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On The Bondage Of The Will, By Martin Luther

1987 words - 8 pages

The year is 1524; Desiderius Erasmus, the famed humanist scholar, has finally chosen a side in the debate between the Catholic Church and Martin Luther by publishing his Diatribe on Free Will (Waibel 71). Prompted by Pope Adrian IV to distance his own humanist work from the spiritual reform of Luther, Erasmus’s Free Will asserts how important humanity’s freewill is in the effort of salvation (Tomlin 139). His view was a direct assault against Luther's own vocal opinion on the subject (Waibel 72). Both Luther and Erasmus were well aware of the theological differences between them. Erasmus, having been suspected of contributing to Luther’s rebellion against the medieval church, at last made the differences between himself and Luther clear in print (Waibel 71). Luther responded to Erasmus’ provocation a year later with his own book On the Bondage of the Will (Waibel 81). On the Bondage of the Will seeks to assert that there is no such thing as ‘freewill’ due to God’s foreknowledge of all things, and thus the human will has no role in the spiritual salvation of humanity. We can use Luther’s book to answer important questions on worldview: What is prime reality, external reality and the basis for morality? We will look at each of these questions in greater detail later and exactly how Luther’s book is addressing these important questions.
The year of 1525 was a momentous year for Martin Luther. At Luther’s urging, the German princes crushed the peasant revolt; the decisive victory ended the lives of thousands of men, women, and children (Waibel 21). In June Luther married Katherine von Bora, an ex-Cistercian nun, and the marriage was a happy one by all accounts. In December Luther published his book On the Bondage of the Will, a counter attack to Erasmus’ Diatribe on Free Will. The book sought to discuss the issue of freewill as it pertains to salvation while simultaneously attacking Erasmus’ character outright. Indeed at times it seems as though Luther is damning Erasmus for speaking out against him, as is clear in the section “The Significance of the Issue” Luther states, “He who does not admit this should acknowledge that he is not a Christian and…he is the greatest enemy of Christianity (1).” Luther was equally distancing himself from Erasmus, whom he had once called an ally, as Erasmus had distanced himself from Luther in his Diatribe.
On the Bondage of the Will addresses ‘freewill’ as being non-existent only with regards to the spiritual. On these matters Luther insists that since God has foreknowledge of all things then God knows how everything will end, and thus he knows the final destinations of all souls, no matter what we as humans would do to save them. Luther states that if God wills what he knows will happen, then “his will is eternal and changeless, because his nature is so (3).” Thus, as is Luther’s argument, all that we can do as humans, however free it may seem is actually done because God’s will has deemed it necessary. Luther...

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