3.1 Different Systems of Reformed Theology in the 16th Century
Both systems of Reformed theology the one from Zwingli and from Calvin parted ways with
Lutheranism. By the end of the sixteenth century, Calvinism differed from Lutheranism in the following areas:
• Approach to the Lord’s Supper . Lutherans maintained the doctrine of consubstantiation, which holds that Christ is physically present in, with, and under the elements in the Lord’s Supper. They resisted any attempt to explain Jesus’ statement “this is my body” as a metaphor, saying that such efforts opened the door to allegorizing away the gospel itself. Furthermore, they said, if all that is offered in Communion is a spiritual Christ, the sacrament presents a truncated gospel that offers no comfort to believers whose bodies eventually will die. Lutherans would be satisfied only with a concrete, historical Christ. The Reformed leaders said that the incarnate, historical Christ is now risen and ascended, and therefore is not present in the Supper in the way He was prior to His ascension. Furthermore, the concept of Christ’s spiritual presence does not mean something less than complete; rather, it refers to His ongoing work through His Spirit. The Reformed believed they were affirming all that the Lutherans wanted to protect, but in a clearer, more biblical manner.
• The primary function of the law . Luther generally regarded the law as something negative and closely allied with sin, death, or the Devil. He believed that the dominant function of the law is to abase the sinner by convicting him of sin and driving him to Christ for deliverance. Calvin regarded the law more as a guide for the believer, a tool to encourage him to cling to God and to obey Him more fervently. The believer must try to follow God’s law not as an act of compulsory duty, but as a response of grateful obedience. With the help of the Spirit, the law provides a way for a believer to express his gratitude.
• Approach to salvation. Both Lutherans and Calvinists answered the question “What must I do to be saved?” by saying that Spirit-worked repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His substitutionary work of atonement are necessary. But Lutherans had a tendency to remain focused on the doctrine of justification, whereas Calvinists, without minimizing justification, pressed more than Lutherans toward sanctification, which asks, “Having been justified by God’s grace, how shall I live to the glory of God?” Calvinism thus became more comprehensive than Lutheranism in explaining how salvation works itself out in the life of a believer.
• Understanding of predestination . In the late sixteenth century, most Lutherans moved away from Luther and the Calvinists, who asserted the predestination of both the elect and the reprobate rather than the predestination of the elect only. Reformed theologians believed this shift in thinking was at odds with the content of Romans 9 and similar passages, as well as with the comprehensive sovereignty of God. The Calvinists were convinced that election is sovereign and gracious, and that reprobation is sovereign and just. No one who enters heaven deserves to be there; no one who enters hell deserves anything different. As Calvin said, “The praise of salvation is claimed for God, whereas the blame of perdition is thrown upon those who of their own accord bring it upon themselves.”
• Understanding of worship. Luther’s reform was more moderate than Calvin’s, retaining more medieval liturgy. Following their leaders, the Lutherans and Calvinists differed in their views of how Scripture regulates worship. The Lutherans taught that we may include in worship what is not forbidden in Scripture; the Calvinists maintained that we may not include in worship what the New Testament does not
command. Paul Tillich in his paper about the differences of the Swiss reformers with Luthers reflects some of the main points:
“I want to say that the interesting thing, in the first half of the Swiss Reformation, in Zurich where Zwingli was carrying it through, is that one could call it a synthesis of Reformation and humanism. When I say this, you remember that I spoke about Luther's relationship to Erasmus and the final break, but the continuation of humanistic elements in the further Reformation on Lutheran soil, represented especially by Melanchthon. These two men, Zwingli and Melanchthon ("Melanchthon" from the Greek, meaning "black earth,") Luther worked together with Melanchthon almost from the beginning of the Reformation in Wittenberg … This man was deeply influenced by Erasmus, and never broke with him. “
3.2 Calvinstic/Helvetic versus Lutheran Reform Theology
Like Luther, Zwingli and Calvin too accepted elements coming from the master and leader of all humanism, Erasmus. This was the difference between Luther and the Swiss reformers. When we come to Calvin, we have to keep in mind that he is largely dependent on Zwingli, as well as on Luther, that he turns back to a certain extent to Zwingli and to Luther, but in spite of all this he also was humanistically educated and his writings shows the classical erudition in style and content.
This is the general character of the Swiss Reformation, in contrast to the Lutheran. Paul Tillich thinks since Zwingli whenever liberal theology arises, as it did from the 17th to the 19th centuries, theologians in all denominations tend to develop theologically closer to Zwingli than to Calvin. Zwingli believed that the Spirit is directly working in the human soul and that therefore God's ordinary working goes through the Word, the Biblical message, but that God, extraordinarily, can also work on people who never had contact with the Christian message with people whom we speak of as living in foreign religions, or the humanists. Although the bible itself gives enough room to proof this teaching Paul Tillich thinks because of Zwingli’s humanistic studies he was probably influenced by humanist Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, and others, rather than by the scripture itself.
But there is still one deeper element of difference between Luther and Zwingli. It is the doctrine of the sacraments. The fight between Luther and Zwingli in 1529 in Marburg was a fight between two types of religious experience one, of a mystical interpretation of the sacrament; the other, of an intellectual interpretation.
Zwingli said: The sacrament is a sure sign or seal reminding us as symbols, and expressing our will to belong to the Church. This: Divine Spirit sets beside them, not through them. Baptism is a kind of an obliging sign, like a. badge. It is a commanded symbol, but it has nothing to do with subjective faith and salvation, which are dependent on predestination.
For Calvin, the truth of a symbol drives it beyond itself. "The best contemplation of the Divine Being is when the mind is transported beyond itself with admiration." The doctrine of God can never be theoretical-contemplative; it must always be existential, by participation. The famous phrase by Karl Barth, which is taken from a Biblical text "God is in Heaven, and you are on earth" --is often said and explained by Calvin. The Heavenly "above" is not a place to which God is bound, but it is an expression of His religious transcendence, not an expression of a physical transcendence.
All this leads to a central attitude and doctrine of Calvinism, namely the fear of idolatry. This is tremendously strong in him. Calvin fights the idols wherever he believes he sees them. He is not interested in the history of religion, which is practically condemned as a whole as being idolatrous. Religion cannot help having an idolatrous element. Religion is a factory of idols all the time. Therefore the Christian and the theologian must be on his guard and prevent idolatrous trends from overwhelming his relationship to God.
It seems to the author of this script the differences in the theologies of the reformers were not a real problem, they became the ideal base to start with a much broader project, the strategic reaching of the nations in a large scale, with a much deeper understanding about the burden of our LORD for the nations and the need to share the eternal truth.