Martin Luther - Lesson 12

Luther on Predestination

Four positions on predestination include the Calvinist, neo-Protestant, intuitu fidei, and Gnesio-Lutherans.

Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther
Lesson 12
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Luther on Predestination

Luther on Predestination

Luther, the Pastor: How Not to Think About Election from Luther's Letters

Philosophy and Theology


Theology of Glory - Assumes the freedom of the will and binds one to one's choice

Philosopher - Expounds on the definition of man

1. Erasmus sees the continuity of man and creation and works to revelation completes nature.

2. Freedom of the will in need of grace to complete the nature of man.

3. Do your best and God will do the rest. We can't know about how salvation happens. Free will is not important.



Theology of Cross- Begins with the bondage of the will

Theologican - According to Luther - Instead deals with man as sinner


1. "We are not dealing here with the philosophical knowledge of man, which defines...

2. Luther sees the discontinuity of man and the reconciliation of man

3. Puts to death the old nature and then becomes new creation

4. Old wine in new wine skins. Understanding of the will has no recourse on the sinful nature of man.


“The Bondage of the Will” pg137 You define 'free-will' thus.

“The Bondage of the Will” pg 140

“The Bondage of the Will” pg 141

“The Bondage of the Will” pg 158, Deuteronomy 30


I. Luther on Predestination

A. The questions which arise

1. Romans 9 - Jacob I love but Esau I hated. Is God unjust? Not at all. I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, etc.

2. Pharaoh's heart hardened.

B. Paul's sensitivity to the question

C. Erasmus' urging of the same. Does this make God the author of sin?


II. The Logic of the Matter

A. Justification and Predestination

1. God alone executes salvation. What is there to do? It is already done in Christ Jesus. You are given a gift.

2. From God's perspective we are talking about predestination.

B. Divine Necessity

1. Passive voice, man subject = justification

2. Active voice, God as subject = predestination


III. The Reformation Teaching

A. Not a theory- but about actuality

B. The Bound Will

1. “The Bondage of the Will” pg 217

2. “The Bondage of the Will” pg 169-170

a. Deus Nudus -Deus Velatus

b. naked God- God that is clothed

c. act hidden - revealed

d. will not preached - is preached

e. Law, wrath, damnation - Gospel, Love, sign opposite

C. God Makes His Move

D. Preaching and the Sacraments


IV. Four Solutions

A. The Calvinist - Calvin approaches this differently. Double predestination - God chooses both for salvation and damnation. All things happen by God's decision. We preach to make the elect known.

B. The Neo-Protestant - Absolute love as basic. Unified image of God. God is transformed from a personal message to a larger view of God. God is good and God loves everyone.

C. The intuitu fidei - foreknowledge of faith. Compromise of the two natures of God. God chooses who he knows will accept and believe.

D. The Gnesio-Lutherans - Abstain from resolving the two natures of God. Gospel of God as pure and universal love and God of the world. Avoids asking the how question. If I do not know if I am elect when I hear the word, then how can it be gospel.


Preface to the book of Romans.

  • Dr. Isaacs summarizes the course objectives and lists the recommended textbooks.
  • Luther expressed his views in a way that was shaped by his theology and the culture.

  • Martin Luther was born in Germany in the late 15th century, just after Guttenberg developed his printing press.

  • When Martin Luther posted the 95 theses, his intention was to discuss and debate the misuse of indulgences, but it was interpreted by the church heirarchy as an attack on the power of the papacy.

  • Luther's writings demonstrate his ability to understand and articulate issues that are at the core of the nature of God and man. His theology is distinct from philosophy and consists of many comments on passages in Psalms and Romans.

  • Faith alone justifies. By faith the Christian is made to love God, therefore a person does good works because they cannot remain idle.

  • The work of Christ when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross, teaches us about God's nature, our nature and our relationship to God.

  • Luther's fourfold sense of scripture focused on historical (literal), allegorical (figurative), tropological (moral), and anagogic (future).

  • Luther's view of the atonement differs from classical views taught during his time and view held by the scholastic tradition.

  • Luther's teaching on justification by faith is central to his theology.

  • Theology of the cross assumes bondage and moves to freedom.

  • Four positions on predestination include the Calvinist, neo-Protestant, intuitu fidei, and Gnesio-Lutherans.

  • Luther's commentary on Galatians is an attempt to set "Law" in its proper setting.

  • The sacraments are an external expression of an internal reality.

  • Luther's teachings on the importance of baptism and arguments for infant baptism.

  • Luther's view of the theological and personal significance of the Lord's Supper.

  • The kingdom of God and secular government have areas of unity and areas of differences.

  • Luther gives a definition of the church and describes characteristics of the church.

  • Luther developed a catechism to help people focus on the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith.

  • Martin Luther's writings can encourage people to pursue their relationship with God on a deeper level.

This course is an introduction to the life and writings of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. There are 20 lectures totaling approximately 18 hours. These lectures were given at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Dr. Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther 
Luther on Predestination
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:03] I'm reading now from a little selection of Luther's writings, actually from one of his letters. And this is entitled How Not to Think about Election. How Not to Think About Election. My dear Lord and friend has told me that you are at times tempted with thoughts about the eternal predestination of God and has asked me to write you this little letter about the matter. Now, it is true that this is a bad temptation. However, to combat it, we should know that we are forbidden to understand this matter or to concern ourselves with it. For we should be glad not to know what God wants to keep secret for This is the apple, the eating of which brought death to Adam and Eve with all their children when they wanted to know what they were not supposed to know. Just as murdering, stealing and cursing our sins. So it is also a sin to concern oneself with this search. And to do so is the work of the devil, as are all other sins. On the other hand. God has given us his son, Jesus Christ, daily. We should think of Him and mirror ourselves in Him. There we shall discover the predestination of God and shall find it most beautiful. For apart from Christ, all His danger, death and devil. But in Him all is pure peace and joy. For after all, the person who everlastingly torments himself with thoughts about predestination gains nothing but fear. Therefore avoid and flee such thoughts as temptations that come from the serpent in paradise. Instead, look at Christ. May God have you in his keeping. Let us pause for prayer. Almighty God. Oh, dear Heavenly Father. Be gracious to us, for we are sinful people and deserve nothing but your disapproval.

[00:02:07] Yet, regardless of our past lives, we know for a certainty that we have been baptized. We've been made Christians for the forgiveness of sins. We know without doubt that Jesus Christ was born, suffered, died and rose for us. He gave us his body. He gave us his body and blood for the nourishment of the soul and the strengthening of faith. Therefore, we are absolved and free in the name of the power of Christ. Walk with us this day. We ask in the name of your son. Amen. Okay. Well, now we are underway talking about a very interesting and perhaps problematic kind of topic. We're going to be talking about the doctrine of predestination. Now, in some ways, we've already begun that discussion with our class session on Tuesday, where we began discussing the bondage of the will and certain steps along the way that Luther and Erasmus make in that very interesting and classic presentation. Now, what I'd like to do just almost by way of preface, but it's much more than a preface, obviously, as you'll see. I'd like to talk just a little bit about a topic that came up on Tuesday, one that I think may help to get us a bit closer to Rasmus are about. And here I want to take a peek at what Luther does with respect to the difference between philosophy and theology. So we want to take a look at this conflict between Luther and Erasmus and to and to view it as two different ways to approach a single topic. Now, last time we said that Luther is attempting to operate as a theologian of the cross and to work out his theology from that particular point of view. Erasmus, on the other hand, when viewed from the point of view of Luther, any way would be seen as a theologian of glory.

[00:04:18] And he is practicing his theological approach in a very different manner. And so that's one way of putting it. Very briefly, a theologian of the cross begins with the bondage of the will and proceeds to freedom. Very briefly, a theologian of the cross begins with the bondage of the will and precedes to freedom. A theologian of glory assumes the freedom of the will and proceeds to bind one to one's choices. Now, that's kind of what we said on Tuesday, and that was really kind of the hub and and the nub, the meat of the nut, as it were, that I wanted you to kind of wrestle with on Tuesday. And now I'd kind of like to take just a bit of a sidelong step in order to to use a little different vocabulary about this same very interesting debate in the vocabulary of Luther. This can also be expressed as the difference between stating something theologically as opposed to philosophically. The philosophical definition of man as a rational soul is one which the philosophers set forward. We philosophers claim that human beings have certain powers and certain motive forces operating within their life, and it's a job. The task of the philosopher to expound upon those and speak about those things scientifically so that we have a greater understanding of the definition of man and of life as a human being. But a theologian, according to Luther, discusses man as sinner. So the theological definition of man is as one who is justified by the one true God. Take a look at this quotation from Luther taken out of one of his expositions to the Psalms. Notice what he says. He says, We are not dealing here with the philosophical knowledge of man, which defines man as a rational animal and so forth.

[00:06:30] Such things are for science to discuss, not for theology. So a lawyer speaks of a man as an owner and master of property. And a physician speaks of man as healthy or sick. But a theologian discusses man as a sinner in theology. This is the essence of man. The theologian is concerned that man become aware of this nature of his corrupted by sins. The proper subject of theology is man guilty of sin, condemned and God, the justifier and savior of man, the sinner. Whatever is asked or discussed in theology outside the subject is error and poison. So in typical fashion, Luther sets this out in polemic manner. And notice here, this is the reference Luther's works volume 12 pages 310 to 311. So what we have here, you see is is Luther's reflections upon the different categories or the different disciplines, one philosophy and the other theology. Now, we'll come back to this in a moment. I'll leave this up for a couple of minutes while we kind of do a couple of take just a couple of moments to look at one or two items in bondage of the will. Get us back to the text again to see how Erasmus and Luther argue on these points. I want to draw your attention to page 137 in our copy, in our copy of Bondage of the Will, because there we have set forward for us what Erasmus claims he had. He is attempting to establish page 137 in your copy of Bondage of the Will. Luther is quoting from the diatribe and he says this You define free will. Thus. Moreover, I conceive of free will in this context as a power of the human will by which a man may apply himself to those things that lead to eternal salvation or turn away from the same.

[00:08:49] So here Erasmus is simply setting forward his definition of free will. Now, one of the things I want to point out to you in the midst of this, and perhaps it's something that you've already picked up as you've been doing your reading, is that Luther's complaint is that while Erasmus really intends to prove that free will is a modest power that cannot do the good without the aid of grace. Erasmus is not very subtle in the way that he discusses the matter. His definition makes more a free will than even the scholastic theologians had ascribed to it. So if you follow along the argumentation in this particular passage of bondage of the will you find and an interesting building up of argumentation on Luther's part to show that Erasmus sets forward his definition of free to free will, but he actually proves more than he sets out to prove. And this is something that concerns Luther. Notice on page 140 and the the bottom half of the page, Erasmus informs us then that free will is a power of the human will, which can of itself will and not will the word and work of God by which it is to be led to those things that exceed its grasp and comprehension. Now, if it can, will and not will, it can also love and hate. And if it can love and hate, it can in measure, keep the law and believe the gospel for if you can, will and not will. It cannot be that you are not able by that will of yours to do some part of a work, even though another should prevent your being able to complete it. Now, since death, the cross and all the evils of the world are numbered.

[00:10:41] Among the works of God that lead to salvation. The human will will thus be able to will its own death and perdition. Yes, it can will all things when it can, will the contents of the word and work of God what can be anywhere below, above, within or without the word and work of God except God himself? But what is here Left to Grace and the Holy Ghost? This is plainly to ascribe divinity to free will. For two, Will the law and the Gospel not to will sin and to willed death is possible to divine power alone. As Paul says in more places. And the beginning of this next paragraph, which means that nobody since the police agents, has written a free will more correctly than Erasmus, for I said above that free will is a divine term and signifies a divine power. But no one to date except the police agents has ever assigned to it such power. And then if you follow along in the next few pages, what you find is Luther begins to describe how the scholastic theologians have described the power of freewill. And that's nuanced. And I'll I'll send you back to the text so that you can do your own reading there. But Luther is convinced that Erasmus sets out to prove one thing, namely that free will is a small power in need of grace to do those things which ultimately will lead to salvation. But what Erasmus really proves is that free will has plenary power. And it can, will. It can. First of all, determine that which is good, and then it can apply itself to those things that are good. And Luther complains here that there is no room for Spirit or the. Regeneration that comes through God alone.

[00:12:38] So this is Luther's complaint on this particular point. Further, he complains that Erasmus shows he knows nothing of his subject on the bottom of page 141. He says it's clear, Erasmus that you haven't even dealt with the scholastic theologians and their definitions of the free will. You've come up with your own definition, and it's clearly a definition that not even the scholastics would hold to. And they are fairly sanguine about the power of free will. So you've gone far above this. And so Luther complains that Erasmus shows that he doesn't know anything about these matters and that he's been careless in the way that he's proceeded in his argumentation. So that's an interesting line of argumentation, and I would just raise that to your attention and point out that if we can continue to think about this distinction between philosophy and theology and Luther, we find that this is right at the heart of what is going on with Luther's complaint here. The second item I want to draw your attention to CITES Deuteronomy 30. We've you find that on page 157 and following the second item has to do with his argument regarding obligation. Erasmus cites Deuteronomy 3019, which says, I have said before your face, life and death, choose what is good. Now, on the basis of this passage, Erasmus argues that this scripture leaves man freedom of choice. It would be ridiculous for God to make a command that a man could not fulfill and then blame him because he did not fulfill it. That's the line of argumentation that Erasmus is working out here. But notice how Luther argues in response on page 158 of Our Bondage of the World Text page 158. He says it's the second sentence in the first full paragraph.

[00:14:56] Here is the very thing that I said of the arguments of human reason. And notice this reference here to human reason. You can substitute philosophy here if you wanted to. Reason thinks that man is marked by an impossible commandment. Whereas I maintain that by this means man is admonished and awakened to see his own impotence. It is true that we stand where two Rhodes meet, and only one of them is open. Indeed. Neither is open. And the law shows us how impossible is the one that leading to good unless God bestows his spirit and how broad and easy is the other. If God lets us go that way. So Luther argues in a very different manner here. And what I want to to raise in your mind, is simply this. Another way of talking about the difference between Luther and Erasmus, as represented for us in this classic treatise, Bondage of the Will is two starting points. Erasmus is arguing as a philosopher, Luther is arguing as a theologian. Erasmus proceeds from a philosophical view of man and his ability. And Luther begins with a view of man as sinner. Erasmus assumes the continuity of the religious subject and sees the perfection of nature as the goal of true religion. Luther assumes the discontinuity of the religious subject and sees the new creation as the effect achieved by the speaking of the gospel. Do you kind of you kind of get this this is the kind of distinction that Luther is working with. Whether you agree with Luther or not is another matter. But that's the kind of distinction that Luther's working with. Bradley How does Luther define Erasmus's view, as is philosophy when Erasmus uses so much scripture, it seems like in philosophy for his scientific knowledge, that man in Scripture would take him beyond science.

[00:17:00] Okay, this is a good question. A couple of quick comments that might help put that into perspective. In the first instance, you have to recognize we're in the 16th century, so their understanding of science is not the same as your understanding of science today as a 21st century person. Yes, Luther has is quite familiar with a long tradition of theology that has worked very hard to blend philosophy and theology. Since Thomas Aquinas is perhaps what we can say is the quintessential example of the effort of Christian theologians to use the philosophical sciences in the aid of setting forward Christian a Christian understanding of things. So Eris or Aquinas brings Aristotle and Saint Paul together in the smallest thing, and you can find that in Aquinas. He'll say, Look, there are there are certain things that we can know through philosophy. There are certain things that we can't know through philosophy. And the only way that we can know those is through revelation. So this is how we proceed. We understand, first of all, the nature of humanity and what we can see and test with our eyes. We develop our understanding of the nature of the world around us and that sort of thing. But it needs to be completed by revelation. Revelation completes nature. That's the idea involved here. But see, that's why Luther has such very sharp things to say about philosophy, because he is proceeding on a different basis. He's saying, look, what we need to recognize is that our project as theologians of the cross is not to complete that which has come through nature, but rather the gospel itself. Puts to death the old nature and the religious subject, which has continuity to bring that individual to death so that the new life of faith will come about.

[00:19:09] So for Luther, it's not a matter of seeing the nature of things and then adding revelation to it. What he is saying. Yeah, what he is saying is that it's the speaking of the word of the gospel, the unconditional promise that shatters everything which has gone on in terms of sinful humanity in order to raise up a new creation. So he's saying that gospel does not complete this old system, but that the gospel is a new system. And that's why Luther operates with such a sharp distinction between philosophy and theology. Let's just get at that a little bit further, okay? What we have here is that although Luther maintains that every truth is in agreement with the truth, yet the same proposition is not true in every discipline. Therefore, the statement that the word became flesh is true in theology, but it is impossible and absurd in philosophy. And this is the reason for Luther saying that this is a great sharp little quotation. He says The saw ball, the mother of errors, has very incorrectly defined that truth is the same in philosophy and theology. You see, what's going on here is Luther is fighting against the tradition that's come down to him through Thomas Aquinas and the various attempts at blending philosophy and theology as those mighty cathedrals. If you read the Roman Catholic critique of Luther, you'll find that the thing they say against Luther is that he capitulated to the nominal est critique of Aquinas and the blending of philosophy and theology, and that he really did not carry out this critique fully. And they shake their heads in great despair that the great cathedrals of the mind, as Jack Maritain has described Catholic theology in the Middle Ages, these cathedrals of the mind were shattered by this renegade friar.

[00:21:38] So that's the critique against Luther, the Roman Catholic tradition, which has had a long tradition of blending philosophy and revelation or philosophy and theology quite upset with the way that Luther proceeds with his work for Luther theology and philosophy do not contradict it simply that philosophical categories and techniques are not applicable in theological matters. To confuse the two is like trying to weigh a mathematical point or to ascribe length to a pound. It is to put old wine in new wine skins. Luther Point, in bringing up the philosophical definition of humanity, is to recall the proper division between theology and philosophy. Philosophy is fine when used in its proper sphere of activity, but when it encroaches upon the proper subject of theology, it is nothing less than error and poison. And any philosophical discussion of the will, for example, has no recourse to the categories of sin and wrath. Further philosophy also as a science on its own must be ignorant of resurrection and is unable to offer Christian hope and in its place can only attempt to mitigate a necessary evil. So what we find here in Luther's bondage of the will in one manner, speaking as you look at it, is his concern to identify a proper way and therefore a theological way of speaking. The language of philosophy appeals to human reason in an attempt to show a matter demonstrable. The favorite mode of discourse is the syllogism. But as Luther points out, a syllogism may be valid in its premises and yet not render a valid conclusion. This syllogism is good in philosophy. Whatever was made, flesh became a creature. The Son of God was made flesh. Therefore, the Son of God became a creature. One of these a syllogism. This syllogism violates no rules of philosophical argumentation, but it does not make for good theology.

[00:23:50] The syllogism is an excellent form, as Luther tells us, but it cannot be relied upon to render theological truth. Here, Luther proceeds to offer a linguistic and perhaps even a logical demarcation between theology and philosophy. When he says, therefore, in articles of faith, one must have recourse to another dialectic and philosophy, which is called the Word of God and faith. Luther's manner of theologies and calls for a distinct theological language. The language of philosophy falls short of the task, and the very imposition of philosophical dialectic and syllogism constitutes an encroachment on theological language. As Luther understands it well, there is much more that could be said along these lines. But this gives you one additional way of looking at this argumentation between Luther and Erasmus. Whereas philosophy attempts to speak to the free will. As a theologian, Luther is saying, We don't appeal to the free will. Rather, we preach in such a way that the free will is ultimately sees itself to be bound and blind, so that then some theological good can occur by the preaching of Christ. For it's only by embracing the person of Christ that ultimately one comes to proper theological knowledge. It's clear that these two argue on the basis of altogether different presuppositions. I mean, when you take a look at Erasmus's philosophy of Christ, you recognize that he falls within the general pattern of medieval Roman Catholic spirituality that spoke of freedom of the will. That was a need of grace. So that grace is something which is added behind the scenes in order to complete the natural abilities which, while marred because of sin, are still in place in human life. So the gospel is an additive which helps the system run. What Luther is saying is, Look, that's not the way salvation happens.

[00:26:09] It's not a matter of a person doing works according to the law with the added help of grace. He's saying that in the gospel there is a full stop. There is a death and resurrection. There is regeneration which is needed and necessary. That's what he's arguing. So it's two different presuppositions. So what Luther is trying to do is put a full stop to this old way of formulating the problem. Notice also, though, one of the things that comes up in our time is going, interestingly enough. But notice, notice and another manner of speaking which which happens here is that Erasmus ultimately see both of these. Both of these theologians finally come to a place where they say, you know, there are certain things that we can't know. And one of the things you want to watch is where do they draw their lines? Because they draw them in very different places. What Erasmus wants to say is, do your best and God will do the rest. That's ultimately what Erasmus says, no doubt. And indeed, he does speak in terms of grace. He speaks, you know, every once in a while he talks about Christ. But that essentially is his view of salvation. And Luther is saying you've you've placed you've placed your mark in kind of a funny place. And basically, Erasmus says, we can't know how salvation happens. We can't know anything about this, this this process. So what we need to do is just do our best and leave that stuff up to God free will. Erasmus says in the midst of his diatribe, It's not even an important theological concept to discuss. That's what he ultimately says. Things above us are not important. So says Erasmus. Now, Luther also has a place where he says, you know, there's some things that we cannot know.

[00:28:12] But he places a line in a different place. What Luther says is that we can know about the issue of free will because Saint Paul has spoken about it very clearly. But there is a place where we can't know, and we'll get to that in just a little bit here in terms of our split in the view of God. There are certain things that we can't know about how God is in himself. And that's why Luther tries to develop a doctrine of predestination, which is Christo centric, which is Christ centered, and is not an explanation, an abstract explanation of how everything works. But he's saying, as a theologian of the cross, I have one obligation and duty, and that is always to drive to proclamation. That's what distinguishes a theologian of the cross from a theologian of glory. Theologian of glory is going to be much more apt to try to describe how things operate. Explain it. Luther says, You know, there are some things that we don't need to explain because as a theologian of the cross, we are bound to preach to our people. And that's ultimately what what needs to happen. Okay. Now, we've covered some interesting territory so far, but let's just notice here how certain kinds of things proceed in this very interesting debate. If you say that God saves a person quite apart from merit, that it is God alone who does the saving, then you ultimately have to deal with the question of how this takes place. Luther experienced God who saves the ungodly without human merit. This God, the God of mercy was the God revealed in Jesus Christ, and He was the center of Christian speaking, which Luther labeled the Theology of the Cross. Of course, there is a temptation to solve this mystery and where we run right up against it.

[00:30:07] And if you take a look at the book of Romans chapter nine, you find some of these questions being raised by the apostle Paul himself. Notice it talks here about Jacob. I love but Esau, I hate it. What then, shall we say? Is God unjust? One of the issues that comes up with this business. Well, how about the justice of God? How can we show that God is just if he saves on the strength of his own activity? And it's not by marriage, it's not by work, it's not by actions. Then when we take a look out on the broader world and we see someone like Jacob, who apparently is a part of the family of God, and then someone like Esau, that seems to have thrown it all over, who's to blame? The finger seems to be pointing at God. And what does the Apostle Paul say? Jacob, I love. But you say hated. What then shall we say? Is God? Unjust? Not at all. And then the Apostle Paul sets forward this little dictum. I will have mercy. On whom I will have mercy. And I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. And so we're confronted with this issue of predestination, as it were. And then it goes into this whole business about Pharaoh and how fair is Pharaoh is hardened. And verse 19, one of you will say to me, then why does God still blame us for who resists his will? And so all of these questions kind of resonate. And that is what happens in Paul. That's also what happens in Erasmus urging of this particular matter. So the logic of the matter, you know, comes down in this way.

[00:32:04] And that's what Erasmus is arguing against. Luther is saying, Look, you know, Luther, if you're going to talk about the fact that God saves, apart from the merits, the activity of man, then ultimately you're saying it's in God's hands and that makes God the author of sin. How can he say, Man, you must do this when in point of fact, man's in sin is bound to do it and can do nothing else? How is that fair? So that's the kind of thing that Erasmus argues in his presentation of the diatribe, and this is what we come up against. Now, then, the logic of the matter is simply this justification and predestination are two ways of talking about the same thing. Now, if as a preacher I say to you, you are justified in God's sight, quite apart from your works, but on the basis of what God believes about Jesus or what He has done for you, then we are saying that God alone is the one who executes salvation and that it is entirely and totally unconditional. What is there to do for your salvation? Nothing. It's already been done in Christ Jesus. Simply believe. And there you have it. Now, that's to speak about this matter of salvation. From the point of view of the hearer. So we can talk about the fact that your sins are not imputed to you, that you are granted the full righteousness of Christ. You then are the object of this great gift that is given to you. Right? But now, if we talk about justification with respect to God, we're talking about predestination. There's simply two sides of the same coin. Predestination is speech. About justification with respect to God. That's the inference from the Reformation doctrine of justification.

[00:34:06] That's simply the way it is. So this presents us with a very interesting picture. And this is the logic that Luther is trying to point out. He's saying, look, the fact of the matter is, when we speak justification to folks, what we're essentially saying is that God desires to save his people, that he has promised to save his people. And at the end of the time, at the end of all time, he will save his chosen people. It's a part of history and God intervenes in that history. It implies divine necessity. And you've come across that. You've come across that section in your bondage of the will. Justification language has passive voice sentences with man, a subject. If we say the same thing using active voice sentences and God is subject, we have the language of predestination. Predestination is language which is found in the Bible, and it's something that ultimately we have to deal with. Alarm at predestination is simply alarmed at having to deal seriously with the reality of God. Now, first of all, one of the things we need to say in all of this is that the Reformation teaching is not a theory about how God does things, but it's about our actual situation because we are estranged from God in our sinful state. So it's not a theory about how God acts in the world. And one of the things you need to be noticing is you read Bondage of the Will is how often all of this discussion in Luther leads to the business of proclamation. Always. And we'll go to this passage a little bit later on where it speaks about how God is preached and how God is not preached. So the whole thing, we have humanity with bound will.

[00:36:00] And so God makes us move. God makes his move toward us. And this move takes the form and shape of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the crucified God, as Luther puts it in one of his treatises. God makes us move in order to save his people. Now then, how is this saving action on God's part made known? But it's made known through preaching and the sacraments. Ultimately, you see, if we only understand bondage of the will as a as a as an abstract discussion of philosophical issues with respect to the human will, then we've lost sight of really what Luther attempting to do. He's attempting to act as a theologian of the cross and always moves toward the business of preaching. Tell you what, let's take this moment to take a look at that very interesting passage in bondage of the will turn in your your books to 169 bondage to will page 169 to 170. There's a very interesting passage here where Luther is talking about of God preached and not preached and of his revealed and secret. Well. And you can go back and read this entire section for yourself. But notice what Luther is doing here, saying, look, if we take a look at this issue from the point of human reason, what we ultimately come up with is this, that God saves as if he is the one who does the saving, then he's also responsible for those who are damned. And this presents us with a picture of God, which is very difficult to reconcile. And there's this passage back on page 217 here. Doubtless it gives the greatest possible offense to common sense or natural reason that God, who is proclaimed as being full of mercy and goodness and so on, should have his own mere will abandon Hardin and dammit damn men, as though he delighted in the sins and great eternal torments of such poor wretches.

[00:38:21] It seems an iniquitous, cruel, intolerable thought to think of God. And it is this that has been a stumbling block to so many great men down the ages and who would not stumble at it. I have stumbled at it myself more than once. Down to the deepest pit of despair. That's on page 217. Page 217. It's on the. It's the full the first full paragraph there. It's like half a little bit more than half of the way down. Doubtless it gives the greatest possible offense. I would recommend that you mark this a little passage, because that is one of Luther's very interesting moments in this treatise. It seems to me, since I have stumbled at it myself more than once, down to the deepest pit of despair so that I wished I had never been made a man. That was before I knew how health giving that despair was and how close to grace. This is why so much toil and trouble has been devoted to clearing the goodness of God and throwing the blame on man's will. Noticed once again here a reference to the freewill defense of God. You have to know that ultimately talking about free will is a way of getting God off the hook for being the author of sin and for being what seems to be a cruel and capricious God. That's why all this talk started. Okay, now, if we move back then to that passage on page 169 and 170, where Luther begins to talk about God preached, not preached. Notice what we have. We have a depiction, as it were, of this split in our view of God. Notice how he described it on page 217. You have this image of God on the one hand.

[00:40:07] We know from Scripture that God is good, that is loving. Kindness extends as high as the mountains, as far as the east is from the west, so far as he removed our transgressions from us. So we have this picture that's given to us in in the the Scriptures, a revealed view of God. And he is good. On the other hand, if we just take it, if you read your newspaper and if you think about the problem of predestination and the thought of people being damned. Then you have this terrible view. How could God do such a thing? How could he be so cruel and full of iniquity? So we have a split in our image of God. On the one hand, God is good. On the other hand, it seems he wills all of these terrible, awful things. So what are we going to do with this? Luther deals with this in an interesting way. On pages 169 and 170. Notice what we have here. We have a depiction of the Who is this going to work day was noodles. That is the naked God as he is in His Naked Majesty. And we have on the other side of that the day was revela tus or the day of Vela to us. The God who is clothed. Okay. You've got the naked God here as as he is in his naked, raw, majestic power. He embraces all of these things. On the other hand, you have the God who is closed. How? How so? How is he closed? Talk to me, you theologians of the cross. How is he? He's. He's in the person of Christ. Yeah. And also, we could go on to talk about all those forms of the opposite. You know, on the cross in suffering and death.

[00:41:59] That's how God has closed notice. This has to do with his being and in terms of his act. Notice how this passage runs. Talks about God, who is hidden on the other side of that. You have God as He is revealed. And you have here in terms of will you have him as he is not preached and you have him here as God is preached. All of these things over here ultimately show us the alien work of God. This is law. This is wrath. This is damnation. On this side, it would seem that we have the proper work of God. We have gospel, which is a new power. We have the love of God showing us in Christ Jesus. This is sub Contrario under the sign of the opposite. The ultimate purpose of God is that we might be embraced by the gospel, that we might be fulfilled in love, that we might come to our rightful place in his kingdom. In order to do that. What is going to have to do in order to proclaim to to call us righteous, He must, first of all, declare as sinners in order to allow us to come into his heaven. Read that New Earth. He must, first of all, bring us down to hell in order to give us life. He must, first of all, put us to death. So this very interesting thing and what you have here is you have this split in the in the image of God. Now, then, how does this work? The abstract God drives to the clothed God. The knowledge of the clothed God allows the God of pure abstraction to be. So that's why Luther, in various places in bondage to the world, says, look, there are certain things about God that we can't know.

[00:44:12] God as he is and himself does not desire that we have anything to do with him. That's it's right here in this passage. Let's just let's get serious with this passage just for a moment. Check it out on page 170 now. This is the the middle paragraph there on page 117. You're born into the will. Now, God in his own nature and majesty, is to be left alone. In this regard, we have nothing to do with him, nor does he wish to deal with it. Wish us to deal with him. We have to do with him as clothed and displayed in his word by which he presents himself to us. That is his glory and beauty in which the Psalmist proclaims him to be clothed. I say that the righteous God does not deplore the death of his people, which He himself works in them, but he deplores the death which he finds in his people and desires to remove from them. God preached works to the end that sin and death may be taken away and we may be saved. He sent his word and healed them. But God, hidden in Majesty, neither deplores nor takes away death, but works life and death. And all in all. Nor has he set bounds to himself by his word, but has kept himself free over all things. So you have this very, very, very interesting passage that deals with this kind of dialectic, a split in our view of God. And this is ultimately the kind of problem that we wrestle with when we deal with the question of predestination. Now, then, that's precisely why Luther is not interested in discussing this business in the abstract. What Luther is interested in doing is getting to the preaching, getting to the revealing, getting to this revelation of God.

[00:46:02] And that's what happens in the church when we preach and when we give the sacraments. That's where God's will, with respect to our predestination is made known. You see, predestination for Luther is not something that God does in the abstract. Before all before, all time. But it is something which He does in time, through the means of grace given to the work of the church. Preaching and sacraments. See, that's where the discussion has many times gone wrong. And I notice our time is fleeting. So let me make a few quick comments so that you know how this whole thing has been handled in other traditions. Some of you are familiar with another fellow in the 16th century called John Calvin. John Calvin. John Calvin deals with this question in a very different way than Luther. This is something which is not known across the board. But you, as members of this class in Luther, are now becoming aware of. Calvin writes about predestination. In this way, by predestination, we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation. And accordingly, as each has been created for one or the other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death. That appears in the Institute's Book three, Chapter 21, paragraph five. And John Calvin, what you have is double predestination. God chooses for salvation and for damnation. Luther doesn't want to go there. What happens you see in Calvin is he He resolves the split in our image of God by choosing one attribute and then defining everything else in relationship to that.

[00:48:04] Now he achieves a certain unity in his view of God, by that way, but pays a great price for it. We can there are there are possible ways. How are we to deal with the split in our image of God? That's the theological problem of predestination. There are four possible moves and each has been tried in the history of reformation. Thought. Let me run through these really quickly. Four solutions we can take. One of the two absoluteness is of God as basic and interpret the others in its terms. This can work one of two ways. We can take the general absoluteness of God's will as the definition of His deity. In other words, His sovereignty as He is in His Divine Majesty and interpret the absoluteness of His Gospel will as the instance of this general omnipotence. This is the Calvinist move. All things the Calvinist said happened by the sheer unmotivated decision of God. If, as the Gospel promises, we are to be saved. This, too, is by his sheer decision. Thus the absoluteness of the gospel is affirmed, and there is no rift in the image of God. But this systematic simplicity is purchased at high cost in God's general rule of creation. It is clear that some are doomed and some are blessed. If the election to the blessing promised by the Gospel is a special case of this general rule, then the observable fact that some do not believe must mean that the gospel is true only for some people. And so they would say that some are elect in good, reformed fashion. What they'll say is will we preach in order to make the elect known? The Wesleyan Armenian critique of that as well. Why bother to preach if there are already left from the foundation of the earth? There's nothing they can do for their salvation.

[00:49:53] Why bother? It undermines the role for preaching. That's what the Wesleyan Armenians say. The Calvinists say not so. God is ordained it such. And we preach because God's commanded us to preach and the elect will be made known. Now, Lutherans, very interestingly, ask different sets of questions, and the Lutherans ask this If I cannot be sure that the Gospel proclamation is meant for me when I hear it, how can it be gospel? You see, socially, what Lutherans want to do and want to say is that there is something here that is of a mystery and we dare not speak where Scripture does not speak. What Lutherans want to do is, on the one hand, they want to affirm predestination and God's role in his absolute deity, but they also want to affirm that very interesting passage of Scripture where God says, I do not desire that any should be lost, but that all should come to saving faith. Now, how could this happen, given the logic of the matter? What Luther wants to say is, Look, I'm not interested ultimately in the logic of the matter. As interesting as a discussion is that may be finally, what must motivate me as a theologian of the cross. Seeing this rift in our in our view of God, is that this must drive me to the preaching to give the actual gospel. What do you say to someone who says, I don't know whether I'm saved or whether I'm lost? There's only one answer. You don't pull out your copy of Bondage of the Will and go through the arguments in terms of an abstract nature of God. But you preach to him and say, Jesus died and rose. I'm a herald of God, and I want to tell you He has chosen you as his own.

[00:51:45] Can you believe it? That's what a Lutheran wants to do. Different than Calvinist and different than Wesley in our minutes. The second option is the neo Protestant option. We can take the Gospels declaration of God's absolute love as basic, and we can try to interpret His rule in all events as the realization of this love. This is, by and large, the way of neo Protestantism and the post reformation Protestantism of faith in progress and morality. Again, a unified image of God is obtained, and the gospel seems to be honored. But again, there is here a high price to be paid. The Gospel is transformed from a personal message into the enunciation of a general truth about the world. God is good. God loves everybody. That's his job. Here we have to talk about an expression of universal love. And we must try to show how really, at some deeper level, all of the bad stuff in the world around us is not really what it seems. But that somehow God is going to come around to making it all right. And this has proven to be a long and arduous task. So, of course, two in this, I would think that a lot of evangelicals are in this camp, too. God is a nice guy. And you know what? He offers you salvation if you want to choose him. And this actually is this. It's more firmly pronounced here in the intuitive feed or the foreknowledge of faith, but it's also implied here in the new Protestant view. So the third thing, the foreknowledge of faith or the intuitive feed, foreknowledge of faith, we can compromise the two absoluteness of God. And this was the medieval plan. And one Lutheran tradition adopted this doctrine of the intuitive feet as well.

[00:53:38] According to this doctrine, God will salvation for all men and women, but includes in this will the call to freely chosen faith so that God more specifically chooses those whom He in his omniscience, foresees, will in fact believe the Gospel when it is preached to them. This is an ingenious teaching like the two previous ones, it reckons, with about one unified divine will, but avoids their problems by construing this will neither as mere general omnipotence nor as unqualified gospel affirmation, but as a benevolence subtly constituted in a dialectic between both. The price, however, already stated. The gospel predestination is qualified if you believe it. And there are just lots and lots of evangelists that will go out on the stump and will present God in this way. And they'll play one more verse of Just as I am, God is waiting for you now. It's almost like God's coming hat in hand. Oh, please, please choose me. Please. Instead, you see, what Luther wants to say is No. As a preacher, I'm not offering a possibility to the free will of fallen creatures. I am preaching the absolute power of God who's come to us when we ran away from him, who has pursued us to the utter end in the person and work of Jesus Christ. And now I'm here to to declare to you you are righteous in my sight. So the preaching task for Luther is altogether different. And once again, Luther's distinctive proclamation of gospel stands over and against this. Now, then the fourth, the Canisius Lutherans, or, you know, what we've been trying to say is Luther's position. The final possible way is also within those bounds, and it seems to have been Luther Zone. This is to abstain on principle from all attempts to resolve the division in our image of God.

[00:55:41] On the one hand, we see God as the ambitious will behind all events, good and evil, that there is a will behind all events. The Gospel itself compels us to affirm. Because, you see, if God doesn't stand behind all events, how can we know that He can make good on his promise? That's why we as Christians must speak in some manner about predestination. If God cannot uphold the world and see it through to the end. How can his promise of your salvation hold good on the last day? See, that's what's at issue here. On the other hand, we hear the Gospel of God as pure and universal love. Given our reason for believing in God who is omniscient. We must affirm that these two images are of one God. But we do not try to say or imagine how they are one. This. How is that one fundamental truth about God reserved for the revelation of the last day? It is the cognitive aspect of the eschatological limit. Creation is not yet at its fulfillment and therefore also our knowledge is now in a glass darkly. The Missing. How is the darkness arguing from the Lutheran Confessions? And this is very interesting that in the Lutheran confessions you'll find that there's an article. Lucid Confessions were codified in 1577. They said among us there is no there is no conflict over the doctrine of predestination. But then they set out an article. It was a big fight between the Calvinists and the Lutherans In the 16th century. The Lord's Supper and Predestination were the two things they fought over. The Lutherans said, You know, the Augsburg Confession, interestingly enough, does not have an article on predestination. Jerome Zonk, who was an Augustinian friar, turned Calvinist, complained bitterly against the Lutherans because there was no article on predestination in the Oxford Confession.

[00:57:46] And so the war raged between these two. Very interesting stuff. But what you see here in this, in this whole teaching on predestination is that for Luther, it is the flip side of justification by faith. It is justification by faith spoken with respect to God that ultimately we have to get to talking about these things. But he will say that it's not first order priority. In his preface to the book of Romans, he says In chapters nine, ten and 11, Paul teaches of God's eternal predestination, out of which originally precedes who shall believe or not, who can or cannot get rid of sin in order that our salvation may be taken entirely out of our hands and put in the hand of God alone. And this too, is utterly necessary, for we are so weak and uncertain that if it depended on us, not even a single person would be saved. The devil would surely overpower us all. But since God is dependable, his predestination cannot fail and no one can withstand him. We still have hope in the face of sin. It's interesting to note that for Luther, in the Lutheran tradition, predestination is actually a doctrine which is considered conceived of as one that brings comfort. I had a you know, usually it brings, you know, great anxiety and fear over this God who does these crazy things from, you know, his his point of view. But the Lutherans see it. Otherwise. I had this Lutheran professor at Luther Seminary, great old salty character. He says, You know, so says the dogs of predestination. It's really kind of like Beer says The first time you taste it, you don't like it, but after that, it becomes a good friend, you know? And when you begin to understand what these Lutherans are about, well, Luther is about himself, then you recognize, yes, there is great comfort in all of this.

[00:59:43] Now, let's finish this quotation by Luther out of the his preface to the book of Romans here. Now, for once, we must put a stop to those wicked and high flying spirits who first applied their own reason to this matter. They begin at the top to search the abyss of divine predestination and worry in vain about whether they are predestined, seated, they are bound to plunge to their own destruction, either through despair or through throwing caution to the winds. But you had better follow the order of this epistle. Worry first about Christ and the Gospel that you may recognize your sin and his grace. Then future sin. As the first chapters here have taught. Then when you have reached the eighth chapter and are under the cross and suffering, this will teach you correctly of predestination and chapters nine, ten, and 11 and how comforting it is for in the absence of suffering in the cross and the perils of death, one cannot deal with predestination without harm and without secret anger against God. The old Adam must first die before he can tolerate this thing and drink this strong wine. Therefore, beware that you do not drink wine while you are still a suckling. There is a limit, a time and an age for every doctrine. Get a load of that. What Luther is saying is that predestination is the strong line of the gospel. We need to practice ourselves and understanding justification by faith, the doctrines of grace and salvation from God alone before we ever touch this thing. Now notice how this thing spins out in church history. Later on in the 18th century, you have this very interesting conflict between George Whitfield and John Wesley. And there is a marvelous there's some great stuff on the Internet.

[01:01:28] You can get them together on this. There was an exchange of letters where they go after this. George Whitfield, good reformed preacher, interestingly enough, believe that it was part of his task to preach predestination as a part of the whole council of God. Luther says, I'm not sure that's a real great idea. Sure, if you're preaching through the book of Romans, chapters nine, ten and 11, it may come up. But don't start there, for goodness sake. I mean, give him milk first. Let him grow up in the faith to maturity. And that's why I contend most of our conversations about predestination and its real place within Christian theology break down in acrimony and concern over one thing or another. So we haven't gotten there. I like the way this thing spins out in Luther.