The Doctrine of Scripture in the Teaching of Luther and Calvin
The Doctrine of Scripture
Calvin taught a "twofold knowledge of God:" "[t]he knowledge of God as Creator, manifested in the fashioning of the universe, and the knowledge of God as Redeemer, seen only in the face of Christ" (190), which is found through the preaching of the message of Christ found in Scripture. This "twofold knowledge of God" is roughly parallel to the two "lights" explained by Luther: "the light of nature [and] the light of grace" (78).
Though Scripture is a “light,” giving true “knowledge” of God, comprehensive knowledge of an infinite Creator by His finite creation is impossible. Luther stressed the incomprehensibility of God in this present age (78). Likewise, Calvin wrote of God speaking as a nurse-maid speaks to a baby, adapting His speech to our limited capacities.
Against Catholic interpretation, which was characterized by a large degree of allegory, both Luther and Calvin interpreted Scripture according to its "grammatical-historical sense" (83). They believed that God revealed Scripture with particular words and through particular historical situations and that if Scripture is to be understood rightly these words and situations must be understood.
Both Luther and Calvin agreed, against their understanding of Catholic teaching, that Scripture, and not the church, has final authority in matters of doctrine and practice. Luther taught that "[t]he church, far from having priority over Scripture, is really the creation of Scripture, born in the womb of Scripture" (81); "Calvin, like Luther, affirmed that the Scripture was the womb from which the church was born, and not vice versa" (197)
In the body of the text, all numbers in parentheses refer to Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1988).
Luther also taught of a "light of glory" by which believers would have face-to-face access to God in the life to come (78).
Labels: Reformation Theology