Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Lutheran" Pietism

LK: This is all very interesting. To begin just let me say that the acusations of Protestants being their own Pope or having a paper Pope, while poetic and all are simply imflamatory and not really an argument.

However, I am struck Steve by the degree to which (at least in this thread of argument) you are in fact a rationalist. It is reason and argumentation that even trumps appeal to revelation.

SH: This cuts against the grain of my stated position. I do not subordinate revelation to reason. Just the contrary.

I believe in sticking to exegesis. What do you think that means if not submitting to revelation?

But reason is the organ by which we apprehend and assent to the truths of revelation.

Reason cannot submit to revelation if reason is unable to grasp revelation.

So I affirm the primacy of revelation rather than the primacy of reason. This should have been obvious from what I wrote.

Grano is the one who wants to go beyond the boundaries of revelation.

LK: This of course is necesary since you deny continuity.

SH: This is an overstatement. There are continuities as well as discontinuities.

And this is true, both in reference to Evangelicalism and contemporary Catholicism.

LK: As any Protestant does who wishes to claim that somehow Luther and Calvin discoevered the Truth of Scripture that either had been missed for several hundred years and or was never discoverd (as the Alister McGrath quotes so wonderfully shows a truely astounding bias against the church).


1.This is not an issue of being a particular kind of Protestant. Rather, it’s the difference between being a Catholic and a Protestant.

If you don’t think there’s anything distinctive about Protestant theology, reread the Council of Trent.

2.Alister McGrath is very much a product of the 20C. For example, is he not a theistic evolutionist.

And is this something the early church affirmed? Or is this a theological innovation?

What about his views on the role of women? Is he a traditionalist?

What about his views on the punishment of heretics?

LK: As a Lutheran Pietist I agree that at the time of the Reformation there were things wrong with the Roman church.

SH: Wrong in what sense? Corruption? Venality? Or unscriptural doctrines which gave rise to so much of the corruption?

LK: It is equally clear to me that Luther's and Calvins interpretations of Scripture are not closer to the truth than Patristics.

SH: Then you’re not a Lutheran. Why cling to the label?

LK: And Steve wheter you admit it or not it is clear you are traped in a system and can't get out, and your Orthodox dialogue partner is actually less systematic than you and thus can accept ambiguity and that God didn't drop a complete book that is the revelation of God, rather the church that produced the figures you are so skeptical about actually gave you the Revelation in Scripture you believe you are defending with your rationilistic system.


1.You are superimposing your Pietism onto Grano. Grano is not retreating into ambiguity. Rather, Grano is giving reasons for his position. And if he’s going to give reasons for his position, then his reasons are subject to rational scrutiny. I’m answering him on his own level.

2. The church didn’t write the Bible. The church didn’t write the OT.

And the church didn’t write the NT. Rather, individuals wrote the NT.

Books which were addressed to local churches.

LK: And I must say that if you follow the implicit argument in your three points , we leave oursleves open to needing to say the Gnostic thelogy, Arian Theology etc. all need to be considered as the theology of the church, and then the divinity of Christ, the doctrin of the Trinity etc. begin to slowly slip away.


1.That depends on how you define the church. If historical theology is your frame of reference, then Gnostic theology or Arian theology is just as historical as Nicene Orthodoxy.

2.If, however, you define the church according to exegetical theology, then Gnosticism and Arianism are not true to the true church.

LK: If you read Peters sermons in Early Acts, it is very difficult to see either that Jesus is supposed to be God, or get any sense that God is triune.

SH: Two problems with this:

1.Are you saying that traditional theology is underdetermined by Scripture? If so, then traditional theology goes beyond the scope of revelation.

In that event, you’re the one who’s a rationalist, not me.

2.Systematic theology is, or ought to be, a doctrinal construct which integrates the entirely of the NT witness (as well as the OT witness) to person of Christ as well as the Trinity.

LK: Actually as for the last point #1 I was not taking that Steve believes that Calvinism was arround from the beginning but that to not believe so as I assume Steve believes (If he believes otherwise there woudl be no point to conversing on this subject as he would clearly be out of touch) rather that Calvinism some how discoverd the actual truth of Christianity 1500 years after the church was founded. This I find astounding.

What I hear in Steve's arguments is that although he admits that Calvinism does not agree with the continuous interpretation of Scripture through the centuries in the church that it is the truest theology, even though it did not exist until at best 500 years ago (and that is possibly a highly dubious claim since 5 point calvinism may in fact misinterpret Calvin).

SH: There are several problems with this line of argument:

1.LK is mounting an argument for his position. Nothing wrong with that except that if he’s going to reason with us, then he forfeits the right to play the Pietist card and accuse us of rationalism.

2.Calvinism is an offshoot of the Augustinian tradition. So elements of this position were always represented in the church—at least from the time of Augustine.

Keep in mind, too, that things like Nicene Orthodoxy took time to develop as well.

3.More to the point, it’s a historical fiction to identify a “continuous interpretation of Scripture” with the “church.”

There is no Gallup poll of what all Christians or even most Christians believed in the year 500, or the year 1000.

What LK is pleased to call the “church” is a very elitist concept of the church.

How many Christians were literate after the fall of Rome? How many Christians had private copies of the Bible? How many Christians read the Bible in Greek and Hebrew?

What LK is pleased to call the “continuous interpretation” of the “church” is restricted to the extant writings of a handful of theologians.

Only a fraction of Christians were in a position to write about their beliefs, and publish their writings. And only a fraction of this material has survived.

What LK identifies with the “church” is, in fact, severely limited to a thin upper crust of the educated class.

What did the illiterate masses, or Christians who had no access to private copies of the Bible, believe?

Well, I assume they believed what they were taught.

So the idea that Luther and Calvin are coming up with newfangled interpretations which run contrary to what Christians always and everywhere believed is a historical fiction.

The vast majority of Christians were never in the interpretive business to begin with.

4. Catholics like to point to the “scandal” of Protestant denominationalism.

Actually, this phenomenon directly undercuts the argument of someone like LK.

As soon as you make the Bible widely available, differences of opinion emerge.

And that’s because, for the first time, the disenfranchised laity have been given the opportunity to actually read the Bible for themselves.

Far from Calvin and Luther opposing some mythical Christian consensus, theirs is the true populism.

As soon as you inform the masses and actually put it up for a vote, diversity surfaces.

They are discovering something in the Bible they never had a chance to see before because they never had a Bible before.

Indeed, this one was reason that, traditionally, the church of Rome was so opposed to putting the Bible in the hands of the rank-and-file. It would lose control over the message.

LK is the one operating with an ahistorical model of the “church.” With a church that never was. His church is all tip, and no iceberg.


  1. Wow, I am honored! A deconstruction nearly worthy of my favorite philsopher Jacques Derrida!
    Thank you very much for your reply. You have pined me nicely in your case of debaters and dissected me for all to see.
    I am no "true" Lutheran, as the most "orthodox" Lutherans told us Lutheran Pietist when we were told to leave and never come back(thankfully not all Lutherans fetl that or still feel that way).
    I am a rationalist who is conflicted about rationalism, that is I do try to put forward a reasonable position when necesary, but I am compled by something beyond my reasons.
    However, your confidence in the power of the science of exegesis to independently give you revelation seems to be a similar sort of conflicted rationalism. Our difference is that I am less confident of my or anyone else's exegetical ability to recover a lost revelation, so I am compled to believe that the revelation is continous and that the witnesses we have are more faithful than a tradition of exegesis initiated at best 500 years ago.
    At some point we all find ourselves in an hermeneutical circle you seem to want to narrow it I am willing to widen it and be less dependent on my own faculty of reason.
    What you call populist I could just as easily call "every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14) Protestantism in this populism you describes looks to me very much like what Paul describes here and calls us away from. Surely the "whole body" is somethign historicaly continous.
    Also, it is disingenous of you to argue with me about multiplicity after the reformation and some monolithic entity before, you and I both know about the multiplicity of Christian belief, it is my point about gnosticism Arianism all the debates arround all the ecumenical councils. My point of continuity does not need your image of the immovable monolithic unchanging magisterium of Rome. Or some mytholgy of absolute agreement by all who call themselves Christians through all times.
    BTW I am about to finish a post on this issue of continuity and history on my blog.
    Thanks again for the deconstruction.

  2. Well my responce I wrote earlier does not seem to be appearing as a comment.
    In any case wanted to note that I have posted on the historicity and continuity question on my blog if you or anyone else is interested.

  3. Larry,

    I tried to read your post on your blog but it cut off at:

    ...apostles till now and correct understanding of Scripture is dependent on being in communion with that living continuous entity. It is this entity I call

    I'd be interested in the rest before I respond :-)

  4. Calvindude,
    Try the link again, or simply go to the main page

  5. Larry,

    Thanks. The main page link works :-)