Monday, August 29, 2005

On "...[Calvin's perseverance] doctrine is usually denied, misinterpreted as eternal security without the need for righteousness, or underemphasized."

The Reformed (Calvinistic) system must itself bear some of the responsibility for such antinomianism, in spite of the strong Puritan emphasis on the law of Moses. The earlier Augustinian soteriology, as represented in the Lutheran confessions, more reliably presents not only Jesus' heartfelt offer of salvation, but also his unbending demand for ultimate loyalty from all who receive that gift. This is not to discount exceptional Calvinistic efforts in this direction such as John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and John Piper's Future Grace. In practice, however, consistent Calvinists cannot really be motivated by Christ's repeated warnings about falling away from saving faith since they do not recognize that possibility. Perhaps for this reason, few confessional Presbyterians regularly follow their Smaller Catechism (Q.102) in praying that they would be kept in God's kingdom. Consistent Lutherans, by contrast, perceive the need to persevere on the narrow path in order to attain "treasure in heaven," not out of uncertainty, but in grateful response to the exciting news that the kingdom is at hand and inherited through faith alone. Their theologians do not avoid the paradox; for example, The Strong Declaration of the Formula of Concord ( and The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel (C. S. W. Walther) accurately preserve the synoptic tension between unconditional election and Jesus' teaching that all who remain in the kingdom do so by taking heed that their hearts are not weighed down with hedonism or the cares of this age. The Olivet Discourse in particular reflects this mysterious nature of predestination (Matthew 24:12-13, 22, 24).

Back to "What does it mean to seek the kingdom of God?"