Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Luther Popping the Free Will Baloon

Have you ever wondered about all those verses in the Bible that say something like, "Do this and you will live"? That is, you've come across a lot of verses like Deuteronomy 30:19-20,

"I call heaven and earth as a witness against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey his voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."

This particular passage was brought up in defense of free will by Erasmus when he wrote against Martin Luther. Luther's response is one in which I've used in arguments, and I find most helpful :

"It is from this passage that I derive my answer to you: that by the words of the law man is admonished and taught, not what he can do, but what he ought to do; that is, that he may know his sin, not that he may believe that he has any strength. Wherefore, my good Erasmus, as often as you confront me with the words of the law, so often shall I confront you with the words of Paul: 'By the law is knowledge of sin'—not power of will! Gather together from the big concordances all the imperative words into one chaotic heap (not the words of promise, but the words of the law and its demand)—and I shall at once declare that they always show, not what men can do, or do do, but what they should do! Even grammarians and schoolboys at street corners know that nothing more is signified by verbs in the imperative mood than what ought to be done, and that what is done or can be done should be expressed by verbs in the indicative. How is it that you theologians are twice as stupid as schoolboys, in that as soon as you get hold of a single imperative verb you infer an indicative meaning, as though the moment a thing is commanded it is done, or can be done? But there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip!—and things that you commanded and that were possible enough may yet not be done, so great a gulf is there between imperative and indicative statements in the simplest everyday matters! Yet in this business of keeping the law, which is as far out of our reach as heaven is from the earth and just as impossible of attainment, you make indicatives out of imperatives with such alacrity that the moment you hear the word of command: 'do', 'keep', 'choose', you will straightway have it that it has been kept, done, chosen or fulfilled, or that these things can be done by our own strength!"

Source: Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Translated by J.I. Packer & O.R. Johnston) (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), pp. 158-159.

This argument from Luther is crucial in debating the nature of the will. I realize, the Reformed would argue for three uses of the Law, but with Luther's basic point above, a myriad of arguments put forth defending free will are dismantled.

41 comments:

Sarah L. said...

"Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to Heaven, till God worketh in him to will and do of His good pleasure."

George Whitefield

beowulf2k8 said...

Martin Luther's book against Erasmus on free will is a snow covered dung heap if I've ever seen one. He shows the nature of a mean and nasty unconverted unloving Reformed Catholic quite well, not to mention the ignorance of his Manichean philosophy by which he was spoiled and robbed of Christ.

Lvka said...

He doesn't really seem to answer or at least address Erasmus' question in the first place, does he? :-\

L P Cruz said...

not to mention the ignorance of his Manichean philosophy by which he was spoiled and robbed of Christ.

If you mean he was no Pelagian, you are quite right. If you mean that he was an ignorant boar as if he was not aware of a thing called Manichean, you have underestimated him.

LPC

The Dude said...

"God therefore does not command impossibilities; but in His command He counsels you both to do what you can for yourself, and to ask His aid in what you cannot do. Now, we should see whence comes the possibility, and whence the impossibility. This man says:"That proceeds not from a man's will which he can do by nature." I say: A man is not righteous by his will if he can be by nature. He will, however, be able to accomplish by remedial aid what he is rendered incapable of doing by his flaw."
Augustine, On Nature and Grace (50)

Did Erasmus deny the priority and necessity of grace in human effort?

James Swan said...

Did Erasmus deny the priority and necessity of grace in human effort?

"Standing in the semi-Pelagian Scholastic tradition, he champions the view that, though sin has weakened man, it has not made him utterly incapable of meritorious action; in fact, says, Erasmus, the salvation of those who are saved is actually determined by a particular meritorious act which they perform in their own strength, without Divine assistance. There is, he affirms, a power in the human will (though, admittedly, a very little power only) 'by which man may apply himself to those things that lead to eternal salvation,' and thereby gain merit (though, admittedly, a very little merit only). It is by this meritorious application to spiritual concerns that salvation is secured. In expounding this opinion, Erasmus echoes the Scholastic theory of a distinction between congruent merit {meritum de congruo} and condign merit {meritum de condigno}. The first of these, according to the theory, was that which a man attained by what he did in his own strength {ex puris naturalibus} in applying himself to spiritual concerns. Its effect was to make him a fit subject for the gift of internal grace. It did not positively oblige God to give internal grace (from this point of view, it was meritorious only in a loose and improper sense); it merely removed the barrier which had hitherto stood in the way of God's giving it, i.e. man's unworthiness of it and his unpreparedness for it; however, it was held to be a certain fact that God in mercy gives internal grace to all who have made themselves fit subjects for it. Grace (i.e. supernatural spiritual energy) having thus been given, its recipient could use it to do works of a quality of goodness previously out of his reach, works which God was necessarily bound, as a matter of justice, to reward with further supplies of grace and, ultimately, with heavenly glory. The merit which these works secured {condign merit) was meritorious in the strict sense, and put the Creator under a real obligation. The purpose of the whole theory was to hold together, on the one hand, the reality of God's freedom in giving salvation and, on the other, the reality of man's merit in earning it: to show that God really becomes man's debtor (because He is under
obligation to reward man's merit) while yet at the same time remaining sovereign in salvation (because He gives the grace which creates the merit freely and without obligation).

Source: Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Translated by J.I. Packer & O.R. Johnston) (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), pp. 48-49.

James Swan said...

Martin Luther's book against Erasmus on free will is a snow covered dung heap if I've ever seen one.

Luther considered it one of his best books, as do I.

He shows the nature of a mean and nasty unconverted unloving Reformed Catholic quite well,

How iroinc, your words led me to a similar feeling towards your comments, though, if I recall, you do not rest in the arms of Rome.

not to mention the ignorance of his Manichean philosophy by which he was spoiled and robbed of Christ.

Luther was not a Gnostic Manichean. He did not have a heavy emphasis on the devaluation of creation and the material.

James Swan said...

"Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to Heaven, till God worketh in him to will and do of His good pleasure."

Great quote, thanks.

James Swan said...

He doesn't really seem to answer or at least address Erasmus' question in the first place, does he?

Well, I would suggest you explain what the question of Erasmus was, so I know what you mean. In the Revell translation, the section from which I quoted is from Chapter IV, which begins on page 137. You could probably find on on-line version as well, though a different translation. There are multiple translations available, I prefer the Packer/Johnston translation.

I would say, not only does Luther answer the arguments put forth by Erasmus, he demonstrates that the entire paradigm put forth by Erasmus was flawed. However brilliant Erasmus was, he was more interested in morality than theology. Luther rightly knew that proper Biblical theology will produce proper morality. Hence, the entire debate between these two men.

Many are probably not aware that Erasmus answered Luther a few times after Bondage of the Will. That these works rest in obscurty show how effectively they answered Luther.

James Swan said...

Augustine, On Nature and Grace (50)

I would simply ask you to review Luther's argument and your understanding of Augustine. Luther is describing man's ability to keep God's commands without grace. Luther contends that no man would be able to keep God's law perfectly, and is thus thrust to despair. Recall, to actually keep God's law the way God wants one to, the command must also be kept with the proper heart and intent.

Now, review your citation of Augustine, and ask if Augustine taught that men could keep God's commands without grace, in the way God wants them to be kept. How did Augustine describe the heart without grace? Is it a slave to sin? For Augustine, the free will previous to grace is motivated by...what? For Augustine, the desires of man without grace are directed toward what?

James Swan said...

"Therefore, my dearly beloved, as we have now proved by our former
testimonies from Holy Scripture that there is in man a free determination of will for living rightly and acting rightly; so now let us see what are the divine testimonies concerning the grace of God, without which we are not
able to do any good thing."

Augustine: A Treatise on Grace and Free Will (Chapter 7)

The Dude said...

"in fact, says, Erasmus, the salvation of those who are saved is actually determined by a particular meritorious act which they perform in their own strength, without Divine assistance. There is, he affirms, a power in the human will (though, admittedly, a very little power only) 'by which man may apply himself to those things that lead to eternal salvation,' and thereby gain merit (though, admittedly, a very little merit only). It is by this meritorious application to spiritual concerns that salvation is secured."
Okay, well if this is his position then he's semi-pelagian; I figured he was since many have said in retrospect he wasn't the best candidate to respond to Luther, but also just have seen from other works that he might have been mischaracterized - http://books.google.com/books?id=HGCFZ605GJgC&pg=PA140&dq=erasmus+%22necessity+of+grace%22&sig=I4kxWZC-sZcFaD6e4TFVisXpeiU#PPA140,M1
(page 140 - but those ellipses are a little liberal).

And I think there might have been some miscommunication on Augustine - I wasn't saying "Augustine taught that men could keep God's commands without grace, in the way God wants them to be kept." or implying the free will previous to grace can move towards God. That's why I followed my citation with, "Did Erasmus deny the priority and necessity of grace in human effort?" because that would add context to his argument towards Luther that you cited. And my citation also included "He will, however, be able to accomplish by remedial aid what he is rendered incapable of doing by his flaw." so I'm not sure how you got that I was saying Augustine thought man could follow his commandments without grace. And so of course I would not have any issue with your latest citation of Augustine. So, cool, thanks for the exchange.

James Swan said...

Okay, well if this is his position then he's semi-pelagian; I figured he was since many have said in retrospect he wasn't the best candidate to respond to Luther, but also just have seen from other works that he might have been mischaracterized

I took a look at the link you provided. The link suggests Erasmus believed in the necessity of grace. Compare it with the citation I provided, "...it was held to be a certain fact that God in mercy gives internal grace to all who have made themselves fit subjects for it." Note how easily and "free will" without grace can sneak in. Notice that Erasmus can hold both grace as internal and necesary, and yet not internal and necesary for the sincere seeker who first reaches out toward God.

That Luther understood Erasmus as Packer and Johnston have outlined is quite clear. See Luther's evaluation of Erasmus' definition of "free will," starting on page 136. See particularly Luther's comments on page 141-142, in which Luther discusses the definitions of free will provided by Erasmus, and the way Erasmus tries at times to define the will with grace and without. Luther catches Erasmus attributing the same ability to the will both with and without grace.

And I think there might have been some miscommunication on Augustine - I wasn't saying "Augustine taught that men could keep God's commands without grace, in the way God wants them to be kept."

I did look up the reference you provided to Augustine, and yes, I wasn't sure why you were quoting that particular section. In order to cover all the bases, I figured it would be best to clarify Augustine's position.

I'm not sure how you got that I was saying Augustine thought man could follow his commandments without grace.

I simply asked you questions for clarification. I tend to come across people that selectively cite Augustine, and my questions were geared toward making sure we were on the same page.

beowulf2k8 said...

The dude asks "Did Erasmus deny the priority and necessity of grace in human effort?"

Swan replies by quoting some book "Standing in the semi-Pelagian Scholastic tradition, he champions the view that,"

In other words you're too lazy to actually read what Erasmus said. It is obvious that many times second hand materials distort what a man actually said in the first-hand document. You keep asserting so yourself about Luther, but then you pile dung on Erasmus and hope you can cover it with snow so we don't know what you're doing to the poor man.

"Luther considered it one of his best books, as do I." All his other books must really stink then.

And if I may, I have a complaint that Erasmus' book is not reprinted in English translation as Luther's is. If the Robot men were at all honest they'd print them both UNABRIDGED in one work so everyone could compare the two and not take Luther's lying word for what Erasmus said. Erasmus WAS the Reformation. Luther was just a tag-along heretic. Erasmus gave us the Bible. Luther gave us snow-covered-dung. Thank God for Erasmus who gave us the Bible so men like Tyndale, Frith, and Menno Simon and those who came after could interpret it correctly, and true Christianity could come to light. But God repay Luther for his propagation of Roman Catholic heresies like infant baptism and justification by mental assent alone.

beowulf2k8 said...

To answer your question, The Dude, I gather from Luther's own book that Erasmus taught that a man can by free will do good and yet a man cannot will to do good without grace. I would assume that Erasmus believed in some sort of universal grace accomplished by the cross that enabled all men to respond positively to the gospel out of free will if they will. Perhaps based on Titus 2:11-15 or some similar passage or passages.

Observe also the following quotation to see how evil and stupid (I'm using Luther's own language now) the reverend dunce Martin Luther is.

---Sect. 75.—AFTER this, it comes to Paul also, the most determined enemy to "Free-will," and even he is dragged in to confirm "Free-will;" "Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and patience, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth to repentance?"—(Rom. ii. 4.)—"How (says the Diatribe [of Erasmus]) can the despising of the commandment be imputed where there is not a Free-will? How can God invite to repentance, who is the author of impenitence? How can the damnation be just, where the judge compels unto evil doing?"—

I answer: Let the Diatribe see to these questions itself. What are they unto us! ---


Indeed what is reason to a Robot? It is nothing. And Luther by his own confession is nothing but a Robot made of dung and covered with snow.
Read Luther's mound of snow-covered-dung here

Sarah L. said...

If man has a free will, truly free, totally free, then he must have a part in his own salvation. I know that some people say that God does 99% in salvation and man does 1%. That is, man chooses to believe, he has faith. But what does that really mean? How do we 'work up' faith? That belief, as my dad who is a pastor says, makes faith a work. People try to make faith a work. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” Eph. 2:8
I really like this quote by Charles Spurgeon:
"Remember this; or you may fall into error by fixing your minds so much upon the faith that is the channel of salvation as to forget the grace which is the fountain and source even of faith itself. Faith is the work of God’s grace in us… “No man comes to me,” says Jesus, “except the Father who sent me draws him.” So that faith, which is coming to Christ, is the result of divine drawing. Grace is the first and last moving cause of salvation; and faith, essential as it is, is only an important part of the machinery which grace employs. We are saved “through faith,” but salvation is “by grace.” Sound forth those words as with the archangel’s trumpet: 'By grace are you saved.' What glad tidings for the undeserving!"

James Swan said...

Swan replies by quoting some book "Standing in the semi-Pelagian Scholastic tradition, he champions the view that," In other words you're too lazy to actually read what Erasmus said.

I used a summary statement that I deem reliable. If it's not reliable, then you can explain why.

Yes, I have read Erasmus, and i'm quite familiar with the different interpretations of his debate with Luther. Luther did what a good debater does: he forced Erasmus to use his words carefully. Erasmus gave a bare definition of free will "By free choice in this place we mean a power of the human will by which a man can apply himself to the things which lead to eternal salvation, or turn away from them." Erasmus also stated, “Just as in those who lack grace (I mean special grace) reason has been obscured but not extinguished, so it is probable that also in them the power of the will has not been completely extinguished, but it has been rendered ineffective as regards the good.” Luther pounced on this, forcing Erasmus to clarify what he meant.

It is obvious that many times second hand materials distort what a man actually said in the first-hand document.

Indeed. I would not disagree.

You keep asserting so yourself about Luther, but then you pile dung on Erasmus and hope you can cover it with snow so we don't know what you're doing to the poor man.

I haven't done this with Erasmus. Quite frankly, I find many valuable contributions to the history of the Church from the work and life of Erasmus. Like Luther, he was a man of faults. In regard to the nature of the will, Erasmus was quite mistaken, and Luther nailed him on it.

"Luther considered it one of his best books, as do I." All his other books must really stink then.

Well, not all of Luther's writings are of the same quality. Some of them I admire, some I do not. Some of them are awful, some are brilliant. You are entitled to your opinion.

And if I may, I have a complaint that Erasmus' book is not reprinted in English translation as Luther's is.

You can take that burden up with publishing companies.

If the Robot men were at all honest they'd print them both UNABRIDGED in one work so everyone could compare the two and not take Luther's lying word for what Erasmus said.

Well, I'm not in contact with the robot men. Was it Mars they live on, or Jupiter? I forget, but i'm glad you're on to them and their devious ways.

Erasmus WAS the Reformation. Luther was just a tag-along heretic.

I would disagree. Erasmus simply wanted reform in church practice. Luther sought for it in doctrine. It is the doctrine highlighted in the Reformation that inspires me, not cleaning up the papacy.

Erasmus gave us the Bible.

Erasmus contributed to preserving the Greek New Testament, but he did not give us the Bible.

Luther gave us snow-covered-dung.

Well, who knows what you mean, but I know the point of this analogy, whether it's Luther's or not.

Thank God for Erasmus who gave us the Bible so men like Tyndale, Frith, and Menno Simon and those who came after could interpret it correctly, and true Christianity could come to light. But God repay Luther for his propagation of Roman Catholic heresies like infant baptism and justification by mental assent alone.

It's obvious to me you don't understand what Luther meant by justifiaction by faith alone.

Discipled by Him said...

On a side note, why hasn't this beowulf2k8 (sounds like a great Madden type game) been tossed yet? If I have to skim through his jibberish one more time, I may have to do something drastic.

beowulf2k8 said...

"If man has a free will, truly free, totally free, then he must have a part in his own salvation."

What Paul means when he says that we are justified by faith and not the works of the Law is that no amount of obedience can erase our past sins and therefore we need the blood of Christ which can erase sins and faith in that blood without which he will not allow it to erase our sins. He does not mean, however, that no human input, such as repentance is necessary in order for faith to work and to apprehend the blood of Christ. If he did mean what you think he meant, then he was a pernicious heretic, for Jesus Christ Himself says "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." (Luke 15:7) He says not "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that hath faith alone, more than over ninety and nine persons who have both faith and repentance." Also, Peter says "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." (Acts 2:40) HE does not mean that by doing enough good works they will save themselves by works, but he means that in believing the gospel, repenting of their sins, and being baptized into Christ (see verse 38) they thereby apprehend the blood of Christ and apply it to themselves. It is God that truly saves them, and that by grace, yet in some sense it is not improper to say to them "save yourselves." Again, Paul himself whom the hypocrites love to make out as one of their own says "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" not as though a man can earn salvation by doing good works, but that a man in beleiving the gospel, repenting of his sins, confessing his belief in Christ, being baptized for forgiveness, and seeking to live as a Christian, works out his salvation even though it is of grace and God is the one doing the saving. (Phil 2:12) Peter again says "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:" (2 Pet 1:10) He advises them to "do" things that will keep them from failing. He means not that by doing good deeds they earn salvation, but that in "obedience to the faith" (Rom 1:5) they work out their salvation with fear and trembling, again not as earning it by as using the grace which God has given them. But he says not "sit on your duff and let God add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, etc." but "you add to your faith virtue, etc."


Now, to the Father's drawing.

(John 6:44-45) "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. {45} It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."

Jesus Himself explains the Father's drawing not so much as a miraculous spiritual drawing inside the heart of some special and invisible grace, as that ALL MEN will be taught of God and those who actually listen to the teaching are said to have learned of the Father, and those come to Jesus. The notion then is not opposed to free will. The Father does not call men against their will, but in through it. As men are taught of God, those who listen (that is by free will care to learn) do learn and then follow Jesus.

"If man has a free will..."

If a man does not have free will, this discussion is totally retarded. Why argue all day long about free will if you don't believe men have it? I have always wandered this about the robot men, why they will waste away their days arguing that men don't have free will. Can you imagine literal robots arguing with one another about whether or not they have free will????? The only way a robot can argue with another robot on whether or not they twain have free will is if the programmer bound their will to either side of the question. Without free will, the robot was either bound to beleive there is free will or bound to believe that there is not free will. And now the two robots debate a subject according to the programing, the one saying (since his will is so bound to say so) that there is no free will, and the other saying (since his will is so bound to say so) that there is free will. But if there is no free will, and each robot will beleive only that which he was programmed to beleive, how will the robot that was programmed to beleive in free will ever be convinced to stop? or how will the robot who was programmed to deny free will ever be convinced to beleive in it? Since their wills are bound, there is no convincing them. Yet men are often convinced from one side to the other. Or are they? Are they or not? Is this discussion but a fruitless argument of flesh-bots whom God programmed to take either side of the argument? or do we have free will to believe either side? Let each robot and man decide for himself, or as Paul says "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." (Rom 14:5)

James Swan said...

To answer your question, The Dude, I gather from Luther's own book that Erasmus taught that a man can by free will do good and yet a man cannot will to do good without grace.I would assume that Erasmus believed in some sort of universal grace accomplished by the cross that enabled all men to respond positively to the gospel out of free will if they will. Perhaps based on Titus 2:11-15 or some similar passage or passages.

Well, I thought you were the Erasmus expert- chastising me for not citing Erasmus from his own writings- what a double standard and hypocrisy! You are very close to having your comments permanently deleted from this blog.

Observe also the following quotation to see how evil and stupid (I'm using Luther's own language now) the reverend dunce Martin Luther is.---Sect. 75.—AFTER this, it comes to Paul also, the most determined enemy to "Free-will," and even he is dragged in to confirm "Free-will;" "Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and patience, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth to repentance?"—(Rom. ii. 4.)—"How (says the Diatribe [of Erasmus]) can the despising of the commandment be imputed where there is not a Free-will? How can God invite to repentance, who is the author of impenitence? How can the damnation be just, where the judge compels unto evil doing?"—I answer: Let the Diatribe see to these questions itself. What are they unto us! ---Indeed what is reason to a Robot? It is nothing. And Luther by his own confession is nothing but a Robot made of dung and covered with snow.

No, let's actually read the context. Luther goes on to say:

"I reply: The Diatribe may see to these questions itself. What are they to us? The Diatribe stated in that 'probable view' that 'free-will' cannot will good and is compelled of necessity to serve sin. How, then, can the despising of the commandment be charged upon it, if it cannot will good, and there is in it no freedom, but a necessary bondage to sin ? How does God invite it to repentance when He Himself prevents its repentance by abandoning it, or not giving grace to it, when it cannot will good of itself? How is condemnation just, when the Judge, by withdrawing His aid, compels the ungodly to be left in his wickedness, since of his own power he can do nothing else? All these questions recoil on the Diatribe's own head; or else, if they prove anything, they prove, as I said, that 'free-will' can do all things, which the Diatribe and everybody else denies! Its own rational inferences trouble the Diatribe throughout all the statements of Scripture; for it seems to the Diatribe absurd and useless to enforce and exact in such peremptory words when there is nobody who can comply. But the design of the Apostle in these threatenings is to bring the proud and ungodly to knowledge of themselves and of their impotence, so that, having humbled them by the knowledge of their sin, he might prepare them for grace.What need is there to review one by one all the passage cited from Paul ? For the Diatribe collects only imperative and conditional statements, or words in which Paul exhorts Christians to the fruits of faith; and then, by tacking on its inferences, it proceeds to envisage a'free-will' whose power is so great that it can without grace do all that Paul commands in his exhortations. Christians, however, are made to act, not by 'free-will', but by the Spirit of God, as Rom. 8 tells us (v. 14); and to be made to act is not to act, but to be impelled, as a saw or an axe is made to act by a carpenter. Lest any should at this point doubt that Luther said such foolish things, the Diatribe recites his own words—which, indeed, I acknowledge; for I confess that Wycliffe's tenet ('all things come to pass by necessity') was falsely condemned by the Council—or, rather, the Cabal and Conspiracy—of Constance. Indeed, the Diatribe itself maintains the same as I do when it asserts that 'free-will' by its own strength can will no good, and necessarily serves sin—even though it lays this down in the course of proving the exact opposite!" {Bondage of the Will, pp. 188-189]

James Swan said...

If man has a free will, truly free, totally free, then he must have a part in his own salvation. I know that some people say that God does 99% in salvation and man does 1%.

Sarah, Great points. Very recently, I posted a section from Sproul's book Willing To Believe in which he points out that Arminianism “in effect turned faith into a meritorious work.”

James Swan said...

On a side note, why hasn't this beowulf2k8 (sounds like a great Madden type game) been tossed yet? If I have to skim through his jibberish one more time, I may have to do something drastic.

Well, I have some free time today, so I decided to interact with the blog comments- my schedule usually does not allow this. Indeed, B.Wulf is close to the edge of deletion. I don't bet, but if I did, I would bet B.Wulf cannot behave civilly enough to carry on a dialog. His rhetoric and negativity expressed towards the Reformers clouds his ability to behave.

James Swan said...

What Paul means when he says that we are justified by faith and not the works of the Law is that no amount of obedience can erase our past sins and therefore we need the blood of Christ which can erase sins and faith in that blood without which he will not allow it to erase our sins.

Awkward sentence, but what Mr. Wulf seems to be saying is that Christ's blood forgives your past sins, but not all of your sins (like those future sins after your conversion- you need to do something extra to have them forgiven). But remember Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2), and that we have been made holy through the sacrifice of his body (Heb 10:10), and he obtained for us an eternal redemption (Heb 9:12). Eternal is...eternal! Eternal is not partial time period.

When Paul describes the law in Romans 1-4, he argues Jews and gentiles (aka, everybody) stand condemned by God's law. Only by Christ's perfect righteousness, imputed to His people, can anyone stand before Him completely justified (Rom. 1:16-17).

He does not mean, however, that no human input, such as repentance is necessary in order for faith to work and to apprehend the blood of Christ. If he did mean what you think he meant, then he was a pernicious heretic, for Jesus Christ Himself says "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance."

The apostles John states, everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34). Paul tells us that those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8). Since no one is good, and no one seeks God and is a slave to sin, a man in the flesh could never please God by performing the God pleasing act of repenting.

(John 6:44-45) "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. {45} It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." Jesus Himself explains the Father's drawing not so much as a miraculous spiritual drawing inside the heart of some special and invisible grace, as that ALL MEN will be taught of God and those who actually listen to the teaching are said to have learned of the Father, and those come to Jesus. The notion then is not opposed to free will. The Father does not call men against their will, but in through it. As men are taught of God, those who listen (that is by free will care to learn) do learn and then follow Jesus.

Jesus says in verse 37 that all that the Father gives to Him, will come to Him. In verse 39 he states that he will loose none the Father gives Him, and he will raise them up on the last day. This is clear Scripture, and requires little explanation. It says nothing about "all men" or "free will." It describes God's sovereign calling, election, and glorification of His people.

If a man does not have free will, this discussion is totally retarded. Why argue all day long about free will if you don't believe men have it?

There is only the enslaved will, or the will that serves the Lord. It is people like you that hoist unbiblical concepts upon the Scripture. Your language about "retarded" shows an incredible amount childishness.

Sarah L. said...

"He does not mean, however, that no human input, such as repentance is necessary in order for faith to work"

So, in order for us to have faith we have to repent...? Now you are making repentence a work. You are saying that we have to do something to be saved. But it is "not by works".
If we are saved then we will evidence it by our faith and repentence.

"The apostles John states, everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34). Paul tells us that those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8). Since no one is good, and no one seeks God and is a slave to sin, a man in the flesh could never please God by performing the God pleasing act of repenting." - Thanks for that Mr. Swan.


"But he says not "sit on your duff and let God add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, etc." but "you add to your faith virtue, etc.""

Yes, of course we need to add these things to our faith. I read your post to My dad, again, a pastor, and he said "duh!" when I read him that part. Where does that passage say add faith? It says "add TO your faith". Again, where did the faith come from? GOD!

"I have always wandered this about the robot men, why they will waste away their days arguing that men don't have free will. Can you imagine literal robots arguing with one another about whether or not they have free will?????"

You keep calling us robots... I have to disagree. We are not robots we are slaves. Read Romans 6, I quote an exerpt here:

"But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness."
Romans 6:17-18 RSV

The definition for slave, or servant (depending on what translation you use) in that passage is :
" to enslave (literally or figuratively):--bring into (be under) bondage, X given, become (make) servant" (Strong's Greek Dictonary)

" .. for whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved." 2 Peter 2:19

Where is our free will?

If you really think that God just sits back and watches to see what we will do, just letting us do whatever, then, you sound sort of like a Deist...

"God created the world and set it in motion but does not actively intervene in individual human affairs but rather through Divine Providence. What this means is that God will give humanity such things as reason and compassion but this applies to all and not individual intervention"
- Wilkepdia

Don't you want God to be totally sovereign??? Is he just watching us saying "Is it yes or no?"

Mr. John Gill says things better than I do:

"Nor is faith the moving cause of election; the one is in time, the other in eternity: while men are in a state of unregeneracy, they are in a state of unbelief; they are, as without hope in God, so without faith in Christ; and when they have it, they have it not of themselves, of their own power and freewill; but they have it as the gift of God, and the operation of his Spirit, flowing purely from his grace; and therefore cannot be the cause of electing grace: besides, it is the effect of that, it is a consequence that follows upon it, and is insured by it; "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed", (Acts 13:48) it is proper and peculiar to the elect of God; the reason why some men do not believe is, because "they are not of Christ’s sheep", (John 10:26) his elect, given him by the Father; and the reason why others do believe is, because they are of Christ’s sheep, or his chosen ones, and therefore faith is given to them; which is called, "the faith of God’s elect" (Titus 1:1). Faith is not the cause of calling, and much less of election, which precedes that: the reason why men are called, is not because they believe, but they are called that they might believe; in which effectual call faith is given to them, as the evidence of their election. Once more, faith is fixed as a means, in the decree of election; and therefore cannot be the cause of it (2 Thess. 2:13). To which may be added, if faith is the moving cause of election, men might be said rather to choose God and Christ, at least first, than they to choose him; whereas our Lord says, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you", (John 15:16) the apostles had chosen him, but not first; he first chose them; so that their choice of him had no influence on his choice of them: but if faith is the moving cause of election, then men rather choose Christ than he them; for what is faith but an high esteem of Christ, a choosing and preferring him, as a Saviour, to all others? a choosing that good part which shall never be taken away; and of the way of truth, or of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

2b5d. Nor is perseverance in faith, holiness, and good works, the moving cause of election; but the effect of it, and what is ensured by it: the reason why men persevere is, because they are the elect of God, who cannot be deceived totally and finally, so as to have their faith subverted, and overthrown, as that of nominal professors may be; because the foundation on which they are, stands sure; sealed with this seal, "the Lord knows them that are his" (Matthew 24:24; 2 Tim. 2:18, 19). Should it be said, that it is the foresight of these things in men, which moves God to choose them; it may be replied, that God’s foresight, or foreknowledge of things future, is founded on the determinations of his will concerning them; God foresees, or foreknows, that such and such a man will believe, become holy, do good works, and persevere therein to glory; because he has determined to give faith to them, work holiness in them, enable them to perform good works, and cause them to persevere therein to the end, and so be saved; and what is this, but the doctrine contended for? it is no other than a decree to give grace and glory to some persons for his own glory, and to deny them to others.

The truth of all this might be illustrated and confirmed by the case of infants dying in infancy; who, as soon as they are in the world, almost, are taken out of it. Now such a number as they are, can never be thought to be brought into being in vain, and without some end to be answered; and which, no doubt, is the glory of God, who is and will be glorified in them, some way or another, as well as in adult persons: now though their election is a secret to us, and unrevealed; it may be reasonably supposed, yea, in a judgment of charity it may rather be concluded, that they are all chosen, than that none are; and if it is allowed that any of them may be chosen, it is enough to my present purpose; since the election of them cannot be owing to their faith, holiness, obedience, good works, and perseverance, or to the foresight of these things, which do not appear in them.””

Sorry this is so long...

James Swan said...

Sorry this is so long...

Sarah,

That's quite alright. I enjoy God's grace and truth being proclaimed.

beowulf2k8 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beowulf2k8 said...

"Awkward sentence, but what Mr. Wulf seems to be saying is that Christ's blood forgives your past sins, but not all of your sins (like those future sins after your conversion- you need to do something extra to have them forgiven)." (Swan)

The sentence isn't awkward at all, and what I was saying is that Christ's blood doesn't remove sins apart from faith in his blood (which I think you will agree with) and that this is what Paul means by saying that salvation is through faith and not the works of the Law: No amount of obeying the Law will remove sins, since the removal of sins requires Jesus' blood and faith in Jesus' blood. Hence his point was never to throw away repentance and say that a man will be saved by head-knowledge that Jesus died for their sins and yet they will be able to not repent and go on living in willful sin. If you think that Paul meant that knowing Jesus died for your sins provides a covering of snow for the dung of your sins so that you can go on living in willful sin refusing to repent, then you make Paul to contradict Jesus Himself who says "unless you repent you shall all likewise perish." (Lk 13:3) In fact, you make Paul contradict himself when he says "At the times of this ignorance God winked at but now commands all men everywhere to repent because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world by that man whom he has appointed and has given us assurance of this in that he raised him from the dead." (Acts 17)

"So, in order for us to have faith we have to repent...? Now you are making repentence a work. You are saying that we have to do something to be saved." (Sarah)

I am making nothing nothing. I am showing you what Jesus Himself says. "REPENT and BELIEVE the Gospel" Jesus says in Mark 1:15. "Repent and believe the gospel"? Shouldn't that just be "believe the gospel"? I would not argue with Jesus as some love to do. Do we have to "do" something for salvation? Jesus says "repent and beleive the gospel." Do I "have" to do that, or is it a mere suggestion?

Sarah L. said...

Beowulf2k8,

I fully agree, repentance is a necessity for salvation. But, as with faith, what causes it?

"...Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" Romans 2:4

As Spurgeon said “Grace is the first and last moving cause of salvation; and faith, essential as it is, is only an important part of the machinery which grace employs.” So repentance is also only “part of the machinery which grace employs.” If we are elect then we will be given the grace to repent and believe.

Salvation is of God from the beginning to the end.

I know that you don’t like Luther much, but I just had to get this in :).

. “The love of God finds nothing in man, but creates in him what He loves. The love of man proceeds from His Well-Beloved.” – Martin Luther

L P Cruz said...

I agree with Sarah in pointing that Mr. Wulf is making repentance into a form of works. In the overall revelation of Scripture, repentance is a gift of God too... Acts 5:31.

The question perhaps that might be puzzling is the fact that it looks like a responsibility of man and at the same time given/granted by God.

This is where the Classic Protestant view of means of grace comes in.

In the Classic Protestant view, God does not give repentance with out means. He uses His Word and the Sacraments of Baptism/Supper to initiate or create repentance in the heart of the Sinner.

Thus repentance does not come out of the blue like you are walking down the street merrily enjoying the day and then suddenly you are repenting. That would be weird in Classic Protestant ears.

In the Classic Prot view, repentance and faith are creations of God out of nothing, but they are created by His Word preached in the ears of the Sinner.

God does not give repentance with out using the means to create it - His Word/Sacrament- Baptism/Supper.

The Word & Sacraments are the delivery tools that God uses to hand over the gifts His Son has won for wicked sinners, enemies of God, He delivers his peace offer to rebels. At the same time, this delivery tools become a form of judgment/affirms condemnation to those who reject what is being offered - peace with God.

That is the Classic Protestant view.


LPC

James Swan said...

If you think that Paul meant that knowing Jesus died for your sins provides a covering of snow for the dung of your sins and that no repentance is required from you, then you make Paul to contradict Jesus Himself who says "unless you repent you shall all likewise perish." (Lk 13:3)

Repentance is a biblical term. All those called by Father do repent, and do turn from their sins. Christ becomes the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Heb. 5:9). In fact, go re-read the 95 Theses. THESIS 1: When the Lord calls us to repent, he meant the entire life of a believer is one of penance.

In fact, you make Paul contradict himself when he says "At the times of this ignorance God winked at but now commands all men everywhere to repent because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world by that man whom he has appointed and has given us assurance of this in that he raised him from the dead." (Acts 17)

I do no such thing, because indeed, God does command everyone and everywhere to repent. Christians are to proclaim this same message. This is the outward call, in which men are confronted with their sin against a Holy God, and instructed to embrace Christ as the only means of entering into the presence of the Holy God. But there is also an inward call. Just a few chapters earlier, Luke informs us that God opens the dead cold heart of the sinner to embrace the outward call (Acts 16:14).

James Swan said...

I am making nothing nothing. I am showing you what Jesus Himself says. "REPENT and BELIEVE the Gospel" Jesus says in Mark 1:15. "Repent and believe the gospel"? Shouldn't that just be "believe the gospel"? I would not argue with Jesus as some love to do. Do we have to "do" something for salvation? Jesus says "repent and beleive the gospel." Do I "have" to do that, or is it a mere suggestion?

This is the very point of the post. The passages that are commands in the Scripture say nothing about the ability of the will of man. They are simply, commands. I would suggest, rather than reading the non-biblical concept of "free will' INTO the Bible, you rather read all the passages that describe the will of man. You'll see that the Bible describes the will as enslaved, and unable to perform any God pleasing act, without God first granting the will ability. Those who repent, are those whom the Son has irresistibly called.

James Swan said...

I fully agree, repentance is a necessity for salvation. But, as with faith, what causes it?

this is the point, isn't it? If the will is free, people then would be able to do something to help out in their own salvation. Faith and repentance, in effect, become a work. I realize how offensive this must sound at first, as I'm sure you do. But, I would have it no other way. Jesus is "author" and "perfecter" of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

James Swan said...

God does not give repentance with out using the means to create it - His Word/Sacrament- Baptism/Supper. The Word & Sacraments are the delivery tools that God uses to hand over the gifts His Son has won for wicked sinners, enemies of God, He delivers his peace offer to rebels. At the same time, this delivery tools become a form of judgment/affirms condemnation to those who reject what is being offered - peace with God.

Yes, we have a Lutheran in the house! Great points. Thanks.

beowulf2k8 said...

Faith and repentance can't become works EVER and it is not because man doesn't do them but God somehow does them for man. Nay, but faith and repentance can't become works because what Paul means by works, which he plainly shows, is the works of the Law, i.e. circumcision, Sabbath keeping, Kosher food laws, sacrifices and oblations, tithing, etc. Faith and repentance are not works of the Law, are not Jewish customs that mark one out as a national Israelite, but are universally available to all men. That's what he is arguing in Romans when he uses Abraham to show that Gentiles also are the people of God by faith, namely that the thing that marked Abraham and his physical descendants out as a separate ethnic group from the Gentiles (i.e. circumcision) did not contribute at all to his justification. It is not because man's actions are totally separated from justification but that national identity is. Hence, the problem with circumcision in the early church was that the Judaizers essentially demanded that Gentiles change their national identity and submit to Jewish customs and become Jews first and then become Christians after becoming fully Jewish. Paul's argument was that Christ in the cross had torn down the middle wall of partition (Eph 2:14), the Law of Moses, that separated Jews and Gentiles as separate peoples. Therefore, the Gentiles did not have to submit to that partition, to the LAw, and become Jews in order to become the people of God. They became the people of God even as Abraham did before he submitted to the ceremony of ethnic separation which is circumcision, and so also the Gentiles apart from "the works of the law" (i.e. ceremonies that separated the Jews from all other people as a distinct ethnicity) could become the people of God by faith in Christ Jesus. But this never meant by dead faith or "faith alone" but rather that when they believed in Jesus, repented, and were baptized they became the people of God. Otherwise, Paul would not have included Romans 6 in the letter to the Romans.

Sarah L. said...

“…because what Paul means by works which he plainly shows, is the works of the Law, i.e. circumcision, Sabbath keeping, Kosher food laws, sacrifices and oblations, tithing, etc. Faith and repentance are not works of the Law.."

First, read this excerpt from Ephesians 2:

"But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us,
5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God--
9 not because of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."



, If what you say is true, about works being the works of the law, then why didn't Paul just say, "works of the law" instead of just "works"? There are verses in the Bible with “works of the law”. Ro 3:20 – “because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for through the law [cometh] the knowledge of sin”.

Ga 3:10 - “For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.”
And those are just some of them.

I think that he would have clarified if he meant works of the law.

I checked out the word for "works" in Strong's Greek Dictionary, and here is the definition:

"from a primary (but obsolete) ergo (to work); toil (as an effort or occupation); by implication, AN ACT:--deed, doing, labour, work."


To me it sounds like he means any work, or action.


"Faith and repentance can't become works EVER and it is not because man doesn't do them but God somehow does them for man. Nay, but faith and repentance can't become works...”

O.K., And I think that you might be right, faith is not a work. But what does man DO that is not a work?

Definition of a work from Wilkepedia “In theology, works are good deeds, human actions.”

If faith is not a work, then man cannot DO it. If faith is not an action, then we cannot perform that action. And he cannot will it.

If it is by faith, or by any 'doing' of our own, then why does Paul say "...and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God..." ?

This part of a hymn comes to mind…

"I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin, revealing Jesus thru the word, CREATING FAITH IN him."

I need to thank you, because I have never really thought so deeply about this before. I used to think that faith was something that God gave you to do. That we couldn’t do it on our own, but that God gave us the ability to do it. But now, I know that we don’t even “do” it when we have it. God DOES it in us.

Mike Burgess said...

James Swan,
Does God will that everyone, everywhere repent?

James Swan said...

James Swan, Does God will that everyone, everywhere repent?

According to Acts 17:30, God commands all people everywhere to repent.

James Swan said...

Faith and repentance can't become works EVER

I have consistently used the two words, "in effect." These two words, are crucial to my point.

James Swan said...

because what Paul means by works, which he plainly shows, is the works of the Law, i.e. circumcision, Sabbath keeping, Kosher food laws, sacrifices and oblations, tithing, etc.

Ok, well explain Romans 2:14-15...are Gentiles doing "circumcision, Sabbath keeping, Kosher food laws, sacrifices and oblations, tithing" by nature? I think not. Obviously, you misunderstand what Paul means by "law."

James Swan said...

I need to thank you, because I have never really thought so deeply about this before.

Sarah, this is the exact way I've always learned-, by being challenged to explain why I believe, and what I believe.

The non-Reformed people turn faith and repentance into a work, in effect, because they ascribe some non-depraved ability to themselves. There is something they can do.

Of course they will always balk at this. But being able "to do" something without God's grace is synergism- it is taking at least an ounce of credit for one's own salvation. It implies, in some way, a person who repents and puts their faith in Christ is smarter, or better than someone who doesn't.

Thanks for your participation on this topic.

James Swan said...

I'm shutting down this one, I think the discussion has run its course. Thank you all for your comments and participation.