Finally Unbound from The Bondage of the Will

Today I finish Luther’s The Bondage of the Will. I could not be happier about this. 320 pages of repetitive insult and arguments have come to an end. Here are a couple thoughts:

Luther is arguing against Erasmus’ opinion about free-will, not really against what the Bible says. According to Luther, Erasmus does a bad job. The way Erasmus is presented in the book, I would agree. Luther might just be skipping Erasmus’ best arguments, I don’t know. Erasmus did not use arguments or verses I would have used. Erasmus also said one sentence poorly and Luther uses that one sentence like a bludgeon throughout the book. Any time one of Luther’s arguments seemed weak, Luther throws that dumb sentence back at Erasmus. That was annoying. Not that Luther doesn’t have a right to do that, it was a self-defeating sentence, but that has nothing to do with what the Bible says.
Application: Just because you can defeat someone in an argument doesn’t mean you’re right. Maybe the other person is a moron and doesn’t know how to argue. This does not mean the entire theological camp is wrong.

–Luther’s use of Scripture is insulting. As I pointed out in previous posts about the book, Luther very conveniently switches from literal to non-literal at his whim while interpreting verses. He did a thing where Hebrew idioms mean one thing, Latin idioms mean another thing, so he’ll explain it and then go with whatever idiom proved his supposed point. He just did tricks like that–“God doesn’t use man’s grammar” on one page, and then when it suits his purpose, he mocks people who don’t think God uses man’s grammar. Pick a side, buddy.
Application–most arguing is pointless because you stop hearing what the Bible says and begin to twist the Bible to mean whatever backs up your point.

–Luther doesn’t think there’s free will mainly on the basis of his understanding of justification. Luther talks about justification a lot; it’s kind of what he’s known for. Since Luther doesn’t think we are justified by works of the law, therefore, we don’t have free will. I’m totally cool with not being justified by works of the law, but I fail to see how this means we don’t have free will. But for Luther, this is his trump card, his whammy, that knocks out any argument.
Application–watch out for pet doctrines, for they will take on a life of their own and make you veer from sound doctrine in other areas.

–Luther rarely touches verses that say the opposite of his point. Yes, he does mention some of the feeble attempts of Erasmus, many of which I thought were silly. But he avoids most of the verses I would use. He did a poor job of addressing contradictory verses. He also says many times that “the whole Bible makes my point, so why bother talking about each verse?” That’s weak.
Application–if the whole Bible makes your point, why did we need 320 pages of your words then? Just quote the Bible. Instead he quotes the Bible and has to use words to tell you how it doesn’t mean what it appears to say.

In conclusion, I thank the Lord I do not have to read any more of this book. He did a fine job destroying Erasmus, but the shots delivered to the free-will camp are easily deflected and bounce off without a dent. I appreciate his zeal and his passion, but do think he gets carried away. His carried awayness leads him to say things that are not biblical. I’ve read quite a bit of Luther and always come away thinking this. I think if he had chilled a bit he would have turned out better work.
Application–relax; you think better that way.

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