the road to the other on a position. He was not fond of the Baptists, but when he saw the governmental authorities treat them most harshly, he would change his position. So, Prof Olson, which Luther are you referring to? Almost everybody likes Dr. Luther and people on opposite sides of an issue can usually point to something he said that backs them up.

    Regardless, Dr. Luther lived 500 years ago and the Protestants are thankful for his work in being a father of the Reformation.

    • Roger Olson

      I agree with your final sentence.


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