Lesson 33B Preview: John Gerstner Lectures on “The Thirty Years War” and “Orthodoxy On the Continent and Britain”

Prof. John Gerstner fills in some important gaps in our tracing of the development of 17th century Lutheran history in his lecture The Thirty Years War. After clicking on the title you will go to the video player and be able to view this historian offer his Calvinistic perspective.

The next lecture in Dr. Gerstner’s course deals with Orthodoxy On the Continent and Britain.  Prof. Gerstner expands our understanding of the response Anglicans made to reformation events in Germany and Switzerland. [Please be aware of a few seconds of blank voice in the lecture. Stay with the video, the voice will come back after the gaps.]

A few episodes from Lutheran Satire to conclude this lesson:

Things Your Lutheran Pastor Totally Loves:

Being Mistaken for an ELCA Pastor:

Why Not Pink Chasubles Pastor?

Bible Verses for Reflection: 1 Corinthians 1: 14-17; Romans 6: 3-4

Quotation for Your Consideration: from Rev. Paul McCain’s blog Cyberbrethren [Lutheran Church Missouri Synod]. The passage below is from Martin Chemnitz’ Enchiridion.

Does Infant Baptism Have Basis in the Word of God?

Yes. For Christ declares regarding little children, Mt 19:14; Mk 10:14: Of such is the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God. And no one who is born of flesh can enter the kingdom of God unless he is reborn, Jn 3:3. And this regeneration and rebirth takes place by water and the Spirit, Jn 3:5. For Baptism is the washing of regeneration of the Holy Spirit, Tts 3:5. Since, then, Christ wants little children to become partakers of the kingdom of heaven, and that must take place through Baptism, it is surely Christ’s meaning, will, and command, that little children be baptized. For the promise of the kingdom of God must be applied through a certain means or instrument instituted by God Himself. For the promise without application profits no one. Therefore also the promise of the kingdom of heaven, which is given to infants (Mk 10:14) must be applied to them through a certain means. Now, Scripture declares that this means is Baptism. Jn 3:5; Tts 3:5.

Second, Christ also wants infants to be saved, for He says: It is not the will of the heavenly Father that one of these little ones should perish, Mt 18:14. But the heavenly Father saved [us] by the washing of regeneration, Tts 3:5. It is therefore the will of God that infants be baptized and that they do not perish, but be saved.

Third, infants are conceived and born in sins, so that by nature they are children of wrath, Ps 51:5; Eph 2:3. Therefore they must obtain forgiveness of sins, so that they do not perish but be saved, Lk 1:77; Ro 4:7. But Baptism is the divine means by which sins are forgiven and washed away, Acts 2:38; 22:16.

Fourth, Christ wants and commands little children to be brought to Him, that He might bless them, Mk 10:14, 16. Now, one asks: How is this done? And Scripture declares that they who are baptized put on Christ in Baptism, Gl 3:27. For they are baptized into His death and resurrection, Ro 6:3; 1 Ptr 3:21. Christ cleanses and sanctifies the church, for which He gave Himself, through the washing of water by the Word, Eph 5:26. And this very thing is true blessing, Gl 4:14; Eph 1:3. It follows, therefore, that Christ’s command is that infants be baptized.

Fifth, Baptism of the New Testament succeeded circumcision of the Old Testament, Cl 2:11–12. Therefore, just as in the Old Testament the covenant of divine grace was applied and sealed through circumcision not only to adults but also to infants, Gn 17:10, 12, so also now in the New Testament that grace should rightly be applied and confirmed as by a seal both to infants as well as adults through Baptism, since the grace of God was made not less but rather more abundant and richer in the New Testament.

Sixth, Is 49:22 prophesies that in the New Testament not only adults would be implanted in the church, but behold, he says, they shall bring your sons in [their] arms and your daughters shall they carry on [their] shoulders. And Peter says Acts 2:39 after he had baptized adults: This promise was made to you and to your children. In this way also the apostles baptized entire households, Acts 16:33; 1 Co 1:16. But where a household or family is mentioned infants are surely not excluded.It is therefore clear and manifest from this that the doctrine of infant baptism is not only orthodox but also altogether useful and necessary and gives very sweet comfort to parents and children.

Martin Chemnitz and Luther Poellot, Ministry, Word, and Sacraments : An Enchiridion, electronic ed., 116-17 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Questions for Discussion:

1. Prof. Gerstner extracts a modern application to the Jehovah’s Witnesses when discussing our Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion. How did he, in the personal anecdote he shares, confront theologically the Jehovah’s Witnesses representatives who came to his door? Why should we as evangelicals issue a  “warning”, in Gerstner’s perspective?

2. What is the “defenestration” event that occurred in 1618 that launched the Thirty Year Wars? [Wikipedia link] The Lutheran scholar Theodore Graebner is cited by Dr. Gerstner in his assessment of the value of the War. What was Dr. Graebner’s estimate and how did he justify it.

3. What is the Peace of Westphalia (1848)? [Wikipedia link] What was its shortcomings and consequences as a treaty?

4. Dr. Gerstner discusses the modern approach to the Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. What is his perspective and how does he characterize the trend in modern reformed theology?

5. In light of Dr. Gerstner’s lecture on Anglicanism in Great Britain during and after the Reformation events in Germany, how would you define Anglicanism’s creed, especially during the 17th and 18th centuries? In discussing Anglicanism’s creedal and confessional commitments, Dr. Gerstner speaks of the latitudinarianism of some of the British. What does he mean by the use of this term?

6. Why was the famous 18th century evangelist George Whitefield irritated with John Wesley, founder of Methodism and Anglican divine? Dr. Gerstner sees this falling out between the two of them as representative of a recurrent problem in church ordination. (Dr. Gerstner invites us to consider Charles Grandison Finney in America in the 19th century American evangelicalism as also symptomatic of the problem.) What is the problem and what are the underlying causes?

7. Dr. Gerstner, revealing his Calvinistic commitments, discusses at length sacramentalism in Lutheran Orthodoxy of the 17th century. What does he mean by this term and how does he tie it to the issue of baptismal regeneration? What was Calvin’s near error on this issue and how did Calvinistic Orthodoxy, according to Dr. Gerstner, avoid this “weakness”?

8. Under the entry “Quotation for Your Consideration” above, Rev. Paul McCain presents Martin Chemnitz’ perspective on infant baptism that includes six separate points. Which of these, if any, would Prof. Gerstner’s disagree with and why? (Recall Chemnitz is mentioned by Dr. Gerstner in his lecture.)


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