Thursday, February 04, 2010

Upstart Lutheran

Edward Reiss said...

“There is no promise we will know we have eternal life.”

Is he speaking for Lutheranism or Calvinism? In Calvinism, there are such promises.

“We are told that we may deceive ourselves that we are elect when we are not”

Of course, that’s equivocal. Who may be deceived? May the elect be deceived about their election–or the reprobate?

Those are hardly equivalent claims. A man on acid may well be self-deluded. Does this mean a sober man is in the same condition?

Since Reiss is fairly intelligent, it’s striking that he continues to raise such unintelligent objections to Calvinism. There’s a willful refusal on his part to acknowledge and address basic distinctions.

“This means looking for fruit runs the serious risk of us deceiving ourselves into thinking we are elect when we are not.”

Runs the risk for whom–the elect or the reprobate? Since the elect are the elect, how can they be deceived about their elect status?

And if the reprobate can be mistaken, so what? Lots of folks can be self-deluded for various reason. Does this mean we should all doubt our sanity?

If the Lubavitcher Rebbe thought he was God’s messiah, should the rest of us check into a mental institution? If one man suffers from a Messiah-complex, does that make everyone delusional?

Why does Reiss extrapolate from cases of self-delusion to disanalogous cases?

“The spiritual danger of this should be readily apparent.”

Danger to whom–the elect or the reprobate? How is it dangerous to the elect to consider the fruits election?

“Examining ourselves for our fidelity and obedience is different from examining ourselves to ‘prove’ we are elect, which we cannot know anyway.”

I don’t know why Reiss is so obsessed with the issue of knowing if we’re elect. That’s indirect. We know if we’re elect if we know that we’re saved. That’s the primary question.

“We can know that when we hear the Gospel in e.g. baptism or communion that we are truly receiving what God promises because God does not lie--as opposed to our looking into our own lives for proof.”

i) At this point it’s very hard to credit Reiss with even a modicum of honesty. He habitually misrepresents the Reformed position by setting up a dichotomy between God’s promises and self-examination–even though Calvinism explicitly treats these in tandem.

Why do Lutherans like Reiss think it’s permissible to chronically lie about a position they disagree with? Is mendacity a moral imperative in Lutheran ethics?

ii) And what promises does he think we’re receiving in the sacraments? Not the assurance of salvation, since he denies that baptism and communion are nonrefundable tickets to heaven.

“No one has second party knowledge of my eternal state.”

And why is that a problem?

“And I don't think I even have first party knowledge (see 1 above). Given this, and the theological commitments of TULIP Calvinists, a TULIP Calvinist cannot say Christ died for him, or anyone else. I do however have first hand knowledge of receiving communion, being absolved and I have proof I am baptized.”

So, according to Reiss, a professing believer could be self-deluded by vesting his assurance of salvation in the sacraments. He could delusively believe that he was saved simply because he was baptized and received the Eucharist.

That being so, Lutheranism can’t eliminate the possibility of spiritual self-deception even on its own grounds. Therefore, why does Reiss freak out over that alleged deficiency in Calvinism?

“You have ‘demonstrated’ something we have not claimed: that Sacraments guarantee everyone who receives the sacrament eternal salvation.”

In which case, a professing believer could be self-deluded about his eternal fate if he imagines that partaking of the sacraments automatically induces a state of grace.

“What we have claimed is that the grace offered in Sacraments is real grace…”

Yes, real resistible grace. In Lutheran theology, the grace offered in the sacraments is resistible grace.

“…and not actually a withholding of grace, as is the case in the Calvinist system where grace is only offered to the elect, because offered grace must be 100% ‘effective’ for it to be real.”

The estate goes to the heirs. God’s children are heirs to the promises.

The promises are not promises made to a con man to reads the obituary column every morning, then shows up at the funeral of some unrelated decedent to cash in. He’s not a party to the will.

“Finally, it is not the Lutherans who look at their navel, but the TULIP Calvinists looking within themselves to prove they are really elect.”

I’ve never tried to prove to myself that I’m really elect. Reiss is projecting his fixation onto Calvinists like me.

“If we can be deceived into believing we are elect even if we are not, where is the assurance in that?”

The reprobate have no assurance that they are elect. Likewise, men with blue eyes have no assurance that they have brown eyes. We are what we are, and not what we’re not. Why is that a problem?

“But baptism and communion go one better--they promise the forgiveness of sins.”

I disagree. But even if I agreed with him, that misses the point. A promise of temporary forgiveness, and a promise of eternal life, are two very different things.

The standard "Protestant" syllogism works like this:

All those who have faith in Christ are saved

I have faith in Christ

Therefore I am saved

It’s very revealing that he labels that a “Protestant” syllogism. But doesn’t Scripture itself use that type of language?

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).

"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31).

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’" (Rom 10:9-13).

Why can’t Lutheran theology make room for these central promises of Scripture?

The "Lutheran" Syllogism works like this:

Christ said "I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit"

Christ never lies and always tells the truth

Therefore I am baptized

Which is beside the point. The question at issue is not if/how I can know I’m baptized, but if/how I can know I’m saved? Why is Reiss unable to focus on the real issue?

“If you object to a sacramental view of baptism feel free to insert "Christ said I died for you..." in lieu of baptism.”

In Lutheran theology, knowing that Christ died for you is irrelevant to whether or not you’re saved–and, by the same token, equally irrelevant to the assurance of salvation.

“The point is that there is no ‘if’ embedded in the Lutheran syllogism, where the Protestant syllogism has an ‘if’ embedded into it--do I really have faith?”

And why is that conditional unimportant? Is it unimportant whether or not Bertrand Russell really had faith in Christ? In Lutheran theology, is there no difference between the belief of an atheist, a Muslim, and a Christian?

“Do we ever keep his commandments? St. John himself allows for the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake which presupposes disobedience. I certainly don't see how we can get some sort of assurance of perseverance from our obedience as there is always the possibility we will not be obedient. In other words, it does not cut against the Lutheran position.”

That’s a very selective appeal to 1 John. Does Reiss feel no obligation to integrate 1 Jn 1:7-10 with 1 Jn 3:3-24?

“Getting back to the larger issue, no one has really said I got the Reformed position wrong.”

To the contrary, I’ve said that numerous times–such as the way he tries to drive a wedge between promises and introspection in Reformed theology.

“Calvinist assurance: You are assured of eternal salvation and under no circumstances will you lose it.”

That confuses two distinct issues:

i) Under no circumstances can the elect/regenerate lose their salvation.

ii) Under no circumstances can the elect/regenerate lose their assurance of salvation.

But (i) is true whereas (ii) is false.


  1. "....Why do Lutherans like Reiss think it’s permissible to chronically lie about a position they disagree with? Is mendacity a moral imperative in Lutheran ethics?...".

    One of the first things the prosecutors and defense do when they have their voice heard is to undermine the opponent's case by establishing the premise that the evidence you the juror are to believe is the truth is false instead.

    I believe, with those words above as my citation in this thread, are true words.

    Therefore, from now on, whenever I read anything by Ed, I am mindful of that fact.

    You have proved he lies about the Calvinist's position.

    Once the Defender can prove the prosecution's evidence is premised in a lie, subtle or bold, he can win his case by simply building a case on that mount.

    On the other hand, the judge must be in play at all times. He rules to sustain or overrule the objection.

    It is not his place to determine what is a lie or not. Most likely, if he's good, he already knows the truth. Knowing the truth doesn't mean the case is won for the defense. The guilty person goes free based on the jury not the Judge.

    As a juror sitting in the deliberation room, it is my vote we convict!

    Now, when we are dealing with matters of the human soul and their justification or God's them, we see things a bit more differently. We have all failed the Truth test. None of us has any standing in the Court presided by the Three Judge Panel. Each case has already been decided.

    It is a "Three" Judge Panel, Who decide the matter, each with a particular discipline in the case for and against each human soul.

    The Bible is clear on this point:

    Joh 16:1 "I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.
    Joh 16:2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
    Joh 16:3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.
    Joh 16:4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. "I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
    Joh 16:5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?'
    Joh 16:6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.
    Joh 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
    Joh 16:8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
    Joh 16:9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;
    Joh 16:10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;

  2. I think you're missing the essence of Ed's remarks, and that is 'thinking one is elect doesn't make one elect'. The problem the Calvinist system is in is that one must start off assuming they are elect, but an assumption cannot mesh with the infallible Assurance that Calvinists champion against others.

    What is worse is that Calvin taught God causes some non-elect to think and act elect.

    So you're left with no objective measuring stick; examining your fruits, faith, profession, etc, etc, are purely subjective.

    If you're non-elect, you're forever unregenerate, and thus even if you *THINK* you believe in Jesus alone for your Salvation, you don't really have true faith in Christ.

    A few years ago when I was considering becoming Reformed, this issue played a key role in keeping me away.

  3. Interesting that Lutherans make such a big thing out of assurance. Even moreso in that it seems their system provides no better assurance than anyone elses when it comes to eternal life. Since they believe one can lose their salvation, their assurance can never be more sure than their faith in themselves to persevere. On the other hand, my hope is in God alone from start to finish. I trust that He will preserve me. If I believed my perseverance was ultimately up to me, as it seems is the case in the Lutheran system, I would have considerably less assurance than I have now.