07 April 2011


Pr. Petersen challenged us to read through *Bondage of the Will* (praised in our Symbols:  "We also appeal to this book and refer others to it."), and I just finished up reading through it.  It was shorter than I had thought, and it is absolutely devastating in its very sound Scriptural critique of the notion of "free will" when it comes to matters coram Deo. I can't even begin to reckon up the helpful insights along the way as I read, but I certainly did appreciate Luther's distinction between coercion (which he rejects) and immutability (which he accepts); that omnipotence is NOT about potential ability to do all things, but about in fact working all things - Pantocrator, anyone?; about the way he does not attempt to solve the problem of "why some and not others" and says only that just as that which is obscure in the light of nature, is made clear in the light of grace; so what is obscure to us in the light of grace, will be made clear in the light of glory.  In the meantime, we believe against the false conclusions of reason that God is unjust in condemning those who cannot do otherwise than sin, that He is in fact just, good, and loving, and that the light of glory will reveal Him so.  His expose of condign merit, his extolling of the complete joy and peace that come from realizing that salvation remains wholly His doing and giving and rests not on us in the least bit, his mastery of the Scriptures, allowing their light to dispel the darkness of our minds again and again - well, folks, words fail.  I cannot recommend the work highly enough - it's worth persisting in it to reach the end.  As my friend, Fr. Juhl, is wont to say:  satis est.


Anonymous said...

Shorter than you thought?

It is near on 300 pages in the Luther's Works edition.

Is that considered short these days?

Trent said...

Pastor Weedon,
Have you read Exposition of the Orthodox Faith by St John of Damascus? (specially his sections affirming reason and free will (“endowment with Free will” and "concerning Free will” in Book 2). If so, how would you compare Luther's thoughts on this matter?

For me, St John's thoughts are consistent with what St. Irenaeus calls in Against the Heresies the "law of human liberty".


William Weedon said...


The 300 pages plus flew by. Somehow I'd thought it very much longer than it was.


Yes, I've read it, but it's been a few years. I imagine that Luther's take on the Damascene on this particular question is that he has not fully reckoned with both the corrupting power of sin that absolutely necessitates divine grace. But since Luther flat out rejects any sort of "compulsion" in the bondage of the will, I suspect that he and the Damascene are actually focusing on two slightly different problems. For Luther the question is solely regarding the capacity of the unregenerate man to will the good.

William Weedon said...

I should have said: to will the good without the assistance of divine grace - i.e., by its own natural powers.

Jim said...

Yeah, I wish the book were more widely read and appreciated. It is devastating.

Larry Luder said...

A worthwhile fireside podcast

Apr 5, 2009
Dr. James A. Nestingen – Luther’s “On the Bondage of the Will