Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lutheran psychobabble

A Lutheran pastor recently preached a sermon against Calvinism:

Let’s size up his objections.

“I’m glad I’m not a Calvinist. If I approached the teaching of divine election in the way that Calvinists do, I wouldn’t be able to comfort you.”

So, in Lehmann’s theology, the only truths are comforting truths.

“I would have no choice but to point you to yourself, to your own deeds and your own so-called faith.”

So there’s no such thing as saving faith? You can be faithless and still be saved?

“You would have to look to the holiness of your life for evidences that God had elected you.”

So sanctification is irrelevant to salvation?

“But the Word of God is clear. He has died for you. He has forgiven all of your sin.”

Is that a fact? The funny thing about this statement is that Lehmann’s sermon text is Mt 25:31-46.

Doesn’t this text talk about the role of good works in salvation? And where does v41 or v46 say that Christ has died for you, therefore he has forgiven all your sin?

“Who is being justified? All, the very same all who have sinned. You, me, and every person who has been born or ever will be born.”

So here we have a Lutheran pastor who denies sola fide. Every single human being is justified. But, of course, every single human being is not a Christian. So Lehmann denies justification by faith. Rather, for him, justification is an automatic consequence of unlimited atonement.

“They have forced themselves to live in a world of uncertainty and despair.”

I’m a Calvinist. I don’t live in a world of despair.

“There’s only one way they could mimic Paul’s words. Grace and peace to some of you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of you are going to hell.”

But isn’t it a fact that a certain percentage of the human race is, indeed, hellbound?

“So where are you headed? In Calvinism, the Gospel is only for those elected to salvation. You can’t proclaim it to anyone else, because it doesn’t apply to them.”

We can proclaim it to everyone because it’s a conditional offer: if you repent of your sin and believe in Christ, you will be saved.

To preach any other “gospel” would offer the listener false assurance.

“In Calvin’s Strasbourg Catechism, a child was able to say that he was a Christian in fact as well as in name because he could say, ‘I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ Unfortunately, modern Calvinists have lost the ability to make their stand on God’s promises. Calvin’s views on predestination have displaced the Gospel entirely. Today’s Calvinists cannot point you to your baptism, because it is entirely useless to you if Jesus didn’t die for you and you have been elected to hell. A Calvinist cannot point you to Christ’s promises, because if you are a vessel of destruction, Jesus didn’t make those promises to you. A Calvinist cannot point you to the Lord’s Supper and the forgiveness that the Lord gives out there because in his thinking an unbeliever receives only bread and wine.”

So, according to Lehmann, everyone who ever received baptism or communion is heaven-bound? There’s no such thing as a nominal Christian or apostate? A faithless communicant is saved? An impenitent atheist is saved as long as he was dunked in the font as a baby?

“The Calvinist cannot give true, unconditional comfort because they do not confess a true, unconditional Savior.”

That’s correct. We draw a distinction between true and false assurance. The gospel has certain conditions: faith, repentance, discipleship. To be a Christian is to be a *follower* of Christ. To keep his commandments.

Of course, in Calvinism, we believe that God, by his grace, will ensure the fulfillment of these conditions in the lives of the elect.

“They don’t have the Lord’s promises, because they deny that the Lord’s promises are for all sinners.”

The Lord’s promises are conditional promises, not unconditional promises. They are promises to penitent sinners who exercise faith in Christ.

“You have earned hell and all of the torment that it implies…You deserve nothing but eternal punishment in the place prepared for the devil and his angels.”

The parable of the sheep and the goats doesn’t merely say that all sinners *deserve* hell, or that all sinners have *earned* eternal punishment. It goes well beyond that. It says that some (many?) sinners will actually spend eternity in hell. This isn’t hypothetical.

“But wait a minute… If hell is prepared for the devil and his angels, then how can you be eternally elected to suffer there? Jesus has an outstanding opportunity to confess the eternal election of sinners to hell in Matthew 25 and He passes it up. Clearly Jesus needs to read Calvin’s Institutes again. Clearly when He went to Calvinist Seminary He failed systematics.”

So Lehmann’s canon is limited to the words of Christ. He has excised the rest of the Bible from his canon of Scripture?

“Every person in hell is a forgiven sinner for whom Jesus died.”

If God has forgiven their sins, then why are they being punished for their sins?

“They are there only because they rejected the gift He won for them by His death on the cross.”

Okay, so salvation is conditional after all? If salvation is predicated on faith, then why wouldn’t that contingency interject a note of “uncertainty” or “despair” into Lutheran theology?

And why would anyone be damned for rejecting the gift? Didn’t Lehmann just tell us that all human beings have been forgiven. Apparently, rejecting the gift is an unforgivable sin.

Doesn’t sound like a very *comforting* doctrine to me! Indeed, if you want to force folks into a “world of uncertainty and despair,” just tell them that even though Christ died for them, even though God forgave them, even though they have been justified in the sight of God, they may still spend eternity in hell.

What kind of promise is that? It’s Lehmann who empties these promises of any assurance.

In Calvinism, by contrast, promises like justification and forgiveness actually mean something. They mean what they say. And they do what they say.

Incidentally, I’d add that, according to the Fearsome Pirate, it isn’t *God* who forgives us, by the *pastor*. It is the pastor who pronounces absolution. So, to be forgiven, you must find the right pastor.

So which is it? Is everyone automatically forgiven and justified as a result of unlimited atonement? Or must you receive absolution and the sacraments to be forgiven and justified?

“Calvinists will argue that if you teach an election to heaven that you must also teach an election to hell. It’s logical. It’s reasonable.”

Even if that were the sole basis for double predestination, so what? Jesus often reprimands the religious establishment for failing to heed the *implicit* teaching of Scripture.

“By teaching an election to hell the Calvinists speak where the Scriptures are silent. They say a word of God that He has not given them to say.”

As a matter of fact, double predestination is taught in passages like Mt 11:25-26, Lk 2:34, Jn 9:39, Rom 9-11, & 1 Pet 2:6-8.


  1. Wow!! Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees! It's truly sad to see the willful blindness that many possess in this world. And what makes things worse is that some of them are in the position of being shepherds(?), thus leading many astray.

    After reading this post the following verses came to mind:

    Psa 7:15 He made a pit and dug it out, And has fallen into the ditch which he made.

    Pro 26:27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him.

    Pro 28:10 Whoever causes the upright to go astray in an evil way, He himself will fall into his own pit; But the blameless will inherit good.

    Mat 15:14 "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."

  2. Note that, minus the sacramentalism, this sermon is interchangeable with any other anti-Calvinist sermonette derived from Dave Hunt's greatest hits, emanating from the pulpits of many an SBC and IFBx church. Those folks are undoubtedly broadly speaking "Arminians," yet Lutherans vehemently deny Arminianism. Personally, I find that rather humorous.

  3. This conflict will always be with us. Some of my non-reformed friends dislike, and disown, any teachings that says the Lord Jesus Christ did not die for all people.

    They see this dying for everyone as compassionate. And to not die for everyone as totally dispicable.

    It's a mind set, and it's very difficult to persuade otherwise.

    And yet Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who would lay His life down for His sheep, and would seek and save each and every one, said to the Jews, "You do not believe in Me". The reason they don't believe is because they are not His sheep.

    And the bottom line truth is that we are all not His sheep, we have all gone astray, and we all rebel, and say no to God.

    And yet God, because of His great love, and His mercy, has elected to save some of these wayward, and lost sheep, who want nothing to do with Him.

    Why would God set His love on me? Or anyone?

    I'd like to hear if anyone has an answer for this. I don't. And even in eternity I may not.

    Thanks for the good post.

  4. Go easy, at least he's lcms.