Comments on De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of Will

Luther to Erasmus on Free Will

In Bondage of Will, Luther makes a response to Erasmus position on the Freedom of the Will. Luther's starting point was to establish scripture as the basis for authority. Luther's assertion was that his opponents (the medieval Church) were using the obscurity of some passages of scripture to assert their organization alone could interpret scripture. That is, he saw the argument flowing in part from a desire to rule the lives of people for less than noble motives. I think we have to be very careful of this assertion today. I may not agree that it is any human organization's role to try to authoritatively inform me what scripture means but that doesnt speak to the motive of the organization either. I emphasized point it significant in that Jesus Christ is plain to the average John Doe Christian who has a His Spirit in him. "Take Christ out of the Scriptures, and what will you find remaining in them?"

If we see scripture through the light of the Stone Rolled Away, that will go a long way in helping us understand scripture as a whole.

    This indeed I confess, that there are many places in the Scriptures obscure and abstruse; not from the majesty of the thing, but from our ignorance of certain terms and grammatical particulars; but which do not prevent a knowledge of all the things in the Scriptures. For what thing of more importance can remain hidden in the Scriptures, now that the seals are broken, the stone rolled from the door of the sepulchre, and that greatest of all mysteries brought to light, Christ made man: that God is Trinity and Unity: that Christ suffered for us, and will reign to all eternity? Are not these things known and proclaimed even in our streets? Take Christ out of the Scriptures, and what will you find remaining in them?

While in no sense diminishing the gift of teachers, Luther asserts the primary doctrines of Christianity are plain and clear. Our interpretation of the less clear passages should flow from the more clear ones above human tradition.

    All the things, therefore, contained in the Scriptures; are made manifest, although some places, from the words not being understood, are yet obscure. But to know that all things in the Scriptures are set in the clearest light, and then, because a few words are obscure, to report that the things are obscure, is absurd and impious. And, if the words are obscure in one place, yet they are clear in another. But, however, the same thing, which has been most openly declared to the whole world, is both spoken of in the Scriptures in plain words, and also still lies hidden in obscure words. Now, therefore, it matters not if the thing be in the light, whether any certain representations of it be in obscurity or not, if, in the mean while, many other representations of the same thing be in the light. For who would say that the public fountain is not in the light, because those who are in some dark narrow lane do not see it, when all those who are in the Open market place can see it plainly?

Luther raises a point worrh considering. There is a degree of clarity to the Bible when one knows the Author of the Bible. For example, if we view all the scripture from the standpoint of Torah and the Decalogue, as the Judaizers of the first century did, then we would tend to reach a view of salvation by works. But we will view scripture and doctrine and therefore life different if we view the zenith of all time to be Christ's death, resurrection and ascension.

    But to be brief. The clearness of the Scripture is twofold; even as the obscurity is twofold also. The one is external, placed in the ministry of the word; the other internal, placed in the understanding of the heart. If you speak of the internal clearness, no man sees one iota in the Scriptures, but he that hath the Spirit of God. All have a darkened heart; so that, even if they know how to speak of, and set forth, all things in the Scripture, yet, they cannot feel them nor know them: nor do they believe that they are the creatures of God, nor any thing else: according to that of Psalm xiv. 1. “The fool hath said in his heart, God is nothing.” For the Spirit is required to understand the whole of the Scripture and every part of it. If you speak of the external clearness, nothing whatever is left obscure or ambiguous; but all things that are in the Scriptures, are by the Word brought forth into the clearest light, and proclaimed to the whole world.

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