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

michael_legna's picture

Experience shows Luther's ideas to be mistaken

Dan Fugett said -
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.

Actually this is backward from the logic of interpreting complex teachings. The simple to understand statements are simple precisely because they contain less information than those which are difficult to understand and so to interpret the difficult in light of the simple is to trim information out of the complex and thus to limit access to that information making our doctrines incomplete. The additional danger beyond this arises when we consider what it is we are missing and how that may enlighten what we thought we knew from the simple verses. Without this enlightenment our understanding even of the simple, is dim or even dark. No it is much better to understand the simple in light of the more complex and more difficult verses. When trying to interpret a complex text it is only when we see the whole light that we can be sure we understand any part on its own.

Luther said -
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.

But this is simply a strawman attack because Luther knew that the obscurity does not lie in ignorance of terms or even simply grammar but in the apparent contradicitions between the difficult and the simple verses. These do not arise because of our problem with languages but with the difference between simple concepts and more advanced. And because all of scripture is inerrant we can never be certain when interpreting the text whether we understand even the simple statements until we understand the more advanced. This is because until we understand the advanced concepts it is always possible that they contain something which is contrary to our understanding of the simple ones, and that is especially true when we actually classify the complex as difficult precisely because they seem to be obscure and contrary to the simple.

Luther said -
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?

Unfortunately by experience of the world we know that there is not even agreement on the basics or fundamentals. Even the role of Christ, the relationship of Him and His Father, the divinity of Him and especially the manner of salvation are not agreed upon by all those who sincerely and intently read the Scriptures. So it appears much of importance can remain hidden in the Scriptures especially using Luther's method. This is not due to taking Christ out of the Scriptures, unless by that Luther meant taking the body of Christ out of the Scriptures as he did when he rejected the Church which had been given the teachings of Christ directly and could use those to solve the problems between the difficult and easy verses which so perplexed Luther.