Friday, August 29, 2008


James, I am reading Loraine Boettner's book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. The section on "the doctrine of reprobation" is interesting in regard to the emotional resistance to the doctrine of election. He states a quote from Luther saying, "This mightily offends our rational nature". But I don't understand the book source of the quote: In Praefat, and Epist. ad Rom., quoted by Zanchius, Predestination, p. 92. I tried asking others in the chat room, they sent me to you...


One of the weaknesses of Boettner's book is his method of citation. While his book on Predestination is doctrinally sound, his scholarly methods are less than adequate. This isn't such a problem with this text, but becomes a real challenge with his book on Roman Catholicism.

Only the last quote in the paragraph on page 106 in Boettner's book refers to the citation. That is, all the previous Luther quotes on the page do not refer to the citation offered by Boettner. Boettner is quoting Luther via Jerome Zanchius's (1516-1590) book Absolute Predestination, chapter 2. Zanchius is quoting Luther's preface to Romans (one of his most famous writings), but for only this part:

"Luther observes that in Rom. ix., x. and xi. the apostle particularly insists on the doctrine of predestination, "Because," says he, "all things whatever arise from and depend upon the Divine appointment, whereby it was preordained who should receive the word of life and who should disbelieve it, who should he delivered from their sins and who should be hardened in them, who should be justified and who condemned."

As to the quote you want, Boettner is probably still quoting Luther via Zanchius, see this link. The primary source for the quote is Luther's Bondage of the Will, and the quotes come from different sections as well. Here is probably the section you are looking for, from an older translation of Bondage of the Will . If you have the Packer/Johnston translation this section begins on page 218.

Sect. 94.—BUT it is this, that seems to give the greatest offence to common sense or natural reason,—that the God, who is set forth as being so full of mercy and goodness, should, of His mere will, leave men, harden them, and damn them, as though He delighted in the sins, and in the great and eternal torments of the miserable. To think thus of God, seems iniquitous, cruel, intolerable; and it is this that has given offence to so many and great men of so many ages.

And who would not be offended? I myself have been offended more than once, even unto the deepest abyss of desperation; nay, so far, as even to wish that I had never been born a man; that is, before I was brought to know how healthful that desperation was, and how near it was unto grace. Here it is, that there has been so much toiling and labouring, to excuse the goodness of God, and to accuse the will of man. Here it is, that distinctions have been invented between the ordinary will of God and the absolute will of God: between the necessity of the consequence, and the necessity of the thing consequent: and many other inventions of the same kind. By which, nothing has ever been effected but an imposition upon the un-learned, by vanities of words, and by "oppositions of science falsely so called." For after all, a conscious conviction has been left deeply rooted in the heart both of the learned and the unlearned, if ever they have come to an experience of these things; and a knowledge, that our necessity, is a consequence that must follow upon the belief of the prescience and Omnipotence of God.

And even natural Reason herself, who is so offended at this necessity, and who invents so many contrivances to take it out of the way, is compelled to grant it upon her own conviction from her own judgment, even though there were no Scripture at all. For all men find these sentiments written in their hearts, and they acknowledge and approve them (though against their will) whenever they hear them treated on.—First, that God is Omnipotent, not only in power but in action (as I said before): and that, if it were not so, He would be a ridiculous God.—And next, that He knows and foreknows all things, and neither can err nor be deceived. These two points then being granted by the hearts and minds of all, they are at once compelled, from an inevitable consequence, to admit,—that we are not made from our own will, but from necessity: and moreover, that we do not what we will according to the law of "Free-will," but as God foreknew and proceeds in action, according to His infallible and immutable counsel and power. Wherefore, it is found written alike in the hearts of all men, that there is no such thing as "Free-will"; though that writing be obscured by so many contending disputations, and by the great authority of so many men who have, through so many ages, taught otherwise. Even as every other law also, which, according to the testimony of Paul, is written in our hearts, is then acknowledged when it is rightly set forth, and then obscured, when it is confused by wicked teachers, and drawn aside by other opinions.

Sect. 95.—I NOW return to Paul. If he does not, Rom. ix., explain this point, nor clearly state our necessity from the prescience and will of God; what need was there for him to introduce the similitude of the "potter," who, of the "same lump" of clay, makes "one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?" (Rom. ix. 21). What need was there for him to observe, that the thing formed does not say to him that formed it, "Why hast thou made me thus?" (20). He is there speaking of men; and he compares them to clay, and God to a potter. This similitude, therefore, stands coldly useless, nay, is introduced ridiculously and in vain, if it be not his sentiment, that we have no liberty whatever. Nay, the whole of the argument of Paul, wherein he defends grace, is in vain. For the design of the whole epistle is to shew, that we can do nothing, even when we seem to do well; as he in the same epistle testifies, where he says, that Israel which followed after righteousness, did not attain unto righteousness; but that the Gentiles which followed not after it did attain unto it. (Rom. ix. 30-31). Concerning which I shall speak more at large hereafter, when I produce my forces.

The fact is, the Diatribe designedly keeps back the body of Paul's argument and its scope, and comfortably satisfies itself with prating upon a few detached and corrupted terms. Nor does the exhortation which Paul afterwards gives, Rom. xi., at all help the Diatribe; where he saith, "Thou standest by faith, be not high-minded;" (20), again, "and they also, if they shall believe, shall be grafted in, &c. (23);" for he says nothing there about the ability of man, but brings forth imperative and conditional expressions; and what effect they are intended to produce, has been fully shewn already. Moreover, Paul, there anticipating the boasters of "Free-will," does not say, they can believe, but he saith, "God is able to graft them in again.." (23).

To be brief: The Diatribe moves along with so much hesitation, and so lingeringly, in handling these passages of Paul, that its conscience seems to give the lie to all that it writes. For just at the point where it ought to have gone on to the proof, it for the most part, stops short with a 'But of this enough;' 'But I shall not now proceed with this;' 'But this is not my present purpose;' 'But here they should have said so and so;' and many evasions of the same kind; and it leaves off the subject just in the middle; so that, you are left in uncertainty whether it wished to be understood as speaking on "Free-will," or whether it was only evading the sense of Paul by means of vanities of words. And all this is being just in its character, as not having a serious thought upon the cause in which it is engaged. But as for me I dare not be thus cold, thus always on the tip-toe of policy, or thus move to and fro as a reed shaken with the wind. I must assert with certainty, with constancy, and with ardour; and prove what I assert solidly, appropriately, and fully.

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