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 would disagree. There is no greater evidence, as Bahnsen pointed out, than the scriptures themselves. Our Lord Jesus, who referred to the writings and scriptures many times throughout the gospel never called into question the inerrant of the word of God. Yet He referenced the Greek version floating around-the very document some here are saying is in error. In fact, while talking to the crowd, our Lord Jesus most likely recited from the Aramaic version-not the Hebrew or Greek. I'm not sure. However, it wasn't the original Hebrew and He didn't seem to have a problem with "discrepancies". It should also be pointed out that some of the most questionable people of scripture (Noah, Jonah, Daniel, etc), our Lord Jesus talked about as prophets and events such as the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah as actual occurances.
Nowhere in scripture is there an argument that any of these various translations were considered suspect or in error. Our Lord Jesus, and certainly Paul, was familiar with the differences between the Hebrew and Greek versions. This didn't seem to trouble them in saying that "ALL scripture is inspired by God and profitable...".
Rather than a "Protestant invention" I would say there is more historical evidence that the Catholic Church came up with this idea to reinforced their dictates and authority. Inerrancy is a biblical concept-not a Protestant invention. I'm not familiar with any early church fathers who questioned the word of God. Bahnsen, Warfield, et al simply took the position our Lord Jesus and Paul took.
You haven't made that clear to me. HOW do you know that Jesus believed the Jonah actually went to Nineveh? He refers to the story without making any comment on its veracity. One can hold either view without destroying inerrancy of Scriptures. The Bible is not the problem, but man's interpretation of it. Jesus HIMSELF CORRECTS Jewish interpretation of said WRITTEN Scriptures over and over again... Interpretation of Scripture is NOT inerrant. God's MESSAGE is inerrant.
How do you think Paul's audience accepted this statement? What were the other possibilities to salvation? Imagine you were a Roman of God reading Paul's letter. I am sure you would have immediately said, "Oh yeah, what Paul really means is that you need faith to be saved, PLUS you have to be Baptized, PLUS you have to confess your sins to a priest, PLUS all the many other requirements of the Catholic Church for salvation." Again, you are the one who is building things in.
I have said many times that my view is that faith includes love.
[On the Perman article discussing "reward" in heaven] Christ's parables don't speak of different levels of glory in heaven, but whether a person even gains ENTRANCE to heaven. Look at Matthew 13, I believe. You'll find several "Kingdom" parables. Not one discusses your idea.
Why does it have to be mentioned in parables for the idea to be true? Perman only mentioned one parable (Minas-Luke 19) to make his point. Why is he wrong because he used other scripture in support? Maybe Jesus was focusing in His parables on the much greater issue, just getting in and never mind about any rewards. I don't think that means both can't be true.
You just got done posting me a section on how our actions get us different levels of glory in heaven, now this...What is going on?
I just think that salvation itself and rewards in heaven are completely different subjects. Salvation is eternally more important.
When I am faced with a moral decision, I don't sense an invisible hand forcing me to do one thing or the other...
Without the sense of a physical touch, haven't you ever felt "led" by God to do something? That's the hand. You have already conformed yourself to the image of Christ to "x" degree. When you act based on this, that's the hand. Sure, we think we experience free will, but it is really God acting through us.
OK. Well, I haven't seen the list yet, :) so I just try to use whatever is relevant that I can find. I can't imagine being hesitant to use any scripture, if it fit the point. In a vacuum I see all scripture as equally correct. I might choose to quote Jesus first, if I find something, but that wouldn't mean I would throw out other verses.
So in terms of belief in facts, Darwinism trumps the Bible? I don't believe the science of any day, including this day, is perfect. Today's science can't even tell us whether coffee is good for us or not. We still can't cure the common cold. Given the choice, I'm just going to stick with what's in the Bible as being fact. I don't think it can hurt me in any spiritual way. Another benefit is that I will never have to wonder about which parts of the Bible are true and which parts are errors.
I have clarified my position in discussions with Jo Kus. I think we came to at least a partial "meeting of the minds" in post 4,000.
First, what is Paul talking about? Is he defining what is necessary for salvation in 3:28, or is he primarily negating something? It should be very clear that he is doing the latter. A read from 1:18 to 3:20 is NOT a contrast between the impartiality of God and the universality of sin (thus, the false idea of total depravity - which Paul refutes in Chapter 2!). Paul is discussing the equality of retribution of the Jew AND the Greek concerning God. Not ALL sinners are guilty - but that ALL are equally EXPOSED to the wrath of God - INCLUDING JEWS, seeing that vv. 3:19-20 demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the Law for salvation. Paul is merely repeating this for effect in v. 3:28 - and continues his attack on circumcision, the sacred cow of Judaism, in Chapter 4. Two points for you...
"What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit [is there] of circumcision?" 3:1
Doesn't that say enough on what Paul is talking about? Paul has just got done telling the Jews (2:28) that even pagans can be spiritually circumcised - the heart - by the Holy Spirit. NOT BY THE LAW! What is Paul alluding to?
"And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day. And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers. If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, [and] if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.Deut 30:6-10
I hope you can see there is a difference between following the Law to "earn" wages, and following the Law out of Love, being led by the Spirit. Again, Paul's theme is NOT about the universality of evilness in men, but about the equality of men in God's eyes - whether Jew or Gentile. Thus, it is not necessary for Paul to DEFINE faith at this point. He does that elsewhere, and it is NOT alone!
I have said many times that my view is that faith includes love.
When you were "regenerated" and were eternally saved and made of the elect, what love was involved?
Why does it have to be mentioned in parables for the idea to be true? Perman only mentioned one parable (Minas-Luke 19) to make his point. Why is he wrong because he used other scripture in support? Maybe Jesus was focusing in His parables on the much greater issue, just getting in and never mind about any rewards. I don't think that means both can't be true.
Again, Perman is reaching. He tries to make such things as 2 Cor 4 and Mat 5 show DIFFERENT versions of the vision of heaven. These verses merely show what A saved elect person will see - NOT "if you have 87 points of faith, you will receive a window view" or something like that. His verses do NOT describe any differences of the Beatific Vision based on good deeds - or anything. They just aren't mentioned. And the Luke 19 parable is taken out of context. God gave the first man a particular gift - and he received a reward parallel to the gift God gave him. The second man also received a smaller gift - and God rewarded him accordingly. IT was NOT based on HOW WELL the man did it! Read it more closely. Those rewarded received a proportionate amount based on what they ORIGINALLY RECEIVED! There is no judgment on "how much change" they would get! It was either all or nothing. And each parable where Christ speaks of judgment is the same manner. Nothing about some people getting a window view in their room in heaven...
I just think that salvation itself and rewards in heaven are completely different subjects.
Where does Scripture talk about different rewards in heaven? Again, this is something made up to comply with the Protestant buzz words "we are saved by faith alone". Thus, deeds done on earth are somehow relegated to your "level" you will achieve in heaven. This is an incredible leap of eigesis that is not shown in Scriptures.
Without the sense of a physical touch, haven't you ever felt "led" by God to do something?
I always feel that I can, at the moment of decision, refuse it or comply with it. I don't feel inexorably and forcibly committed to do something. Human self-consciousness refutes the idea that man has no free will.
Harley, I think that you misunderstood my point.
Here is the theory of the "original autographs": Once upon a time, God inspired someone (Moses, Ezekiel, Mark, Paul... whoever) to write a book of the Bible. They wrote it down as they were inspired.
This document, the "original autograph," is what is considered by those who follow this theory (primarily developed by Warfield and the other Princeton Reformed theologians) to be inerrant and infallible. These autographs are lost or worn out or whatever. We don't have them and we never will, but under this theory, we can attempt to reconstruct their content as best possible from existing copies of copies. Every copy, under this theory, probably contains errors, but this doesn't hurt the theory of inerrancy, since these copies aren't the original autograph.
"I would disagree. There is no greater evidence, as Bahnsen pointed out, than the scriptures themselves. Our Lord Jesus, who referred to the writings and scriptures many times throughout the gospel never called into question the inerrant of the word of God. Yet He referenced the Greek version floating around-the very document some here are saying is in error. In fact, while talking to the crowd, our Lord Jesus most likely recited from the Aramaic version-not the Hebrew or Greek. I'm not sure. However, it wasn't the original Hebrew and He didn't seem to have a problem with "discrepancies"."
You are here making a very good case why the "original autograph" theory is nonsensical.
"It should also be pointed out that some of the most questionable people of scripture (Noah, Jonah, Daniel, etc), our Lord Jesus talked about as prophets and events such as the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah as actual occurances."
As you know, I completely agree with you on that point. Christ, the Apostles, the Fathers, all speak of these things as historical facts. They don't get hung up on exact details in most cases, but they treat them as actual occurances. The concept that we can treat all of these things as "spiritual meaning" only, and dispense with their historicity, is a novelty.
There are many works of the Fathers where they take great care to demonstrate the harmony of the four Gospels, for instance. If they really didn't believe in the historicity of these documents, they wouldn't have bothered. If the theory of "spiritual meaning only" were the understanding of the Church, the Fathers would simply have said so, and wouldn't have gone to the trouble of their careful refutations of those who called the Scriptural accounts into question.
"Nowhere in scripture is there an argument that any of these various translations were considered suspect or in error. Our Lord Jesus, and certainly Paul, was familiar with the differences between the Hebrew and Greek versions. This didn't seem to trouble them in saying that "ALL scripture is inspired by God and profitable..."."
Again, you are making the case against the "original autograph" theory.
"Rather than a "Protestant invention" I would say there is more historical evidence that the Catholic Church came up with this idea to reinforced their dictates and authority."
You'll have to explain that one.
"Inerrancy is a biblical concept-not a Protestant invention. I'm not familiar with any early church fathers who questioned the word of God. Bahnsen, Warfield, et al simply took the position our Lord Jesus and Paul took."
We in the Orthodox Church believe that Holy Tradition is inerrant, and that Scripture stands at the pinnacle of that body of Tradition. But ultimately, the ground-root of Tradition is not any given document, but the understanding of the Church. This understanding preceded the first setting of pen to parchment by an Apostle, and it would continue even if every single book in the world were lost. This is because fundamentally, Holy Tradition is the living presence of the Holy Spirit in the life in the Church.
FK, did Jesus use parables? A parable is a fictional story, is it not? But it gives an underlying teaching, one that has spritual connotations - and is inerrant. Does the fact that there are fictional stories in the GOSPELS bother you? So why can't the WORD inspire another story, the creation story, to teach what God wants us to know? IF science comes out with hard evidence of earth's old age, we, as God's creation who seeks God out, (who is Truth) we should NOT be embarrased to admit that Gen 1-3 MIGHT be a "parable". The bible teaches theological truths, and science teaches observable truths. We don't have to leave our brain at the door to be a Christian. If science says that the earth revolves around the sun as the cause of night and day, do we refuse to believe it because it interferes with the Fundamentalist's concept of Scriptures?
Of course he doesn't. At the same time, why would He give so many different versions of one and the same thing? God does not change.
Obviously, the Jews read the same Scripture when they read the Five Books of Moses, yet they don't see what Christians see in it. The variants are not from God, but from us fallible human beings. Variants are of human origin and represent corruption of Scripture.
"all Scripture was given by inspiration of God,"
Of course. Who else?
Why would he inspire, but not preserve?
You mentioned robots a while back, what makes you think it is up to God to preserve His gift, and not ours to do so? He inspired, He gave us the revelation; it is our gift; we need to take care of it. It is on us to preserve it, to safeguard it against corruption. But, alas, the originals have been lost! Imagine, the most precious things God gave us -- all lost. We lost them. God didn't. Now we have dozens of version of the Bible, with substantial differences that lead to different amounts of information, different kind of information, different meanings and so on.
Why would we reverence a Gospel book that is riddled with errors or lies?
First, the fathers took their time (300 years) to remove various Gnostic lies and satanic verses, separating some 200 documents from the two dozen or so genuine inspired words.
The fact that Jerome and Origen compared texts indicates that they were keenly aware that variants existed but were not sure why. Both made their personal decision as to which was more believable.
Errors kept creeping, but the idea of an invariant Scripture cam only late into Christianity (about 4th century or so), and was influenced by Judaism. Variations of the existing Scripture was simply accepted as such, which is why the Orthodox Church tot his day considers all versions of the Septuagint, for the lack of a better word -- "Septuagint." But, are they? Could we not then extend that view and say any version of the Bible is -- the Bible?
As long as the message of a variant is the same, but places and numbers and people and things have changed slightly, the spiritual truth conveyed is not altered, so it really doesn't matter if material things described happened exactly as described.
But it's not the picture but Christ to Whom we reach through His icon that is in our spiritual eyes when lwe look at His icon; we don't worship the icon, but Christ we think of when we stand in front of it; when we kiss it, we kiss Him and not the wood, or metal. If that is not spiritual i don't know what it!
Bible conveys those spiritual messages is by telling us the history of how God came to earth and became man, and what he did and said while he was here. It is also the history of how God worked in synergia with a people to produce the conditions of the "fullness of time"
Precisely! How God worked in synergia with people. Which would be equally valid if it were Papua Indians as he walked in their lands. But God, for His reasons, chose the Jews to spread His salvific message to the world, starting in the land of Israel. Nevertheless the fact that it works everywhere means that it is not dependent on any particualt location or people because it is spiritual that transcends reason and words.
[Jo kus to FK] The bible teaches theological truths, and science teaches observable truths. We don't have to leave our brain at the door to be a Christian. If science says that the earth revolves around the sun as the cause of night and day, do we refuse to believe it because it interferes with the Fundamentalist's concept of Scriptures?
Very well put, Jo. Science does not diminish spiritual truths of the Bible. Science does not diminish God. If anything science only reveals His greatness.
Because the Bible does not only reveal God's truth, but the knowledge of the world of its authors, there are factual "errors" in the Bible, such as the earth having a physical end, being flat and four-cornered; or bats being seen as birds, etc.
None of their own lack of knowledge of the world as we know it today (and none being their own fault) affect the eternal spiritual truth conveyed in the Bible. It is quite comforting to realize that the truth of God does not depend on how much we know of the world!
We should distinguish between legal constraint -- which ensures freedom and physical constraint -- which enslaves. Still if you remove law, you are left with rule of force and that means that some end up in chains.
Back to exegetics, the fundamental rule I am referring to is continuity of understanding since apostolic times. If, for example, one wants to read "all have sinned" in a way that makes Our Lady a sinner, he needs to not merely read the phrase itself, but also explain why no one for 1500 years read the passage in that way (early speculation of sinfulness of Mary were based on the verse where she did not appear to understand Christ's mission following His discovery in the temple). This tends to be the universal problem for Protestants, -- that apart from some very tendentious reading of St. Augustine, Protestant ideas have no patristic support.
You need to look at it in light of Matthew 16:19 (and 18:18): "And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."
In this you have Christ's promise to lend His Divine support to the acts of the Church.
Yes, from birth, but but not from conception.
Now as the presence of any sin whatever is incompatible with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the soul, it follows that at this moment [of Mary's visitation] John was cleansed from the stain of original sin.
Once again, the idea of delegation of divine power is clear from the entire commission of the Apostles, and specifically, the power to bind and loose given the apostles.
Not at all, -- where are your getting this? Dogma is possible precisely because the Church possesses the Holy Tradition with which it can understand the inspired Scripture. It is with Sola Scriptura that dogma is not possible.
Well, then what is the problem with Rom. 3:23? That agrees with you and me, ALL men sin over the course of their lives. That's what I have been saying.
It is not following the Law that makes one justified, it is turning one's heart to God - this, naturally, becomes a Law onto itself. ...
I basically agree with what you are saying about the two systems. And, I don't think I would lead my argument for the sinful nature with verses like Rom. 3:23, although I would use them in support. As I have posted before, there are other verses that more clearly prove that we are born with a sinful nature.
So because infant baptism is not explicitly mentioned, yet IS by the first Christians, it never happened - or it happened without permission of God!
I don't allege that I know that either is true for sure. I just know that the practice and the Catholic meaning attached to it are not supported by the Bible. Other practices and meanings are supported by the Bible. I know you say that there are plenty of writings that do support it outside of the Bible and they're fine if you want to believe in them. I just figure that I can't go wrong in sticking with the Bible. Besides, on this issue, since my daughter just had her believer's Baptism a few weeks ago, my whole family is covered either way. :)
We have an infallible teacher, the Pope. But many "catholics" believe something totally at odds with him, such as abortion. Having an infallible teacher doesn't mean people are "forced" to follow such teachings.
I appreciate that, and of course there are many Protestants who have the same false beliefs. I thought, but do not know for sure, that there were rules for those who so blatantly disobey the Church or the Pope. For example, I remember during the last Presidential cycle that there was an issue brought up that John Kerry should not be allowed to take communion because of his anti-Catholic views, which are all on record. Do you have an opinion on this type of thing?
FK: "Sola Scriptura has a solid foundation in scripture, which you have been shown."
You've shown me no such thing. I have given you verses that describe OTHER means of fully completing the Christian that doesn't mention Scriptures. Being "useful" doesn't make something the sole source of our faith, brother. And Sola Scriptura is actually ANTI-SCRIPTURAL, ...
You have been shown, but I admit I wasn't the first. I think it was Dr. Eckleburg who first posted Sola Scriptura by A.A. Hodge. In addition to that, here is an excerpt from an article that contrasts Protestant and Catholic views: Surprised by What? A Defense of Sola Scriptura by Jake MaGee :
"I find the assertion of Hahn and Sungenis entirely puzzling in light of the apostle Pauls clear testimony to the necessity and sufficiency of Scripture found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17; a Scripture that Protestants have always offered as definitive proof for Sola Scriptura. Lets examine this passage in detail."
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness 16; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work 17 (NASB).
"First of all, Scriptures are described by Paul as being inspired by God. The phrase inspired by God is translated from the Greek word theopneustos which is literally rendered God-breathed. By this Paul is communicating that the very writings were breathed out of the mouth of God. Further, the authority that Scriptures do have is derived from the verity that the very words were spoken by God."
"Secondly, notice that Scriptures are profitable. No one in this debate disagrees about this statement. However, the text says that Scripture is profitable for one kind of thing in order that another kind of thing might be true. To put the matter formally, Scripture is profitable for x, in order that y. The variable x refers to teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. The variable y refers adequacy and equipping believers. It is the y that Protestants point to as a clear declaration in Scripture of its own sufficiency. Lets look at verse 17 more closely."
"Paul says that Scripture can produce believers which are adequate and equipped for every good work. The TDNT defines adequate (artios) as fitted, complete, perfect. Bauer defines adequate as complete, capable, proficient = able to meet all demands. The TDNT defines equipped (exartizo) as to complete, finish, to furnish perfectly, to accomplish (1:475,80). Bauer also defines equipped as to finish, complete...equip, furnish (273)."
"These definitions point to the meaning of our English word sufficiency. To make this issue as clear as possible, lets define and contrast the words sufficiency and necessity. To say that one thing is necessary for another is to say that without this condition in place the desired effect will not occur. For example, water is necessary for human life. That is, water is a condition without which human life could not exist. To say that a thing is sufficient is to say that this condition is all one needs. In the case of water, it is necessary but not sufficient for human life (for we need food in addition to water). If it were the case that water is both necessary and sufficient for human life, than food is irrelevant."
"Keeping all these definitions in mind, lets restate 2 Tim 3:16-17:"
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (16); that the man of God may be complete and perfect, furnished perfectly for every good work and able to meet all demands (17).
"The Authorized Version translates verse 17 the following way:"
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
"Now, if I say that Franks Furniture Farm is complete or adequate to furnish perfectly my house, I mean that I dont need to go anywhere else. In other words, Franks Furniture Farm is sufficient, or good enough; no other store is necessary. In the same way, Paul is saying that Scripture is adequate and complete to perfectly furnish the believer to live life as God intends; nothing else needs to be added. In short, Scripture is necessary and sufficient. Contrary to Scott Hahns and Bob Sungenis assertion that sola scriptura is simply not taught anywhere in the Bible, either explicitly or implicitly, 2 Tim 3:16 &17 is as explicit and clear in its support of Sola Scriptura as John 1:1-3 is explicit and clear about Christs deity."
"This is important for our discussion, for the Catholic Church says that Scripture is insufficient; something does need to be added (i.e. tradition and Church interpretation). In keeping with our definitions, Scripture is not able to meet all demands. It is through the tradition and the authority of the church that we learn what else we need in order to do good works (e.g. the sacrament of penance, confession, the Eucharist, and apostolic succession). Without this addition to Scripture, a believer cannot be furnished perfectly for every good work. As a result, Protestant believers are missing out in what God wants for them, that is, they are not fully equipped. In light of this clear exegesis that demonstrates that Scripture, by itself, is sufficient to thoroughly furnish a believer for a life pleasing to God, the Roman Catholic apologists claim (that Sola Scriptura is a false doctrine that cannot be found either explicitly or implicitly is the Bible) must not be taken seriously."
I agree. It is hardly likely that the writer of Genesis would have had any clue about quantitative physics, or that the earth was really round and rotated around the sun. God didn't need to reveal science to tell us how much He loved us and created out of nothing (well, that's not in the Protestant bible, sorry, it's in 2 Maccabees) and so forth...
"He inspired, He gave us the revelation; it is our gift; we need to take care of it. It is on us to preserve it, to safeguard it against corruption. But, alas, the originals have been lost! Imagine, the most precious things God gave us -- all lost. We lost them. God didn't."
It becomes clearer. You believe that the autographs are the only true Scriptures, and that all else is human contaminant. I'm surprised that you buy into the "autograph" approach.
Condemning the Church for losing the "originals" means that you think that the writers of Scripture knew at the time that they were writing Holy Scripture. I doubt very much that any of them had any idea of the kind.
Only after these useful writings had been circulated and copied and circulated would I imagine that the Church came to the conclusion that these were Holy Scripture. By that time, I wonder if anyone would even know which one was the autograph, or where it was, or whether it mattered.
True Scripture is what the Church has.
That's not Paul's point - as I have explained in a post you have not responded to yet. I will await your answer there.
As I have posted before, there are other verses that more clearly prove that we are born with a sinful nature.
IF man = sin, then how did Jesus = man while remaining sinless? Then Jesus is NOT = man. If the definition of "Man" = sin, then you are still in sin, as Christ didn't become the Mediator.
I just figure that I can't go wrong in sticking with the Bible.
Which would you prefer? Part of God's revelation or all of it? That's how you are "going wrong".
I remember during the last Presidential cycle that there was an issue brought up that John Kerry should not be allowed to take communion because of his anti-Catholic views, which are all on record. Do you have an opinion on this type of thing?
Yes - but it isn't very charitable. I would hope that if people such as Kerry REALLY were concerned about their faith, they actually try to live it.
Regarding Sola Scriptura, I find it a self-destroying idea. Let's take a look again. However, IF I find another "rule of faith", another means of PERFECTING man, would that ALSO destroy the idea of "Sola" in Sola Scriptura? In other words, if the Bible itself mentions another means of learning God's revelation, wouldn't I have also defeated the concept of Sola Scriptura? I have already done this with Eph 4:11-13.
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints in the work of the ministry, unto [the] edifying of the body of the Christ until we all come forth in [the] unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the coming of age of the Christ: "
Clearly, the Bible ALONE is not the only means of building up the Body of Christ, to attain to perfection in man. This defeats Sola Scriptura, does it not? I don't understand why so many Catholic apologists overlook this approach, rather than the direct approach of attacking 2 Timothy. But let's look at what you have posted quickly...
I find the assertion of Hahn and Sungenis entirely puzzling in light of the apostle Pauls clear testimony to the necessity and sufficiency of Scripture found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17; a Scripture that Protestants have always offered as definitive proof for Sola Scriptura. Lets examine this passage in detail."
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness ; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (NASB)."
I have a Greek New Testament here, and here is what is written - directly...
"All writing God-breathed and helpful to teaching, to rebuking, to straightening, to instruction as a child the in rightness, that fit might be the of the God man, to all work good having been finished." (That is a DIRECT interpretation - it naturally doesn't flow off the tongue in English).
Let us focus on the word "helpful" or "profitable". You and your author are reading it is as "essential"! Look up in your handy Greek Concordance Strong #5624, ophelimos. This word in GREEK is an adjective that means "useful", "helpful", "profitable". Used as a verb, it means "assistance" or "benefit". Nowhere in Vines or my Greek Concordance do I find opheleia or ophelimos used to mean "necessary" or "essential" or "alone". Thus, your author's argument rapidly deflates into nothingness.
Sure the Bible is useful, profitable, and is an assistance to preaching and teaching the Word. But I tell you and your authors that they still are wrong. Nowhere does the Scripture mention Scripture as being "necessary" or the "sole rule of faith". Bluntly, this concept is a tradition of men that keeps men from the entire Truth that God revealed to the Apostles. Simple as that.