Friday, March 19, 2010

Missing organic relationships between Reformation churches

I keep hearing about Luther spawning new churches. The problem is that I cannot find an organic relationship between Lutherans and e.f. the Anabaptists, except on the most tendentious grounds. For instance, it is not at all clear to me that the Zwinglians and Calvinists broke off from the Lutherans.

Any information or sources about this?


Chris Jones said...

No, there aren't any sources on this because there is no such organic relationship.

Luther may have served as an intellectual inspiration for the somewhat later reformers such as Calvin, but neither Calvin nor anyone else in the Reformed camp was (or regarded himself) as a disciple of Luther. And those who could properly regard themselves as disciples of Luther (such as Melanchthon, Chemnitz, et al) remained Lutheran.

It was the Reformed side of the Reformation that was fractious, giving rise to various denominations such as the Presbyterians, Anglicans, and the Dutch Reformed, and later other groups such as the Methodists, Congregationalists, and Baptists. Very few of the plethora of modern denominations have Lutheranism in their theological "family tree." The only ones that spring to mind are the Covenant Churches and the Evangelical Free Church, both of which (IIRC) descend from the Pietist movement within Lutheranism.

Steve Martin said...

Good info., gentlemen.

Fair to say (then) that Lutheranisn was never very popular?

I think that the 'freedom of the Christian' scares the bejabbers out of people.

Edward Reiss said...


That is my sense, too. Also, I have found that the Anglicans are the mist likely to spawn a new denomination. In my opinion this is due to the "large tent" approach.

Edward Reiss said...


Lutheranism is the single largest group of Reformation churches. hat makes it pretty popular. :-)

Steve Martin said...

I hear that Lutheranism is losing something like a million members a year.

Not sure that is accurate, or not.

I hope it isn't.

Darlene said...


Doesn't it seem that modern Evangelicalism is the most likely to spawn schisms? Just look at all the churches underneath the tent of Evangelical Protestanism. Then look at all of the non-denominational churches springing up at an exponential rate that have come out of Evangelicalism. Also, the Reformed (not Lutheran) have how many confessions? Quite a few, I believe.

On that note, I, like many within the Protestant Evangelical camp have become weary and tired of all the "stuff" (for lack of a better word & because my brain isn't working up to par right now) that passes off as acceptable worship and biblical. In the face of all of this nonsense, I have had to part ways and go East. I will be chrismated this Lazurus Day in the Orthodox Church.

Have a blessed Easter season, Edward.

Christ our Lord has risen!

L P said...

I agree with Darlene and Chris.

Even the late Harold O. J. Brown, a Reformed Theologian as he was, was very impressed that 8000 pastors signed the Book of Concord.

Brown said that Calvinists spawned more heresies than Lutherans. Calvinists also had the habit of localizing their Confessions. Just watch the words - Westminster, Belgian, Helvetic, Heidelberg etc.


Lvka said...

Well, LP, since Lutheranism is present basically only in Bayern, Germany, it has only the Augsburg Confession. Since Calvinism was more popular, it went into many different countries, therefore Westminster (in England), Belgian (in Belgium), Helvetic (in Switzerland), Heidelberg (don't ask, won't tell). [Many Hungarians are also Calvinist].

Edward Reiss said...


Lutheranism is also popular in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia. I even think Paupaua New Guinea is 20% Lutheran. All these Lutherans from different cultures and languages are at least formally in submission to the Augsburg Confession. In other words, Lutheranism has fewer and less contradictory confessions than Calvinism--though that is not necessarily an argument against Calvinism.

The point is that I have seen it asserted that Luther spawned a lot of Churches, but when I ask for evidence of this I get a lot of silence. He is said to have spawned "protestantism" which is, as I am fond of pointing out, not a confessional title despite the the fact RC and EO apologists like to act like it is. The whole argument really seems bogus to me.

So, did Calvin, Zwingly et. al. see themselves as arising out of Lutheranism? I have seen no evidence of that, but it is quite often asserted to "prove" "protestantism" is fractious and therefore false. The problem is that I don't believe in "protestantism", and neither do the Calvinists or Baptists I have encountered. I believe the Augsburhg Confession, Most Calvinists believe one ore more Calvinist confessions, and Baptists believe in their confession. Thus arguments against "protestantism" as a confession are all beside the point, since no one is really arguing for "protestantism" unless it is a synonym for their own confession.

William Tighe said...

You might wish to read Alister McGrath's *The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation* (1987, 2004), which emphasized the completely dissimilar origins of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions; it really is a splendid book -- and I say this as one who deplores the emphases of many of McGrath's more popular books (as well as his Anglican Evangelical support for WO). These two "reforming" movements differed in their origins, their approach to the Bible, their conception of "reform" and so forth. McGrath also emphasizes how, in despite of the reputation for Lutheran churches to be more "Erastian" than Reformed ones, originally the Reformed (e.g., Zwingli and his followers) ceded complete authority over the church, even in matters of the determination of doctrine, to the civil authorities in a way that Luther and the early Lutherans never did.

Here's a link to the book on

William Tighe said...

Perhaps the most salient difference between Lutheran and Reformed origins is that Lutherans (and Luther himself) emerge from an academic/scholastic theological milieu in which "pure doctrine" is the primary desideratum, whereas the Reformed emerge from an Erasmian/humanistic milieu in which the fostering and inculcation of "sound moral teaching and practice" (both individual and civic) was primary.

Cheap-ish copies of thr book are available also on

Anonymous said...

My problems weren't with an amorphous ideological mass called "Protestantism", but with the algorithm they use to ascertain dogma and interpret scriptures, which is one of the things that unites them (along with other commonly-shared beliefs, such as Sola Fide and Sola Gratia). This algorithm creates disunity in a substantially greater manner than the one based in preservation of ancient tradition (faithfully handing on to newer generations what older ones faithfully passed down to you).

-- Lucian.

Edward Reiss said...


If, as you say, there is no ideological mass called "protestantism", then there is no "algorithm" "they" use, and nor are the beliefs commonly shared--and that last is something which is constantly brought up by RC and EO apologists, isn't it?

In other words, you cannot have it both ways. Either "protestantism" shares beliefs and is an "ideological mass" or there is no such thing as "protestantism" when we are speaking of confessions--even if the words used are the same words.

Now, getting back to the topic, do you have any evidence that the Calvinists split off from the Lutherans such that they were spawned by the Lutherans? If not, that would tend to undermine the typical RC and EO e-apologist critique of "protestantism" since there never was a "protestant" theology.

Edward Reiss said...

Dr. Tighe,

This book sounds very interesting and I will pick one up soon!

Anonymous said...

Uhm... Calvinists didn't split off from Lutherans... (they came after, and were inspired by some of Luther's main ideas as expressed in his writings, if that's what you mean...)

The commonly-shared beliefs that unite Protestantism are the so-called Solas: Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura.

-- Lucian.

Edward Reiss said...


The "..commonly-shared beliefs that unite Protestantism.." according to the typical RC/EO apologist don't unite at all. But that doesn't matter. Here is another "commonly shared belief". All Christians claim to teach Apostolic Doctrine. Thus according to this argument Christianity itself is wrong because Christianity is hopelessly divided because of flaws in their "algorithm" as you put it.

This is the pitfall with arbitrary categories. In all seriousness I suggest you find a different critique when you discuss these things with "protestants", because as it stands now the approach you (and others) use is really, really lame.

Anonymous said...

How do you arrive at the contents of the Apostolic doctrine? By Scriptura *Sola*, or by Scripture & Tradition?

-- U know who.

Edward Reiss said...


How do you know which tradition is the true tradition?

It is not enough for you to state that you follow "tradition", because if it is not Apostolic, it is not true tradition. And since there are many traditions within Christianity, if you are consistent, you would have to state that "Tradition" as an algorithm is not sufficient, and all your arguments against "protestantism" as a confession are applicable to you.

So, it seems to me your "algorithm" is not really "tradition" but Eastern Orthodoxy. That is fine BTW, but comparing EOdoxy to some mythical confessional "protestantism" is like comparing Orthodox Judaism to Christianity. The question begging is baked right in.

Anonymous said...

How do you know which tradition is the true tradition?

Catholicism, Monophysism, Monothelism and Nestorianism are the exact same faith as Orthodoxy, with ONLY ONE exception each, which differentiates them from the later:

Catholicism - philosophical speculation,
Monophysism - one nature in Christ,
Monothelism - one will in Christ,
Nestorianism - two persons in Christ.

But the rest of the faith, in all of its details, is the same: this is the tradition I was talking about. -- I can't find a similar scheme for Protestantism.

Now that we know what we're talking about, let's continue:

Wen it comes to the Filioque, it's 4 to 1. [Rome spoke Latin, and only in Latin was the same word (processio) used for two distinct terms: `ekporeusis` and `proienai`]. Nations of other cultural/linguistical backgrounds never heard of it, for obvious reasons.

Likewise, Nestorians & Monophysites are all of them of Semitic heritage, and since in their [Semitic] languages the same word was being used for both person as well as nature, the confusion arose only there, being otherwise unknown to people of other ethnic backgrounds, like Greeks and Latins and other European nations.


Every heresy that broke off from us was EXACTLY like us, differing in only one detail. This detail usually gave the heresy its name. [Until now, nothing spectacular]. BUT when You put them all together and look at a detail in particular, you'll find that ALL of them, except for one (namely the one named after that particular detail), are against that particular detail.

For instance, everybody except for the Sabelians were of the opinion that the Trinity is three Persons, and not just one going under different names. When it comes to the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit, everybody [including the Sabellians] except the Arians were of the opinion that they were indeed divine and uncreated. When it comes to the issue of icons, everybody except the Iconoclasts revered them. When it comes to the Filioque, all non-Latins from the most diverse ethnic backgrounds agree that it is unknown to them [Iconoclasts didn't have it, for instance]. When it comes to the confusion of nature and person that gave rise first to Nestoriasnism and later to Mono-physism, all non-Semites of various ethnic backgrounds agree that they've never encountered such a problem in the first place. As Tertullian said, heretics themselves testify to the truth of the Orthodox faith, and I've just described to you how this happens.

It's also logical: if Sabellianism would've been the truth, you wouldn't have had Tritheism in the first place; if Monophysism would've been the truth, you would've never had Nestorianism in the first place; etc.

But, on the other hand, if Orthodoxy were the truth, then you would've had both Modalism as well as Tritheism, both Monophysism as well as Nestorianism, etc.

-- Me again.

Edward Reiss said...


We have discussed this before. But I will point out again that Orthodoxy and Monophysitism don't even have the same Christ which means they don't have the same Trinity. That is far, far too big a difference to simply gloss over. This alone is enough to disprove your assertions about tradition on your own terms.

You want to groupo religions with different Christs, different successions--indeed different traditions, and claim they are pretty much the same. I could expand the list with divine simplicity, Filioque 9again, this means a different Trinity for quite a few Orthodox...) or more. You are not united because you are not in fellowship. Objectively you are wrong because if the differences were so minor there would be altar and pulpit fellowship. Obviously, the Churches themselves don't see it like you do, and I am arguing from facts nd not vague notions of unity. This means "tradition" does not engender unity, which means--well, you know.

Anonymous said...

This means "tradition" does not engender unity, which means--well, you know.

The problem was not about tradition engendering absolute and complete unity; the point was that sola scriptura engenders a diarrheic DISunity, akin to a religious explosion and a confessional Big Bang.

The point I was trying to make was this: there is no single tenet of the Orthodox faith against which ALL other heresies can agree that it is wrong.

Let me give you an example:

Someone says a sentence: "I go to school".

Man #1 hears: "You go to school".
Man #2 hears: "I swim to school".
Man #3 hears: "I go to the bar".
Man #4 hears: "I go to school".

Not knowing what was said, but only what was heard, can you pinpoint the man who got the whole sentence right? If so, then who is he?

-- Lucian.

Anonymous said...

Since you've mentioned the Filioque: Lutheranism and Calvinism don't share the same Trinity either, as regards the number of sources.

-- Lucian.

Edward Reiss said...


By your own terms, tradition causes "diarrheic DISunity", since Sola Scriptura is part of tradition--depending on how one reads the tradition. Indeed, the term "Sola Scriptura" is ambiguous, because not all groups mean the same thing by it, which makes your argument even weaker.

"The point I was trying to make was this: there is no single tenet of the Orthodox faith against which ALL other heresies can agree that it is wrong."

Since I don't put e.g. Lutheranism in the "heresies" category this is just another arbitrary category you use. Depending on where I draw the "heresies" category, I can make the same claim for Lutheranism. If I include the Reformed in the "heresies" category I can say that not all heretical groups agree on monergism, ergo it is true. IOW all I have to do is include a group in the heretical category and I can "win" this argument.

Really, you need a better argument. Arbitrary categories which take your church as being true as a given simply don't work outside your church.

Edward Reiss said...


"Since you've mentioned the Filioque: Lutheranism and Calvinism don't share the same Trinity either, as regards the number of sources. "

I am not claiming some kind of organic unity between Lutherans and Calvinists, such that their teachings should lead to unity. So this is not a problem for my argument, but it is for yours.

Also, the Calvinists can be inconsistent on the nature of Christ. For this reason I consider them heterodox.

Anonymous said...

Sola Scriptura is not part of Tradition.

By heresies I mean non-Orthodox, so by heresy you should mean non-Lutheran. (Don't know what's the big mystery here).

Edward Reiss said...


"Sola Scriptura is not part of Tradition. "

So you say. Others say differently.

"By heresies I mean non-Orthodox, so by heresy you should mean non-Lutheran. (Don't know what's the big mystery here)"

Then this still fails, because there are an unlimited number of heresies, so they will of necessity disagree with each other as well as with Orthodoxy. So, what you are saying is that all heretics disagree with Orthodoxy, and so all heretics are divided because they disagree on different points. This is very close to a tautology--all who disagree with Orthodoxy are not Orthodox, and all who disagree with Orthodoxy disagree on different points. It is therefore not surprising that after you arbitrarily say Orthodoxy is true that EVERY OTHER GROUP disagrees with each other on some point--all you have to do is pick the right grouping. (Even the Orthodox disagree on some issues, BTW!) This same thing is also true of any single confession as opposed to all other confessions. Basically, given how you frame the argument, it doesn't mean anything unless one is Orthodox because it depends on Orthodoxy being true, which is not an empirical fact.

Anonymous said...



By your own terms, tradition causes "diarrheic DISunity", since Sola Scriptura is part of tradition

A little later on:

"Sola Scriptura is not part of Tradition. "

So you say.

If you can't even follow what I'm saying, then I think it's best to take a little break.


You still don't quite seem to understand: there is no single tenet of the Orthodox faith against which our enemies can form a consensus. But we CAN form an alliance, together with ALL other heresies except ONE, against that ONE heresy.

-- A comment-poster in need of no further introduction.

Edward Reiss said...


I follow what you say, I just think it is based on special pleading and also wrong. But if you want to stop that is OK too.

Anonymous said...


When I grouped historical (traditional) Churches together, I made no exception. But when I wanted to group all sola-scriptura movements together, you objected to other sola-scriptura groups. So who exactly's the one who does special pleading around here? Me or you?

Anonymous said...

Because you still didn't seem to grasp the point I was making, I'll rephrase it: there is NO single dogma peculiar or particular to Orthodoxy that would set it apart from ALL the rest. (quod ubique)

If the Catholics, for instance, would want to object that we're the only ones rejecting the papacy and the filioque, they'll find themselves in error. If they'll say that we're the only ones espousing the essence-energies distinction, the same will hold true. [Since Orientals and Nestorians also deny the papacy & the filioque, and they also believe in the essence-energies distinction].

If the Orientals would attack us for being the only ones to deny the single nature in Christ, we have the Catholics sharing the exact same view as ourselves insofar Christ's two natures are concerned, and the Nestorians going even so far as to turn the two natures into two distinct persons(!)

If the Nestorians would, in their turn, charge us with being the only ones to deny Christ's two persons, we have the Catholics 100% on our side as far as this issue is concerned, and the Orientals going even so far as to confess one single nature in Christ because of their belief in the one person(!)

Edward Reiss said...


As I said, this is easy for any group to say.

If the EOs say that the Lutherans are wrong on Monergism, we have the Augustinians and Calvinists on our side.

If the baptists say we are wrong on the RP, we have the EOs and the RCs on our side.

If the RCs say we are wrong on the papacy, we have the Calvinists, Anabaptists and EOs on our side.

If the Calvinists say we are wrong on the person of Christ, we have the EOs on our side etc.

And there is something on which all churches disagree with the EOs--the EOs claim they are the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is key to their identity in fact. All others disagree with them on that, for if they didn't they would be EO.

So I understand, it is just as I said; I think it is wrong and rather arbitrary.

Anonymous said...

You have some from your sola-scriptura camp on your side, but not all (ie, JWs aren't Lutheran Arians, in the same way in which the Arians were Orthodox in all things, except their particular well-known dogmatical error).

Tradition means by definiton "quod ubique, quod semper". Protestantism is very diverse, but all Protestants agree on the three Solas as defining their movement. However, since these three ideas foundational for Protestantism were unheard of until after 1500 AD, their religion can't therefore be traditional. And of the remaining five ancient pre-Protestant Churches, all but one have problems, only this time regarding not historical roots, but universality: no filioque outside of the Latin-speaking West; and no confusion of nature and person outside of the Semitic-speaking Orient.

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