Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Luther and Calvin go head to head

All of the Q&A sessions were good, but the Luther/Calvin Q&A was the most interesting. A question was posed seeking to distinguish Luther’s views from Calvin’s on the uses of the Law. As I mentioned, Luther had two explicit uses of the Law, while Calvin added a third. The questioner suggested that Luther had a third use for the Law: to serve as a moral guide for the believer moving toward God.

To this Dr Wengert responded that Luther certainly did not have a third use of the Law, even while an early follower, Melanchthon, added a third.

“I don’t care if Luther acknowledged having one or not…” the questioner responded.

“Well, many do care,” Dr Wengert defended.

The questioner’s argument seemed to be that Luther implied a third use of the Law even if it was not expressly stated.

Finally, as good disagreements tend to do, the pivotal question finally arose: “Did Luther believe the Ten Commandments provided guidance for the Christian life?”

To this, Dr Wengert responded that for Luther, spontaneity arises from the Law to good works in daily life. This is what he meant when he said that the Christian life in the common life.

Another distinction that came up was the differing emphasis on purity. Luther broke with the earlier emphasis on purity, believing it was the result of God’s grace alone. Calvin saw purity as the means, not the end, that is, the believer must become holy before coming to God.

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