Saturday, February 27, 2016

Luther: Have "Ineffable Joy" if You're Predestination to Hell (Part Two)

Previously I looked at a quotation from Luther's Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans concerning his alleged teaching of "ineffable joy" in discovering one is predestined to Hell. Typical of Rome's defenders, when a context was presented, their analysis doesn't equal what was originally said. Sometimes in cyberspace another Luther quote is presented along with the "ineffable joy" comment:
It gets even more bizarre than that, for those who are interested in the history of doctrine and theology. Luther thought that men should have an "ineffable joy" if they discovered that they were damned, because they were resigned to God's will: "If men willed what God wills, even though He should will to damn and reject them, they would see no evil in that [in the predestination to hell which he teaches]; for, as they will what God wills, they have, owing to their resignation, the will of God in them." [source]
The "ineffable joy" phrase is linked with this additional Luther quote in italics. I would posit again this additional quote is taken from Hartmann Grisar's Luther Vol. 1 (St. Louis: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., LTD, 1913) rather than any actual reading of Luther's Lectures on Romans. I base this on the phrase "in the predestination to hell which he teaches" which is an addition by Grisar, rather than a phrase in Luther's actual text. Note Grisar's statement:
"If men willed what God wills," he writes, "even though He should will to damn and reject them, they would see no evil in that [in the predestination to hell which he teaches]; for, as they will what God wills, they have, owing to their resignation, the will of God in them." Does he mean by this that they should resign themselves to hating God for all eternity ? Luther does not seem to notice that hatred of God is an essential part of the condition of those who are damned ("damnari et reprobari ad infernum"). Has he perhaps come to conceive of a hatred of God proceeding from love? He seems almost to credit those who think of hell, with a resolve to bear everything, even hatred of God, with loving submission to the will of Him Who by His predestination has willed it. He even dares to say to those who are affrighted by predestination to hell, that resignation to eternal punishment is, for the truly wise, a source of "ineffable joy" ("ineffdbili iucunditate in ista materia delectantur"); for the perfect this is "the best purgation from their own will," i.e. the way of the greatest bitterness," because under charity the cross and suffering is always understood" (p.238).
Grisar cites "'Schol. Rom.,' pp. 213, 223" as the source for this quote. This appears to be
Luthers Vorlesung über den Römerbrief, 1515/1516. Grisar has cited the text backwards. The quote appears to be on page 223, while the "ineffable joy" comment he cites afterward actually precedes this quote on page 213.

The lines in question are 14-6: "Si enim vellent, quod vult Deus, etiamsi damnatos et reprobatos vellet, non haberent malum. Quia vellent, quod vult Deus, et haberent in se voluntatem Dei per patientiam." This text can also be found in WA 56:396-397 (lines 2-5 on page 397).

One of the ironies of Luther's Lectures on Romans was that we have the Vatican to partially thank for it. By the late sixteenth century, the manuscript was thought to be lost, then found, then lost again. A copy of it was eventually found, in of all places, the Vatican Library. Prompted by this discovery, Johannes Ficker went on to locate the original. Grisar therefore, was citing Ficker's publication of this newly rediscovered lost Luther writing.

This has been translated into English LW 25.386. The "ineffable joy" statement is from Luther's comment on Romans 8:28. This additional quote is from Luther's comment on Romans 9:14 which appears many pages later. By linking the two quotes together (and backwards by Grisar!), the caricature is created. We saw previously that rather than Luther teaching the damned should have "ineffable joy" about going to Hell, Luther actually meant that God's eternal election serves as a comfort to his chosen people: "Those who have the wisdom of the Spirit become ineffably happy through the doctrine." With this caricatured Roman Catholic presentation, we see the first citation combined with the additional quote meant to accentuate Luther's alleged teaching that the ineffably joyful damned won't have any problem or anger about being damned, but have happily resigned themselves to the will of God. At least Grisar asks questions of what exactly Luther is saying, and interprets in the form of speculation.

What does Luther's Romans Lectures actually say? Here is a bit of the context From Luther's comments on Romans 9:

9:11. Though they had done nothing either good or bad. [Paul] very nicely uses the term “they had done” rather than “they were.” For there is no doubt that both of them were evil because of the disease of original sin, although regarding Jacob some feel that he had been sanctified in the womb. But by their own merit they were the same and equal and belonged to the same mass of perdition.
9:14. Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! The apostle gives no other reason as to why there is not injustice with God than to say: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy” (v. 15), which is the same as saying: “I will have mercy on whom I wish,” or to him who is predestined to receive mercy. This is a harsh answer for the proud and those who think they know everything, but for the meek and the humble it is sweet and pleasing, because they despair of themselves; and thus God takes them up. For the fact is that there neither is nor can be any other reason for His righteousness than His will. So why should man murmur that God does not act according to the Law, since this is impossible? Or will it be possible for God not to be God? Furthermore, since His will is the highest good, why are we not glad and willing and eager to see it be done, since it cannot possibly be evil? But do I hear you say: “It is evil for me”? Perish the thought! It is evil for no one. But because we cannot affect His will nor cause it to be done, this becomes an evil thing for men. For if they were willing to do what God wills, even if He should will that they be damned and reprobated, they would have no evil. For they would will what God wills, and they would have in themselves the will of God in patience. [LW 25: 386]

Luther explains God's sovereign will is absolutely good. It cannot be otherwise. Men have no right to complain that God's will is not good. Luther then presents an imaginary detractor/complainer who states, "Is God's sovereign will evil for me personally?" Luther responds: No! God's will is evil for no one. But men do not like that they are powerless against God's will, so for these people, God's good will is seen as an evil thing in their minds. Now, contrarily, if they saw God's will as a good thing, they would want what God wills to come to pass, even if it meant their damnation. They would actually patiently bear what God wills. But they are the wicked, and do not want God's will to be done.

I grant this is a difficult Biblical text, both to understand and to actually digest theologically for those used to ascribing power to the human will. As I read Luther's text, it is a hypothetical in which the point is about God's eternal goodness rather than about the ineffably joyful damned happily resigning themselves to the will of God. Why would the wicked patiently bear what God wills? It is an attribute of their hatred of God that they do no such thing. But even if they hypothetically could patiently bear what God wills, God would still not be doing them any evil. Of course, allowing God to save whom he wants is offensive to the human mind. God's free will not being subject to human will seems absolutely wrong to the sinful mind. Luther himself realizes this, and goes on to state:

I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (9:15).That means: I will give grace, in time and life, to him concerning whom I purposed from eternity to show mercy. On him will I have compassion and forgive his sin in time and life whom I forgave and pardoned from all eternity. In doing this. God is not unjust, for so He willed and was pleased to do from eternity, and His will is not bound by any law or obligation. (God's) free will, which is subject to no one, cannot be unjust. Indeed, it is impossible that it should be unjust. God's will would be unjust only if it would transgress some law, (and that means that God would go counter to Himself).
This statement seems hard and cruel, but it is full of sweet comfort, because God has taken upon Himself all our help and salvation, in order that He alone might wholly be the Author of our salvation. So also we read in 11:32: "God hath concluded them all in unbelief, (not with cruel intention, but) that he might have mercy upon all"; that is, in order that He might show mercy to all, which otherwise He neither would nor could do, if we would oppose Him with the arrogant pride of our own righteousness.
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth but of God that sheweth mercy (9:16). This does not mean that God's mercy altogether excludes our willing or running. But the words mean: The fact that a person wills and runs, he owes not to his own strength, but to the mercy of God; for it is He who gives us the power to will and to do. Without this (power) man of his own accord is unable both to will and to do. This truth the Apostle expresses in Philippians 2:13 thus: "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Just that the Apostle says in our text in different words: It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, that is, who (of himself) accomplishes (his salvation), but of God that showeth mercy, that is, who grants to men the gift of His grace.
Here let me add an admonition: Let no one lose himself in speculation (on this point) whose mind is not yet sanctified, in order that he may not fall into abyss of terror and despair. Let him rather first purify (enlighten) the understanding of his mind by considering the wounds of Jesus Christ (whose blood flows with salvation for all sinners). This is theology in the most excellent sense of the term. Of this the Apostle writes in I Corinthians 2:6: "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect." I myself am still a babe that requires milk and not meat (I Cor. 3:2); and so let everyone do who is a babe in Christ, as I am. The wounds of Jesus Christ, the "clefts of the rock" (Ex. 33:22), give us sufficient assurance (of our salvation'). [This is an edited version of the text from LW 25- Luther's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976, pp. 139-140 ].

This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2008. 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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