RPM, Volume 15, Number 3, January 13 to January 19, 2013

The Bondage of the Will


Section CLIX.

By Martin Luther

Sect. CLIX. — AND now farther, as Christ is said to be "the way, the truth, and the life," (John xiv. 6), and that, by positive assertion, so that whatever is not Christ is not the way but error, is not the truth but a lie, is not the life but death, it of necessity follows, that "Free-will," as it is neither Christ nor in Christ, must be bound in error, in a lie, and in death. Where now will be found that medium and neuter — that the power of "Free-will," which is not in Christ, that is, in the way, the truth, and the life, is yet not, of necessity, either error, or a lie, or death?

For if all things which are said concerning Christ and grace were not said by positive assertion, that they might be opposed to their contraries; that is, that out of Christ there is nothing but Satan, out of grace nothing but wrath, out of the light nothing but darkness, out of the life nothing but death — what, I ask you, would be the use of all the Writings of the Apostles, nay, of the whole Scripture? The whole would be written in vain; because, they would not fix the point, that Christ is necessary (which, nevertheless, is their especial design) and for this reason, — because a medium would be found out, which of itself, would be neither evil nor good, neither of Christ nor of Satan, neither true nor false, neither alive nor dead, and perhaps, neither any thing nor nothing; and that would be called, 'that which is most excellent and most exalted' in the whole race of men!

Take it therefore which way you will. — If you grant that the Scriptures speak in positive assertion, you can say nothing for "Free-will," but that which is contrary to Christ: that is, you will say, that error, death, Satan, and all evils, reign in Him. If you do not grant that they speak in positive assertion, you weaken the Scriptures, make them to establish nothing, not even to prove that Christ is necessary. And thus, while you establish "Free-will," you make Christ void, and bring the whole Scripture to destruction. And though you may pretend, verbally, that you confess Christ; yet, in reality and in heart, you deny Him. For if the power of "Free-will" be not a thing erroneous altogether, and damnable, but sees and wills those things which are good and meritorious, and which pertain unto salvation, it is whole, it wants not the physician Christ, nor does Christ redeem that part of man. — For what need is there for light and life, where there is light and life already?

Moreover, if that power be not redeemed, the best part in man is not redeemed, but is of itself good and whole. And then also, God is unjust if He damn any man; because, He damns that which is the most excellent in man, and whole; that is, He damns him when innocent. For there is no man who has not "Free-will." And although the evil man abuse this, yet this power itself, (according to what you teach) is not so destroyed, but that it can, and does endeavour towards good. And if it be such, it is without doubt good, holy, and just: wherefore, it ought not to be damned, but to be distinctly separated from the man who is to be damned. But this cannot be done, and even if it could be done, man would then be without "Free-will," nay, he would not be man at all, he would neither have merit nor demerit, he could neither be damned nor saved, but would be completely a brute, and no longer immortal. It follows therefore, that God is unjust who damns that good, just, and holy power, which, though it be in an evil man, does not need Christ as the evil man does.

Subscribe to RPM
RPM subscribers receive an email notification each time a new issue is published. Notifications include the title, author, and description of each article in the issue, as well as links directly to the articles. Like RPM itself, subscriptions are free. Click here to subscribe.