Graphical Representation of Lutheran Soteriology and (lacking) Theodicy


This first graph is the Lutheran view of soteriology (as it has taken me years to pry out of them).  They believe there are three major soteriological teachings of Scripture (“Christ died for all”, “Not all will be saved”, and “Salvation is a work of God Alone”) and that we should not try to discount one of them in order to form a logical system.  Thus, Lutherans believe Calvinism,  Arminianism, and Universalism are each attempts to form logical systems which are detrimental to one of the three teachings.

If the teaching “Not all will be saved” is rejected then the soteriology opposite is the result; Universalism. If the teaching “Salvation is the work of God alone” is rejected then the soteriology opposite is the result; Arminianism. If the teaching “Christ died for all” is rejected then the soteriology opposite is the result; Calvinism. Lutherans uphold all three teachings and do not look for a logical system.  Their view is sometimes called “paradox” but I believe is better called “tension.”

The second chart I’ve made is an application of this teaching to Theodicy – attempts to solve the problem of evil. All Christians affirms, to some extent, these three teachings: (God is good, Evil exists, and God is all-powerful). Lutherans affirm all three of these views and do not attempt a Theodicy. Augustine at one point rejected that evil exists.  Thus I’ve placed him on the graph to fill what would otherwise be a gap. Arminians play lip-service to “God is all-powerful” but relinquish this power in their “Free-will Theodicy.” Calvinists play lip-service to “God is good” but relinquish this goodness by making his sovereignty the cause of evil.

Thus, if the Lutheran view is biblical it is a wonderful solution to the Calvin-Arminian debates.  The one difference with Calvinism, of course, is the unlimited atonement and therefore “illogical” view.  Of course some in the Reformed community have come to reject limited atonement and be 3-point Calvinists, 4 Point Calvinists, Amryaldists, etc. The Lutheran view is similar to these but revels more in tension.

I like the Lutheran view because it doesn’t get into the major troubles that each of the other 3 views get into.  The 1 trouble with the Lutheran paradigm (and by Lutheran I mean the LCMS, and perhaps not Luther himself) is that leaves you hanging.  By not positing an answer to the problem of evil they cannot be wrong about their theodicy, but of course they can’t technically be correct either.

About douglasdouma

I am a husband to beautiful wife, an ordained minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church - Hanover Presbytery, and founder of Sola - Appalachian Christian Retreat ( In addition to blogging at this site I am the author of The Presbyterian Philosopher - The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark (Wipf&Stock, 2017) and compiling editor of Clark and His Correspondents: Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark (Trinity Foundation, 2017). I have a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering (University of Michigan), a master's in business administration (Wake Forest University) and a master of divinity (Sangre de Cristo Seminary). I'm an avid hiker, having completed a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian trail in 2013 and the first 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016.
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