Monday, August 16, 2010

Luther: God Moved the Will of Judas?

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading of "Free Will":

“His (Judas) will was the work of God; God by His almighty power moved his will as He does all that is in this world” [De servo Arbitrio, against man’s free will].
Elsewhere I've documented that Luther, Exposing the Myth juxtaposes these type of Luther quotes against a Pelagian misinterpretation of Scripture. Luther Exposing the Myth completely ignores Luther's argumentation about necessity and the will. Rather, they set up a Pelagian paradigm which is quite reminiscent of that put forth by Erasmus. Both Luther Exposing the Myth and Erasmus either minimize or ignore grace. With this quote, Luther's position is caricatured to prove God is the author of Judas' sin.

Luther Exposing the Myth simply points readers to the Latin version of the Bondage of the Will, "De Servo Arbitrio." This is a telling indication that the quote comes from a secondary source. The author of Luther Exposing the Myth probably didn't read this quote in context. I've found a secondary source that lays out the quote in a similar fashion. In Roman Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar's Luther His Life and Work, page 304, it states,
The assertion of God's relation to sin was equally unintelligible to many readers of Luther's treatise. If man lacks free-will, who is it that causes sin? Luther feels that it will not do to hold God directly responsible for sin. He does not assert that there is an immediate impulse to evil originating with God. But, quite consistent with his system, he speaks of the treachery of Judas thus: "His [Judas'] will was the work of God; God by His almighty power moved his will as He does all that is in this world."
Grisar documents this quote by referring to his own book, Luther vol. II, p. 282:

In the case of the betrayal of Judas, as Scheel points out, Luther does not mention any necessity "which compelled Judas to act as he did"; Luther seems, at least in certain passages, to look on that act as necessary, only because, having been foreseen by God, it "inevitably occurs at the time appointed." Yet elsewhere he says: "His will [that of the traitor] was the work of God; God by His Almighty Power moved his will as He does all that is in the world." (3)
(3)"Fingat, refingat, cavilletur, recavilletur Diatribe, quantum volet. Si praescivit Deus, Iudam fore proditorem, necessarie Iudas fiebat proditor,nec erat in manu Judae aut ullius creaturae, aliter facere aut voluntatem mutare, licet id fecerit volendo non coactus, sed velle illud erat opus Dei, quod omnipotentia sua movebat, sicut et omnia alia." "Werke," Weim. ed., 18, p. 715 ; " Opp. Lat. var.," 7, p. 263.

Grisar cites "Werke," Weim. ed., 18, p. 715 ; " Opp. Lat. var.," 7, p. 263. Contrary to the documentation of Luther, Exposing the Myth, Both of these are valid primary references. In the later Grisar quote we find his typical interpretation of Luther. Grisar actually gets it right by noting Luther did not charge God directly responsible for the sin of Judas and that the passages in question presents Luther arguing for the betrayal of Judas "having been foreseen by God" therefore "inevitably occurs at the time appointed time." But in typical Grisar fashion, the Luther quote in question is used to show Luther contradicted himself by stating Luther "elsewhere says..."

By using Grisar's references to the WA edition, the quote can be cross-referenced in the English versions of the Bondage of the Will. The quote appears on page 213 of the Packer / Johnston translation and on page 185 of LW 33.


Packer / Johnston translation
The fancy about necessity of consequence and of the thing consequent was refuted earlier. Let the Diatribe invent and go on inventing, let it quibble and quibble again—if God foreknew that Judas would be a traitor, Judas became a traitor of necessity, and it was not in the power of Judas or of any creature to act differently, or to change his will, from that which God had foreseen. It is true that Judas acted willingly, and not under compulsion, but his willing was the work of God, brought into being by His omnipotence, like everything else. It is a principle of clear, unassailable truth that God does not lie or make mistakes. There are no obscure or ambiguous words here, even though all the most learned men of all ages should be so blind as to think and affirm the contrary. However much you may boggle, yet your conscience, and everybody's conscience, is convinced, and bound to confess, that, if God is not mistaken in what He foreknows, then what He foreknows must necessarily come to pass. Otherwise, who could believe His promises, and who would fear His threatenings, if what He promised or threatened did not necessarily ensue? How can He promise or threaten, if His foreknowledge deceives Him, or can be obstructed by our instability? The supremely clear light of certain truth stops all mouths, ends all questions and gives victory over all the subtleties of evasion.

LW 33
But these are all signs of a mind under conviction and rashly struggling against invincible truth. That figment about the necessity of consequence and of the consequent has been refuted above. Diatribe may pretend and pretend again, quibble and quibble again, as much as she likes, but if God foreknew that Judas would be a traitor, Judas necessarily became a traitor, and it was not in the power of Judas or any creature to do differently or to change his will, though he did what he did willingly and not under compulsion, but that act of will was a work of God, which he set in motion by his omnipotence, like everything else. For it is an irrefutable and self-evident proposition that God does not lie and is not deceived. There are no obscure or ambiguous words here, even if all the most learned men of all the centuries are so blind as to think and speak otherwise. And however much you boggle at it, your own and everyone else’s conscience is convinced and compelled to say that if God is not deceived in what he foreknows, then the thing foreknown must of necessity take place; otherwise, who could believe his promises, who would fear his threats, if what he promises or threatens does not follow necessarily? Or how can he promise or threaten if his foreknowledge is fallible or can be hindered by our mutability? Clearly this very great light of certain truth stops everyone’s mouth, puts an end to all questions, ensures the victory over all evasive subtleties.
According to Luther, if God foreknows something, that "something" will come to pass. The quote itself appears in a context in which Luther makes this point both before and after it occurs. When Luther states the will of Judas was brought into being like everything else, he's simply stating a truth that all that is, ultimately is so because God brought human reality into being. The question as to the origin of sin (how Satan and man fell into sin) is, as Roman Catholic scholar Harry McSorley points out, "bypassed" (Luther: Right or Wrong?, p. 342). For Luther, the sin of Judas is the responsibility of Judas.

In The Bondage of the Will, Luther goes into greater detail about Judas a few pages later. Note his emphasis on the appeal to necessity of time in regard to the betrayal of Judas:

Two Kinds of Necessity: The Case of Judas
But now how beautifully [Erasmus] preserves freedom together with necessity when she says: “Not all necessity excludes free will, since God the Father necessarily begets the Son, and yet begets him freely and willingly, for he is not forced to do so.” I ask you, are we now disputing about coercion and force? Have we not plainly stated in so many of our books that we are speaking of the necessity of mutability? We know that the Father begets willingly, and that Judas betrayed Christ by an act of will; but we say this willing was certainly and infallibly going to occur in Judas himself if God foreknew it. Or if what I am saying is still not understood, let us have two sorts of necessity, one of force with reference to the work, the other of infallibility with reference to the time; and let anyone who listens to us understand that we are speaking of the latter, not of the former; that is to say, we are not discussing whether Judas became a traitor involuntarily or voluntarily, but whether at a time preordained by God it was bound infallibly to happen that Judas by an act of his will should betray Christ.
But see what Diatribe says here: “If you look at the infallible foreknowledge of God, and his immutable will, Judas was necessarily going to turn traitor, and yet Judas could change his mind.” Do you really understand what you are saying, my dear Diatribe? Leaving aside the fact that the will can only will evil, as was proved above, how could Judas change his mind so long as the infallible foreknowledge of God remained? Could he change God’s foreknowledge and make it fallible? Here Diatribe gives up; she deserts the standard, throws away her arms, and quits the field, making out that the discussion has to do with Scholastic subtleties about the necessity of consequence and consequent, and she has no desire to pursue such quibbles[LW 33: 192-193].
What does it matter to me if free choice is not compelled, but does what it does willingly? It is enough for me that you grant that it must necessarily do what it does willingly, and that it cannot do anything else, if God has foreknown it. If God foreknows that Judas will turn traitor, or that he will change his will to betray, whichever God has foreknown will necessarily come about, or else God will be mistaken in his foreknowing and predicting, which is impossible. For this is the result of the necessity of consequence, i.e., if God foreknows a thing, that thing necessarily happens. That is to say, there is no such thing as free choice. This necessity of consequence is not obscure or ambiguous, and even if the doctors of all the centuries were blind, they would be forced to admit it, since it is so manifest and certain as to be palpable. But the necessity of the consequent, with which they console themselves, is a mere phantom and diametrically opposed to the necessity of consequence. For example, there is a necessity of consequence if I say: God foreknows that Judas will be a traitor, therefore it will certainly and infallibly come about that Judas will be a traitor. In face of this necessity and consequence, this is how you console yourself: But because Judas can change his will to betray, there is therefore no necessity of the consequent. How, I ask you, do these two statements harmonize: “Judas can will not to betray” and “It is necessary that Judas should will to betray”? Do they not directly contradict and oppose one another? He will not, you say, be compelled to betray against his will. What has that to do with it? You have been speaking about the necessity of the consequent, and saying that it is not implied by the necessity of consequence, but you have said nothing about the compulsion of the consequent. The question you were supposed to answer was about the necessity of the consequent, and you give an example about the compulsion of the consequent; I ask for one thing, you give me another. This comes of your being only half awake and not noticing how completely useless that device of the necessity of the consequent is [LW 194-195].
Luther's view of necessity is quite complex. Luther clearly says Judas did not betray Christ in the sense of necessity of force or violence. Rather, he appeals to a necessity of time, that if God knows something is going to happen, it will indeed happen. This type of distinction isn't even at odds with Romanism. For instance, Roman Catholic scholar Harry McSorley's in-depth treatment of De Servo ArbitrioLuther Right or Wrong? argues as much. This isn't to suggest Luther's view as expressed in the Bondage of the Will is entirely in harmony with Roman Catholicism. Even McSorley points out it is not. However, with this particular quote, Luther Exposing the Myth is using a quote out of context, that when placed back in context, doesn't necessarily contradict Roman Catholicsm. True, Luther's view of providence and the hidden God is distasteful to many (including many Lutherans), but in this instance, the quote being used is part of an argument simply asserting that if God knows something is going to happen, it will.

Addendum (2016)
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2010. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former.

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