So, Steve, when I hear you saying this: "Lutherans like McCain put their faith, not directly in the Savior, but in the sacraments. They are not looking to Jesus, but to the wafer and the font. By contrast, Reformed Baptists do trust in Jesus alone," I just have to scratch my head. RBs are more authentic confessors of solus christus than lutherans (and by implication, anyone else who views the sacraments as a means of grace)? Wha---? If RBs really believe that, more's the pity. But you said you move freely between the different versions of the calvinistic tradition. You seem theologically knowledgeable. Do you believe your confession is closer to the RBs than the Lutherans? If so, I'm just dumbfounded. Jus is probably right: I'm "clueless."
1.First of all, I find it amusing that some folks (not necessarily you) have taken offense at my statement about Lutherans.
To begin with, I rarely discuss Lutheran theology. Critiquing Lutheran theology has never been one of my priorities. Since Lutheran theology is a seaworthy vessel which can get its passengers safely to the heavenly harbor, I prefer to direct my attention at leaky vessels or vessels headed in the wrong direction.
I only waded into this debate because Paul McCain chose to launch a public attack on Calvinism, in a particularly blistering and ill-informed fashion.
BTW, if Lutherans want to criticize Calvinism, that’s fine with me. They’re perfectly entitled to point out whatever they think is wrong with Reformed theology. They would be doing us a great favor if they could prove that Reformed theology is unscriptural in this or that respect, and correct our errors. But by the same token, I reserve the right to reply in kind.
Lutherans believe that they’re closer to the truth than Calvinists. That’s why they’re Lutherans. Calvinists believe that they’re closer to the truth than Lutherans. That’s why they’re Calvinists. One could say the same thing about fundamentalists and Anabaptists.
Lutherans believe that they do greater justice to the grace of God than Calvinists. And this is very much bound up with their sacramentology—which their belief in baptismal regeneration and the real presence.
I’m not the one who’s putting so many of my chips on sacramental realism. It’s McCain and Pieper and Lutheran Orthodoxy.
Lutherans are the ones who invest so much of their spiritual stock in the efficacy of the sacraments, not me. They’re the ones who vest so much of their assurance of salvation, to some extent of salvation itself, in the efficacy of the sacraments.
So the question is a simple one: is their faith well-placed or misplaced? This question is entailed by their own position. The question is unavoidable. Everyone has to answer one way or the other.
If they’re right about sacramental grace, then their faith is well-placed; if they’re wrong, then their faith is misplaced.
The logic of the Lutheran claim is reversible. If you take the logic of the Lutheran position seriously, then the conclusion is only as good as the premise, and if the premise is false, then that falsifies the conclusion. This consequence is as important or unimportant as Lutheran theology chooses to make it.
2.Irrespective of Lutheran theology, there is a perennial danger of shifting the assurance of salvation from faith in Christ to faith in some proxy, some external rite or ritual. Almost every theological tradition is prey to this, whether it’s: I know I’m saved because I was baptized, I know I’m saved because I’m a covenant child, I know I’m saved because I went to the altar, I know I’m saved because I speak in tongues, I know I’m saved because I observed the Sabbath on the seventh day, I know I’m saved because I observe the Regulative Principle, and so on and so forth.
All we’ve done at this point is to replace the mediation of priestcraft with another set of man-made intermediaries. Once again, Christ ceases to be the only mediator. Anything but faith in Christ alone as the immediate object of faith.
There’s a logical relationship between unmediated faith in Christ, and Christ as the only mediator of the faithful. I oppose all attempts to shortcut the assurance of salvation by bypassing faith alone in Christ alone.
3. I regard the sacraments are parables in action. Object lessons of faith. They remind us of what Christ has done for us—like types and shadows.
4.I have nothing to say in response to Alastair (if that’s who you were alluding to) since JD and I have already anticipated most of his objections.