Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lutheran Vs. Reformed

I have had another request to do a post on the difference between Lutheran and Reformed views of the sacraments. In Protestantism there are only two sacraments, baptism and communion, and we can't seem to agree on these.

The Lutheran view of communion is called 'Consubstantiation' as opposed to the Roman Catholic 'Transubstantiation.' In the Roman view the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ, worthy of worship, which they do, they actually worship the elements. In Lutheran doctrine the bread and wine are the body and blood in a 'mysterious' manner, they do not try and explain it save to say that Christ is in, with, and under the elements and they do not worship the elements. They also practice close communion, meaning one must be examined by clergy and agree with their stance on the supper before partaking.

The reformed view is, as Calvin put it, "The Eucharist is a visible sign of an invisible reality." The bread and wine are just bread and wine but they signify and present to us a spiritual reality that takes place - a spiritual feeding on Christ by which believers are nourished. Calvin proposed that that at the Supper, Christians are taken into communion with Christ in heaven by the Holy Spirit. We practice an open communion while administering the proper warnings about wrongful partaking, we allow baptized members in good standing of Bible believing churches to participate.

Baptism in the Lutheran view is efficacious. This is why they baptize infants. Baptism regenerates one and brings them into salvation. This is often referred to as Baptismal Regeneration.

The reformed view is the one I have been promoting over the past many weeks. We baptize as a sign and a seal of what Christ has done for us. Infants are brought into covenantal relationship through baptism but baptism itself is not efficacious, it does not save one.

If any Lutherans read this and think I have misrepresented your stand please do not hesitate to correct me. I hope this has cleared some things up for some of you.

In Christ


R. Scott Clark said...


I'm not a Lutheran but I am the son of a Lutheran and was baptized by a Missouri Synod minister.

Technically "consubstantiation," even though frequently used to describe the Lutheran view, is probably not correct. The Lutherans confess that Christ's literal, physical body is "in" the bread, and "with" the bread, and "under" the bread.

We Reformed confess that the elements ARE Christ's body and blood sacramentally, that, in the supper, we eat the "proper and natural" body and blood (Belgic Conf. Art 35). How we do so is a mystery but it is an operation by the Holy Spirit.

We also differ from the Lutherans on Christology. We confess that Jesus' body is local and the Lutherans deny it.

We differ with them on baptism but it's less clear exactly how we differ with Luther.

We differ with them on predestination. The LCMS confesses unconditional election to salvation but they deny reprobation. They also confess that grace is resistible. We, of course, teach that grace is irresistible and we confess double predestination. The LCMS, however, does seem to teach a strong doctrine of sin that resembles ours.

We agree with the Lutherans on the law/gospel distinction and we agree with them on justification sola gratia et sola fide and we agree with them on sola Scriptura.

Eric said...


Thank you very much for putting this post together. I appreciate it.


Jasko said...

One could truly learn from your site, thanks a lot for sharing and your effort.

Alan said...

Prof. Clark,
Thank you so much for your clarification. I am always learning myself.

Your welcome, hope it was helpful.

Thank you, it is comments like your that makes it all worthwhile when I wonder at times why I do this.

Hopeful Spirit said...

The danger in talking about Lutheranism is that there are different kinds of Lutheran churches and their beliefs and practices vary widely.

I wrote an extremely long comment here, but you inspired me so I have decided to make that comment a post on my own site & invite you to read it here:

You have also inspired me to issue a call for guest bloggers. You can read about that On the Horizon, too.

John D. Chitty said...

I hear the Lutherans don't like the term "consubstantiation", but considering Clark's elaboration of the Lutheran view, perhaps they'd prefer Christ's "prepositional presence." In . . . with . . . under . . .


Anonymous said...

As an LCMS Lutheran, my understanding is that we don't call the sacrament of the Lord's Supper "consubstantiation" but "Real Presence" which does leave it a mystery as to what is going on. I think that's the whole point -- to reject a philosophical understanding of what is going on but believe that Christ is really present in the Lord's Supper and to accept that when you receive it. That is, the bread and wine aren't symbolic -- there is something more going on which makes it a sacrament. Also, we don't believe that Baptism "saves" the baptised. Some Lutherans may believe this but it isn't what the Lutheran church teaches. Baptism has the effect of washing away sin and allowing the Holy Spirit to live inside the one who is Baptized and give them the ability to believe in Christ through His Word. Not all will do so.

Anonymous said...

The "in" means that this where you will find Christ..."in" the bread and wine. This is to help people to not look for Christ in other places.
The "With" means that Christ is with the bread and wine. This is against Rome's view that the bread and wine are not here anymore.
"Under" simply indicates that Christ is hidden for you here under this bread and wine. He is keeping his glory from hurting you.
I hope this helpful.

Anonymous said...

I saw that an LCMS person stated, "Also, we don't believe that Baptism "saves" the baptized." According to the LCMS Dogmatics book, written by Mueller (pages 491-496), the Lutheran Church does believe that baptism brings justification. The author of this post has interpreted Lutheran theology correctly. As a Lutheran myself I want to say humbly that Calvin's exegesis on Baptism is remarkable and quite compelling.