Luther’s Handling of Law vis-a-vis Calvin’s Handling of Law

According to Dr. George Lindbeck’s essay, “Martin Luther and the Rabbinic Mind,” Luther’s ‘controversial-theological’ writings emphasize that Christians must be free from the law. The Law in its usus civilis (‘lack of moral freedom’ vis-a-vis demands) is socially necessary but individually corrupting. This is so because it makes the individual more sinful by making them hypocritical. In its usus theologicus the law reveals sins and God’s terrifying accusations, but also reveals to the exposed sinners their need for salvation. Christ frees the Christian from this coercive and accusatory law. In the Lutheran catechisms, however, the Mosaic law is not called Lex or Gestez but ‘teaching.’ Here Luther praises the law as a complete guide for human life. It inculcates ‘fear, love, and trust in God in all things’ and thus tells us how all the other commandments are to be obeyed. Luther’s negative assessment of the law in his ‘controversial-theological’ also marks dispensationalism. Both tend to pit law and works against gospel and grace. Calvinism, by contrast emphasizes the third use of the law. In Calvin’s view the law is God’s gracious gift to His people in both dispensations, mirrors God’s moral nature, and points to the way of life. In Calvin’s view the usus pedagogicus is due to human depravity, not to weakness in the law in contrast to the gospel (John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans … see also Institutes of the Christian Religion 2.7.4; 2.7.7). In Reformed theology (WCF 19) the moral Law codifies the eternal moral law, already known to Adam in conscience in earlier revelations. In this system of theology the law still is of ‘great use’ to believers and unbelievers because it ‘directs them to and binds them to walk accordingly … It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions.’ Reformed theology also distinguishes between the eternal moral law, the historically conditioned, judicial law for Israel’s courts and the typical ceremonial law for the house of God.

Bruce Waltke
An OT Theology — pg. 436 (Footnote #50)

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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