Skip to comments.Luther and Erasmus: The Controversy Concerning the Bondage of the Will
Posted on 01/01/2006 4:48:03 PM PST by HarleyD
At the time of the Reformation, many hoped Martin Luther and Erasmus could unite against the errors of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther himself was tempted to unite with Erasmus because Erasmus was a great Renaissance scholar who studied the classics and the Greek New Testament. Examining the Roman Catholic Church, Erasmus was infuriated with the abuses in the Roman Catholic Church, especially those of the clergy. These abuses are vividly described in the satire of his book, The Praise of Folly. Erasmus called for reform in the Roman Catholic Church. Erasmus could have been a great help to the Reformation, so it seemed, by using the Renaissance in the service of the Reformation.
But a great chasm separated these two men. Luther loved the truth of God's Word as that was revealed to him through his own struggles with the assurance of salvation. Therefore Luther wanted true reformation in the church, which would be a reformation in doctrine and practice. Erasmus cared little about a right knowledge of truth. He simply wanted moral reform in the Roman Catholic Church. He did not want to leave the church, but remained supportive of the Pope.
This fundamental difference points out another difference between the two men. Martin Luther was bound by the Word of God. Therefore the content of the Scripture was of utmost importance to him. But Erasmus did not hold to this same high view of Scripture. Erasmus was a Renaissance rationalist who placed reason above Scripture. Therefore the truth of Scripture was not that important to him.
The two men could not have fellowship with each other, for the two movements which they represented were antithetical to each other. The fundamental differences came out especially in the debate over the freedom of the will.
From 1517 on, the chasm between Luther and Erasmus grew. The more Luther learned about Erasmus, the less he wanted anything to do with him. Melanchthon tried to play the mediator between Luther and Erasmus with no success. But many hated Erasmus because he was so outspoken against the church. These haters of Erasmus tried to discredit him by associating him with Luther, who was outside the church by this time. Erasmus continued to deny this unity, saying he did not know much about the writings of Luther. But as Luther took a stronger stand against the doctrinal abuses of Rome, Erasmus was forced either to agree with Luther or to dissociate himself from Luther. Erasmus chose the latter.
Many factors came together which finally caused Erasmus to wield his pen against Luther. Erasmus was under constant pressure from the Pope and later the king of England to refute the views of Luther. When Luther became more outspoken against Erasmus, Erasmus finally decided to write against him. On September 1, 1524, Erasmus published his treatise On the Freedom of the Will. In December of 1525, Luther responded with The Bondage of the Will.
Packer and Johnston call The Bondage of the Will "the greatest piece of theological writing that ever came from Luther's pen."1 Although Erasmus writes with eloquence, his writing cannot compare with that of Luther the theologian. Erasmus writes as one who cares little about the subject, while Luther writes with passion and conviction, giving glory to God. In his work, Luther defends the heart of the gospel over against the Pelagian error as defended by Erasmus. This controversy is of utmost importance.
In this paper, I will summarize both sides of the controversy, looking at what each taught and defended. Secondly, I will examine the biblical approach of each man. Finally, the main issues will be pointed out and the implications of the controversy will be drawn out for the church today.
Erasmus On the Freedom of the Will
Erasmus defines free-will or free choice as "a power of the human will by which a man can apply himself to the things which lead to eternal salvation or turn away from them." By this, Erasmus means that man has voluntary or free power of himself to choose the way which leads to salvation apart from the grace of God.
Erasmus attempts to answer the question how man is saved: Is it the work of God or the work of man according to his free will? Erasmus answers that it is not one or the other. Salvation does not have to be one or the other, for God and man cooperate. On the one hand, Erasmus defines free-will, saying man can choose freely by himself, but on the other hand, he wants to retain the necessity of grace for salvation. Those who do good works by free-will do not attain the end they desire unless aided by God's grace. Therefore, in regard to salvation, man cooperates with God. Both must play their part in order for a man to be saved. Erasmus expresses it this way: "Those who support free choice nonetheless admit that a soul which is obstinate in evil cannot be softened into true repentance without the help of heavenly grace." Also, attributing all things to divine grace, Erasmus states,
And the upshot of it is that we should not arrogate anything to ourselves but attribute all things we have received to divine grace that our will might be synergos (fellow-worker) with grace although grace is itself sufficient for all things and has no need of the assistance of any human will."
In his work On the Freedom of the Will, Erasmus defends this synergistic view of salvation. According to Erasmus, God and man, nature and grace, cooperate together in the salvation of a man. With this view of salvation, Erasmus tries to steer clear of outright Pelagianism and denies the necessity of human action which Martin Luther defends.
On the basis of an apocryphal passage (Ecclesiasticas 15:14-17), Erasmus begins his defense with the origin of free-will. Erasmus says that Adam, as he was created, had a free-will to choose good or to turn to evil. In Paradise, man's will was free and upright to choose. Adam did not depend upon the grace of God, but chose to do all things voluntarily. The question which follows is, "What happened to the will when Adam sinned; does man still retain this free-will?" Erasmus would answer, "Yes." Erasmus says that the will is born out of a man's reason. In the fall, man's reason was obscured but was not extinguished. Therefore the will, by which we choose, is depraved so that it cannot change its ways. The will serves sin. But this is qualified. Man's ability to choose freely or voluntarily is not hindered.
By this depravity of the will, Erasmus does not mean that man can do no good. Because of the fall, the will is "inclined" to evil, but can still do good. Notice, he says the will is only "inclined" to evil. Therefore the will can freely or voluntarily choose between good and evil. This is what he says in his definition: free-will is "a power of the human will by which a man can apply himself to the things which lead to eternal salvation." Not only does the human will have power, although a little power, but the will has power by which a man merits salvation.
This free choice of man is necessary according to Erasmus in order for there to be sin. In order for a man to be guilty of sin, he must be able to know the difference between good and evil, and he must be able to choose between doing good and doing evil. A man is responsible only if he has the ability to choose good or evil. If the free-will of man is taken away, Erasmus says that man ceases to be a man.
For this freedom of the will, Erasmus claims to find much support in Scripture. According to Erasmus, when Scripture speaks of "choosing," it implies that man can freely choose. Also, whenever the Scripture uses commands, threats, exhortations, blessings, and cursings, it follows that man is capable of choosing whether or not he will obey.
Erasmus defines the work of man's will by which he can freely choose after the fall. Here he makes distinctions in his idea of a "threefold kind of law" which is made up of the "law of nature, law of works, and law of faith." First, this law of nature is in all men. By this law of nature, men do good by doing to others what they would want others to do to them. Having this law of nature, all men have a knowledge of God. By this law of nature, the will can choose good, but the will in this condition is useless for salvation. Therefore more is needed. The law of works is man's choice when he hears the threats of punishment which God gives. When a man hears these threats, he either continues to forsake God, or he desires God's grace. When a man desires God's grace, he then receives the law of faith which cures the sinful inclinations of his reason. A man has this law of faith only by divine grace.
In connection with this threefold kind of law, Erasmus distinguishes between three graces of God. First, in all men, even in those who remain in sin, a grace is implanted by God. But this grace is infected by sin. This grace arouses men by a certain knowledge of God to seek Him. The second grace is peculiar grace which arouses the sinner to repent. This does not involve the abolishing of sin or justification. But rather, a man becomes "a candidate for the highest grace." By this grace offered to all men, God invites all, and the sinner must come desiring God's grace. This grace helps the will to desire God. The final grace is the concluding grace which completes what was started. This is saving grace only for those who come by their free-will. Man begins on the path to salvation, after which God completes what man started. Along with man's natural abilities according to his will, God works by His grace. This is the synergos, or cooperation, which Erasmus defends.
Erasmus defends the free-will of man with a view to meriting salvation. This brings us to the heart of the matter. Erasmus begins with the premise that a man merits salvation. In order for a man to merit salvation, he cannot be completely carried by God, but he must have a free-will by which he chooses God voluntarily. Therefore, Erasmus concludes that by the exercise of his free-will, man merits salvation with God. When man obeys, God imputes this to his merit. Therefore Erasmus says, "This surely goes to show that it is not wrong to say that man does something ." Concerning the merit of man's works, Erasmus distinguishes with the Scholastics between congruent and condign merit. The former is that which a man performs by his own strength, making him a "fit subject for the gift of internal grace." This work of man removed the barrier which keeps God from giving grace. The barrier removed is man's unworthiness for grace, which God gives only to those who are fit for it. With the gift of grace, man can do works which before he could not do. God rewards these gifts with salvation. Therefore, with the help or aid of the grace of God, a man merits eternal salvation.
Although he says a man merits salvation, Erasmus wants to say that salvation is by God's grace. In order to hold both the free-will of man and the grace of God in salvation, Erasmus tries to show the two are not opposed to each other. He says, "It is not wrong to say that man does something yet attributes the sum of all he does to God as the author." Explaining the relationship between grace and free-will, Erasmus says that the grace of God and the free-will of man, as two causes, come together in one action "in such a way, however, that grace is the principle cause and the will secondary, which can do nothing apart from the principle cause since the principle is sufficient in itself." Therefore, in regard to salvation, God and man work together. Man has a free-will, but this will cannot attain salvation of itself. The will needs a boost from grace in order to merit eternal life.
Erasmus uses many pictures to describe the relationship between works and grace. He calls grace an "advisor," "helper," and "architect." Just as the builder of a house needs the architect to show him what to do and to set him straight when he does something wrong, so also man needs the assistance of God to help him where he is lacking. The free-will of man is aided by a necessary helper: grace. Therefore Erasmus says, "as we show a boy an apple and he runs for it ... so God knocks at our soul with His grace and we willingly embrace it." In this example, we are like a boy who cannot walk. The boy wants the apple, but he needs his father to assist him in obtaining the apple. So also, we need the assistance of God's grace. Man has a free-will by which he can seek after God, but this is not enough for him to merit salvation. By embracing God's grace with his free-will, man merits God's grace so that by his free-will and the help of God's grace he merits eternal life. This is a summary of what Erasmus defends.
Erasmus also deals with the relationship of God's foreknowledge and man's free-will. On the one hand, God does what he wills, but, on the other hand, God's will does not impose anything on man's will, for then man's will would not be free or voluntary. Therefore God's foreknowledge is not determinative, but He simply knows what man will choose. Men deserve punishment from eternity simply because God knows they will not choose the good, but will choose the evil. Man can resist the ordained will of God. The only thing man cannot resist is when God wills in miracles. When God performs some "supernatural" work, this cannot be resisted by men. For example, when Jesus performed a miracle, the man whose sight returned could not refuse to be healed. According to Erasmus, because man's will is free, God's will and foreknowledge depend on man's will except when He performs miracles.
This is a summary of what Erasmus taught in his treatise On the Freedom of the Will. In response to this treatise, Luther wrote The Bondage of the Will. We turn to this book of Luther.
Luther's Arguments Against Erasmus
Martin Luther gives a thorough defense of the sovereign grace of God over against the "semi-Pelagianism" of Erasmus by going through much of Erasmus' On the Freedom of the Will phrase by phrase. Against the cooperating work of salvation defended by Erasmus, Luther attacks Erasmus at the very heart of the issue. Luther's thesis is that "free-will is a nonentity, a thing consisting of name alone" because man is a slave to sin. Therefore salvation is the sovereign work of God alone.
In the "Diatribe," Luther says, Erasmus makes no sense. It seems Erasmus speaks out of both sides of his mouth. On the one hand, he says that man's will cannot will any good, yet on the other hand, he says man has a free-will. Other contradictions also exist in Erasmus' thought. Erasmus says that man has the power to choose good, but he also says that man needs grace to do good. Opposing Erasmus, Luther rightly points out that if there is free-will, there is no need for grace. Because of these contradictions in Erasmus, Luther says Erasmus "argues like a man drunk or asleep, blurting out between snores, 'Yes,' 'No.' " Not only does this view of Erasmus not make sense, but this is not what Scripture says concerning the will of man and the grace of God.
According to Luther, Erasmus does not prove his point, namely, the idea that man with his free-will cooperates in salvation with God. Throughout his work, Luther shows that Erasmus supports and agrees with the Pelagians. In fact, Erasmus' view is more despicable than Pelagianism because he is not honest and because the grace of God is cheapened. Only a small work is needed in order for a man to merit the grace of God.
Because Erasmus does not take up the question of what man can actually do of himself as fallen in Adam, Luther takes up the question of the ability of man. Here, Luther comes to the heart of his critique of the Diatribe in which he denies free-will and shows that God must be and is sovereign in salvation. Luther's arguments follow two lines: first, he shows that man is enslaved to sin and does not have a free-will; secondly, he shows that the truth of God's sovereign rule, by which He accomplishes His will according to His counsel, is opposed to free-will.
First, Luther successfully defends the thesis that there is no such entity as free-will because the will is enslaved to sin. Luther often says there is no such thing as free-will. The will of man without the grace of God "is not free at all, but is the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil since it cannot turn itself to good." The free-will lost its freedom in the fall so that now the will is a slave to sin. This means the will can will no good. Therefore man does and wills sin "necessarily." Luther further describes the condition of man's will when he explains a passage from Ezekiel: "It cannot but fall into a worse condition, and add to its sins despair and impenitence unless God comes straightway to its help and calls it back and raises it up by the word of His promise."
Luther makes a crucial distinction in explaining what he means when he says man sins "necessarily." This does not mean "compulsion." A man without the Spirit is not forced, kicking and screaming, to sin but voluntarily does evil. Nevertheless, because man is enslaved to sin, his will cannot change itself. He only wills or chooses to sin of himself. He cannot change this willingness of his: he wills and desires evil. Man is wholly evil, thinking nothing but evil thoughts. Therefore there is no free-will.
Because this is the condition of man, he cannot merit eternal life. The enslaved will cannot merit anything with God because it can do no good. The only thing which man deserves is eternal punishment. By this, Luther also shows that there is no free-will.
In connection with man's merit, Luther describes the true biblical uses of the law. The purpose of the law of God is not to show men how they can merit salvation, but the law is given so that men might see their sinfulness and their own unworthiness. The law condemns the works of man, for when he judges himself according to the law, man sees that he can do no good. Therefore, he is driven to the cross. The law also serves as a guide for what the believer should do. But the law does not say anything about the ability of man to obey it.
Not only should the idea of free-will be rejected because man is enslaved to sin, but also because of who God is and the relationship between God and man. A man cannot act independently of God. Analyzing what Erasmus said, Luther says that God is not God, but He is an idol, because the freedom of man rules. Everything depends on man for salvation. Therefore man can merit salvation apart from God. A God that depends on man is not God.
Denying this horrible view of Erasmus, Luther proclaims the sovereignty of God in salvation. Because God is sovereign in all things and especially in salvation, there is no free-will.
Luther begins with the fact that God alone has a free-will. This means only God can will or not will the law, gospel, sin, and death. God does not act out of necessity, but freely. He alone is independent in all He decrees and does. Therefore man cannot have a free-will by which he acts independently of God, because God is immutable, omnipotent, and sovereign over all. Luther says that God is omnipotent, knowing all. Therefore we do nothing of ourselves. We can only act according to God's infallible, immutable counsel.
The great error of free-willism is that it ascribes divinity to man's free-will. God is not God anymore. If man has a free-will, this implies God is not omnipotent, controlling all of our actions. Free-will also implies that God makes mistakes and changes. Man must then fix the mistakes. Over against this, Luther says there can be no free-will because we are under the "mastery of God." We can do nothing apart from God by our own strength because we are enslaved to sin.
Luther also understands the difficulties which follow from saying that God is sovereign so that all things happen necessarily. Luther states: "If God foreknows a thing, it necessarily happens." The problem between God's foreknowledge and man's freedom cannot be completely solved. God sovereignly decrees all things that happen, and they happen as He has decreed them necessarily. Does this mean that when a man sins, he sins because God has decreed that sin? Luther would answer, Yes. But God does not act contrary to what man is. Man cannot will good, but he only seeks after sinful lusts. The nature of man is corrupted, so that he is turned from God. But God works in men and in Satan according to what they are. The sinner is still under the control of the omnipotent God, "which means, since they are evil and perverted themselves, that when they are impelled to action by this movement of Divine omnipotence they do only that which is perverted or evil." When God works in evil men, evil results. But God is not evil. He is good. He does not do evil, but He uses evil instruments. The sin is the fault of those evil instruments and not the fault of God.
Luther asks himself the question, Why then did God let Adam fall so all men have his sin? The sovereignty of God must not be questioned, because God's will is beyond any earthly standard. Nothing is equal to God and His will. Answering the question above, Luther replies, "What God wills is not right because He ought or was bound, so to will, on the contrary, what takes place must be right because He so wills it." This is the hidden mystery of God's absolute sovereignty over all things.
God is sovereign over all things. He is sovereign in salvation. Is salvation a work of God and man? Luther answers negatively. God alone saves. Therefore salvation cannot be based on the merits of men's works. Man's obedience does not obtain salvation, according to Luther. Some become the sons of God "not by carnal birth, nor by zeal for the law, nor by any other human effort, but only by being born of God." Grace does not come by our own effort, but by the grace of Jesus Christ. To deny grace is to deny Jesus Christ. For Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Free-will says that it is the way, the truth, and the life. Therefore free-will denies Jesus Christ. This is a serious error.
God saves by His grace and Spirit in such away that the will is turned by Him. Only when the will is changed can it will and desire the good. Luther describes a struggle between God and Satan. Erasmus says man stands between God and Satan, who are as spectators waiting for man to make his choice. But Luther compares this struggle to a horse having two riders. "If God rides, it wills and goes where God goes . If Satan rides, it wills and goes where Satan goes." The horse does not have the choice of which rider it wants. We have Satan riding us until God throws him off. In the same way, we are enslaved to sin until God breaks the power of sin. The salvation of a man depends upon the free work of God, who alone is sovereign and able to save men. Therefore this work in the will by God is a radical change whereby the willing of the soul is freed from sin. This beautiful truth stands over against Erasmus' grace, which gives man a booster shot in what he can do of himself.
This truth of the sovereignty of God in salvation is comforting to us. When man trusts in himself, he has no comfort that he is saved. Because man is enslaved to sin and because God is the sovereign, controlling all things according to His sovereign, immutable will, there is no free-will. The free-will of man does not save him. God alone saves.
The Battle of the Biblical Texts
The battle begins with the fundamental difference separating Luther and Erasmus in regard to the doctrine of Scripture. Erasmus defends the obscurity of Scripture. Basically, Erasmus says man cannot know with certainty many of the things in Scripture. Some things in God's Word are plain, while many are not. He applies the obscurity of Scripture to the controversy concerning the freedom of the will. In the camp of the hidden things of God, which include the hour of our death and when the last judgment will occur, Erasmus places "whether our will accomplishes anything in things pertaining to salvation." Because Scripture is unclear about these things, what one believes about these matters is not important. Erasmus did not want controversy, but he wanted peace. For him, the discussion of the hidden things is worthless because it causes the church to lose her love and unity.
Against this idea of the obscurity of Scripture, Luther defends the perspicuity of Scripture. Luther defines perspicuity as being twofold. The external word itself is clear, as that which God has written for His people. But man cannot understand this word of himself. Therefore Scripture is clear to God's people only by the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.
The authority of Scripture is found in God Himself. God's Word must not be measured by man, for this leads to paradoxes, of which Erasmus is a case in point. By saying Scripture is paradoxical, Erasmus denies the authority of God's Word.
Luther does not deny that some passages are difficult to understand. This is not because the Word is unclear or because the work of the Holy Spirit is weak. Rather, we do not understand some passages because of our own weakness.
If Scripture is obscure, then this opposes what God is doing in revelation. Scripture is light which reveals the truth. If it is obscure, then why did God give it to us? According to Luther, not even the difficult to understand doctrines such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the unpardonable sin are obscure. Therefore the issue of the freedom of the will is not obscure. If the Scripture is unclear about the doctrine of the will of man, then this doctrine is not from Scripture.
Because Scripture is clear, Luther strongly attacks Erasmus on this fundamental point. Luther says, "The Scriptures are perfectly clear in their teaching, and that by their help such a defense of our position may be made that our adversaries cannot resist." This is what Luther hoped to show to Erasmus. The teaching of Scripture is fundamental. On this point of perspicuity, Luther has Erasmus by the horns. Erasmus says Scripture is not clear on this matter of the freedom of the will, yet he appeals to the church fathers for support. The church fathers base their doctrine of the free-will on Scripture. On the basis of the perspicuity of Scripture, Luther challenges Erasmus to find even one passage that supports his view of free-will. Luther emphasizes that not one can be found.
Luther also attacks Erasmus when he says what one believes concerning the freedom of the will does not matter. Luther sums up Erasmus' position this way: "In a word, what you say comes to this: that you do not think it matters a scrap what any one believes anywhere, as long as the world is at peace." Erasmus says the knowledge of free-will is useless and non-essential. Over against this, Luther says, "then neither God, Christ, Gospel, faith, nor anything else even of Judaism, let alone Christianity, is left!" Positively, Luther says about the importance of the truth: "I hold that a solemn and vital truth, of eternal consequences, is at stake in the discussion." Luther was willing to defend the truth even to death because of its importance as that which is taught in Scripture.
A word must also be said about the differing views of the interpretation of Scripture. Erasmus was not an exegete. He was a great scholar of the languages, but this did not make him an able exegete. Erasmus does not rely on the Word of God of itself, but he turns to the church fathers and to reason for the interpretation of Scripture. In regard to the passage out of Ecclesiasticas which Erasmus uses, Luther says the dispute there is not over the teaching of Scripture, but over human reason. Erasmus generalizes from a particular case, saying that since a passage mentions willing, this must mean a man has a free-will. In this regard, Luther also says that Erasmus "fashions and refashions the words of God as he pleases." Erasmus was concerned not with what God says in His Word, but with what he wanted God to say.
Not only does Erasmus use his own reason to interpret Scripture, but following in the Roman Catholic tradition he goes back to the church fathers. His work is filled with many quotes from the church fathers' interpretation of different passages. The idea is that the church alone has the authority to interpret Scripture. Erasmus goes so far in this that Luther accuses Erasmus of placing the fathers above the inspired apostle Paul.
In contrast to Erasmus, Luther interprets Scripture with Scripture. Seeing the Word of God as inspired by the Holy Spirit, Luther also trusts in the work of the Holy Spirit to interpret that Word. One of the fundamental points of Reformed hermeneutics is that Scripture interprets Scripture. Luther follows this. When Luther deals with a passage, he does not take it out of context as Erasmus does. Instead, he examines the context and checks other passages which use the same words.
Also, Luther does not add figures or devise implications as Erasmus does. But rather, Luther sticks to the simple and plain meaning of Scripture. He says, "Everywhere we should stick to just the simple, natural meaning of the words, as yielded by the rules of grammar and the habits of speech that God has created among men." In the controversy over the bondage of the will, both the formal and material principles of the Reformation were at stake.
Now we must examine some of the important passages for each man. This is a difficult task because they both refer to so many passages. We must content ourselves with looking at those which are fundamental for the main points of the controversy.
Showing the weakness of his view of Scripture, Erasmus begins with a passage from an apocryphal book: Ecclesiasticas 15:14-17. Erasmus uses this passage to show the origin of the free will and that the will continues to be free after the fall.
Following this passage, Erasmus looks at many passages from the Old Testament to prove that man has a free-will. He turns to Genesis 4:6, 7, which records God speaking to Cain after he offered his displeasing sacrifice to God. Verse 7 says, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." Erasmus says that God sets before Cain a reward if he chooses the good. But if he chooses the evil, he will be punished. This implies that Cain has a will which can overcome evil and do the good.
From here, Erasmus looks at different passages using the word "choose." He says Scripture uses the word "choose" because man can freely choose. This is the only way it makes sense.
Erasmus also looks at many passages which use the word "if" in the Old Testament and also the commands of the Old Testament. For example, Isaiah 1:19,20 and 21:12 use the words "if then." These conditions in Scripture imply that a man can do these things. Deuteronomy 30:14 is an example of a command. In this passage, Israel is commanded to love God with all their heart and soul. This command was given because Moses and the people had it in them to obey. Erasmus comes to these conclusions by implication.
Using a plethora of New Testament texts, Erasmus tries to support the idea of the freedom of the will. Once again, Erasmus appeals to those texts which speak of conditions. John 14:15 says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Also, in John 15:7 we read, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." These passages imply that man is able to fulfill the conditions by his free-will.
Remarkably, Erasmus identifies Paul as "the champion of free choice." Referring to passages in which Paul exhorts and commands, Erasmus says that this implies the ability to obey. An example is I Corinthians 9:24,25: "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." Man is able to obey this command because he has a free-will.
These texts can be placed together because Luther responds to them as a whole. Luther does treat many of these texts separately, but often comes back to the same point. Luther's response to Genesis 4:7 applies to all of the commands and conditions to which Erasmus refers: "Man is shown, not what he can do, but what he ought to do." Similarly, Luther responds to Deuteronomy 30:19: "It is from this passage that I derive my answer to you: that by the words of the law man is admonished and taught, not what he can do, but what he ought to do; that is, that he may know sin, not that he may believe that he has any strength." The exhortations and commands of the New Testament given through the apostle Paul are not written to show what we can do, but rather, after the gospel is preached, they encourage those justified and saved to live in the Spirit.
From these passages, Erasmus also taught that man merited salvation by his obedience or a man merited punishment by his disobedience, all of which was based on man's ability according to his free-will. Erasmus jumps from reward to merit. He does this in the conditional phrases of Scripture especially. But Luther says that merit is not proved from reward. God uses rewards in Scripture to exhort us and threaten us so that the godly persevere. Rewards are not that which a man merits.
The heart of the battle of the biblical texts is found in their treatment of passages from the book of Romans, especially Romans 9. Here, Erasmus treats Romans 9 as a passage which seems to oppose the freedom of the will but does not.
Erasmus begins his treatment of Romans 9 by considering the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. He treats this in connection with what Romans 9:18 says, "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will, he hardeneth." To interpret this passage, Erasmus turns to Jerome, who says, "God hardens when he does not at once punish the sinner and has mercy as soon as he invites repentance by means of afflictions." God's hardening and mercy are the results of what man does. God has mercy "on those who recognize the goodness of God and repent ." Also, this hardening is not something which God does, but something which Pharaoh did by not repenting. God was longsuffering to Pharaoh, not punishing him immediately, during which Pharaoh hardened his heart. God simply gave the occasion for the hardening of his heart. Therefore the blame can be placed on Pharaoh.
Although Erasmus claims to take the literal meaning of the passage, Luther is outraged at this interpretation. Luther objects:
Positively, Luther explains this hardening of the heart of Pharaoh. God does this, therefore Pharaoh's heart is necessarily hardened. But God does not do something which is opposed to the nature of Pharaoh. Pharoah is enslaved to sin. When he hears the word of God through Moses which irritates his evil will, Pharaoh's heart is hardened. Luther explains it this way:
Once again, Luther objects. Luther defends the necessity of consequence to what God decrees. Luther says, "If God foreknows a thing, it necessarily takes place." Therefore, in regard to Jacob and Esau, they did not attain their positions by their own free-will. Romans 9 emphasizes that they were not yet born and that they had not yet done good or evil. Without any works of obedience or disobedience, the one was master and the other was the servant. Jacob was rewarded not on the basis of anything he had done. Jacob was loved and Esau was hated even before the world began. Jacob loved God because God loved him. Therefore the source of salvation is not the free-will of man, but God's eternal decree. Paul is not the great champion of the freedom of the will.
In defense of the literal meaning of Romans 9:21-23, Luther shows that these verses oppose free-will as well. Luther examines the passage in the context of what Paul is saying. The emphasis in the earlier verses is not man, but what God does. He is sovereign in salvation. Here also, the emphasis is the potter. God is sovereign, almighty, and free. Man is enslaved to sin and acts out of necessity according to all God decrees. Luther shows that this is the emphasis of Romans 9 with sound exegetical work.
After refuting the texts to which Erasmus refers, Luther continues to show that Scripture denies the freedom of the will and teaches the sovereignty of God in salvation. He begins with Romans 1:18 which says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." Luther says this means all men are ungodly and are unrighteous. Therefore, all deserve the wrath of God. The best a man can do is evil. Referring to Romans 3:9, Luther proves the same thing. Both Jews and Greeks are all under sin. They will and do nothing but evil. Man has no power to seek after good because there is none that doeth good (Ps. 14:3). Therefore, men are "ignorant of and despise God! Here is unbelief, disobedience, sacrilege, blasphemy towards God, cruelty and mercilessness towards one's neighbors and love of self in all things of God and man." Luther's conclusion to the matter is this: man is enslaved to sin.
Man cannot obtain salvation by his works. Romans 3:20 says that by the works of the law no man can be justified in God's sight. It is impossible for a man to merit salvation by his works. Salvation must be the sovereign work of God.
Luther thunders against free-will in connection with Romans 3:21-16 which proclaims salvation by grace alone through faith.58 Free-will is opposed to faith. These are two different ways of salvation. Luther shows that a man cannot be saved by his works, therefore it must be by faith in Jesus Christ. Justification is free, of grace, and without works because man possesses no worthiness for it.
Finally, we notice that Luther points out the comprehensive terms of the apostle Paul to show that there is no free-will in man. All are sinners. There is none that is righteous, and none that doeth good. Paul uses many others also. Therefore, justification and salvation are without works and without the law.
Over against the idea of free-will stands the clear teaching of Scripture. Luther clearly exegetes God's Word to show this. In summary, the truth of predestination denies the free-will of man. Because salvation is by grace and faith, salvation is not by works. Faith and grace are of no avail if salvation is by the works of man. Also, the only thing the law works is wrath. The law displays the unworthiness, sinfulness, and guilt of man. As children of Adam we can do no good. Luther argues along these lines to show that a free-will does not exist in man. Salvation is by grace alone.
The Main Issues and Implications of Each View
Luther is not interested in abstract theological concepts. He does not take up this debate with Erasmus on a purely intellectual level. The main issue is salvation: how does God save? Luther himself defines the issue on which the debate hinges:
So it is not irreligious, idle, or superfluous, but in the highest degree wholesome and necessary, for a Christian to know whether or not his will has anything to do in matters pertaining to salvation . This is the hinge on which our discussion turns, the crucial issue between us.
Luther finds it necessary to investigate from Scripture what ability the will of man has and how this is related to God and His grace. If one does not know this, he does not know Christianity. Luther brings this against Erasmus because he shows no interest in the truth regarding how it is that some are saved.
Although the broad issue of the debate is how God saves, the specific issue is the sovereignty of God in salvation. The main issue for Luther is that man does not have a free-will by which he merits eternal life, but God sovereignly saves those whom He has chosen.
Luther is pursuing the question, "Is God, God?" This means, is God the omnipotent who reigns over all and who sovereignly saves, or does He depend on man? If God depends on man for anything, then He is not God. Therefore Luther asks the question of himself: Who will try to reform his life, believe, and love God? His answer, "Nobody." No man can do this of himself. He needs God. "The elect, who fear God, will be reformed by the Holy Spirit; the rest will perish unreformed." Luther defends this truth so vigorously because it is the heart of the gospel. God is the sovereign God of salvation. If salvation depends on the works of man, he cannot be saved.
Certain implications necessarily follow from the views of salvation defended by both men. First, we must consider the implications which show the falsehood of Erasmus' view of salvation.
When Erasmus speaks of merit, he is really speaking as a Pelagian. This was offensive to Erasmus because he specifically claimed that he was not a Pelagian. But Luther rightly points out that Erasmus says man merits salvation. According to the idea of merit, man performs an act separate from God, which act is the basis of salvation. He deserves a reward. This is opposed to grace. Therefore, if merit is at all involved, man saves himself. This makes Erasmus no different from the Pelagians except that the Pelagians are honest. Pelagians honestly confess that man merits eternal life. Erasmus tries to give the appearance that he is against the Pelagians although he really is a Pelagian. Packer and Johnston make this analysis:
Another implication of the synergistic view of salvation held to by Erasmus is that God is not God. Because salvation depends upon the free-will of man according to Erasmus, man ascribes divinity to himself. God is not God because He depends upon man. Man himself determines whether or not he will be saved. Therefore the study of soteriology is not the study of what God does in salvation, but soteriology is a study of what man does with God to deserve eternal life.
This means God's grace is not irresistible, but man can reject the grace of God. Man then has more power than God. God watches passively to see what man will do.
Finally, a serious implication of the view of Erasmus is that he denies salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone. In his Diatribe, Erasmus rarely mentions Jesus Christ. This shows something is wrong. This does follow from what Erasmus says. The emphasis for Erasmus is what man must do to be saved and not on what God has done in Jesus Christ. Therefore Jesus Christ is not the only way of salvation and is not that important.
Over against the implications of Erasmus' view are the orthodox implications of Luther's view. God is sovereign in salvation. God elects His people, He sent Jesus Christ, and reveals Jesus Christ only to His people. It is God who turns the enslaved wills of His people so that they seek after Him. Salvation does not depend upon the work of man in any sense.
The basis of salvation is Jesus Christ alone. Because man is enslaved to sin, He must be turned from that sin. He must be saved from that sin through the satisfaction of the justice of God. A man needs the work of Jesus Christ on the cross to be saved. A man needs the new life of Jesus Christ in order to inherit eternal life. The merits of man do not save because he merits nothing with God. A man needs the merits of Jesus Christ for eternal life. A man needs faith by which he is united to Christ.
The source of this salvation is election. God saves only those whom He elects. Those who receive that new life of Christ are those whom God has chosen. God is sovereign in salvation.
Because God is sovereign in salvation, His grace cannot be resisted. Erasmus says that the reason some do not believe is because they reject the grace which God has given to them. Luther implies that God does not show grace to all men. Instead, He saves and shows favor only to those who are His children. In them, God of necessity, efficaciously accomplishes His purpose.
Because man cannot merit eternal life, saving faith is not a work of man by which he merits anything with God. Works do not justify a man. Salvation is the work of God alone in Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. Faith is a gift of God whereby we are united to Jesus Christ and receive the new life found in Him. Even the knowledge and confidence as the activity of faith are the gifts of faith.
Finally, only with this view of salvation that God is sovereign can a man have comfort that he will be saved. Because God is sovereign in salvation and because His counsel is immutable, we cannot fall from the grace of God. He preserves those who are His children. Erasmus could not have this comfort because he held that man determines his own salvation.
The Importance of This Controversy Today
Although this controversy happened almost five hundred years ago, it is significant for the church today. The error of "semi-Pelagianism" is still alive in the church today. Much of the church world sides with Erasmus today, even among those who claim to be "Reformed." If a "Reformed" or Lutheran church denies what Luther says and sides with Erasmus, they despise the reformation of the church in the sixteenth century. They might as well go back to the Roman Catholic Church.
This controversy is important today because many deny that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. A man can worship heathen gods and be saved. This follows from making works the basis of salvation. Over against this error, Martin Luther proclaimed the sovereignty of God in salvation. He proclaimed Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. We must do the same.
The error of Pelagianism attacks the church in many different forms. We have seen that in the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches. The sovereignty of God in salvation has been attacked by the errors of common grace and a conditional covenant. Over against these errors, some in the church world have remained steadfast by the grace of God. God does not love all. Nor does He show favor to all men in the preaching of gospel. Erasmus himself said that God showed grace to all men and God does not hate any man. The Arminians said the same thing at the time of the Synod of Dordt. Yet, men who defend common grace claim to be Reformed. They are not.
Also, in this synergistic view of salvation, we see the principles of the bilateral, conditional covenant view which is in many "Reformed" churches. If God and man work together in salvation, then the covenant must be a pact in which both God and man must hold up each one's end of the agreement. Over against this we must proclaim the sovereignty of God in salvation especially in regard to the covenant. The covenant is not conditional and bilateral. God works unconditionally and unilaterally in the covenant of grace.
Finally, we must apply the truth of the sovereignty of God defended by Luther to ourselves. We could say there is a Pelagian in all of us. We know God sovereignly saves, but we often show by our practice that we proudly want to sneak a few of our works in the back door. We must depend upon God for all things.
May this truth which Martin Luther defended, the truth of the sovereignty of God in salvation, be preserved in the church.
I thought I learned from personal experience that being called a heretic was not the ultimate insult because heretics are, how shall I say, "partial breakers from a commonality"? :) Muslims are not like this. Being compared or equated to the theology of Islam would be the ultimate insult.
FK: "Jesus said He WAS GOD!"
Where does He say that? He never said "I am God." The reason why the first four councils were held by the Church was the ambiguity with which some Christians received His divinity, and because it is not stated so simply.
I had not the slightest idea that it was a matter of controversy that Jesus claims to be God in the Bible. Of course there are tons of examples in the Bible that show that Jesus is God, but here are some examples of where He says it Himself. I cannot wait to hear the interpretations of these verses: :)
John 10:30 "I and the Father are one."
Ex. 3:14 "God said to Moses, "I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
Now combo this with the following:
John 8:58-59 : 58 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
WHY were they going to stone Him? Because everyone knew, INCLUDING Jesus, that He was claiming to be God. And along the same lines:
John 18: 4-6 : 4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?" 5 "Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.
Why would the soldiers ready to grab Him fall to the ground? Jesus claimed to be God with full authority and power.
Rev. 1:8 : "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
Rev. 1:17-18 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Now, contrast the following:
Is. 44:6 : "This is what the LORD says Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.
In Revelation, is there a dispute we are talking about Jesus here?
John 5:17-18 : 17 Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Jesus had to know how they would take it, right?
John 14:5-10 : 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." 8 Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." 9 Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
If you see and know Jesus then you see and know the Father. They are in each other because they are one essence.
Men don't have to do anything? The Bible disagrees quite often with that statement. DOING something is not the problem, Harley. It is doing something WITHOUT God, the attitude that one can earn salvation by doing something. However, one must cooperate with God's graces to be saved. There is a big difference between doing something without God and doing something with God. Are you going to be able to point out to a time when the Church believed that men do nothing at all for the sake of salvation?
"I will put my spirit in them and CAUSE them to walk in my statues...".
Nothing there about how often or if this will continue despite any turning away.
How long do you think we will do that before God bops us on the head to get our attention? Do you think we can withstand God's chastisement?
Even St. Augustine believed that men must somehow cooperate with God. One who does not shows the signs that they are not of the Elect. No one can withstand God's chastisements. But God also chastises and punishes the wicked, as well. It is difficult to determine whether a specific event is for our chastisement to return us to the fold or part of God's punishment for our wickedness. It takes discernment. In any case, only God knows who the elect are - we don't.
If you really would like to know our "dogma" I would suggest the Westminster Confession or the London Baptist Confession. While one is Presbyterian and the other Baptist they're fairly close. They'll answer all your questions.
Now if you could point me to the succinct confession of the Orthodox belief complete with scriptural references like the Westminster or Baptist confessions I would appreciate it. I've never been able to find them before.
Both are infallible and both have been written eventually. The only real difference is that it takes more time to cull the contents of Apostolic Tradition. Neither can be "modified", although our understanding of EITHER can vary over time. Even Protestants have different understandings regarding Scripture passages in time - such as those on slavery.
We just disagree that a non-inspired work can be inerrant. You use the argument all the time
Are you saying the teachings of the Apostles were not inspired by God?
We just disagree that a non-inspired work can be inerrant
I think the Apostles taught that all of their teachings were from God - thus, inspired by Him. I don't understand how you can toss out their teachings based on whether THEIR hand actually wrote something or not. Did Moses write about HIS own death? But you still see Deuteronomy as inspired by God?
When Jesus says His sheep follow His voice, it really means the sheep follow His voice as translated through the Church. We can't hear the voice of Jesus, we only hear the Church. And so on, and so on with a thousand Biblical teachings. Under this view Jesus is not a personal God at all, He is the executive who only speaks to middle management. :)
God speaks to the entire Church. We believe in the "sense of the faithful", the Spirit working within each individual to sense what God is leading the Church to believe. However, we believe it takes the Church bishops, the successors of the Apostles, to interpret that "sense". There are many different "voices" but only one truth. Thus, if we are one Body, we would presume there be one Mind of the Church. It is found within the "sense of the faithful", but how do you figure out which "voice" is correct? The Church guides the bishops to interpret that voice, so that when future heretics teach something, the BISHOPS can read this "sense" and say "we don't believe that, nor does the Church". Each individual bishop is a representative of his particular local church, so to speak. He "reads" that local "voice" and determines what the faithful think on a subject.
This is similar to the gift of tongues and the gift of discernment in individuals. What good is tongues if no one can understand them? Thus, Paul says that the gift of discernment is more important for the entire Church. The gift is given primarily to the Bishops.
I'm no Bible scholar, but I have read every word, as doubtless you have. So, I would say that if you can come up with a writing that even approaches the Bible in completeness, wisdom, consistency, love, doctrine, historical accuracy, (add ten more adjectives that are the Bible), then maybe I would look into Mormonism
So I couldn't write an Esther, a Philemon? I don't think it would be too difficult to write something that agreed with what was written before, one that shows love and wisdom. Internally, you couldn't prove that it wasn't Scripture. The ONLY way you can prove that something is not Scripture is if an outside means is used. Historical evidence. Outside witnesses to it.
A further question. What is to prevent someone from claiming to write something ELSE that is "Scripture" and claim it is from God? The Scripture says nowhere that the canon is closed! That is Apostolic Tradition! When if I wrote something and then claimed it was from God? How would you prove it wrong? When if I claimed to find something written by Peter or John? How would you prove INTERNALLY that it wasn't? Sorry, without external means, you CAN'T know what is or what is NOT the Bible. The same applies to other so-called Scripture. You will use external means to disprove the Koran, or Indian Scripture.
Based only the merit of the book by itself, without anyone else vouching for it, do you believe there is an equal to the Bible on earth?
The Bible is a compilation of letters. Some of them, at first glance, don't appear to belong or are not exactly what you would call "edifying" writings. The Book of Esther never mentions the word "God", unless you read the Catholic version from the Septuagint... And why is Philemon ONLY from God and not Paul just writing a letter?
Read some of Psalm 58: Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD. Let them melt away as waters [which] run continually: [when] he bendeth [his bow to shoot] his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces. As a snail [which] melteth, let [every one of them] pass away: [like] the untimely birth of a woman, [that] they may not see the sun. Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in [his] wrath. The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.
It is writings such as that which led MANY people to believe that there were two separate Gods, the Demuirge of the Old Testament and the God of Love of the New Testament. Can you honestly tell me that Psalms 58 and the Gospel of Luke is written by the same God - WITHOUT EXTERNAL WITNESS??? No linguistic person would see any similarities between the teachings of Psalm 58 and the Gospel of Luke. It is ONLY the witness of the Church that tells us that BOTH are from the SAME GOD.
That is a poorly worded sentence I will say. Even Calvinists believe that man must come to God. We just believe that God makes everything 100% so. No one who the Father calls ever turns away. It's just that not everyone is called by God.
Nothing there about how often or if this will continue despite any turning away.
Let's see. God gives us a new heart, a new spirit, seal His Holy Spirit in us as our guarantee, and we become a new creature. And through all of this we'll turn away???? What's the point of God doing all of this anyway??? In the end it simply states that we're the captain of our souls-not God.
Even St. Augustine believed that men must somehow cooperate with God. One who does not shows the signs that they are not of the Elect.
Yes, it was a stupid statement from me. Man's will is bound until God sets us free. After that He guides us but as sheep we can stray. But God is our Good Shepherd and will never let us stray out of His hands.
In any case, only God knows who the elect are - we don't.
So, we must then conclude that He really didn't care for the very people He created in the Garden of Eden. In other words, God made rejects.
To be honest, I really don't know what the theology is on whether Adam and Eve eventually wound up in heaven or not, but I would like to know. My "guess" would be that they are both in heaven because God showed mercy on them by kicking them out of the garden, lest they should again partake of the fruit of the tree. God saved them from themselves. What does your side say?
Regarding "rejects", perhaps I wouldn't choose those words, but 'Yes', in essence you are correct. God does create many whom He already knows He will pass over for salvation. Glory be to God that He chose at least some as His elect. The universe is the Potter's workshop, so He makes the rules.
So God has authority to force us to love Him? The authority to change our minds and our hearts? That's love, right?
Well, YES! He does have the authority. Do you deny Him that authority? And, that IS ABSOLUTELY love. He expresses it by touching His elect and leading them to Him, with the guarantee that His elect will not slip out of His hands, even if the member at first doesn't cooperate. God has an amazing way of making His elect "an offer they can't refuse" without them even knowing it! :)
We don't have the authority to force a woman because it is morally wrong.
We don't have the authority because it is morally wrong, we didn't create her, and we couldn't anyway, even if we wanted to. (We were talking about making someone love us, right? :)
God is doing everything short of forcing us to save us. But people reject God out of their own pride and will.
Is the first part a typo? On the second part, I would say that all people will reject God out of their sin nature until God intervenes.
I wouldn't conclude that any more than I would conclude the angelic host had flaws with the fall of Satan and 1/3 of the angels. God wasn't surprise by them leaving and He certainly wasn't surprise by Adam and Eve. God made them exactly as He intended and they fell just as He intended.
While there is no clear reference to the election of Adam and Eve, many commentators (and I believe many church fathers) have always held Adam and Eve to have been saved. They base this upon the following verses:
So God has authority to force us to love Him? The authority to change our minds and our hearts? That's love, right?
Of course it is. Dont you try to change the hearts and minds of your kids? You do this because you love them and know whats best for them, dont you? If they paint the neighbor's car or jump off a roof don't you have a stern talking to them. Why? Because you love them and you don't wish to see them hurt themselves. Youre just not always successful at changing their hearts and youre not always right about the reason you want to change their hearts. God, OTOH is ALWAYS 100% successful at changing hearts and lives.
What your real gripe is, is simply that God doesnt do this for everyone. This is incomprehensible to your Greek thought process. Instead you would rather rationalize that God offers everyone, everything and only a few accept His offer. Sorry. This isnt the God of scripture. He makes choices and does what He pleases. And everything is perfectly right, holy and just regardless of what we think.
So, now we are introducing yet another twist to theology, according to FK, that has heretofore not been mentioned on a permanent basis. I won't go into what "permanent" means, maybe we can discuss that on another thread. But, I suppose, you can raise your fist and curse God every now and then and still be saved? Is that what it means?
No, there is no new twist. I was talking about defiant sin with one of you all (forgive me for not remembering) as in Heb. 10:26, which relates to Num. 15:30-31, and ultimately back to Pharaoh in Ex. 14:8. The point was that people who raise "a high hand" against God, and shake their fists in defiance for the remainder of their lives will be lost because their original salvation must have been false. God promises that He will keep His own, so such a person would not have been kept, making their salvation impossible. The point is the permanency, not whether a person makes an occasional mistake.
However, you still fail to tell me who is doing all this your will or God's will. If it is God's will, as I would imagine you will say, then why worry about it? Right? You are doing God's will either way, correct?
I have been telling you all along, but you don't hear! :) You won't distinguish between human experience and God's POV. When I said my sinner's prayer (with what I knew then), I "felt" like I was making a fully free choice, all on my own to choose Christ. I experienced all the benefits and satisfaction of that "accomplishment". In reality, God willing, my name was already among those written in the book of life and my sinner's prayer was merely a formality concerning something that was ordained as a sure thing at the beginning of time. I didn't know that at the time, of course, so I had the experience that most have, considering that I was so immature in the faith. It was a blessing that God arranged it that way so that I could have the experience.
Even though I now know better what actually happened, I will still continue to have the experience of free choice because I can't know the future. If I stayed back from decisions because they were "already pre-ordained" then I would just waste away, or go crazy trying to figure out all the permutations. That's not how God tells us to live our lives. He gives us pretty good clues in the Bible, in fact. So, I think God wants me to follow that road instead. God wants us to obey, not sit back and do nothing.
From your perspective doesn't God look down that "corridor of time" and see who those people are who will fall away? Why would they be saved in the first place if God knows tomorrow they will fall away?
"I and the Father are one."
And we are one in Jesus. What does that make us?
Because everyone knew, INCLUDING Jesus, that He was claiming to be God
A Son of God. [Mat 4:3,4:6, 8:29, 14:33, 16:16, etc.]
The priest tells Him in Mat 26:63 "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God."
Christ answered but not what the priest asked Him. "Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."
The Son of man is the second Adam, FK, in the person of Jesus. Although the priest took it as "blasphemy" it is this kind of indirect Gospel language that has given rise to many heresies in the early centuries of Christianity that persist to this day, confusing the orthodox doctrine that Jesus is the Christ, God and Man, two natures, one Person, two wills, in perfect harmony.
This is not in the Scripture. This is derived from the Scripture but not by the Protestant prooftexting.
You not only like to make up your own quotes, now you fabricate word meanings as well. For the record: heresy is not an insult; it is a treaching that is outside the teaching of the Apostolic Church of Christ. Heretics can only be people who believe in One God. It's not a character description.
If I have no will, I am not guilty, sinful or in need of redemption, salvation or reason to exist. In fact, following your theology, this is not me speaking but God, I suppose!
The Nicene-Constantinopolean Creed.
Now, now. Remember this is based on the traditions of the fathers. ;O)
He does not wait for tomorrow. He sees where your choices have taken you (in your future). In other words He knows -- by seeing the begining and the end of times -- what choices you freely make and where these choices take you.
Omniscience does not equal predestination.
So tell me, if God does everything, AND YOU DON'T COOPERATE, (for fear of being termed a Pelagian), exactly what DO you DO? YOU don't do anything, God does it, if you aren't cooperating.
God gives us a new heart, a new spirit, seal His Holy Spirit in us as our guarantee, and we become a new creature. And through all of this we'll turn away???? What's the point of God doing all of this anyway???
It would be difficult to explain this to someone - unless they knew how love works. Love is not forced upon another. And what's the point of God dying on the cross for men who will reject Him? Love.
Man's will is bound until God sets us free. After that He guides us but as sheep we can stray. But God is our Good Shepherd and will never let us stray out of His hands.
I agree, IF I am of the Elect. I have evidence that I am on the right track TODAY, but experience has led me to believe that it is possible that I can fall away. I humbly pray and hope that I do not. But I don't know what purpose God has for me - maybe I will be an example of how a "devout" Christian can still succumb to the temptations of the devil and fall away - a teaching of perseverance for other Christians? That is why we should continue to work out our salvation in fear and trembling - because GOD decides if I am of the elect, not me.
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation
Paul is presuming that those he teaches will SUCCEED in running the race (Paul says he runs so he won't be disqualified later). Paul is not saying that every single person in the community is of the elect, but that the community in general is a collection of the elect.
Jesus teaches that there are saved and unsaved people WITHIN the visible community, the Church, in His parable on the wheat and the cockle. They are often indistinguishable (as cockles are indistinguishable from wheat). Paul certainly is not saying that each member is eternally saved! This would disagree with other portions of the Scriptures, for example, when Paul tells the Corinthians about particular sins that disinherit people from the Kingdom... We just don't know the status of a particular person until the harvest.
I was agreeing with you that the Gospel can be taught orally. What I forgot about is that our "Gospels" are not really the same thing. :)
We divide Tradition into two components: Apostolic, and Ecclesiastical. The latter is changeable. ...
Thanks for the explanation.
If Christ had intended for all men to have such power, He would have given it to them.
Or, in the alternative, if Christ had intended for any men to have the power after the Apostles, He would have given it to them. :) But seriously, I am a supporter of the laying on of hands. It was one of the most deeply moving ceremonies I have ever witnessed in our church. I know the recipient was very benefited, and the prayers were very real and produced results.
FK: "What, God can't handle forgiving sin Himself? :)"
Of course, but why did He give men the power to forgive sins in the first place in John's Gospel? Note, this is AFTER the Resurrection!
I want you to be sitting down when you read this, BUT :), I think we would disagree if even the Apostles had the actual authority to forgive sin. I would say the same for binding and loosening, since that can only come from heaven. (I know, you're SHOCKED! :) I think I would agree that they had the power to heal, and they certainly had a special blessing to evangelize.
Thus, the oral teachings preceded the written ones, and the written ones did not overturn the oral ones. Nor does it say anywhere that oral teachings are encapsulated completely within the Scriptures. This is a Protestant assumption that is proven incorrect based on the writings of the first Christians.
Are you saying that all oral teachings, including the ones that were later written down and became Apostolic Tradition were ALL in place and fully functioning from the beginning? Throughout all the centuries later, NOTHING new was "discovered"? For example, the Apostles taught a sinless Mary orally, etc.?
Then who was leading you to the Arminian view 2 months ago? How do you know that the "Spirit" won't lead you to another view next month? See, there can only be ONE Truth, and you cannot KNOW it in this manner!
To be honest, before I really didn't have an opinion because I had never thought of it before. (I didn't even know there was another way to look at it, so it was not like I had been rejecting the Calvinist, but then changed my mind.) I just saw other people I respect in my church espouse the Arminian view so if you had asked me I would have said that. I agree that there is only one truth and I believe the Spirit has recently either brought me to the absolute truth or closer to it, and I am thankful. I trust the Spirit to lead me as He chooses. You all don't learn everything instantly either, do you? :)
I find this means of determining proper doctrine as totally dependent on one's current opinion, a subjective matter, rather than an objective one coming from outside of one's self.
That's because you don't believe the Spirit talks to scrubs like us. :) We believe in a personal God.
Well, hold on, here is your chance to learn, as I am preparing to give a class on just that subject this Thursday. The Eucharist is THE source of our Christian walk. Christ comes to us and abides within us in visible form. From this abiding, we believe that Christ sanctifies us in a most perfect manner - when we are open to receiving Him.
Then I came to the right place. :) I'm not sure why, but I have been thinking of the "real presence" as that Jesus is "there" at the ceremony and present. Now, I see that He actually enters the body of the partaker. Yes? I just remember reading a million posts ago from someone or someone's link that the actual molecules of the bread and wine do not change, etc. So, I thought there was some element of symbolism. At the moment of partaking, if I have this right so far, does that mean that both the Spirit and Christ are indwelling simultaneously? If Christ enters at every partaking, when does He leave? (I'm not trying to be flippant. :)
You make the decision but God has given you a new heart. That new heart is to follow God. You become a "slave to righteousness" wanting to do the things that are of God. If God gives you the desire to follow Him you will follow Him.
It would be difficult to explain this to someone - unless they knew how love works.
Scripture please-this is theology, not philosophy.
"...but experience has led me to believe that it is possible that I can fall away...
Quit basing it on experience. You can't know other people's heart although you can make some good guesses. All you can know is your own. We rest on the promises of God. He has said it. He will do it.
Paul is presuming that those he teaches will SUCCEED in running the race
Paul is presuming they are filled with the Holy Spirit and have been chosen of God. And so should we. People fall away but they were never saved to begin with.
Yes. Is this the Spirit's fault? ;)
if Christ had intended for any men to have the power after the Apostles, He would have given it to them. :)
To Titus, [mine] own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, [and] peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: Titus 1:4-5
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 2 Tim 2:1-2
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 1 Tim 4:14
Confirming the souls of the disciples, [and] exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. Acts 14: 22-23
...there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. Gal 1:7b-9
So much for just anyone grabbing their scrolls and interpretating for themselves the Word of God. Seems the first followers of the Lord meant for the Church to continue through THEIR teachings from God, not only in space, but in time...
I think we would disagree if even the Apostles had the actual authority to forgive sin. I would say the same for binding and loosening, since that can only come from heaven.
WHO gave the Apostles this power? Christ did. And WHO was given ALL power and authority on earth? Christ. So Christ, upon HIS Divine authority, commissioned the Apostles. I don't quite understand the disagreement, it is pretty clear in Sciptures that "As My Father has sent me, so I send you (Apostles)" with power and authority.
Are you saying that all oral teachings, including the ones that were later written down and became Apostolic Tradition were ALL in place and fully functioning from the beginning?
We don't know at what point various doctrines were ORALLY taught! However, it would be fair to say that some were discovered after more profound meditation on God's Word. The Word of God will never be fully understood by humans while in this life. It would be silly to say that every Christian knew everything that Christ taught, all of the nuances and profound teachings directly. They "knew" in a sense, though, what they believed - thus, when questioned, they would recognize correct or permissible teachings.
I agree that there is only one truth and I believe the Spirit has recently either brought me to the absolute truth or closer to it, and I am thankful.
So we really cannot know, of ourselves, if we have achieved the truth on a doctrine, correct? So how is a Christian supposed to KNOW these important issues? This is why Christ left a power to certain people to bind and loosen. Would God leave us totally in the dark, not knowing if we are just following a whim, rather than truth?
That's because you don't believe the Spirit talks to scrubs like us. :) We believe in a personal God.
You keep misunderstanding me on this concept. God speaks to us. We have a personal relationship with God through the Scriptures, through our daily lives, and for Catholics, through the sacraments, visible comings of God to us. I think it should be obvious, though, that we can't determine doctrine individually, though. If there can be only one truth, and men separately cannot agree on it, what does that say about the Spirit of Truth revealing such matters to you and me? God reveals DOCTRINE through the Church - ONE truth.
I'm not sure why, but I have been thinking of the "real presence" as that Jesus is "there" at the ceremony and present. Now, I see that He actually enters the body of the partaker. Yes?
Yes to both. Christ is present in a more substantial manner through the Eucharist. But He is also present through the Body of the faithful, as well ("when two or more are gathered in my name, I am there with them"). If we say Christ must abide in us, how better than through the Eucharist, when He enters us visibly?
So, I thought there was some element of symbolism
There is. The Eucharist is both symbol and reality. The physical eating of the elements is supposed to recall to mind HIS giving of Himself and instill within us the same desires for other people. But we also realize He is there as He promised - and it is through this partaking of His flesh under the appearance of bread that we have life. But not physical life - spiritual life.
At the moment of partaking, if I have this right so far, does that mean that both the Spirit and Christ are indwelling simultaneously?
Where Christ is, there is the Father and Spirit - remember the teachings of the Trinity. All Three act together, as there is not three separate wills among the Three Persons of the Trinity. What One does, they ALL do. While we say Christ has entered us through the Eucharist, the Spirit is THE Gift, as He is the one who blesses us with the gifts and virtues that we need to walk the Christian walk. It is the Spirit that makes the Eucharist "operative" in our transformation into another Christ. But note that all Three are present and all Three are giving of themselves to us and transforming us. We, as men, "assign" different roles to each of the persons of the Trinity.
If Christ enters at every partaking, when does He leave?
Christ is present in this manner as long as the Eucharist remains - 15 minutes is generally what I have heard. But it is His effects, the Spirit's gifts, that remain. As long as His effects remain within us, He continues to grace us with His presence, in a different manner. Thus, He doesn't "leave us", unless we sin mortally, a proposition that is not very likely in a communicant who has worthily received the Lord in this manner.
With proper disposition, the frequent reception of the Eucharist begins to transform us, making us more patient, more loving, more faithful, etc. The Eucharist is thus called the summit and source of our Christian life. Certainly, there are other means that Christ graces us with His presence and gifts. But the Eucharist is the most effective and most substantial.
Brother in Christ
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