The 500th anniversary of the Reformation saw a plethora of works which commemorated the birth of Protestantism. Naturally, many of these works address in some way Martin Luther and the posting of the 95 Theses. As the catalyst, Luther’s action set in motion a reform that developed not only a break from the Roman Catholic Church but numerous Protestant branches.
Making sense of these various Protestant traditions is no small matter. For example, when looking at two of the largest traditions that came out of the Reformation, Lutheran and Reformed, on which theological issues do they find commonality and how are their differences significant? If you have ever struggled with these types of issues, Between Wittenberg and Geneva: Lutheran and Reformed Theology (Baker Academic 2017; source: publisher) may be the book for you.
The work is neither a history of the Reformation nor a systematic theology. Between Wittenberg and Geneva is historical theology at its best. The reader would be hard pressed to find two authors better suited for the task than Robert Kolb and Carl R. Trueman. Their expertise in presenting the historical roots of Lutheranism and the Reformed, while unpacking the theological distinctions between the two make for an engaging and insightful study. An added bonus is the further parsing between what it means to be confessional and Evangelical.
The authors cover many theological issues, but one in particular sticks out. The authors treat Christology in a separate chapter, but also repeatedly address Christology as it impacts other issues. The most visible manifestation of their differences in Christology is telling in the Lord’s Supper.
The oft told account between Luther and Ulrich Zwingli is just the beginning of their differences. At the heart of the debate lay the “communication of properties between the two natures of Christ” (Between Wittenberg and Geneva, 76). As Kolb explains:
the Lutheran doctrine of the real presence of the whole Christ in, with, and under the eucharistic elements assumes that Christ’s body is not spatially limited in the manner typically associated with human embodiment. This in turn rests on the notion that certain properties of Christ’s deity are communicated directly to his human nature. Between Wittenberg and Geneva, 76,
Trueman counters with the Reformed position:
The human nature, considered abstractly in itself, was anhypostatic— that is, not possessing intrinsic personhood but receiving its personhood from its union with the divine . Joined with the Logos, the human nature receives the personal subsistence of the Second Person of the Godhead and is thus enhypostatic. This point is vital to avoid falling into the heresy of Nestorianism, of ascribing two persons to the incarnation . Further, the human nature never existed outside of its union with the divine but is united with the Logos at the moment of conception. Were this not so, then the Nestorian error of two persons would be unavoidable. Thus, from the moment of its creation, Christ’s human nature is in union with, and receiving its personhood from, the Logos. All predicates are therefore spoken of the person of the Mediator as a whole, but this should not be misconstrued as meaning that all predicates apply to both natures. Between Wittenberg and Geneva, 77-78.
Between Wittenberg and Geneva is a great place to start when working through the difficult task of understanding Lutheran and Reformed theology. Kolb and Trueman do a wonderful job of working through historical and theological issues surrounding the continuity and discontinuity between Lutheran, Reformed, and modern evangelicalism.