Pastor Cooper's mind had been changed by the material he was reading and becoming convinced that Lutheranism held correct doctrine.
He held to TULIP, the Calvinistic acronym that came about in the 1600s of Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. The doctrine that bothered him was how the Reformed taught on reprobation. He goes on to say:
I didn’t know there was any other option but to agree with all five points. It was the T and U that convinced me of Calvinism, but I didn’t know that there was the possibility of holding to those doctrines and not the rest of the points. The apostasy passages were always troubling to me, but I felt that I needed to hold on to perseverance in order for God’s unconditional election to be upheld.” (Cooper)
Jesus died for all people, meaning that all of humankind’s sins were taken upon Jesus at the cross. In his resurrection, Jesus vindicated the entire human race in himself. I would distinguish between objective reconciliation and subjective reconciliation. Objectively, Jesus reconciled the entire world unto himself (2 Corinthians 5.19). However, this objective act must be received subjectively by faith for it to be applied to the individual. Without faith, the objective act is still there and valid, but one is not forgiven due to the rejection of this act through unbelief.” (Cooper)
When asked about his thoughts about the Book of Concord coming from a Calvinistic point of view, Pastor Cooper explains
I had a really hard time understanding exactly what the Lutheran view of election was. The Formula clearly condemns synergism, but I couldn’t make sense of the rejection of double predestination. I eventually saw that Lutheran’s approach the doctrine of election from a completely different perspective, so that they weren’t even really asking the same questions that I as a Calvinist was.” (Cooper)
Shedding some light on the article of faith of election in Lutheranism compared to Calvinism, he goes on to say:
This is one of those paradoxes that we accept while others don’t. Election and perseverance are both monergistic, meaning that God is the sole actor in both. However, reprobation and apostasy are solely the work of man, and are in no way attributed to God’s decree. Thus, we agree with the Calvinists on divine monergism, but with the Arminians in our rejection of a decree of reprobation and admission that some do depart from the faith. Both sides of this are unavoidable in Scripture.” (Cooper)
Continuing on regarding what he sees in Reformed circles and their theology, Pastor Cooper tells us the problem of Calvinists claiming Martin Luther as one of their own. In his words:
The Reformed try to make Martin Luther a five point Calvinist or see him as Reformed with a few minor differences of opinion on the Lord’s Supper.
What they fail to understand is the centrality of the Sacraments in Luther’s thought. You can’t simply take Luther’s doctrine of justification, election, and bondage of the will while discarding his views on Baptism, the Supper, and Absolution. If you do that, you have a completely different theology.” (Cooper)
Moving onto the passage in the Bible where Jesus is recorded as saying, “this is my body,” Pastor Cooper talks about Christ being omnipresent. He explains:
It is not clear that Jesus’ body can’t be more than one place at a time. Jesus is God after all, and he can do with a human body whatever he feels like doing with a human body. Remember that Jesus walked through walls and disappeared on occasion. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4.9-10 that Jesus who ascended now fills all things, which sure sounds like the whole person is omnipresent.” (Cooper)
As a Lutheran pastor, he baptizes infants and believes no one should ever be rebaptized if baptized in the Trinitarian Formula. He explains the grace given to the baptized child:
Grace is universal and indiscriminate. I do not distinguish between the Sacraments as given to the elect and everyone else. If this were the case, how could one ever know if God’s grace was truly for them? We are not called to look for our election, but to look to the means of grace that God has instituted: Word and Sacrament. Since this grace is universal, I trust that any baptized infant has received such grace. (Cooper)
The interview with Pastor Cooper will pick up in Part 3.
J. Cooper (personal communication, February 2 - 9, 2014)