This article is part 12 of 13 in the series Book Club: Luther's Bondage of the Will

Required reading

The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther, preferably the version translated by Henry Cole (Available from the Wandering Bookseller or free here) – Continue the ‘Discussion: Second Part’ by reading sections 91 to 97.

My summary

Today Luther counters Erasmus’ teaching about necessity of the consequence: ‘At one time it says, ‘that there is a necessity of the consequence, but not a necessity of the thing consequent.’ At another, ‘that there is an ordinary will, or will of the sign, which may be resisted; and a will of decree, which cannot be resisted.’ At another, ‘that those passages adduced from Paul do not contend for, do not speak about, the salvation of man.’ In one place it says ‘that the prescience of God does impose necessity:’ in another, ‘that it does not impose necessity.’ Again, in another place it asserts, ‘that grace prevents the will that it might will, and then attends it as it proceeds and brings it to a happy issue.’ Here it states, ‘that the first cause does all things itself:’ and directly afterwards, ‘that it acts by second causes, remaining itself inactive.’ ‘

Luther’s argument against such thinking is that if God foreknows something, then it is predetermined: ‘The question, therefore, is not difficult; nay, nothing can be more plain to common sense, than that this conclusion is certain, stable, and true: — if it be pre-established from the Scriptures, that God neither errs nor is deceived; then, whatever God foreknows, must, of necessity, take place. It would be a difficult question indeed, nay, an impossibility, I confess, if you should attempt to establish, both the prescience of God, and the “Free-Will” of man. For what could be more difficult, nay a greater impossibility, than to attempt to prove, that contradictions do not clash; or that a number may, at the same time, be both nine and ten?’

What grabbed me

Luther gave quite a few good examples of God’s foreknowledge demonstrating God’s predetermination: ‘For example: The necessity of the consequence is, (so to set it forth,) God foreknows that Judas will be a traitor — therefore it will certainly and infallibly come to pass, that Judas shall be a traitor. Against this necessity of the consequence, you comfort yourself thus: — But since Judas can change his willing to betray, therefore, there is no necessity of the thing consequent. How, I ask you, will these two positions harmonize, Judas is able to will not to betray, and, Judas must of necessity will to betray? Do not these two directly contradict and militate against each other? But he will not be compelled, you say, to betray against his will. What is that to the purpose? You were speaking of the necessity of the thing consequent; and saying, that that need not, of necessity, follow, from the necessity of the consequence; you were not speaking of the compulsive necessity of the thing consequent. The question was, concerning the necessity of the thing consequent, and you produce an example concerning the compulsive necessity of the thing consequent. I ask one thing, and you answer another. But this arises from that yawning sleepiness, under which you do not observe, what nothingness that figment amounts to, concerning the necessity of the thing consequent.’

If God knew that Judas was to betray Christ, then Judas had to betray Christ.

Next week’s reading

Continue the ‘Discussion: Second Part’ by reading sections 98 to 110.

Now it’s your turn

Please post your own notes and thoughts in the comments section below.


Posts in this Book Club Series:

  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 1
  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 2
  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 3
  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 4
  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 5
  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 6
  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 7
  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 8
  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 9
  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 10
  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 11
  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 12
  • TOG Book Club: Luther’s Bondage of the Will – Part 13

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