Monday, January 31, 2011

Luther's 101 biblical ways to destroy "free-will"

I thought about quoting various different parts of Martin Luther's "the Bondage of the Will"; a book which could have been appropriately named, "101 Scriptural arguments to destroy 'free-will'". I especially liked how Luther demonstrated that the Semi-Pelagians were far worse than the old Pelagians in two important respects, that the former were far more dishonest and crafty about their assertion of merit, and also attempted to purchase the grace of God at a far cheaper rate. It was very encouraging to read Luther unleashing the "thunderbolts" of Paul against both by the teaching of free justification.

I would also have loved to quote in full, Luther's demonstration that salvation by faith alone destroys "free-will" - since many today think that the modern protectors of "free-will" nevertheless still teach justification by faith alone (as they claim that they do). Luther considered the two wholly incompatible, and the one disproves the other. John Wesley's doctrine of justification was very different to Luther's, who no doubt would have called it justification by "free-will" alone!

Suffice to say, that Christians today ought to read this treasure of the Reformation, and learn what "the essential issue" of the Reformation was (as Luther called it), and how much of Evangelicalism today has in principle reaffirmed the most fundamental doctrine of Rome. I will quote one of his most succinct, simple, and characteristic arguments against Erasmus:

"Rom. 7; Gal. 5: the power of the 'flesh' in the saints disproves 'free-will'

"I forbear to insist on the Achilles of my arguments, which the Diatribe [of Erasmus] proudly passes by without notice - I mean, Paul's teaching in Rom. 7 and Gal. 5, that there is in the saints and the godly such a mighty warfare between the Spirit and the flesh that they cannot do what they would. From this I would argue as follows: If human nature is so bad that in those who are born again of the Spirit it not only fails to endeavour after good, but actually fights against and opposes good, how could it endeavour after good in those who are not yet born again of the Spirit, but serve under Satan in the old man? And Paul is not here speaking of gross affections only (which is the universal expedient by which the Diatribe regularly parries the thrust of every Scripture); but he lists among the works of the flesh heresy, idolatry, contentions, divisions, etc., which reign in what you call the most exalted faculties, that is, reason and will. If, now, the flesh with these affections wars against the Spirit in the saints, much more will it war against God in the ungodly and in their 'free-will'! Hence in Rom. 8 he calls it 'enmity against God' (v. 7). May I say that I should be interested to see this argument punctured, and 'free-will' safeguarded from its attack!"

You can purchase "the Bondage of the Will" by Martin Luther from the online bookstore at: They even have in eBook format if you're that type.

Sam W.

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