Sunday, November 01, 2009
Luther's Paradox of the Hidden and Revealed God
Here's a follow-up Luther quote I've been meaning to get to related to my recent entries on Luther and Calvinism. As was pointed out in the recent ISI broadcast, Luther's paradox of the hidden / revealed God sheds much light on his views regarding predestination. Here, in the Bondage of the Will, Luther responds to the charge of Erasmus "Does the good Lord deplore the death of his people, which he himself works in them?”—for this really does seem absurd..."
"...[W]e have to argue in one way about God or the will of God as preached, revealed, offered, and worshiped, and in another way about God as he is not preached, not revealed, not offered, not worshiped. To the extent, therefore, that God hides himself and wills to be unknown to us, it is no business of ours. For here the saying truly applies, “Things above us are no business of ours.”...
God must therefore be left to himself in his own majesty, for in this regard we have nothing to do with him, nor has he willed that we should have anything to do with him. But we have something to do with him insofar as he is clothed and set forth in his Word, through which he offers himself to us and which is the beauty and glory with which the psalmist celebrates him as being clothed. In this regard we say, the good God does not deplore the death of his people which he works in them, but he deplores the death which he finds in his people and desires to remove from them. For it is this that God as he is preached is concerned with, namely, that sin and death should be taken away and we should be saved. For “he sent his word and healed them” [Ps. 107:20]. But God hidden in his majesty neither deplores nor takes away death, but works life, death, and all in all. For there he has not bound himself by his word, but has kept himself free over all things.
Diatribe, however, deceives herself in her ignorance by not making any distinction between God preached and God hidden, that is, between the Word of God and God himself. God does many things that he does not disclose to us in his word; he also wills many things which he does not disclose himself as willing in his word. Thus he does not will the death of a sinner, according to his word; but he wills it according to that inscrutable will of his. It is our business, however, to pay attention to the word and leave that inscrutable will alone, for we must be guided by the word and not by that inscrutable will. After all, who can direct himself by a will completely inscrutable and unknowable? It is enough to know simply that there is a certain inscrutable will in God, and as to what, why, and how far it wills, that is something we have no right whatever to inquire into, hanker after, care about, or meddle with, but only to fear and adore. [LW 33:139-140].
I suggest for those of you pursuing Luther's understanding of predestination, or Luther's similarities with Reformed theology, this type of statement from Luther should serve as the linchpin for correctly interpreting his view. If you pursue Luther's view via this paradox, you will correctly arrive at his view. On the other hand, the bigger question is whether or not those statements about predestination in the Bible are really to be classified with the hidden God.