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Lutheranism and Calvinism: What and That v. How and Why

November 25th, 2009
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question-markI grant that generalizations can be unhelpful; namely, they tend to over-simplify what obviously are matters of great nuance and deserving of long and careful study and explanation. It does strike me as I consider much of the conversations I’ve read between Lutherans and Calvinists boils down to a critical distinction between our respective theological points of view, our Weltaunschaung, as it were. And, again, at the considerable risk of over-simplification, it seems to me that it comes down to this: Lutheranism tends to focus on the “what” and “that” of the God’s Word, whereas Calvinism tends to move more toward answers to “how?” and “why?” In a certain sense, Lutheranism is more about declaration and proclamation of what has been revealed by God’s Word, but Calvinism wants always to move into an explanation of the “how?” and “why?” of Scripture, from a metaphysical or philosophical point of view. It strikes me that often Calvinism appears to be more concerned with answering questions posed by finite human understanding, than in asserting the “what” and “that” of Scripture. Add to this a disturbing and disquieting focus more on the “sovereignty of God” and less on the man Christ Jesus, His grace and mercy and you have in place a “system” that appears to me to be more about resolving logical conundra than in asserting the Gospel of Christ. Many former Calvinists have mentioned this to me and all tell a very common story around these points.

Let me illustrate my point and provide some examples.

The doctrine of Election: Lutheranism holds in tension the Bible’s teaching that all who are saved are saved only by grace, alone, apart from any works of the law: no “decisions for Christ” no “acts of will” no “choosing to beleive.” We are saved only and completely by God’s grace in Christ Jesus. We are saved entirely as an act of the merciful God and only through the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin. Calvinism wants to answer the question, “Why are some saved and not others?” And, historic/classic “five point” Calvinists answer that the “solution” to this “riddle” is that God, from all eternity, as a sovereign act, chooses some to go to hell and others to be saved and be in heaven. Arminianism, a reaction to Calvinism, went to the other extreme and teaches that God foresaw those who would choose to believe, and so those are they whom God saves. Lutheranism refused to solve the “riddle” and answer the question “Why some, not others.” It holds in tension God’s grace alone and also salvation by means of faith alone.

The doctrine of the Real Presence: Lutheranism asserts that the Word of Christ that “this [bread] is [is] my body [Christ's body]” is a statement of what and that. It is His Body, it is given for us to eat and to drink. Calvinism rejects this believe and predicates its position on trying to answer “how” and “why” type questions about the Lord’s Supper. It anchors its position finally in a philosophical/logical premise that the body of Christ can not be present under bread and wine, and therefore, Christ is not talking about an actual real, physical presence of His resurrection body in the Eucharist, under the elements of bread and wine.

I wonder what you think of this? Here is an older blog post I put up several years ago that speaks to these issues a bit further.

I found the quote that follows these remarks to be a helpful insight into Calvinist thinking on the Lord’s Supper. My quick response to their “how” question about our Lord’s human nature is simply this…how was it possible for the Risen Lord to suddenly “appear in the midst of them” among His disciples on Easter? What was  His human nature doing after the Resurrection? Was it omnipresent with Him? Or was Jesus hiding out until the Ascension? How did His human nature ascend? Or what about the Transfiguration? It seems that was a pretty amazing event for His human nature, a foretaste of what was to come during His glorification? How is God able to create everything out of nothing? How is a Virgin able to conceive? How is that some are saved, and not others? So man “how” questions! Finally, how is it that Christ fills all things, and yet, not, apparently, according to the Calvinists with also His human nature, which is forever joined to the divine nature, see Eph. 4.

A desire to provide a “logical” explanation to these “how” questions is really Calvinism’s downfall. Again, you notice how the “system” is all important for Calvinism. Whatever doesn’t square with it is out.  There is a reason old John Calvin said, “The finite is incapable of the infinite” and by saying that he thereby effectively, if they are going to be consistent, excludes the Incarnation to begin with!

My “exegetical warrant” for the Lutheran confession of the Supper, is, and remains the words that ever stand sure. The words of our dear Lord Christ, “This is my body.”

Link: Triablogue. Here is the quote. By the way, I let them know I’m not a “Dr.” but it is a nice thought. I informed them that I’m waiting for a honorary doctorate, the only really Christian one, received by grace alone, apart from any works:

Can Dr. McCain construct an explanation regarding how exactly the human nature of Christ is present “with, under the bread and wine” of the Lord’s Supper and still be His human nature and fully human? After the Resurrection Christ is depicted as being glorified, able to appear and reappear mysteriously, have an incorruptible body, etc., but there is still continuity with the original body. “Illocality” is not depicted of Him in Scripture. When He is present in the room in His incarnate, resurrected body, He is truly bodily present. Nobody orthodox has ever disputed the notion He is always present in His divinity anyway.

One would have to divinize the human nature in order for his assertion about the elements to be valid. Glorfication is not “divinization.” That is classic Apollinarianism and Monophysitism and Greek piety, not Scripture speaking.

Where does Scripture affirm that Christ’s human nature is present in such a manner? To say that Christ’s humanity is present in the elements divinizes His human nature and further restricts it to the elements at the Lord’s Table, so His humanity shares ubiquity with His divinity with respect to the elements at the Table, yet omnipresence (ubiquity) means God (in all 3 Persons) is present everywhere. Think about that for a moment. How can His human nature be in two places at once, specifically in the elements injested at the Lord’s Table, and Christ be fully human? Approaching this from the other direction, how can His human nature share in the divine ubiquity, which means God is everywhere, and be localized only in the bread and wine? You have to create a special category of ubiquity for Christ’s humanity and the communication of attributes in order to accomodate such a view. I’m sorry Dr. McCain, but you need an exegetical warrant for that.

Lutheran theology tries to get around this by saying His human nature is “illocal” in the Eucharist. The problem is this: It’s not really illocal in this view, it is clearly localized in the elements and in heaven; that’s two specific places at a single time, a fly trapped in amber across two levels of existence. Thus, not only is Christ with respect to His human nature in heaven, He is present on earth in the elements in time when the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. That makes his human nature subject to time as well as spatial constraints on earth as well as heaven. That’s one reason why Calvin rejected the notion of ubiquity of Christ’s body in the elements; it involves too many equivocations on the nature of time and space and what and does and does not constitute localization that necessitate extra-biblical ideas and doesn’t appear to be supportable from Scripture. Calvin stakes out a position between that of Luther and Zwingli.

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  1. jmark
    November 25th, 2009 at 13:42 | #1

    This was a good article. I’ve read Calvin’s “Institutes,” and it was clear to me that he let his reason be the judge of God’s Word rather than vice-versa. I do not know how Calvinists avoid one conclusion of Calvin’s theology: that their doctrine of election means that men (those who are elect) are saved totally by God’s decision alone before the beginning of time and that Christ’s death was unnecessary and really irrelevant to salvation since it was already a fait accompli before God became man. They really do not need Christ in Calvinism. Man is saved before Jesus’s crucifixion and death (or before Jesus was born, for that matter), by God’s election, and without the cross.

  2. Canadian
    November 25th, 2009 at 14:38 | #2

    These are certainly scriptural but also historic Christological issues.
    It’s not just that they rationalize away the scriptural texts, they refuse ancient and Christian Christological realities. Mr. Hay’s charge of Monophysitism falls because it is not being declared that the divine nature is over-riding, absorbing, or dissolving the human nature, but that the humanity of Christ does in fact recieve and extend divine properties without losing it’s own mode of operation. His charge of Apollinarianism fails because it is not being declared that Christ did not have full complete humanity. He assumes that Christ’s humanity must give something up if “divinization” is true. This is wrong. Each nature gives up nothing but fully operates in our one Lord Jesus Christ. However, in our minds we can limit the capabilities of both God and human nature if we forget that Christ is the ultimate man and His divinity makes his humanity more that what we experince in our fallen condition. As Cyril said centuries ago, it is BECAUSE OF THE UNION of the Divine Son with his own flesh that we say that the flesh of Christ is LIFE-GIVING. (see John 6) Someday, we will be full participants in this union. Our bodies will receive properties that are divine which will make us capable of being with and participating in God forever, all the while we will remain essentially human and not divine.

  3. Stephen
    November 26th, 2009 at 05:30 | #3

    Pr McCain, Some thoughts from a Calvinist who has recently started to explore Lutheranism. I very much appreciate the objective “what” and “that”, as you put it, of Lutheranism. It is hard to deny that Calvinism has tended to spend a lot of energy on “systematizing”, not always wisely. That said, surely Lutheranism uses its fair share of logic too. It is after all part of the western theological tradition which, as we know, is viewed by the Eastern churches of overdependence on rational thought. And I wonder whether some of your examples illustrate more that logic can be followed in different directions, rather than that one tradition insists on logic and the other refrains.

    For example, I am confused by what you say about the Real Presence. I understood that Lutherans confess that the presence of the body of Christ is supernatural, not natural – sacramental, not physical (please correct me if I am misrepresenting here). Hence the clarification that the eating is supernatural, not “capernaitic”. Certainly, logic is entering into the theology here in order to maintain the words of Christ while guarding against a primitive cannibalism. It has to. (And in this, I am not sure that Calvin’s solution is all that far from Luther’s, besides perhaps his unfortunate talking of “ascending” into heaven which tends to imply more the absence of Christ than his presence.)

    On election: to talk of holding things “in tension” implies there are conflicting truths to be maintained, but is this the case? Luther himself absolutely believed in divine election. Ultimately, there is no other answer to “Why?” My reading of Luther is rather that he refuses to seek to speculate further on this as it is not helpful, and he consistently directs us to look to the Christ here and now speaking to us. I agree this is a wise approach, and I wish more Calvinists adopted it. But I see this as more a Christ-centred focus than a balancing or holding in tension of conflicting truths.

  4. EGK
    November 26th, 2009 at 12:43 | #4

    Having spent over twenty years teaching systematics, I continue to learn, and the distinction Pr. McCain makes is a helpful and valid one.

    Re the Lord’s Supper, the “tension” is in the fact that the eating is supernatural, but it is also oral. The presence is an illocal presence, yet the sacramental presence is specifically under the forms of bread and wine. Prepositional phrases not withstanding, the words of Jesus say the bread is His body, the wine is His blood, and is means is.

    Re election, double predestination in the end makes God the author of sin (though Calvinists would try to deny this), that sin becoming the reason for predestination to perdition. For Luther, sin, as man’s fault, cause the universal lostness of the human race. Election takes a chosen people out of that company of the lost, as God called His chosen people out of Egypt. Thus election is only grace, not law.

  5. Randy Keyes
    November 27th, 2009 at 09:42 | #5

    Great article. I have used the same type of distinctions myself. I often state that Luther was far more concerned with the “pastoral” and Calvin was far more concerned with the “systematic.” Thanks again. I’ll be recommending this article to others.

  6. Stephen
    November 27th, 2009 at 22:49 | #6

    You will notice in John 6 that, after Jesus asserts that he is the bread from heaven, and, that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood has eternal life, many disciples ask the “how can this be?” question. These same end up leaving Jesus. We can notice that Jesus does nothing to soft pedal his statements nor does he qualify them; rather, he gets more and more graphic throughout the discourse, thus adding to the “scandal” so to speak. Jesus seems to have no problem with his body and blood being viewed as a “real” or bodily presence from which to eat and drink. He says nothing to the contrary, despite the protestation of his listeners. If we fast forward to the institution of the Supper in the upper room, Jesus uses the similar terminology, “This is my body,” etc. Notice that the disciples remain silent about this. Could this be due to their recollection that those who ask “how” questions end up leaving Jesus? I will not accuse Calvinist of being ready to leave Jesus, but I will say that Jesus’ many comments about himself as bodily food as well as the comments of Paul in Colossians 2, I Corinthians 11, Eph. 4 as McCain has mentioned are all very conducive to understanding the bodily presence of Jesus both in “ubiquity” as well as in locality at the altar.

    Calvinists are very willing to discuss the role of the Holy Spirit in terms of attending the Word of Christ. Where the Word is rightly preached, so the Holy Spirit is at work, they would concur. They also, similarly to Lutherans, would be loath to speculate about the work of the Holy Spirit outside of the Word, yet grant that he does work in some incalculable way or, that he is certainly always present everywhere. But I think Lutherans would say that the same holds true with the bodily presence of Christ. Both the Holy Spirit and the Bodily presence of Christ are present everywhere, but only at a certain place, as instituted by God, are they present for the salvation and nurturing of souls – that is, FOR US – in the church where the Word is rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered.

    I understand that the Calvinists do not care to “co-mingle” the human and spiritual natures of Jesus. But I wonder more and more if scripture, in fact, does so more than they would like to think. (?)

  7. Stephen
    November 27th, 2009 at 22:59 | #7

    By the way, the previous comment comes from a different Stephen than the earlier post by a gentleman of the same name, so perhaps I should call myself Stephen J. Will that be OK?

  8. November 28th, 2009 at 00:17 | #8


    In the main, I think you are correct. But to speak of divine properties in God as intrinsic constituents of God is out of step with classical Lutheran theology, at least so far as I know, since it violates the committment to divine simplicity. In that sense of constiuents, God has no properties.

    If you are going to talk about divine properties being transferred from the divniity to the humanity via the divine hypostasis of the Son, then you’re going to need a different theology proper to do it.

  9. Trent Sebits
    November 28th, 2009 at 20:33 | #9

    I like how in the quote they bring up “Apollinarianism and Monophysitism”..this is so ridiculous; does he not realize that 100% of the men who battled the above heresy all believed as the Church as ALWAYS believed (up until Calvin) about Christ presence in the Eucharist. The battle Calvin has on this is not just with Lutherans, its with the entire Church for 1600 years who never confessed anything but Christ “real presence” in the Eucharist.

  10. November 29th, 2009 at 11:19 | #10

    This discussion has given me, as an evangelical on something of a Reformed journey, much food for thought. I’m getting almost as much out of reading the comments (esp. Canadian’s and Stephen’s) as I am out of Pastor Paul’s postings. We Calvinists need to be better at listening to our critics. I particularly appreciate the need for some Calvinists, not least myself, to be more Christocentric in our soteriologies. I’ve also been challenged by what has been said regarding John 6. I read the passage over this Lord’s Day morning and Stephen is right, the Lord makes no qualification to his shocking statement!

    May I ask a genuine question? How would Lutheran exegetes deal with Romans 9? I thought verses 22 and 23 of that chapter went some way to answering the question of why some are saved and some are not, i.e. God has mercy on some and ‘hardens’ others. Hope this is not out of place on a Lutheran blog; I have no wish to play the part of gadfly!

  11. Jason
    November 29th, 2009 at 11:48 | #11

    Actually, Christ is still necessary for Calvinism to work because Atonement is necessary. I once caught an Arminian on this criticism and I think he about had a heart attack.

  12. Jason
    November 29th, 2009 at 11:53 | #12

    From my reading of Calvin’s “Institutes” I would say that Calvin argues that Christ’s Body and Blood are truely present though spiritually communicated. Is a spiritual presence not also a true and real presence. I think if you push a any true Calvinist they must admit this.

    McCain response: They may “admit” to this but by it they mean something far different than confessing that the body of Christ is under the consecrated bread, given from the altar, in the hand of the pastor, into the mouth of every communicant.

  13. Mark Veenman
    November 29th, 2009 at 21:57 | #13

    Rev. McCain: perhaps you could explain the importance of our conception of the “altar”. In your comments it often seems that you put much gravity on the fact that the body and blood of Christ are put in the communicants’ mouths by the pastor and that these are all received from an altar. Would His presence be any less substantive if offered on a table? I’m not trying to be flippant; I have embraced the BoC’s teaching on the substantive presence of Christ at the Lord’s Supper table as instituted in Holy Scripture. I only wonder that if Christ – as high priest after the order of Melchizedek – never presided over an altar, why should our pastors preside over altars and what is the importance of the altar (used in the OT for sacrifice) in relation to the Lord’s Supper?

  14. Bill
    November 30th, 2009 at 00:33 | #14

    I don’t think there are hardly any differences between Luther and Calvin. Go to the White Horse Inn (whitehorseinn.org), where lutherans and calvinists work together to uphold the Reformation.

    That said although Luther and Calvin agreed among themselves with regard to christology and God’s sovereignty and glory, there is no doubt that people tend to focus on either Luther’s christology or on Calvin’s sovereign God. The fact of the matter is that Luther wrote in the bondage of the will that not a single leaf falls of a tree without God’s permission (Luther sounds more calvinist than Calvin here), and Calvin believed in justification of grace through faith as much as Luther did.

    Both Luther and Calvin believed in the 5 solas of the Reformation and I don’t see the point in focusing on their differences.

  15. Stephen
    November 30th, 2009 at 07:26 | #15

    I wrote earlier that I did not see a big difference between Calvin’s and Luther’s doctrines of the Supper, both affirming a supernatural presence (I am the first Stephen not the second…) From Pr McCain’s response above, I would add that perhaps the main difference is indeed the question of whether Christ’s body and blood are communicated to all, regardless of the faith of the recipient. I guess this is the force of the word “is” in the words of institution for Lutherans? To deny this is seen as a denial of the objectivity of Christ’s presence?
    Some other points. “Calvinism” is not a clearly-defined unity. The early continental confessions do not insist on “double predestination”. Many modern “Calvinists” view reprobation as passive, God passing over – ie similar to the position EGK mentions above, which does not make God the author of sin.
    Lastly, the thoughts of Stephen J on John 6. True, Jesus does not seek to diminish the scandal. But he does say that it is the Spirit which quickens; the words he has spoken to us are life. I guess this is why LCMS typically interprets John 6 as not referring to the sacramental eating of the Supper but rather to faith?

  16. Randy Keyes
    November 30th, 2009 at 11:35 | #16

    Bill: It is a very, very important difference. Both my Baptist brothers and I believe in Baptism, but the understanding of what is involved is very different. While the gulf between Calvin and Luther on the Eucharist may not seem as wide, it is an important difference which underlines how Calvin placed “reason” above “mystery” whereas Luther did not. There is also an excellent free article on newreformationpress.com about Calvin/Luther.

  17. jmark
    November 30th, 2009 at 12:28 | #17


    If election is determined by God’s will in Calvinism, what is the purpose of atonement? Wouldn’t God’s election be effective without atonement? Are men saved before time by God’s election? I think Calvinism is unclear on this point. It seems to me that they want to keep Christ, but that they do not really need Him. Man is elected to salvation long before Jesus and, therefore, Jesus is not really necessary. Let me know how Calvinists escape this conclusion or where I am misreading.

  18. November 30th, 2009 at 21:41 | #18


    They really do not need Christ in Calvinism. Man is saved before Jesus’s crucifixion and death (or before Jesus was born, for that matter), by God’s election, and without the cross

    Correct, in fact the elect are actually saved already without faith.


    Actually, Christ is still necessary for Calvinism to work because Atonement is necessary. I once caught an Arminian on this criticism and I think he about had a heart attack

    Only as an afterthought. Supralapsarianism is the only consistent Calvinism, and so Mark’s point is for me, well taken.


  19. December 1st, 2009 at 10:08 | #19

    The above observation that Calvinists don’t like to mingle Christ’s divinity and humanity, is, in my view, their ultimate downfall, theologically speaking. Thus in terms of Christology there’s a gaping chasm between Luther and Calvin. Luther basically repeats Cyril of Alexandria and Leo the Great’s Christology. Calvin, on the other hand (and armed with the questions of how and why as Pr. McCain points out) essentially comes to the position of Nestorius.

    The Christ that Calvinism presents is a different Christ than Scripture presents. This ultimately presents another “gospel”, which is to say, no gospel at all. If the divine nature does not communicate to the human nature, there is no atonement. Thus in trying to keep Christ’s divine and human natures apart, Calvin not only is on shakey Sacramental ground, but the heart of the Gospel is cut out from under the Cross.

    Despite the fact that Dr. Riddlebarger is on the White Horse Inn, we should not ignore the fact that sitting at that table are two hugely different views of who Christ is. This is not to say Lutherans and Calvinists shouldn’t talk or have a radio show together… a Lutheran will just see it as an evangelism opportunity.

  20. Stephen
    December 1st, 2009 at 11:20 | #20

    Let’s be fair. If Lutheranism affirms divine election (see Solid Declaration: “The eternal election of God, however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but is also, from the gracious will and pleasure of God in Christ Jesus, a cause which procures, works, helps, and promotes our salvation and what pertains thereto; and upon this our salvation is so founded that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it”), then how is it that the crucifixion is superfluous to Calvinism, but not to Lutheranism?

    McCain response: Actually, let’s be careful not to selectively quote from the Lutheran Confessions in an attempt to make it seem as though Lutheranism and Calvinism are similar when it comes to the doctrine of Election. In fact, they are not. For example, here’s another quote from the same place quoted in this comment: “28] Therefore, if we wish to consider our eternal election to salvation with profit, we must in every way hold sturdily and firmly to this, that, as the preaching of repentance, so also the promise of the Gospel is universalis (universal), that is, it pertains to all men, Luke 24:47. For this reason Christ has commanded that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations. For God loved the world and gave His Son, John 3:16. Christ bore the sins of the world, John 1:29, gave His flesh for the life of the world, John 6:51; His blood is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 1:7; 2:2. Christ says: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matt. 11:28. God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all, Rom. 11:32. The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, 2 Pet. 3:9. The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him, Rom. 10:12. The righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe, Rom. 3:22. This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one that seeth the Son and believeth on Him may have everlasting life, John 6:40. Likewise it is Christ’s command that to all in common to whom repentance is preached this promise of the Gospel also should be offered Luke 24:47; Mark 16:15.”

  21. December 1st, 2009 at 14:24 | #21

    @Rev. Matthew Lorfeld
    So Matthew, are you saying that Calvinists are unbelievers in need of evangelism? Or was that hopefully tongue in cheek?

  22. Stephen
    December 2nd, 2009 at 19:58 | #22

    The faithful Calvinists I know very much value the atonement and see Christ as the procurer of salvation. They would not necessarily say the God’s election is the procurer of salvation. And they certainly do say the preaching Christ is the means by which God’s election is carried out in real time. So we should not speak of Calvinists in need of evangelism in that sense. But I do think it is important to recognize that the Calvinist doctrinal system leads logically to undermining the atonement because of the many reasons given above. And I agree that their system becomes untenable because of their clear denial of the communication of natures – i.e. not wanting to “co-mingle” them. They admit, for example that Mary is the “mother of God.” They would also say that Jesus is the Godman. They would also say the God dies on the cross as we do. But then they refuse the notion that the human Jesus can be bodily present everywhere. It seems to me you cannot have it both ways. In this way, Calvinists bear “felicitous inconsistencies” as Pieper, I believe, put it. They believe some things that underneath it all run contrary to the logical conclusion to which their doctrinal system would lead.

    Not being entirely sure of this analogy, I will accept any correction from the Lutheran scholars on this blog, but it seems to me that Lutheran understanding of the “ubiquity” of Jesus body is similar to how we understand the ubiquity of the Holy Spirit. Both are present everywhere, but they are only present for us and for our salvation and sustenance through the means ordained by God in scripture, namely, the Holy Supper, Baptism, Absolution, and the preached word of Christ. Christ being bodily present everywhere does not negate the efficacy of the Sacrament of the Altar.

  23. December 3rd, 2009 at 05:58 | #23

    Stephen, could the same Lutheran criticism of Calvinists leaving Jesus out of soteriology not be levelled at the apostle Paul, given that there is scant mention of Christ in Romans 9? He seems to mention election there without much mention of Jesus. I’m not saying that our doctrine of election should be Christless, but isn’t it sometimes appropriate to speak of election without mentioning Him?

    Also, if Christ’s humanity is omnipresent, in what sense is it also localised? In Lutheran theology, can Christ be present bodily in two places at once?

    McCain: If all we had from Paul was Romans 9, Calvinists might have a point.

  24. December 3rd, 2009 at 10:04 | #24

    @ Nick #21, it was a bit tongue in cheek… but as a Lutheran I would say that a Calvinist’s refusal to believe what Christ says in the words of institution, that what is given in the Lord’s Supper is truly His Body and Blood, severely distorts and clouds the very heart of the Gospel… so yes they would be in need of Evangelism.

    As to your comment in #23, again, we must not separate Christ’s divinity and humanity. His natures should never be the subject of an action. Rather, the person Christ is the subject. So instead of “Christ’s human/divine nature does ____,” it is proper to say “Christ does ____ according to His human/divine nature.” Thus the person of Christ is omnipresent. This is according to His divine nature, however because both natures are united in the person of Christ we also recognize that the divine nature communicates its attributes to the human nature, and so yes the person of Christ in full divinity and humanity are present not just in two places but wherever Christ is present. But let me be clear, we do not think of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper in the same way as we acknowledge omnipresence, but in terms of the sacramental union. Just as the person of Christ is the union of humanity and divinity, Christ, by His own Word, unites Himself (His entire person) to the elements of bread and wine. That is to say, when Jesus says “This is my body” we don’t ask why or how, we just believe it.

    “Omnipresence” on the other hand, must be understood in terms of transcendence and immanence. Luther put this very well: “The proud and conceited spirit reveals his crude and doltish ideas when he conceives of God’s omnipresence, as though God were a huge, expansive being, which fills the universe and even extends beyond it like a straw sack stuffed so full that the straw sticks out at the top and the bottom; in other words, as though God were omnipresent according to the ‘local mode,’ in a physical and tangible manner. If this were so, then indeed Christ’s body would have to be a phantasm or a monster, an immense straw sack, large enough to comprehend God with heaven and earth. Can anyone have such crude and coarse ideas of God? We refuse to say that God is such an extended, long, broad, thick, high, low being. We confess that God is a supernatural, unfathomable Being, who at one and the same time is entirely in every little kernel of grain and also in and above and outside all creatures. God cannot be fenced in, as the false spirit dreams. Let him observe this paradox: A human body is much, much too large for the Godhead; in fact, many thousand godheads could find ample room in one human body; on the other hand, one body is far too small for only one Godhead. Nothing is so small, God is still smaller; nothing so large, God is still larger; nothing so short, God is still shorter; nothing so long, God is still longer; nothing so wide, God is still wider; nothing so narrow, God is still narrower; in short, God’s being is so far above and beyond words and thought that it is simply indescribable.” (Franz Pieper quotes this from the St. Louis Edition of Luther’s Works: XX.960f, in his Christian Dogmatics Vol. 1, p. 444).

  25. Stephen
    December 3rd, 2009 at 14:54 | #25

    As to the assertion that Calvinists teach an election without Christ, I will admit some in the tradition have tended unwittingly in that direction. But Calvin taught us to view Christ as the mirror of our election. It is here and now in Christ that we experience God’s favour. I found the following quote of Calvinist Michael Horton (of White Horse Inn) on another blog:
    “This is why we are not to search out God’s secret decree of predestination or to try to find evidence of it in ourselves, but, as Calvin urged, to see Christ as the “mirror” of our election. The unveiling of the mystery hidden in past ages, the person and work of Christ, becomes the only reliable testimony to our election. Those who trust in Christ belong to Christ, are elect in Christ.” I submit that this is not so different from what Lutheranism affirms.
    Stephen (the Calvinist one… but seriously considering Lutheranism)

  26. December 3rd, 2009 at 15:44 | #26

    Hey Stephen,

    Calvin is much wiser than Calvinists, he does not carry too far much of his rationalism (incidentally this is rationalism is also present in Romanism). However, because of this mode of thinking, there is no fence to keep you from sliding off orbit. For example, if the electing decree of God is the central theme , i,e, his Sovereignty, then to be logical and consistent with the rationalizing, when I was traveling to Geneva, I concluded SupraLapsarianism is the best position to be.

    I do not know about you but when I read Calvin’s commentaries etc, I found him to be able to speak in both sides of his mouth – hence, you take too Calvinists, both of them can claim Calvin taught baptism regenerated, and baptism does not regenerate. Both of them will cite Calvin for their support. This is just an example. This is so unlike Luther, there is less of this in him, and he spoke plainly. I could not charge him of being double tongued. I can do that with Calvin.

    However, some Lutheran learned Calvin from their seminary Profs and their critique of Calvin is sometimes a repeat of propaganda. Somebody implied to me to read Sasse, saying his critique of Calvinism is quite fair.


  27. December 4th, 2009 at 06:30 | #27

    @Rev. Matthew Lorfeld
    Matthew, thanks for clarifying and for taking the time to interact with my questions. That Luther quote is astonishing (in a good way!)

  28. Stephen
    December 4th, 2009 at 10:33 | #28

    I agree with that. Certainly Calvin was wiser than most of his followers (many of whom think they are being faithful to him when I don’t think they are). You pointed out the rationalism shared by Romanists. Of course, one thing to realize when it comes to predestination was that Calvin didn’t invent all this stuff. A belief in predestination was part of the Western tradition from Augustine on. Thomas Aquinas has it in his works too.
    Yes, different folks interpret Calvin differently. This is indeed unfortunate. On baptism, I am of the view that Calvin did not teach baptismal regeneration, but I know others say he did. I don’t know that the confusion is deliberate; maybe it is just his style… But yes, Luther is always refreshingly clear!

  29. Jen
    December 5th, 2009 at 06:18 | #29

    @Nick Mackison

    God only hardens those who have first hardened themselves.

  30. December 5th, 2009 at 08:58 | #30

    Jen, I’ve heard that deduction before, but I’m unsure that it arises out of Scripture as much as human reason, the very fault Lutherans accuse Calvinists of.

  31. Jen
    December 5th, 2009 at 09:04 | #31

    @Nick Mackison

    This doesn’t come from my logic or reason. It comes from the example of Pharaoh in Exodus 8, 9 & 10.

  32. December 5th, 2009 at 15:38 | #32

    God said he would harden Pharaoh in Exodus 7:3, so any hardening in 8, 9 and 10 must be seen in this light.

  33. Jen
    December 5th, 2009 at 17:50 | #33

    @Nick Mackison That doesn’t change the fact that the Word of God tells us that Pharaoh hardened his (own) heart before it tells us that God hardened it. YOU are the one reading into it. I’m taking it at face value. If you can’t see that, this conversation is fruitless.

  34. December 6th, 2009 at 09:48 | #34

    Here’s me thinking we were having an irenic discussion, then you go and press your caps lock! I wasn’t trying to wind you up. The point I’m making is that in Exodus 8, 9 and 10 you can read interchangable active and passive tenses, e.g. Pharaoh “hardened his heart” Exodus 8:3, “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened” Exodus 8:19, “But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh” Exodus 9:12, Pharaoh “sinned again and hardened his heart” Exodus 9:34. I don’t think the argument i.e. that God hardens those who first harden themselves, can be sustained in the passages you cite. In Romans 9, where we have the NT interpretation of these events, Paul doesn’t state this argument either. He just affirms God’s sovereign will to harden Pharaoh without any apology. (Nevertheless, mysteriously Paul goes on to affirm in Romans 11 that any hardening or electing is for the purpose of having mercy on ‘all’ Romans 11:32).

    The best Calvinistic interpretations of such passages don’t try to rationalise the mystery of providence and human responsibility. The doctrine of compatibilism, as stated by such notable advocates as D.A. Carson, states that while God is absolutely sovereign, man is completely responsible; the two truths are compatible, even if we finite creatures cannot understand how. Have a good Lord’ Day and I promise there’s no hard feelings from my side (unless I harden my heart…;) )

  35. Jen
    December 6th, 2009 at 12:17 | #35

    Cap lock? I’m not seeing it.

    Pharaoh regarded himself as God. He resisted Moses (and therefore God) because he felt threatened. He repeatedly violated the 1st commandment and therefore was given over to his unbelief in order that God would be glorified.
    Also consider – Is scripture clear on whether this hardening by God was unto the second death?

    Incidentally, we were in Romans 9 for bible study today. The point of Romans 9 is not election to damnation. It’s that not all who are Israel (Jews) are the TRUE Israel. The True Israel are the believers in Christ. He likes the unbelieving Jews to vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (and it’s a “What if” statement). He endured them with patience (why, if he predestined them to damnation?) He sent His Son to the Jews first. But since they pursued righteousness through the law and rejected the Christ, He said they were not his people. Theirs was the promise, but they rejected it.

  36. Jen
    December 6th, 2009 at 18:49 | #36

    @Nick Mackison

    Cap lock? I’m not seeing it.

    Pharaoh regarded himself as God. He resisted Moses (and therefore God) because he felt threatened. He repeatedly violated the 1st commandment and therefore was given over to his unbelief in order that God would be glorified.
    Also consider – Is scripture clear on whether this hardening by God was unto the second death?

    Incidentally, we were in Romans 9 for bible study today. The point of Romans 9 is not election to damnation. It’s that not all who are Israel (Jews) are the TRUE Israel. The True Israel are the believers in Christ. He likens the unbelieving Jews to vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (and it’s a “What if” statement). He endured them with patience (why, if he predestined them to damnation?) He sent His Son to the Jews first. But since they pursued righteousness through the law and rejected the Christ, He said they were not his people. Theirs was the promise, but they rejected it.

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