What are the differences between Lutherans and Calvinists, and do they really matter? In Wittenberg vs. Geneva, Brian Thomas provides a biblical defense of the key doctrines that have divided the Lutheran and Reformed traditions for nearly five centuries.
It is especially written to help those who may have an interest in the Lutheran church, but are concerned that her stance on doctrines like predestination or the sacraments may not have biblical support. To get to the heart of the matter, Pastor Thomas focuses solely upon those crucial scriptural texts that have led Lutheran and Reformed scholars down different paths to disparate conclusions as he spars with popular Calvinist theologians from the past and the present.
On my way to Presbyterianism six years ago I took a look at Lutheranism. In fact I listened to many Lutheran sermons and was a faithful listener to the Issues Etc podcast for years. So I was interested in reading this book because to be honest, I never fully understood where Lutherans were theologically, though I knew enough to always affirm that I would share a foxhole with a confessional Lutheran any day. Brothers in arms we are.
This book has a pretty cool format. It's set up as a seven round bout between Wittenburg (Lutheranism) and Geneva (Calvinism), with each round covering a particular area of dispute.
1. Atonement: for whom did Christ die?
3. The Sacramental Word: an introduction to sacramental thought.
5. The Lord's supper - Part one.
6. The Lord's supper - Part two.
7. Kept in the true faith: apostasy and assurance.
This book is written at a laymen level, and the author quotes extensively from both Lutheran and Reformed sources, particularly RC Sproul, who represents the Reformed side.
The arguments against Calvinism where nothing new here, and they have been dealt with elsewhere in greater depth, but it was helpful nonetheless to see the Lutheran positions layed out as they contrasted with Calvinism. I can say that I've come away with a greater understanding of Lutheranism after reading this book.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is trying to come to a solid biblical theology but is confused by the differences between Lutheranism and Calvinism.
So, at the end of the book was I any closer to leaving Presbyterianism? No. Do I now have a better understanding of what my Lutheran brothers believe? Yes. Lastly, as a former evangelical who eventually became a confessional Presbyterian, I would have loved to hear Brian talk more about his personal journey from Presbyterianism to Lutheranism, I think that would have been a great plus to this book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.
You can listen to an interview with the author here: