Monday, June 6, 2011

Super True Stories: The Original John Calvin

Recently a bunch of Calvinists have told me, "hey, I like your videos."  And so I responded by making a video that makes fun of Calvinists and, in particular, a doctrine that is called the limited atonement.  Because I'm sort of a jerk that way.  So here it is:

If you're never heard the term before, as the video explains, the limited atonement means that, when Jesus died on the cross, He made atonement only for the elect.  In other words, He forgave only the sins of those who go to heaven.  Jesus did not, however, shed his blood for those who are condemned.  And he didn't do this because His Father hated those people and decided before time that He was going to send them hell.  That's what committed Calvinists believe.  Very rosy stuff.

So the limited atonement is a vile doctrine.  It's a terrible heresy that one cannot confess and still hold to the words of 1 John 4:16, that God is love.  And, as such, it certainly deserves to be mocked.  And, in response to my mockery, some Calvinists have offered objections to the content of the video.  So, since I'm trying to write more often on my bloggerino here, let me go ahead and address a couple objections here.

1. It's unfair to quote Westboro Baptist Church as a representative of Calvinist theology.

If you're not familiar with the name, Westboro Baptist Church is the little cult of nutjobs who go around picketing military funerals, saying that God is pleased at the sight of dead American soldiers because our nation has become supportive of homosexuality.  So, at first blush, it may seem unfair to quote such a nasty group of folks who make almost all Calvinists in the universe want to barf.  But here's why it's perfectly fair.

Phelps and his group are hardcore Calvinists.  And they act the way they do because of their Calvinist theology.  If you have the stomach to look around Westboro's website, you'll see their train of thought quite clear.  It works like this:

When it came time for Christ to die, God put His Son on the cross.  But God would not give His blood to certain people because He hates them and wants them to go to hell.  When people engage in open sin (ie homosexuality or endorsement of homosexuality) this reveals that they are among this group of people that God hates and wants to go to hell.  Therefore we don't have to treat these people with love.  In fact, we won't even pray for them because that would be an act of defiance against the God who wants the in hell.

So that's pretty much taking Calvinism to its logical conclusion.  I'm glad that most Calvinists don't do this.  But just because Phelps does, that doesn't mean he's not a genuine Calvinist.  All men reflect the behavior of their gods in their own behavior.  And Fred Phelps refuses to love his neighbor because Fred Phelps' god first refused to love his neighbor. That's not a me problem.  That's a Calvinist god problem.

2. It's inaccurate to say that Calvinists can't be sure of their salvation.

I'm aware that Calvinsts say they can be sure of their salvation.  But my point is that, regardless of what they say, Calvinists can't be certain of their salvation.  According to their own theological documents, such as the Westminster Larger Catechism Question 80, Calvinists say they can know that they are part of the elect by looking within themselves by the aide of the Holy Spirit.

But validating your faith by looking to your faith is not certainty.  It's circular hopelessness.  Because how do you know that you really do believe?  How do you know that you haven't just convinced yourself that the Spirit said you are among the elect because you desperately want to be among the elect?  After all, if we're going to take Matthew 7 seriously, a whole bunch of people that Jesus says He never knew will have been laboring under the delusion that they were among the elect.

If you want to be certain of your salvation, you need to be able to look to things outside of your deceitful heart.  You need to be able to look to the Cross and say that you know that Jesus won your salvation there.  And you need to be able to look at your baptism and say that Jesus delivered salvation to you there.  But Calvinists can't do either of that.  They can't look to the cross for assurance because Jesus didn't die for everyone and therefore might not have died for them.  And they can't look to their baptism because it can't deliver salvation to you if Christ never won it for you in the first place.


My name is Pastor Hans Fiene.  Thanks for reading.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

If anyone thinks that Calvinism teaches (or even allows for) the security in Christ that we have, one needs simply look at the hoops associated with "Conversion" given at the first "Great" Awakening. With Calvinism it ultimately boils down to a coin flip hidden within God's Immutable Will.

I'm a Lutheran - I simply look to the Cross.

Robin said...

Oh, how hilarious is this! This reminds me of the Calvinist group that got its claws in me during college... It almost drove me to total unbelief with their constant are you sure you're sure? I am going to forward this to all of my friends who ran in the other direction like me. One told me recently that when she worked on staff with this organization she was called to the carpet for her "bad attitude" and was told she must come up with a repentance plan in order to show them that she had truly repented of her sin! It makes me want to cry.

Anonymous said...

Spot on! Not only election, but their whole theology can tie one in knots.

I spent a little time with them blogging and they look to their works to confirm their election and after awhile, you start feeling like you need a PhD in order to be saved. I cannot believe that God would not make it simple enough for a child to believe and receive.

Re: Robin - so true! That stuff can drive a person to unbelief at worst and bad case of spiritual flu at best.

Anonymous said...

"...[A]ll orthodox Christians believe in a limited atonement. Every Christian who believes that there is an eternal Hell limits the atonement. One group limits its power or effectiveness, and the other limits its extent. But both limit the atonement"

From Easy Chairs, Hard Words, by satirophile you might enjoy interacting with, even if he is a Calvinist. ;-)

Your heretical sister,


Anonymous said...

Whoops...I guess I was predestined to mess up that HTML. The last sentence should have been...

From Easy Chairs, Hard Words, by satirophile , whom you might enjoy interacting with, even if he is a Calvinist. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Dang...happened again. I was trying to link both to "A Serrated Edge," the author's book on Christian Satire, available on Google Books, and to his website,

Sorry for the clutter!

Emma said...

I have an honest question. If Christ's atonement is truly unlimited, then why do people still go to Hell? If Christ did indeed died for the sins of all people, shouldn't the sin of unbelief also be covered?

Anonymous said...

Emma, Lutherans only like to apply logic to other people's theology. When an Arminian or a Calvinist's theology doesn't add up in their eyes, it's unreasonable. When theirs doesn't make sense it's a "mystery". So there you have it.

Nate said...

Pr. Fiene,

Good stuff with WLC Q. 80. This is one of the main reasons I'm considering moving from Calvinism to Lutheranism. In fact, I was just reminded of this again last Sunday when we were told that to know our election we are to look to OUR faith, OUR repentance, and OUR works. And if those things aren't satisfactory, we were told, we are to "doubt our election." For this sinner, that was a terrible thing to hear.


Quite so. Your posts over there are missed, at least by John Y., Zrim, DG, and me. Probably others as well.

Anonymous said...

Nate, you mean like John's 1st epistle tells us to do?
"By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked."

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


As a serious answer to your question -- Christ Jesus died for all, but if people reject and refuse his salvation, so be it. If someone sends you a check for $100 and you say, "No, I don't believe it, I won't cash it" it doesn't mean the check was bad, or that it wasn't sent to you.

Man ends up in hell because of their own sinfulness - simple as that.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Nameless one -- Two points.

1. Lutheran theology simply holds to the Scriptures and lets the tension in the Scriptures stand. We let what the Scriptures say stand.

2. Excellent job quoting 1 John... however, I would note something. The word "keep" in Greek is not simply "do", but is rather observe, pay attention, hold fast to. As a Christian, our focus and attention is to be on God's Word -- our highest focus is to be upon listening to what God says, and not call Him a liar.

You know, like when the Scriptures say that He loves the world, or Baptism saves you, or This is My Body. Or that God desires all people to be saved, even as He warns that some do go to Hell. >=o)

Thus, the check that John is giving here with the idea of keeping the commandments is about maintaining a focus on Scripture. If you did want to talk about works and what you do, you can do that from 1 John - that's the part where he talks about love, because love is always action. And indeed, if I find when I examine myself that I no longer care about showing love, that is a sign that something isn't right and I need to repent. Then I see Christ, delight in His forgiveness, and live again with the life He gives me, all thanks be to Him. Good stuff.

Emma said...

Hi Rev. Brown. I thank you for your answer. I still don’t understand the idea behind unlimited atonement though. Christ’s righteousness will only be credited to those who believe, not those who die in their sin. The people who perish were never redeemed by Christ. If Christ did die to for the sins of every single person in the world, then why is the sin of unbelief not included?

And to be fair, all Christian denominations have their odd balls with wonky theology. Calvinist have hyper-Calvinists. Lutherans have the ELCA (as pointed out by one of TheLutheranSatire videos).

And regarding your first comment. I am a Calvinist, yet I simply look to the cross. I am humbled by the fact that God would awaken me to my sinfulness and show me such grace and mercy. There is nothing in myself that is worthy of salvation. But I don’t wake up and wonder if I am really one of the elect or not. God has mercy on whomever He wills, and I am thankful that He has been merciful to me.

Nate said...


Do you see anything in the verse you quoted that tells you to doubt your election if you aren't sufficiently holy? I don't see it. But then again I doubt that you see it either, otherwise you would be forced to doubt your own election.

Emma, if you want, you could check out this link, where your question is brought up:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


Let me make a contention - the sin of unbelief *has* been forgiven. Why do I say this. Well, as you are a Calvinist, you'll accept the assertion of total depravity - that we are born sinful. Thus, at somepoint in our lives, we (and all the elected) did not believe... were guilty of the sin of unbelief. That sin is forgiven by Christ - and that forgiveness is received by faith. This is why the man could pray, "I believe Lord, help my unbelief." If there was no forgiveness for unbelief, there would be no help for that man.

It isn't a question of forgiveness - of whether or not the objective reality of forgiveness exists -- it does, Christ has died for all. The question then becomes whether or not the individual receives this forgiveness through faith. The fact that someone denies or rejects the gift doesn't make the gift non-existent.

Or in other words - which is stronger - Christ's death or my own thoughts? While my own persistent unbelief might rob me of God's forgiveness, it isn't going to fundamentally change or diminish what God has done.

The reason this is important is because I can say, conclusively, to anyone that Christ Jesus has died for them. That fact is true. I don't have to wonder if they are among the elect or if they are going to end up in heaven - I can proclaim it, for it is true. Christ Jesus died for you. That is the objective reality. He bore the sins of the world. If some say, "No thanks, I don't want that" and they receive the weight and punishment of sin... so be it. It does not change what Christ has done. All thanks be to God that He has worked faith in you and I, and God grant that He keep us in that faith so that with joy and confidence in Him we might ever more cling to him.

evc said...


In Lev 16, was atonement for sin made for only some of the people? It says throughout that is was for the people and of the people...all of them.

We see on the Day of Atonement Messianic types, a foreshadowing of Christ being the ultimate sacrifice for all the sins of all the people.

There is a true Israel of God within all Israel, the elect if you will, but the sacrifices were made for all. All their sin was atoned for.

Isaiah 53:6 "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

John 1:29 "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Emma said...

Hi Rev. Brown! I agree with you that the sin of unbelief has been atoned for, but I do not believe atonement has been made for the sin of unbelief for every person, without exception. For those who repent and believe in the gospel, Christ’s righteousness has been credited to them. For those that die without repenting and putting their faith in Christ, their unbelief was not covered, for if it was, then even that would have been forgiven. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” -Matthew 1:21

Do I believe that all men could be saved if it was the will of God to be so? Of course! Christ’s work on the cross was more than sufficient to save every person, I do not deny that for one moment! His work is enough to save everyone, but it is useless to those who reject it. They gain nothing from it and die in their sins.

I do understand the thoughts behind unlimited atonement better and I thank you for taking the time to explain it to me (and for being patient with my Calvinist brain). =D

Dwcasey, I will have to actually read Lev. 16, and I don’t have time to do that right now!

Andy said...

Pastor Feine, do you intend to offend with your satire? Is it your intention to mock those Christians who hold heterodox views? Do you believe at all that non-LCMS Lutherans can be saved?

You may call this humor, you may indicate that it is in pure fun. However, I pray that you consider the harm to the cause of Christ this does, posted on a public forum, to those who are not strong in the faith - or believers at all. As a Pastor, remember your have been called not to lordship but to serve his flock. I pray that you would consider the role of a shepherd of the Good Shepherd's flock, to understand the offense these messages may cause one who is not strong in His Word, and in the one true faith. I hope that your ministry will bring you maturity in your faith and know dear brother that I am praying for you. Remember the words of 2 Timothy 2:24-25: The Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.
Can you honestly say these videos do such?

Emma said...

I disagree with you, Andy. I have not taken offence at any of Pastor Fiene’s videos (even this one). His videos get me to think and cause me to examine why I believe what I believe, and they always send me to my Bible. Because of that, they have helped me to give a better account of my faith to others (as we all should be able to do). Being a Christian in general is going to offend some people, but that should never stop us from living out our beliefs, or sharing our beliefs with others. These videos share the Lutheran faith (which is certainly Christian faith) with other people, in a humorous way.

And I apologize, Pastor Fiene, I really don’t mean to stalk your blog like this and comment non stop.

Anonymous said...

"People generally quarrel because they cannot argue. And it is extraordinary to notice how few people in the modern world can argue. This is why there are so many quarrels, breaking out again and again, and never coming to any natural end. People do not seem to understand even the first principle of all argument: that people must agree in order to disagree. Still less so their imaginations stretch to anything so remote as the end or object of all argument; that they should disagree in order to agree." (G. K. Chesterton)

Andy, satire is a legitimate tool of argument, as evidenced by its use by the biblical writers, including our Lord. I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt for now and trust that he's on the arguing side of the equation. It wouldn't be fair of me to applaud satire only when I agree with it.

I do think he needs to rein in his use of the word "heresy," though. "Because I say so" simply isn't sufficient support for that label. It betrays an anemic ecclesiology and a sense of self-sufficiency I'd expect from a pope, not an LCMS pastor.

His Name Extoled said...

As a calvinist I can say that not only do I see much of the things you all describe, but I do not feel comfortable with the vast majority of calvinist's i encounter who behave in those manners.

I disagree with your application of the WLC 80 though. Yes the 2nd of 3 assurances given is an internal affirmation of the Spirit, but the first is very simply affirmation of the gospel, and the last is quite simply the presence of obedience. There is assurance to be found outside of a "deceitful heart".

Also, Rev. Eric. Your first post mentioned the hoops associated with the "conversion" in the first great awakening. There are a number of confessionally minded Calvinists who object greatly to the emotional and works based strings attached to the theology of the first great awakening. It is not historic Calvinism.

I'm actually glad that I discovered these videos and this blog. Lutheranism I find much more welcoming a family than I do much of any of the Evangelicals out there. So, Cheers!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The root difference between a Calvinist and Lutheran approach is shown in what Emma says. She says, "Do I believe that all men could be saved if it was the will of God to be so? Of course!" This ends up looking at Salvation from a view point of God's immutable will that He has not revealed... ultimately, from this perspective, we cannot know what God's will is for a person... the name Eric Brown isn't mentioned in the Scriptures directly.

The Lutheran approach, rather than trying to focus on or approach theology from the perspective of God's unrevealed will (we normally say His Hidden Will - I don't know if this is the current term in Calvinism) we strive to approach everything strictly in terms of God's Revealed Will as shown to us in the Holy Scriptures.

There I see this:

"This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." - 1 Timothy 2:3-4

"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." - John 20:30-31

What do we see here? That God desires *all* to believe. That the Scriptures are written so *you*, whoever *you* happen to be, may believe.

This is what God reveals - and this is what I will believe. For all. For you. Now, do the Scriptures teach that some are not saved, that some retain their sin and end in hell? Yep. How, ultimately does that work out logically... the Scriptures teach that if man is saved, it is solely due to the free Grace of God, apart from works, and that if one is condemned, it is due entirely to their own wickedness. Can my little human mind wrap my hands around this - can I try to divine the Hidden Will of God? Nope - so I will simply confess what God says. His love goes forth to all, and often, for reasons beyond my ability to really understand, it is unreturned. So be it - what do the Scriptures say? There we will stand -- let the Hidden Will of God remain Hidden.

When I was a kid, and my parents had hidden something in a closet - I had to let it stay hidden, otherwise I got into trouble. No good comes of a theologian trying to divine the Hidden will of God. =o)

Rev. Gerald Heinecke said...

Pastor Hans Fiene, it looks like you have done a great job of teaching. You have generated a great deal of discussion on this topic as people are being taught the wonderful gospel message of unlimited atonement.

Keep up the great work!

pdug said...

I figured you'd do calvinist satire eventually.

I also think you're getting WLC 80 wrong.

Practically, calvinists are supposed to rely on the promises of God in the gospel to them. If they do, they can be assured.

Usrinus even says that 'every one ought to believe with certainty that he is one of the elect for we have a universal command for all to repent and believe the gospel'

If I believe the call to repent and have faith is directed to me, it means I believe the gospel is for me and Jesus has forgiven my sins on the cross.

Pastor Fiene said...


But don't you see how saying, "I know I'm among the elect because I have faith" is entirely circular? It's no different than saying, "I know I'm among the elect because I believe I'm among the elect."

In the end, you're just validating your faith by looking to your faith.

I thank God that I can look to the cross and know that Christ won salvation for me there, because that's where He won salvation for everyone.

Anonymous said...

But pduggie didn't say that he looked to his faith, he said that he looked to the promises of God, to the gospel, to the cross in faith, just the same way that you do. Either party can fall into the ditch of having faith alone in our faith alone. But neither of us is saying we should.

Andrew said...

Pastor Fiene,

How do you know that you are among the elect?

Pastor Fiene said...


Perhaps I misunderstood pduggie's last statement. And perhaps I came away with a different understanding of WCF LC Question 80 than your average Calvinist does. So let's take a look at that:

"Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavor to walk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God's promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation."

So yes, the response does state that we are to look to the truth of God's promises. But then, in the italicized portion, it goes on to say that, if we look within our hearts, the Spirit will show us that we have true faith in God's promises and thus are among the elect. Is this the same reading that you guys have? Because that sounds to me like the way we determine if Christ's death was for us is by looking into ourselves.

Pastor Fiene said...


I don't ask myself if I'm among the elect. I ask myself if Jesus won salvation for me on the cross, which the Scriptures say He did. Then I ask myself if Jesus delivered salvation to me in my baptism, which the Scriptures say He did. And that's all I need.

Andrew said...

It is at this point where I do not see how a Lutheran is any better off than a Calvinist. Since both parties believe that there are elect and non-elect people. It seems that the Lutheran just points out that a Calvinist could have doubts in light of his theology without copping to the fact that there is either as much doubt in his own theology or as much cause for certainty in the Calvinists. In fact, it seems that since the Lutheran believes that a regenerate man can indeed lose his salvation and a Calvinist doesn't, then the Lutheran should have more cause for doubt. That is, since you also believe in a particular group of elect people who will persevere. Your universal atonement really doesn't provide the assurance that you claim it does. It would if you believed in universal salvation; but thankfully, you don't. I know how you will respond; but there is no reason, given reformed theology, that a Calvinist cannot simply say "I look to the cross the same way the Jews in the wilderness looked to the serpent. I am saved because of what Christ did and I trust him completely."

Thanks for your response.

Pastor Fiene said...

I'm not sure how you don't see the difference, Andrew. As a Lutheran, I can look to the cross and say that I know Jesus died for me because he died for everyone. A Calvinist can't say that. Then I can look to my baptism and say that this is where Christ marked me as His own. A Calvinist can't say that either.

Pastor Fiene said...

By the way, thanks to everyone for your comments and for the respectful tone everyone has taken.

His Name Extoled said...

Pastor Fiene,

I think you may have a very different understanding of the confession, though I am not sure most Calvinists understand what historic Calvinism teaches. I was a "5 points bulldog" well before I ever learned about either the Westminster Standards or the Three Forms of Unity. And it wasn't until recently that I have found a home among Confessionalists who actually teach and adhere to those documents. That being said, I think it's fair many Calvinists, especially among Presbyterians I have encountered (I can't speak well for the continental reformed guys) don't put much stock in the knowing the confessional documents, which I think is quite sad.

That being said, I am newer to understanding the Catechisms, but to my understanding I see 3 assurances. I may be corrected by someone who is more studied on the catechism but as I read it now I understand it to mean we can be assured we have faith by the promise of the Gospel (which the demons even understand and know is true), the internal testimony of the spirit, and the evidence of fruit. Perhaps I am off though, I am newer to the confessional documents.

The Heidelberg doesn't deal with an actual question designated to assurance, per se, but Question 1 does deal with the topic of assurance.

Q.What is your only comfort in life and death?
A.That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

So according to the Heidelberg assurance is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit, rooted in nothing else but the truth of the gospel in addition to the preservation of the Spirit.

Thanks for the dialogue, I hope this made sense.

Anonymous said...

"and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made"

I think this is merely restating the question, "Am I living as someone who belongs to Christ?" Jesus came to rescue His bride, and died on the cross to save her from her sins. Baptism objectively makes us part of the covenant body of the bride. But since we all know that plenty of baptized people go to hell, discerning whether I believe the promises made to me in that baptism and am being faithful to that covenant is rather necessary, don't you think? If you had an unrepentant adulterer in your congregation, you wouldn't let him get away with, "I've been baptized, so I'm safe," would you?

"When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said 'Repent,' He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance." Can I discern that grace in myself? Hadn't I better? Not as the foundation of my faith, but as confirmation of it.

And as for thanks for the respectful tone, same back atcha.


Andrew said...

But, sir, in your theology you can still be lost. It is your responsibility in the final analysis. Jesus said that all the Father gives will come and those who come will be raised up. Your teaching boils down to: Some who are given come and a portion are raised up on the last day. Where is the comfort in that?

Nicholas said...

When was Christianity about comfort during our spiritual war in this world? "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Not "Blessed are they who struggle, for they are experiencing comfort."

Anonymous said...

You should do a video on "The Bandage of the Will" as one of the Youtube comments stated. LOL. Owwie my will was hurt! ROTFL

Anonymous said...

Calvin also taught temporary faith. How does a Calvinist know they are not one of those? What a convoluted, mass of confusion created by Calvin.

~ a former Calvinist, now freed by knowing I am baptized and captured by Jesus.

Ken Pierce said...

I have enjoyed your videos, and, given that you are a Lutheran, I don't begrudge you Lutheran views, but as a Calvinist pastor, I think you have Calvinism quite wrong.

First, I do not teach, nor do I see our confessions saying, that we look to our faith or our election, but rather to Christ for salvation. Yes, on occasion, just as Pietist Lutherans did, some in our tradition have veered towards overly introspective views, but these are not the views of our confessions.

Second, limited atonement is not exactly as you describe. The Marrow men put it best --though Christ did not die in the stead of all, he is dead for all --that is, the benefits of his atonement are available to all who will believe.

The point of limited atonement is this: those who die alienated from God do not have their sins atoned for. If their sins were atoned for, they would be in heaven. They do not have their sins forgiven --if their sins were forgiven, they would be in heaven.

This does in no way negate the free offer of the gospel or the general love of God for all humanity. IF we are orthodox Christians, we must account for the fact that some are saved and some are lost. Those for whom the blood of Christ avails are those who believe, who are the elect, and are saved. Those who die in unbelief and perish are not forgiven because they have not believed in the Son of God. John 3.

I have no problem with you critiquing Calvinism, disagreeing with it stridently, but please be honest about what we actually believe. The Canons of Dordt spell it out very specifically: Christ's death is sufficient to save all, but efficient for the elect only.

Nathan said...

As a former Calvinist, I was thoroughly amused by your accurate representation of my high-school and college aged self! I believe you owe me some royalties for character theft. I could not think of a better summary of my college years than: "I am a Calvinst, I am sure of everything........except if Jesus died for me."
For those Calvinsts who doubt whether this is a fair representation, I would encourage you to read Calvin's Commentary on Hebrews 6. There, he attempts to fit apostasy into his system by postulating that God grants to some of the unelect just enough grace to believe themselves Christians. These individuals will receive the sacraments, believe the Christ died for them, and do good works...for a time. Then, when God has fulfilled his hidden purpose, he withdraws said grace and the person plunges into ruin with all the other reprobate. After reading this gloomy hypothesis and seeing how it inevitably results from Calvin's logical premises, I realized that it was impossible to find anything which could convince me that I was not among the reprobate. Everything could have been of part of the ruse by which God was tricking me into trusting myself to be saved when I actually had no hope at all.
To make a long story short, I am now a Lutheran and I am liberated by the assurance of trusting Christ's words to me in my baptism.

Lori B said...

I'm new to this blog and even though I have been a member of an LCMS church for over 15 years now, I have just recently become interested in learning more about Lutheran doctrine and theology. I think it has something to do with the classical education I am giving my children at home. Since the LCMS doesn't exactly cater to homeschoolers, most of my curricula choices come from Reformed or Calvinist publishers. I'm having to dig deeper into Lutheran doctrine, so I can explain to my children why we believe differently than what the curriculum says. Your videos have been very helpful in that regard.

We live in the South, so we are surrounded by Evangelicals. And having been raised Baptist, some of your videos hit a little close to home. My husband gets a kick out of the videos where you poke at the Biblicists. He remembers many similar conversations we had early in our relationship. Lucky for him I was tired of being told that I was going to hell simply for asking questions, i.e. "where does it say in the Bible that drinking is a sin?", and I appreciated the LCMS view of Sola Scriptura.

BTW, if Kyriosity is your sister, I'd love to be a fly on the wall at a family dinner...

Anonymous said...


Since Hans considers me a heretic, I don't know as he'd consider me a "sister." I do know that I would not be welcome to "family dinner" at his LCMS "house." Ironically, most Calvinists are plenty sure of our salvation; it's the Lutherans who doubt it!

But I am happy to call Hans "brother," and would be happy to break bread with him at a dining room or at the Lord's table.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

For a Lutheran whether or not one is one of the elect isn't a big, mysterious question, where we try to peer inside God's Hidden Will and determine whether or not we make the cut.

No, we tend to use it as Paul uses it - simply as comfort - that God has chosen you in Christ. Even before the world existed.

"But, but, but what if you lose your faith!?!?!? Or don't really have real elect faith but only a fake not real faith that you think is faith because you aren't really among the elect?" To that I would say, why should I spend my time pondering questions that I have no way of even trying to answer, when the Holy Spirit constantly holds Christ Jesus and His Cross before my eyes? Why consider the hidden mysteries of God when Christ Jesus gives me His own Body and Blood in the Supper?

All about where you look. The Scriptures show Christ - I'll keep my focus there.

His Name Extoled said...

Rev. Eric,

"All about where you look. The Scriptures show Christ - I'll keep my focus there."

To that I say, as a Calvinist and with every respectable Calvinist theologian and pastor (there are ones I want nothing to do with) I am aware of, "Cheers!".

As I'm really new to Lutherans, I have noticed that with the exception of Rod Rosenbladt at the White Horse Inn, I've noticed that most Lutherans I have known or heard of are skeptical at best of Calvinists. However most Calvinists I know and am aware of are quite fond of Lutherans. This seems funny as to my knowledge Luther, though quite older, was fond in his letters of Calvin, and Melanchthon was also quite fond of Calvin. I don't know where the animosity comes from, but regardless, I am quite interested in learning Lutheran theology.

A side note, one of the guys at my church is a former Lutheran turned Calvinist who I have talked to about his experience with the LCMS said that he was raised in fear of losing his salvation from not using the "means of grace". Is this an accurate teaching for many LCMS types? Like I said, I am new and curious to Lutheranism.

Anonymous said...

In other words, there is no theological system that provides immunity to doubt, because doubt isn't based in theological systems, but in sinful hearts. And every blessed one of us has one of those.

Pastor Fiene said...


Any time you want to come over for spaghetti, you are welcome to break garlic bread with my family and me. And, should the Lord ever grant us the unity in doctrine He requires us to have before partaking of Christ's true body and true blood, I would rejoice to receive them with you.

Pastor Fiene said...

"A side note, one of the guys at my church is a former Lutheran turned Calvinist who I have talked to about his experience with the LCMS said that he was raised in fear of losing his salvation from not using the 'means of grace'."

His Name Extolled,

In case you don't know, by "the means of grace," we Lutherans mean the stuff through which God creates faith and delivers the forgiveness of sins. So the Word, Baptism and the Lord's Supper (as well as Holy Absolution, if you want to separate that from the Word). So, if I had someone who wasn't coming to church, wasn't taking the Lord's Supper, didn't care to be baptized (or have his children baptized), and couldn't be bothered to hear the message of the Cross, I would tell him that you can't be a Christian when you despise Christ by refusing to receive His gifts. I doubt this is terribly different from what a Calvinist would tell him.

But if the guy is coming to church, is partaking of the sacramental life of the Church, I don't know why he'd be told that. So I'm guessing either he had a nutty pastor who didn't know his theology or he grossly misunderstood what he was hearing.

Anonymous said...

I dunno, Hans. That sounds like a whole 'nuther religion.



His Name Extoled said...


I do know what the means of grace are. :) Admittedly, sacramental theology is newer to me as it's not given much beyond lip service at the church I attend, but none-the-less, I have a great love and passion for the biblical role of the means of grace (that ACTUALLY accomplish something!).

Anyway, that makes sense, however I guess the difference comes down to the Calvinist who looks at those who fall away as never saved, and the Lutheran looks at them as actually having fallen away? The difference between the two systems seems primarily a difference of the lens by which we view scriptures on perseverance and election.

Regardless, thank you for the dialogue, and also for the videos. If you have any recommendations of good Lutheran theologians (from the past or present) I am very interested in actually learning Lutheran theology. Any recommendations would help.


Rev. Pirschel said...

I hate to ruin the narrative you so brilliantly constructed but...

Instruction in Christian Doctrine for Young Children, written in Strasbourg in 1538-39 by Calvin.

Teacher: My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?
Child: Yes, my father.
Teacher: How is this known to you?
Child: Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Pastor Fiene said...

Rev. Pirchel,

So your defense of Calvinism against Lutheranism is that Calvinism is way more Lutheran than I'm giving it credit for?

That's sort of an own goal, dude.

Danny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danny said...

I need to check this Lutheran thing out. None of those pansy bruised reed types in your congregation. Lots of testosterone and mockery of other opinions. Sounds fun.

Rev. Pirschel said...

Pastor Fiene,

You celebrate a "quote" from Calvin, that never "quotes" one word from Calvin. And then when Calvin is actually quoted and refutes the silly stereotype, you make him a Lutheran. Is that your ministerial logic coming out again?

Think of the funny cartoon you could make of a Lutheran arguing. Any time they dont want to answer they could just blame the devil magisterial logic, while holding the other side to logical inconsistency at the same time. It would be a laugh reading your systematics texts.

And please with the tenion, you only hold it when convenient. I mean can you hold the tension that says, "without holiness no one will see the Lord" or, you will "know they are Christians by their love" or "Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us."

No, no...too much tension; enter logic of the Lutheran sort right about now....

Steve Martin said...

I wish you make one of your funny little cartoons on how God uses less than perfect people (like you) to get His Word to people, and how He uses ordinary bread and wine (less than perfect) to get His Word to people...but that He needs to have a perfect and inerrant text to accomplish that same purpose.

Maybe you could title it, 'The infinite contains the infinite.'

The 'finite contains the infinite' might give God a bit more credit, but what the hey.

Anonymous said...

Lutherans are antagonistic to Calvinists because they tell people Christ didn't die for all people, which necessarily throws those most needing assurance of Gospel into despair. Christ's death for all people is the Gospel, and the only assurance there is. It's as basic as that.

It's really no different than Rome's claim that Christ's grace does not come through trust in Christ alone. It takes the comfort of the Gospel and turns it into a false hope.

Steve Martin said...


Spot on!

"Two wolves tied at the tail"
- Luther

Rev. Pirschel said...

Lutherans diminish the power of the cross. Jesus died for all the sins of all men but some men have a fatal sin of unbelief that even the cross cant get to...if they can do that one work of believing, then they can have an effectual cross; otherwise, though Jesus was crucified and suffered the wrath of God on their behalf, they will have to pay as well.

Calvinists have a cross that accomplishes, Lutherans a cross that offers...with Lutherans it ends with man and his willingness not God and his grace, hardly good news.

Calvinists preach Christ died for sinners, and any who come will not be cast out, so come dear wounded sinner.

Pastor Fiene said...

Rev. Pirschel,

You seem quite intent to view the entire universe in terms of Calvin vs. Arminius. Such a world view will always prevent you from understanding what Lutherans actually teach about the cross, the will and unbelief.

Rev. Pirschel said...

Rev. Fiene,

I have spent quite a bit of time with my LCMS brothers, and have discussed the cross quite extensively with them. The critique above still least as much as your critique of Reformed theology does. The cry for nuance and understanding comes a bit late dont you think?

Pastor Fiene said...

Well, I have spent quite a bit of time with my wife. That doesn't mean I always listen to her when she talks.

Nonetheless, your critique is off. Lutherans don't limit the power of the cross. We teach that the cross of Christ has objectively won salvation for the entire world, regardless of whether or not people believe. And those who reject the cross, like the Japanese soldiers so deep in the caves of the pacific that they didn't know WWII had ended, don't receive the benefits of Christ's salvation. That ain't even remotely close to Arminianism. Though I do love the charge from Arminians that we are Calvinists and the charge from Calvinists that we are Arminians. It's just further proof that we're right:-)

And while your quote from Calvin was certainly interesting, it doesn't change the fact that such a high view of baptism did not survive in Calvinism. Because instead of interpreting election through the cross, which is what Paul does, Calvinists interpret the cross through election. Which means that they must also interpret the means of grace through election. Which means that the means may still have no power because the cross itself might not have any power for you. So, in the end, saying, "I know I'm elect because I'm baptized" is not the same thing as saying, "I know I'm elect because I'm baptized, given that the cross of Jesus actually gave me any grace to receive in my baptism in the first place."

Rev. Pirschel said...

Pastor Fiene,

So notice the critique still holds.

The cross won it all. It's done.

But if you reject, it doesnt benefit you.

Willingness is the deciding factor not grace. And Jesus paid the penalty of sin and God's wrath for countless numbers in Hell and God is double dipping on their punishment.

Rev. Pirschel said...

Finally, and I will let you have the last word...or do my best too anyway, I think you have sorely misread Reformed theology.

Election is preached as a comfort to those who have been placed in the bosom of the Church by faith or baptism. Our way of knowing election is through the means of grace and Christ offered/given therein. We cannot know the secret counsel of God, we can only know what he has revealed. And He has revealed Himself in Word and Sacrament. Election is preached to these folks as a comfort, knowing how extensive God's love has been for them; so great that it existed even before they did and therefore this assures them that they will be kept through faith until the day of redemption.

If that reality is ever put in doubt in their own mind (am I elect?), we preach to them a Christ given for sinners and aprehended by faith alone. We exhort them to look away from themselves and from "election" and look to the crucified Christ in word and Sacrament given freely for sinners who come to Him.

This we confess.

Danny said...

Guess I'll die a dumb calvinist. As I am prone to miss crossing a few t's and dotting a few i's, alas Lutheranism is a bit mind bending. Perception is its a roomfull of type A skinny guys.

Steve Martin said...

Lutheranism (rightly understood) is all about freedom.

Our freedom in Christ, and God's freedom to be God and save REAL sinners...such as me.

His Name Extoled said...


That's all perception. The docrtines of grace liberated my mind. Trying to wrap my mind around how God can die for someone taking their punishment on himself, and then still punish them, and be just on top of all of that when scripture teaches justice never has punishment that exceeds the crime...

Or that or an election that allows that all that are given to Christ by the father all come to Christ who upon his death sealed their eternal life and promised to lose none that were given to him, unless of course they choose to walk away in which case...the cross isn't powerful enough to actually keep who Christ said he would not lose...

I don't get these concepts of Universal atonement and justice being mixed, and election and falling from grace. That's why I'm a calvinist. I cannot understand how you can believe two things that oppose each other unless you just don't want to actually think through the scriptures. I'm trying to understand that, I just don't.


For the record, Lutherans are more welcome to Calvinist circles than Arminians for the most part as I see it. And also, in regard to the sacraments. Most modern Calvinist's are much more Zwinglian than Calvinist in their sacramental theology. Calvin's understanding is coming back I think, but most Calvinist's for the past 200 years or so would probably say that the sacraments do nothing...which is quite tragic because the scriptures say otherwise.

Matthew said...

Pastor Fiene, what are your thoughts on the following citations from a Catechism:

“Question: My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?

Answer: Yes, my father.

Question: How is this known to you?

Answer: Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

"Question: How did you come into this communion of the church?

Answer:Through baptism.

Question: What is this baptism?

Answer: It is the washing of regeneration and cleansing from sin."

Do you know who wrote that?

A french guy named John Calvin. You may have heard of him. This is Calvin’s Strasburg Children’s Catechism, dating from 1538-9.

Your thoughts would be interesting.

Karl Hess said...

From what I understand, though, guys like Douglas Wilson who teach along the lines of the Calvin quote above are criticized for having a Lutheran view of Baptism. Now if that isn't really the case, it won't surprise me, because to most people, the Calvinist explanation of the sacraments is difficult to understand. I can't tell you how many former Presbyterians/Reformed folks I've met who were not stupid, but really thought that the Calvinist teaching about the sacrament of the altar was what Lutherans taught. Most people have a hard time understanding how the bread and wine is not either merely representative or actually the true body and blood of Christ. Similarly, either baptism gives and promises the forgiveness of sins or it doesn't.

I also wonder if part of the reason that Calvin could write something like this is that he didn't actually teach limited atonement--so I'm told.

At any rate, whatever Calvin wrote, this statement is not representative of Calvinist orthodoxy as it developed later, wouldn't you agree?

Matthew said...

The unfortunate thing is that there isn't one "Calvinistic Orthodoxy" like there is one "Lutheran Orthodoxy". There is a sort of "Crypto-Lutheran" side to some branches of Calvinism. This can be seen in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Puritan book The Marrow of Mordern Divinity, and more recently by Westminster Seminary California and it's teachers.

T. David Gordon in the difinitive biography of Calvin criticises him sharply for his "eccumenicity". When dealing with Lutherans, he has a tendency to sound more Lutheran. When dealing with Zwinglians, he has a tendency to sound more Zqinglian. He envisioned a united protestant Church, and would sometimes downplay differences if it would serve his purpose of getting that.

That said, Calvin in the Institutes is clear on two things:

The Holy Spirit through the sacramental Word in Baptism gives what is signified.

When you eat the bread and drink the wine in the Lord's Supper you are truly eating the true substance of the Lord's flesh and blood. He disagrees with Lutherans as to HOW. He says it's because the Spirit unites us to Christ in heaven, not because Christ is ubiquitous.

Joshua Spell said...

"Internet message board where five-point Calvinists [fire off] condescending four thousand word responses to seventh grade Methodist girls who just wanted to say how much they enjoyed their youth group lock-in." I'm embarrassed to say how accurate this was for me. This is exactly, and I mean EXACTLY, what I did just a few years ago. And I'm so sorry for it.

I'm no longer a Calvinist, but those of you who are should check out Greg Dutcher's Killing Calvinism. No, it's not a book dismantling Reformed theology. It's written by a Calvinist for Calvinists on how bad they make themselves appear to outsiders. The parodies are not always unwarranted...