Lutheranized Calvinism: Gospel or Law, or Gospel and Law -- By: P. Andrew Sandlin

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 11:2 (Spring 2002)
Article: Lutheranized Calvinism: Gospel or Law, or Gospel and Law
Author: P. Andrew Sandlin


Lutheranized Calvinism: Gospel or Law, or Gospel and Law

P. Andrew Sandlin

The latest division in the Reformed ranks (of the several hundreds, since Calvinists, being of all things “doctrinalists,”1 1 seem to love to divide) is spearheaded by a distinct Lutheranizing tendency. Some rather prominent Calvinists are leaning more heavily toward the Wittenberg Reformer and leaning somewhat away from John Calvin and, more accurately, from a more consistently Reformed perspective at key points.2

Let’s acknowledge, at the outset, that Calvinists owe a great deal to Luther.3 His break with the synergistic soteriology (salvation is a collaborative effort by God and man) of medieval Rome sparked the Reformation. Almost as important was his denial of a synergistic epistemology (both the Bible and tradition stand on equal par as the sources of revelation and authority in the church).4 Luther, in principle, would have none of that, although like the other Reformers, he assumed a greater role for tradition than his express statements allowed.5

In any case, we Calvinists are grateful to Luther for the process of reformation he set in motion.

But we Calvinists aren’t Lutherans, and Lutherans aren’t Calvinists. It’s strange that some notable Calvinists don’t detect the chasm separating Lutheranism from Calvinism,

because Lutherans certainly do. There are, in fact, clear distinctions between us—not distinctions touching on the cardinal issues of the catholic faith, but distinctions that flow from those issues. Here is where the new Lutheranizing Calvinists come in. We can detect their increasing Lutheranization in several major areas. In this brief essay I will address the soteriological dualism (a rigid distinction between gospel and law)

Soteriological Dualism

Good Lutherans see the distinction between gospel and law at the heart of the Christian faith, and they perceive justification by faith alone as the organizing principle of Christian theology and the faith itself. The gospel (in both New and Old Testaments) is the good news of salvation in Christ, and the law (in both New and Old Testaments) is the goading demand of God on man that (sinful) man cannot keep and which therefore hounds him to trust in Christ. Man does this by faith alone; and when he trusts in Christ, he is justified, or declar...

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