RPM, Volume 12, Number 48, November 28 to December 4, 2010

The Bondage of the Will

By Martin Luther


Section XLVII.

Sect. XLVII. — OUT of the ONE opinion concerning "Free-will" you make THREE. You say — ‘that THE FIRST OPINION, of those who deny that man can will good without special grace, who deny that it can begin, who deny that it can make progress, perfect, &c., seems to you severe, though it may be VERY PROBABLE.' And this you prove, as leaving to man the desire and the effort, but not leaving what is to be ascribed to his own power. ‘That THE SECOND OPINION of those who contend, that "Free-will" avails unto nothing but to sin, and that grace alone works good in us, &c. is more severe still.' And THIRDLY ‘that the opinion of those who say that "Free-will" is an empty term, for that God works in us both good and evil, is most severe. And, that, it is against these last that you profess to write.' —

Do you know what you are saying, friend Erasmus? You are here making three different opinions as if belonging to three different sects: because you do not know that it is the same subject handled by us same professors of the same sect, only by different persons, in a different way and in other words. But let me just put you in remembrance, and set before you the yawning inconsiderateness, or stupidity of your judgment.

How does that definition of "Free-will," let me ask you, which you gave us above, square with this first opinion which you confess to be, ‘very probable?' For you said that "Free-will" is a power of the human will, by which a man can apply himself unto good;' whereas here, you say and approve the saying, that ‘man, without grace, cannot will good!' The definition, therefore, affirms what its example denies. And hence there are found in your "Free-will" both a YEA and a NAY:" so that, in one and the same doctrine and article, you approve and condemn us, and approve and condemn yourself. For do you think, that to ‘apply itself to those things which pertain unto eternal salvation,' which power your definition assigns to "Free-will," is not to do good, when, if there were so much good in "Free-will," that it could apply itself unto good, it would have no need of grace? Therefore, the "Free-will" which you define is one, and the "Free-will" you defend is another. Hence then, Erasmus, outstripping all others, has two "Free-wills;" and they, militating against each other!

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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