Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Are Lutherans & Reformed Different? Duh! But Why?

"Are Lutherans different from Reformed Protestants? Duh! The odd aspect of the arguments that distinguish Lutheranism from Reformed Protestantism is that the arguers don’t seem to be so conscientious when it comes to Baptists. Are Baptists Calvinistic? Some are. Lots aren’t. So when it comes to drawing distinctions among Protestants why the urge to draw lines between Reformed and Lutherans and not between Reformed and the uncles of Baptists, the Puritans?"

So muses Reformed theologian and blogger Darryl G. Hart over at Old Life Theological Society (click on the post title to read in full). But Hart's not content just to ask why, for so many of his fellow Presbyterians, Lutherans are odd but Baptists are welcome bedfellows, he goes on to scuttle* the old Reformed canard that it's because Lutheran theology is anthropocentric (in Reformed lingo that's bad!) while the Reformed are truly theocentric by suggesting that the problem is the Reformed have misread Lutheranism because they've never truly grasped Luther's theology of the cross.

Now, should we Lutherans praise the Reformed, whom we regard as fundamentally in error on the Gospel? Well, when they are so honest and get it so right, like Hart does here - and are heading in the Lutheran direction, then I say: Yes!

Hart's post is part of what I perceive to be an intra-Reformed discussion about the true nature of 'Calvinism' and how its professed adherents presently relate to their heritage from the magisterial Reformation. In the course of this discussion, I have observed several notable Reformed/Presbyterian theologians who have been willing to criticise aspects of their own tradition based on their reading of Luther, as Hart does here. I think it is worthwhile keeping a 'weather-eye' open for how this plays out. Most of the discussion is taking place in US circles (both in print and in the blogosphere), where, of course, the confessional Lutherans are a big enough presence that they can't be ignored. I don't know how much of it is impacting upon Australian or UK Reformed circles, or further afield where Lutherans and Reformed co-exist...but if we are awake to what is happening, we Lutherans in these places should be looking to cultivate this discussion with confessional Reformed folk in our sphere of influence in order to bring them closer to a doctrinally sound understanding of the saving Gospel.

* scuttle - to sink one's own ship.

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