Monday, April 01, 2013

Luther: "God creates in us the evil in like manner as the good"

This is a fascinating quote purported to come from Luther's Bondage of the Will:

"God pleaseth you when He crowns the unworthy, He ought not to displease you when he damns the innocent. All things take place by the eternal and invariable will of God, who blasts and shatters in pieces the freedom of the will. God creates in us the evil in like manner as the good. The high perfection of faith is to believe that God is just, notwithstanding that by His will He renders us necessarily damnable."
It was cited in this form by Sir William Hamilton, a respected scholar in the 19th Century.  Hamilton claimed that he had literally translated Luther. It was later proved this wasn't so. He had relied on a translation for the above quote from a secondary source. I provide this example because many times in researching quotes from Luther, I've found that the quotes can sometimes be different sentences strung together from various places, put forth to sound like one specific quote:

As the sentences just quoted stand in the Review, they seem to form one continuous passage. But when we look through the Treatise De Servo Arbitrio, we discover to our surprise that they are culled out from various parts of it, with long intervals between them, and that they are monstrously garbled and misrepresented. I dare say the Reviewer himself does not know this; and he may perhaps be thankful to see the originals of his quotation. Well! if he will look into the third volume of the Jena edition, p. 207 a, he will find Luther arguing thus against an objection urged by Erasmus in his Diatribe de Libero Arbitrio on the score of justice: "Vides ergo Diatriben cum suis in hac causa non judicare secundum aequitatem, sed secundum affectum commodi sui. Si enim aequitatem spectaret, aeque expostularet cum Deo, dum indignos coronat, atque expostulat cum eo, dum immeritos damnat. Aeque etiam latidaret et praedicaret Deum, dum damnat immeritos, atque facit, dum indignos salvat. Utrobique enim par iniquitas, si sensum nostrum spectes; nisi non fuerit aeque iniquum si Cain ob homicidium laudes regemque facias, atque si Habel innocentem in carcerem conjicias aut occidas. Cum igitur ratio Deum laudet indignos salvantem, arguat vero immeritos damnantem, convincitur non laudare Deum ut Deum, sed ut suo commodo servientem : hoc est, seipsam et quae sua sunt in Deo quaerit et laudat, non Deum aut quae Dei sunt. At si placet tibi Deus indignos coronans, non debet etiam displicere immeritos damnans." Here the sentence which the Reviewer sets at the head of Luther's offensive sayings, and which, as so placed, can only be understood absolutely, —nay, which he plainly meant to be understood absolutely, — nay, which, as we shall see, he himself understood absolutely, — comes in as one in a chain of strictly logical propositions, in reply to a particular argument used by Erasmus. Luther is not declaring his ovra belief, but merely reducing his opponent's argument ad ahsurdum.

Turn we back eighty-four folio pages to 165 a, and we come to the following sentences. " Est itaque hoc imprimis necessarium et salutare Christiano nosse, quod Deus nihil praescit contingenter, sed quod omnia incommutabiU, et aeterna, infallibilique voluntate et praevidet et proponit et facit. Hoc fuhnine sternitur et conteritur penitus Liberum Arbitrium." If the reader compares this with the Reviewer's second sentence, he will perceive what is the meaning of a "literal translation." Luther says that "the foreknowledge of God is a thunderbolt by which Liberum Arbitrium is crusht and destroyed." The Reviewer's literal translation most profanely represents God as "blasting and shattering in pieces the freedom of the will" But this mistranslation too, we shall see, is not imputable wholly to him.

The precise original of the next sentence, "God creates in us the evil, in like manner as the good," I have not met with: perhaps there is none, none at all events that the Reviewer knows of; but there are a number of passages that "blast and shatter in pieces" such an accusation; for instance in 199 a : "Quando Deus omnia in omnibus movet et agit, necessario movet etiam et agit in Satana et impio. Agit autem in illis taliter, quales illi sunt, et quales invenit ; hoc est, cum illi sint aversi et maK, et rapiantur motu illo divinae omnipotentiae, non nisi aversa et mala faciunt. Tanquam si eques agat equum tripedem vel bipedem, agit quidem taliter, qualis equus est; hoc est, equus male incedit. Sed quid faciat eques ? Equum talem simul agit cum equis sanis, illo male, istis bene : aliter non potest, nisi equus sanetur. Hie vides Deum, cum in malis et per malos operatur, mala quidem fieri, Deum tanien non posse male facere, licet mala per malos faciat, quia ipse bonus malefacere non potest, malis tamen instrumentis utitur. —Omnipotentia Dei facit ut impius non possit motum et actionem Dei evadere. — Corruptio vero seu aversio sui a Deo facit ut bene moveri et rapi non possit. Deus suam omnipotentiam non potest omittere propter illius aversi- onem, impius vero suam aversionem non potest mutafe. Ita fit ut perpetuo et necessario peccet et erret, donee Spiritu Dei corrigatur. — Non igitur quispiam cogitet, Deum, cum dicitur indurare, aut malum in nobis operari, (indurare enim est malum facere), sic facere, quasi de novo in nobis malum creet ; ac si fingas malignum caupo- nem, qui, ipse mains, in vas non malum fundat aut temperet venenum, ipso vase nihil faciente. — Sic enim fingere videntur hominem per sese bonum, aut non malum, pati a Deo malum opus, dum audiunt a nobis dici Deum in nobis operari bona et mala — (can this be the original of the Reviewer's sentence, "God creates in us the evil, in like manner as the good?" the Reviewer himself, we shall see, cannot tell us whether it is or not:) nosque mera necessitate passiva sutjici Deo operanti. — Sed ita cogitet, — in nobis, id est, per nos Deum operari mala, non culpa Dei, sed vitio nostro, qui cum simus natura mali, Deus vero bonus, nos actione sua pro natura omnipotentiae suae rapiens, aliter facere non possit, quam quod ipse bonus malo instrumento malum faciat, licet hoc malo pro sua sapientia utatur bene ad gloriam suam et salutem nostram." Let none despise this explanation. "Who has given a better? and Luther himself, just before, says, "Oportuit verbis Dei contentos esse, et simpliciter credere quod dicunt, cum sint opera Dei prorsus inenarrabilia. Tamen in obsequium Rationis, id est, stultitiae humanae, libet ineptire et stultescere, et balbutiendo tentare si qua possimus eam movere."

For the last sentence in the Reviewer's quartette we must again go back fifty-six folio pages to 171 a; and there we read, "Hie est fidei summus gradus, credere ilium esse clementem, qui tam paucos salvat, tam multos damnat, credere justum, qui sua vohmtate nos necessario damnabiles facit, ut videatur, referente Erasmo, delectari cruciatibus miserorum, et odio potius quam amore dignus." The meaning of this passage, as is clear from the context, is: "This is the highest pitch of faith, to believe in the mercy of God, although few are saved, and so many condemned, to believe in the justice of God, who by His will creates us, though by the necessity of our fallen nature we become inevitably subject to condemnation, without the special help of His Spirit; so that, as Erasmus states it, He seems to find pleasure in the torments of the wretched, and to be deserving of hatred rather than love." The argument throughout the whole Treatise is, that God does not create the evil in us, but that He creates us, though our fallen nature is evil, and though, until that fallen nature is renewed, we are unable to resist sin, and thereby become liable to condemnation. How grossly all this is misrepresented in the Reviewer's "literal translation," is plain. In the last clause the words referente Erasmo, which show that it was a conclusion drawn, not by Luther himself, but by Erasmus, are wholly left out (bf).

Still in one sense the Reviewer is not so guilty as he appears. For, strange though it may be deemed, it unquestionably is the fact, as I have already hinted more than once, that he had never set eyes on the original Latin of any one of these four sentences. The garbling, the mistranslation, the misrepresentation are not the Reviewer's sin, but Bossuet's, in the second Book of whose Histoire des Variations the four sentences stand, almost consecutively, though not in the same order, in one page, § xvii. As a thief is sometimes detected through some flaw in his shoe or boot, which happens to coincide with the foot-prints about the spot where the robbery was committed, so here we may feel confident that the Reviewer, who verily needs an expert policeman to track him, took his quotations from Bossuet, because, after the Chinese fashion, they copy Bossuet's faults. For Bossuet too, in the second sentence, gives, "Toutes choses arrivent par une immuable, ^ternelle, et inevitable volonte de Dieu, qui foud/roie et met en pieces tout le libre arhitre; " and Bossuet also, according to his wont, perverts the whole of the last sentence, omitting the very words which the Reviewer omits, not only the clause about God's mercy, but also the two words referente Erasmo, the absence of which completely changes the character of the last clause, shifting its offensiveness from Erasmus to Luther; and Bossuet in like manner mistranslates "qui sua voluntate nos necessario damnahiles facit" by " quoiqu'il nous rende necessairement damnahles par sa volonte."

But though Bossuet may thus relieve the Reviewer from a part of his guilt, still, when we remember that in the sentence immediately before these propositions, which he quotes as exemplifying Luther's paradoxes in Speculative Theology, he promises that his "hasty anthology of Luther's opinions" shall be "in his own words, literally translated" — and when we find it thus demonstrated that the first four sentences which he produces, on a subject on which the utmost precision is, above all, indispensable, as a metaphysician must be especially aware, are not translated from Luther, but from the translation of a Frenchman, a person therefore nationally inaccurate, and Luther's bitter and fierce enemy, — and that he can never have seen Luther's words, that he had no notion whatever of their meaning and logical connection, — we will leave him to characterize his own conduct, if he can find appropriate terms for it in that rich vocabulary which he has poured out in his attacks on the University of Oxford. On the other hand what a testimony is it to the soundness of Luther's doctrines, that this knot of garbled sentences thus twisted and strained from their meaning are all that so unscrupulous an enemy has been able to scrape together against him under the head of Speculative Theology!

This was Hamilton's response:

 "In regard to the testimonies from Luther under this first head, but under this alone, I must make a confession. There are few things to which I feel a greater repugnance than relying upon quotations at second-hand. Now those under this head were not taken immediately from Luther's treatise, 'De Servo Arbitrio,' in which they are all contained. I had indeed more than once read that remarkable work, and once attentively, marking, as is my wont, the more important passages; but at the time of writing this article, my copy was out of immediate reach, and the press being urgent, I had no leisure for a reperusal. In these circumstances, finding that the extracts from it in Theoduls Gastmald corresponded, so far as they went, with those also given by Bossuet, and as, from my own recollection (and the testimony, I think, of Werdermann), they fairly represented Luther's doctrine; I literally translated the passages, even in their order, as given by Von Stark (and in Dr Kentsinger's French version). Stark, I indeed now conjecture, had Bossuet in his eye. I deem it right to make this avowal, and to acknowledge that I did what I account wrong. But, again, I have no hesitation in now, after full examination, deliberately saying, that I do not think these extracts, whether by Bossuet, or by Stark and Bossuet, to be unfairly selected, to be unfaithfully translated, to be garbled, or to misrepresent in any way Luther's doctrine; in particular his opinions touching the divine predestination and the human will."


Martin Yee said...


Thanks for the detective work. It is amazing how much of such garbage is floating around.


James Swan said...

Well Martin, I didn't do much this time! But, thanks for the comment!