I have a few follow up comments on my recent discussion "Did Martin Luther Believe in the Reformed Tulip?"
I received a kind review over on another blog from Marcus McElhaney, of which I'm grateful. I thank everyone who listened, for listening. I had a few points of clarification for one of the issues Marcus raised, as well as some of the comments left here.
As to my material on Luther's Book, The Bondage of The Will, Marcus states, "I agreed with Swan about how he see the book. The one one thing is that i would not say that Luther was paradoxical in that book I thought he was clear." I haven't listened back to the interview, but I don't recall saying that Luther was paradoxical in this book. I recall raising the issue of paradox during my discussion of the hidden vs revealed God. However paradox will always be at the base of Luther's thought on this, and I think if we were to go slowly through the book, we could uncover Luther's use of paradox. Indeed, Luther was clear as to his view, but in working out how to understand the inner workings of predestination, Luther will use paradox.
Jordan points out, "Swan seemed to think that election could be lost" according to Luther. Actually, I recall in the interview saying Luther held God chooses some to be saved and he rejects the others without an apparent reason within them for either choice. He gives faith to one person through the working of His Spirit; and he refuses to give faith to others so that they remain bound in their unbelief. This means an unconditional, eternal predestination both to salvation and to damnation. However, Luther usually attributes such to speculating about the hidden God, which he strongly urges his readers not to do. Luther himself doesn't spend a lot of time doing such. Here I would disagree with R.C. Sproul, whom (if I recall correctly) has stated that Luther spent more time discussing predestination than Calvin did. This is simply not the case.
On the other hand, Luther says things like, "Ye are fallen from grace," must not be taken lightly. They are important. To fall from grace means to lose the atonement, the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness, liberty, and life which Jesus has merited for us by His death and resurrection."
I admit to not exactly understanding how Luther reconciles this, but then again, I'm thinking in Reformed categories, not Luther's categories. I have a feeling Luther would simply affirm both statements. My studies on these issues concerning Luther were largely influenced by looking into his paradox of the hidden vs. revealed God. As far as I understand his views, they are largely informed and understood via paradox,the rejection of the medieval use of ergo, and embracing the conclusion, nevertheless.
Similarly, as to Luther on irresistible grace, I recall presenting two Luther quotes, and the host Chris Arnzen concluded that Luther denied irresistible grace. I didn't voice my opinion. The problem is, we're sticking Luther in Reformed categories. I think Luther did hold that it’s God’s eternal election and predestination that draw His people to Him. In one of his early Reformation writings he says, "The best and infallible preparation and the only disposition toward grace are the eternal election and predestination of God," and I think I used that quote during the interview. I then followed it up with another quote from Luther, "It is, nevertheless God’s earnest will and purpose, indeed, His command, decreed from eternity, to save all men."
Once again, I think paradox is at work. One of the books that influenced me on understanding Luther's view is Siegbert Becker's The Foolishness of God: The Place of Reason in the Theology of Martin Luther (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1999 (2nd edition). I highly recommend this book for anyone wishing to explore Luther's categories.
"A dispute about predestination should be avoided entirely... I forget everything about Christ and God when I come upon these thoughts and actually get to the point to imagining that God is a rogue. We must stay in the word, in which God is revealed to us and salvation is offered, if we believe him. But in thinking about predestination, we forget God . . However, in Christ are hid all the treasures (Col. 2:3); outside him all are locked up. Therefore, we should simply refuse to argue about election."- Martin Luther
As to disputing these issues, that's the thing Luther did with Erasmus, so he wasn't always consistent about this. I think the bottom line that separates Lutherans and Calvinists on this issue is, are these issues to be avoided entirely, or do they deserve to be looking into with care, fear, and a converted heart? I say yes, because the issues aren't hiding in the Bible. They're right out in the open, more than once, on multiple pages. Indeed, one shouldn't go beyond what the Scriptures say, but one shouldn't avoid what the Scriptures say either.