Luther’s Understanding Of The Bondage Of The Will In Melanchthon And Later Theologians -- By: Lowell C. Green

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 07:4 (Fall 1998)
Article: Luther’s Understanding Of The Bondage Of The Will In Melanchthon And Later Theologians
Author: Lowell C. Green


Luther’s Understanding Of The Bondage Of The Will In
Melanchthon And Later Theologians

Lowell C. Green

Luther made the pivotal statement that either man has free will and God is bound, or else God is free and man has a bound will. He asserted that Erasmus opted for the first proposition, while he himself chose the second way: Let man be bound and God be free! In the following lines, we shall refer to Luther’s Bondage of the Will, noting that its original title, De Servo Arbitrio, can be more accurately rendered as Servitude of Choice. Luther used the Latin word arbitrium or choice, and not voluntas or will. The treatise must not be misinterpreted as a book about predestination or even double predestination. This term, praedestinatio, occurs only several times in a book of several hundred pages. What Luther was talking about was man’s total inability to move himself spiritually, or, in today’s terminology, the impossibility that a man should “make a decision for Christ.” Thereby, he was following the New Testament teaching that man is by nature spiritually dead. Moreover, Luther warned against trying to explain the unfathomable ways of the Hidden God. When John Calvin tried to pursue the hidden ways of God, he ended up with double predestination, a route which Luther avoided following.

In discussing his Bondage of the Will, two aspects must be considered: first, his distinction of law and gospel, including the distinction of God hidden and revealed, and, second, Luther’s concept of the voluntary, particular, or

unbound grace of God, in contrast to the concept of the involuntary, universal, or bound grace of God.1

Luther and Erasmus represented two
differing streams that have existed in
Christianity from a very early time. Luther
taught monergism, i.e., that our salvation
is completely in the hands of a merciful
God, and Erasmus stood for synergism, i.e.,
that God does part of what is needful for
our salvation, but that man must do the
rest in cooperation with God
.

Luther’s Distinction Of Human Choice And
The Omnipotent Action Of The Divine Will

Luther and Erasmus represented two differing streams that have existed in Christianity from a very early time. Luther taught monergism, i.e., that our salvation is completely in the hands of a merciful God, and Erasmus stood for synergism, i.e., that God does part of what is needful for our salvation, but that man must do the rest in cooperation with God. In Luther, human redemption came from the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ...

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