On the differences between Luther and Calvin

Why do Calvinists and particularly Arminians (and for that matter, Roman Catholics) reject the paradox?  Is it because they cannot understand that words of Scripture?  Is it because they are less astute than Lutherans?  The answer to both questions is no.  The reason they reject Scripture’s emphasis on “by grace alone” is that their initial focus prior to their “conversion”, their conversion itself, and there subsequent Christian focus lead them away from grace and ultimately from the gospel.  How and why does it do this?  Simply put, whenever anyone shifts his focus of Christianity, as the Evangelical/Reformed do, his “faith” is no longer a miracle the Holy Spirit works through the gospel.  We must realize that there is in man a natural desire to want to keep the law.  While most consider this desire to be an example of the innate goodness of man, or the “prevenient grace” of the Holy Spirit, the Bible tells us that in the true spiritual sense, no one yearns for the law or for the true spiritual sense, no one yearns for the law or for the true spiritual means of fulfilling it in their lives (Rom. 3:10,11; 8:6,7).  What, then, is this yearning that so many experience?  Lutherans have called this the opinion legis, or the natural (and sinful) desire of a person to gain something for himself by keeping the law, whether that happens to be heaven or God’s temporal blessings on earth.  We hold that even the desire to be moral is a sin-unless that morality is fostered by a love for the Lord.  But such love can only come when a person first knows that God has loved and forgiven him. – Robert Koester, Law and Gospel – Foundation of Lutheran Ministry

Thanks to Larry at The Sacrament is the Gospel for this quote.  His post and the comments that follow are worth reading.  I find it interesting that in this analysis, Calvinists and Arminians (along with Catholics) are missing the point by insisting that grace is the power to do something as opposed to grace simply being the assurance of salvation.

I don’t pretend to really grasp the fine points, but I’m starting to sort it out, I think.

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One Response to On the differences between Luther and Calvin

  1. Steve Martin says:


    Larry really seems to get at this stuff pretty well.

    With me it is not so much a matter of grasping the finer points as it is staying on top of it.

    Since the law is written on our hearts and is our default position, we just naturally spring back to the ‘wanting to contribute something, somehow, mode’…even if it’s just a wee little bit.

    That (to me anyway) is the real importance of a properly divided (distinguished)law from gospel and a proper understanding of God at work for us (somehow) in the Sacraments.

    Other than that and my knees go a bit wobbly, and I start looking for a little evidence.

    And that is usually what a find… only very little.

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