Monday, 17 September 2012

A Subversive Act

The local evangelical book shop has recently started the in-store advertising of recommendations by local pastors. These recommendations to date consist of spiritual self-help books (you know the sort: "5 Steps to Becoming a Victorious Christian" etc) and evangelism books based on decision theology (which teach would-be evangelists to exhort people to "give their hearts to Jesus" or the contemporary equivalent of same). I'm going to try and get a gig doing this and I've already got my first recommendation picked: The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther. Of course, this will be a subversive act. Just as when it was first written (1525), so also now Luther's tract is a direct attack against the sort of theology that is so popular yet soul-destroying in times of spiritual declension, whether it be found emanating from Roman Catholics like Erasmus or Baptists like Billy Graham or the latest of their ilk, who posit something good in man that can respond positively and co-operatively to God's grace.

For the uninitiated, here's a taste:
"I say that man, before he is renewed into the new creation of the Spirit's kingdom, does and endeavours nothing to prepare himself for that new creation and kingdom, and when he is re-created has does and endeavors nothing towards his perseverance in that kingdom; but the Spirit alone works both blessings in us, regenerating us, and preserving us when regenerate, without ourselves..."

Pure spiritual dynamite for blasting away false notions of the spiritual ability of man.

9 comments:

Chris said...

Is there more than one translation of this available? I tried to read one online and I found it very hard going.

Mark Henderson said...

Chris,

I suspect that may have been the 19th century translation by Henry Cole. All of those 19th C. theological translations - like Schaff's collection of the Fathers - are hard to read due to the long sentences and stilted prose. The version Koorong has in stock is a modernized and simplified version of that translation which is not too bad to read.

There are two modern translations:
The Bondage of the Will: A New Translation of De Servo Arbitrio
(1525), Martin Luther's Reply to Erasmus of Rotterdam. J.I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, trans. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1957.
This is often available second hand or through libraries and is still in print as a cheap paperback via American booksellers. I used to have a copy but I loaned it to someone and it hasn't returned and I've forgotten who I loaned it too!

Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation. The Library of Christian Classics: Ichthus Edition. Rupp, E. Gordon; Marlow, A.N.; Watson, Philip S.; and Drewery, B. trans. and eds. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969. (This volume provides an English translation of both Erasmus's De Libero Arbitrio and Luther's De Servo Arbitrio.)

Watson and Drewery's trans. of Luther's work above then made its way into the American Edition of Luther's Works, the definitive collection in English:
Career of the Reformer III. Luther's Works, Vol. 33 of 55. Watson, Philip S. and Benjamin Drewery, trans. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972.

If you really want to read it I can lend you this one - just give me something suitably valuable as security ;0)

Chris said...

It's not a long work. I might see if I can get it from the library.

The gist I got from the one I read was that the holy spirit chooses who to save? Seemed a bit calvanistic to me but as I said I had a lot of trouble getting through it.

Schütz said...

Yes, but is it true? Catholics agree that man cannot initiate his own salvation - it is grace all the way through. But that grace -, particularly baptismal grace - enables man to respond to God. I heard today on the radio and speaker saying that original sin is not natural to man but a deformation of human nature. Quite right! As the spirit regenerates the human soul, the soul responds to the Spirit, because this is the nature of the soul.

Lvka said...

I think Saint Paul would disagree (Romans 7:14-24).

Damo said...

HI all Pr Mark I honour you for putting this book forward I highly recommend it and of course Salvation should always be about what God Did Through Jesus and not about our own efforts the domain that belongs to POST Salvation sanctification alone,but I must mention Billy Graham is very differnet from the emergent modern decision theology crowd, A lutheran elder named Klaus told me while he was a elder in Germany in 50-60s he took his youth group to a Graham crusade and found himself up the front with no idea how he got there and the events that followed forged a very close walk with God indeed,God is always at work through people situations and circumstances and he was certainly at work through graham,who also said to Klaus that the confessional Lutherans have the most solid doctrine,something joel olsteen or the like probably would never say Gods Blessings Damo

Mark Henderson said...

I guess even Billy Graham gets it right sometimes :0)

Lucian,
We'll have to talk about Romans 7 one day (and ROmans 5 for that matter).

Mark Henderson said...

"Catholics agree that man cannot initiate his own salvation - it is grace all the way through. But that grace -, particularly baptismal grace - enables man to respond to God. I heard today on the radio and speaker saying that original sin is not natural to man but a deformation of human nature. Quite right! As the spirit regenerates the human soul, the soul responds to the Spirit, because this is the nature of the soul. "
Two brief responses, DAvid.
1) By making justification a process, Catholicism makes human endeavour integral to the process. Thus salvation is no longer by grace.

2) You are following the CCC para 2002? A good, concise definition of the RC position, and directly oppsoite Luther's position. But does it not contradict the previous para? The law of non-contradiction applies even to RCism, you know.

Mark Henderson said...

Chris,

Allowance needs to be made for the polemical nature of Luther's work. Check it against the confession's statements on election. The difference between Luther and Calvin is that Luther is not a double predestinationist (there is some discusison as to whether Calvin is too, but that's another matter). On this question, Luther basically stands in the Augustinian tradition which also found expression in Aquinas.