Martin Luther: Bondage of the Will, part 1


This summer I had the privilege of spending some time in the land of Luther and while I was there I wanted to read one of Luther’s works.  I had just finished his commentary on Galatians so I decided to take his masterpiece along with me – The Bondage of the Will.  I scratched a few notes in a notebook and on scraps of paper here and there and so from time to time I’d like to collect them all here.  I’ll write an intro and overview of the book later…

 

Some Preliminaries

Erasmus, like most Romanists today, makes harmony with Mother Rome and ‘peace’ with men to be more desired than propositional theological statements. Luther contends that Protestants must have precision in our religious beliefs:

1 Pet 3:15“be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”

2 Tim 4:2“Preach the word; be instant [ready] in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.”

Perspicuity

One of the primary battle grounds of the Reformation centered around the perspicuity of the Scriptures.  Luther could not make a Bible-based argument about the nature of man without first taking time to defend that the Word which God gave His church was meant to be understood.

Perspicuity – plain to the understanding especially because of clarity and precision of presentation.  (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary)

Erasmus asserts that the Scriptures are not plain, but Luther contends that although parts of Scripture are obscure, the great Mystery of Scripture – Christ – has been brought to plain light:

Rom 15:4 – “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

2 Tim 3:15-17 – “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Erasmus appeals to Scripture in his testimony against the know-ability of Scripture. He quotes Scripture, for example, which attest to the unknow-ability of God, but Luther avers that these statements of Scripture refer to the unknow-ability of God Himself, not the unknow-ability of God as He has disclosed Himself in His Word.

1 Cor 2:12 – “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”

One might argue, if Scripture is so clear, why do so many struggle to understand?

2 Cor 4:3-4 – “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:  4In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

According to Luther, there is a two-fold error with respect to perspicuity of Scripture:

  1. External – Some argue the Scriptures are not clear
  2. Internal – Lack of Spirit of God – blind eyes cannot see light

These are both answered by the Scriptures above (and others).

Summary

Christianity is not all ‘just do’.  We should consider before we ‘do’ (see Luke 14:28, etc).  If we, in our faith, are ignorant of God’s Word and works and power, we are ignorant of God; cannot worship Him, and are no Christian men at all.

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5 thoughts on “Martin Luther: Bondage of the Will, part 1

  1. 1 Pet 3:15 – “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”

    Erasmus quotes this in his work on free will. And Erasmus exhibits it too. Luther, however, is just nasty and mean. Furthermore, Luther makes his work by design so long that nobody would ever read the whole thing. After seeing his meanspirited attacks on Erasmus in the first few pages only a sadist could finish it, especially seeing it is at least 5 times longer than Erasmus’ work.

    The funniest thing Erasmus says is (loose quote from memory) “I don’t think Luther will be upset if I don’t take his word to be inerrant and inspired.” Of course, that is precisely what got Luther angrier than hell and it was hell that set Luther’s rage on fire, for he was a pawn of Satan.

  2. And Erasmus sticks to the plan of only presenting Scripture, whereas Luther doesn’t care for Scripture. Erasmus quotes among many passages those from Deuteronomy that says “Behold I have set before you life and death, choose” — yes, he also uses a similar passage from Sirach, “before you are fire and water, life and death, stretch forth your hand to whichever you will” but since the tenor of that passage is the same as those in Deuteronomy, there would be no point in objecting against it. These simple quotes win the debate. Luther simply makes Deuteronomy a lie, and Luther is therefore condemned as a heretic.

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