Discussing the differences between Lutherans and Reformed Christians
After referring a couple of times in the "discussing justification" thread, to differences in Reformed and Lutheran theology, I just thought it may be an idea to leave an open ended thread here. I spent some time in the Reformed church in my journey from Charismatic/Pentecostal to Lutheran, and though I think there's plenty of common ground between us, there are some pretty striking differences too.
I'll be back to kick things off as soon as I get chance, but if anyone else wishes to, then please feel free to do so. 😎
As an ex-Calvinist myself, and someone who has in the past tried to argue for all the doctrines of grace people often refer to as T.U.L.I.P., I have to highlight one aspect that I struggled with most, and that is a limited atonement. For those not familiar with Calvinism, you will often find Christians referring to themselves as 4 point Calvinists, and usually the point that is missing is that of limited atonement. A renowned scholar and Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, offers his opinion on those who embrace Calvinism but reject limited atonement here:
R. C. Sproul in The Truth of the Cross (pp. 140-142) on four-point Calvinists: There are a host of folks who call themselves four-point Calvinist because they can't swallow the doctrine of limited atonement. Sometimes they say, "I'm not a Calvinist and I'm not an Arminian, I'm a Calminian."
Common ground that Reformed and Lutheran believers share is to do with how we are to interpret Scripture. This includes that Scripture interprets Scripture: We are to look at obscure and less clear passages of Scripture, in light of the more clear passages. And look at Old Testament passages of Scripture, through the light of New Testament revelation. Also we would agree that our aim is to seek the literal or natural sense of the text, which we do through means such as grammar, genre, and context.
With this in mind, I know that for me personally (and I assume many others), the reason that I cannot hold to a limited atonement view, is that it seems to fly in the face of the plain meaning of the text of Scripture in context. Here are a few passages for example, that I think state God's intention quite clearly:
John 1:29 (ESV)
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
John 3:16–17 (ESV)
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)
9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
1 John 2:1–2 (ESV)
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Don't get me wrong, I think that limited atonement does make logical sense in view of things such as the Sovereignty of God, and that not all will be saved. However when we come to the Bible with our own logical conclusions already drawn, we are in danger of trying to force the text of Scripture to fit them. This is what is known as eisegesis (reading our own meaning into Scripture), and is something we all need to guard against. Failure to do this will force us to attempt to do linguistic gymnastics in order to argue our point.