Monday, June 29, 2020

Luther and Calvin on the Three Uses of the Law

Luther and Calvin differed on little, but as previously stated, Luther's different experiences and circumstances gave him a different perspective. To avoid a return to the ideas of Rome's synergistic works and faith, he focused on the daily reckoning of the Law and Gospel. Finding union with Christ came through a full comprehension of justification, and he saw that union as the source of obedience and good works.

From that union flows spontaneous obedience and sober life which follows the Holy Spirit in love. Christ condemned sin in His own flesh to do what the Law could not, and so the Believer walks in the Spirit of Love which manifests in good works (Rom 8). Pursuing the Spirit and the Law of Love over the Letter of the Law results in progressive holiness. 

Calvin instead focused on a mystical union with the self-sacrificing Christ. Holy Spirit's power of regeneration and reconciliation which produces sanctification can never be separated from the justification that Christ provided on the Cross. The Double Benefit of grace flows from the union with Christ which the Believer accesses only through faith. 

Calvin's mystical union differed from the experiential Theology of Glory that Luther rejected because he defined it as an analogy of salvation as like adoption by God. Calvin grounds this image by linking adoption to union with Christ's body – in the ecclesia of the covenant community. Adoption allows for participation in Christ through His Spirit. Calvin develops these concepts in his Institutes – a study guide in which he unfolds “exegetically-derived common places” (loci communes) which form thematic 'clusters' as he lists the “Benefits of Scripture.”

Though Luther avoids Rome by focusing on justification, Calvin includes sanctification as a locus which encourages obedience to "cultivate blamelessness and purity in life." Calvin's position differs from Luther on the 'Threefold Use of the Law' which defines it as a guide to light the path of obedience. Many understand that Calvin's writing about this concept of obedience as a clarifying extension of what Luther left unstated.