A Lutheran Error

“We preach faith, and any person not willfully resisting obtains faith.” – C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between the Law and Gospel, p. 15.

Lutheranism is neither Calvinistic nor Arminian. But what is it? There are at least three soteriological views I’ve heard ascribed to modern Lutherans:

1 . Salvation is a paradox. God desires all (each and every) person to be saved, yet not all will be saved. Man does not contribute to his salvation, but God does not contribute to reprobation. Why some are saved and not others is a great unsolvable paradox.

2. Salvation is the default, and must be actively combatted to be lost. This view, I had heard ascribed to Lutheranism, but had never seen in print until coming across the quote above by C.F.W. Walther, the founder of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. According to this view one loses salvation by “willfully resisting” faith. Instead of an active necessity to come to faith as emphasized in Arminianism, all one needs to do is not actively work against faith. That is, the holy spirit brings faith to all, but it is resisted by some.

3. Lutheranism is Arminian. This seems to be the understanding of Lutheranism of many Calvinists. By “Arminian” it is meant that salvation is according to a persons choice to have faith. Rather than salvation being the default, either condemnation is the default or a blank slate is the default from which man actively chooses one direction or the other – heaven or hell, faith or unbelief. Calvinists, who often believe that Lutherans hold this position, also believe that Luther himself was essentially a Calvinist in his soteriology.

I believe, regardless of which of these three views the Lutheran church actually holds, that all three of them are false.

The Bible is clear that salvation is not of man, but of God. We might not know why God chooses some people for salvation and other for reprobation, but that He does so is clear from Scripture. “So then, it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.” – Romans 9:16. If salvation were lost through “willfully resisting” then all people would be lost because all people willfully resist. That is, we resist until and unless the holy spirit comes in irresistible power to gift us faith. Let us praise the Lord for the gift of His salvation!

 

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About douglasdouma

I am a graduate of the University of Michigan (BSME), Wake Forest University (MBA), and Sangre de Cristo Seminary (Mdiv). I've learned far more from books than in school. I'm particularly in debt to Martin Luther, Ludwig von Mises, and Gordon H. Clark for any thoughts I have.
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One Response to A Lutheran Error

  1. Thank You, for post Doug. I am not a Lutheran, and my understanding comes from Chris Rosebrough, Lutheran Satire videos, John Gerstner, James White, John Ankerberg, Paul Enns, and John Warwick Montgomery. I agree that Lutheran are not Arminian because Lutheran theology precedes the Arminian and Calvinist Dogma. They belong in a Class on their own. According to John Gerstner, Luther and Calvin were in general agreement on the human will, but Phillip Melanchthon agree with Erasmus on the human will. Therefore Gerstner argue that there was a disagree with Luther and his successor on free will. James White stated in his webcast that Lutherans believe that the relationship between divine sovereignty and human freedom as a Mystery. John Ankerberg claimed on one of his show’s episodes that Luther believed a person could lose their salvation if that person commits the sin of apostasy. In another episode, John Warwick Montgomery, a Lutheran, presented an argument advocating the existence of free will in an interview with John Ankerberg. these are the information I received about Lutheranism in it relations to Calvinism.

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