Thursday, February 27, 2020

Luther: "Affliction is the best book in my library"

Here's a popular Martin Luther quote making the cyberspace rounds, even finding it's way into Christian History Magazine:
"Affliction is the best book in my library." Another version says, "The best book in the library of my life is the Book of Affliction." Did Luther say it? I don't think so.

Since this quote often appears undocumented throughout cyberspace, let's use Christian History Magazine as the source. While entertainingly written, Christian History is often lacking in regard to precise documentation. This particular quote is included in their section, "Colorful Sayings of Colorful Luther: A sample of the reformer's wit and wisdom" (Issue 34, Vol. XI, No. 2, pp.27-28), compiled by Mary Ann Jeffreys (apparently, a freelance writer if this is the same person).

What's interesting about Ms. Jeffreys is that a simple Google search of her name + "Christianity Today" (the publisher of Christian History) puts forth a number of hits to articles on or by Charles Spurgeon.  A basic Google book search of this Luther quote also puts forth a number of hits to books by Charles Spurgeon. Coincidence?  Probably not! It appears to me that the basic English form of this quote originated from a Charles Spurgeon sermon published in the nineteenth-century. Spurgeon preached,
Another reason for this discipline is, I think, that in heaviness we often learn lessons that we never could attain elsewhere. Do you know that God has beauties for every part of the world; and he has beauties for every place of experience? There are views to be seen from the tops of the Alps that you can never see elsewhere. Ay, but there are beauties to be seen in the depths of the dell that ye could never see on the tops of the mountains; there are glories to be seen on Pisgah, wondrous sights to be beheld when by faith we stand on Tabor; but there are also beauties to be seen in our Gethsemanes, and some marvelously sweet flowers are to be culled by the edge of the dens of the leopards. Men will never become great in divinity until they become great in suffering. “Ah!” said Luther, “affliction is the best book in my library;” and let me add, the best leaf in the book of affliction is that blackest of all the leaves, the leaf called heaviness, when the spirit sinks within us, and we can not endure as we could wish.
I could not locate anything exactly like "affliction is the best book in my library" from Luther.  The closest I could locate was the following Table Talk utterance:
To have Patience in Suffering.
On the 8th of August, 1529, Luther, together with his wife lay sick of a fever; then he said, God hath touched me sorely, and I have been impatient: but God knoweth better than we whereto it serveth. Our Lord God doth like a printer, who setteth the letters backwards; we see and feel well his setting, but we shall see the print yonder, in the life to come: in the mean time we must have patience.
The tribulations of God-fearing christians are strong and profitable. Tribulation is a right school, and an exercise of flesh and blood: whoso is without them, the same understandeth nothing. Therefore the Psalms, almost in every verse, speaketh of nothing but tribulations, and perplexities, sorrows, and troubles: it is a book of tribulations.

That Table Talk quote was taken from one of the oldest modern English versions, a version published in the nineteenth-century. Included in this volume is a lengthy anthology of quotes on "Temptation and Tribulation." Did Spurgeon have this edition? During Spurgeon's time period, there was only a limited pool of Luther's writings available in English, so it's highly likely he had a copy. It was a very popular book!  It certainly would make sense that he would gravitate to those Table Talk topics that expounded on suffering. Spurgeon's sermon is about spiritual "heaviness," or rather despair. It's a fairly uncontested fact that Spurgeon suffered from bouts of depression, as did Luther.

I suspect though, Spurgeon had a flair for using the phrase, "best book," and he was not citing Luther at all.  Elsewhere, Spurgeon says:
Let me yet further observe, that YOUR FAITH WILL BE TRIED FOR AN ABUNDANTLY USEFUL PURPOSE. The trial of your faith will increase, develop, deepen, and strengthen it. “Oh,” you have said, “I wish I had more faith.” Your prayer will be heard through your having more trial. Often in our prayers we have sought for a stronger faith to look within the veil. The way to stronger faith usually lies along the rough pathway of sorrow. Only as faith is contested will faith be confirmed. I do not know whether my experience is that of all God’s people; but I am afraid that all the grace that I have got out of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable. What do I not owe to the hammer and the anvil, the fire and the file? What do I not owe to the crucible and the furnace, the bellows that have blown up the coals, and the hand which has thrust me into the heat? Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister’s library. We may wisely rejoice in tribulation, because it worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and by that way we are exceedingly enriched, and our faith grows strong.
Notice also this comment from Spurgeon:
We learn more true divinity by our trials than by our books. The great Reformer said, "Prayer is the best book in my library." He might have added affliction as the next. Sickness is the best Doctor of Divinity in all the world; and trial is the finest exposition of Scripture. This is so inestimable a mark of the love of our blessed Lord that we might almost desire trouble for the sake of it.
Notice also this comment from Spurgeon:
LUTHER has well said that the experience of the minister is the best book in his library. I am persuaded it is so, and that God often leads his servants through peculiar states of mind, not so much for their own benefit as for the sake of those to whom they may afterwards minister.
The similarities are apparent, but no mention of Luther in the first quote, and referring to the "great Reformer" in the second, and "Luther" in the third. I suspect the "best book" was Spurgeon's phrase, not Luther's.

If Spurgeon was citing Luther, he was probably working from memory in his sermon and not citing Luther directly, perhaps summarizing the Table Talk's extensive quotes on suffering. The quote, as has been popularized, may simply also be Spurgeon's recollection of what he recalls reading Luther to have said, perhaps by Luther, or perhaps a book about Luther. Interestingly, elsewhere in the Table Talk, Luther does mention the "best book" in regard to suffering:
The Holy Scriptures are full of divine gifts and virtues. The books of the heathen taught nothing of faith, hope, or charity; they present no idea of these things; they contemplate only the present, and that which man, with the use of his material reason, can grasp and comprehend. Look not therein for aught of hope or trust in God. But see how the Psalms and the Book of Job treat of faith, hope, resignation, and prayer; in a word, the Holy Scripture is the highest and best of books, abounding in comfort under all afflictions and trials. It teaches us to see, to feel, to grasp, and to comprehend faith, hope, and charity, far otherwise than mere human reason can; and when evil oppresses us, it teaches how these virtues throw light upon the darkness, and how, after this poor, miserable existence of ours on earth, there is another and an eternal life.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Transcendental Luther: "God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars"

Did Luther say "God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars"?  If one bases their proof on the number of hits from a quick Internet search for this quote, he most certainly did! But as the axiom should go: something isn't true simply because a bunch of people in cyberspace say it is.  One blogger rightly questioned the quote, classifying it as "more stuff that Martin Luther didn't say." There was also a discussion here which  questioned the veracity of the statement.

I offer below my own investigation of the quote. It's fascinating to try and uncover if Luther actually said something. It's even more fascinating to investigate how a particular quote was attributed to Luther, or how it took on the current form it has. We'll see with this quote, Luther probably didn't say it, though he said something similar.

Most often the quote has no meaningful documentation, if any at all. The earliest usages I could find  in its current popular form stem from the late 1800's. By searching texts on Google Books from the nineteenth-century, the quote seems to simply spring into literary existence during that period. The appearance of the quote increases in the twentieth-century books.

The earliest nineteenth-century attribution I could find of this precise English wording was from a historical novel,  or rather, "historical fiction" about the life of Martin Luther entitled, The Schonberg-Cotta Family (1862) written by Elizabeth Rundle Charles.  This author fictionally "examined the life and personal influence of the young Martin Luther on the family of his printer." In one passage, Rundle-Charles describes Luther speaking to his wife:
In spring he loves to direct her attention to the little points and tufts of life peeping everywhere from the brown earth or the bare branches. "Who," he said, "that had never witnessed a springtime would have guessed, two months since, that those lifeless branches held concealed all that hidden power of life? It will be thus with us at the resurrection. God writes His Gospel, not in the Bible alone, but in trees, and flowers, and clouds, and stars."  [source]
According to the reviews I've read of Rundle-Charles, she was a prolific author, her Luther novel though being her most popular book. Some years back I found a copy of it in a pile of disorganized books in an antique store.  I've since come across a number of copies in the same sort of setting. Her book apparently was popular enough that cheap copies are still laying around in junk stores. My copy states the following just previous to the contents page:
The portions of these Chronicles which refer to Luther, Melancthon, Frederic of Saxony, and other historical persons, can be verified from Luther’s “Tischreden;” Luther’s “Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken;” edited by De Wette; the four volumes called, “Geist aus Luther's Schriften,” edited by F. W. Lomler, C. F. Lucius, Dr. T. Rust, L. Sackreuter, and Dr. Ernst Zimmermann; Tutschmann’s “Friedrich der Weise;” the “History of the Reformation,” by Ranke; and that by D'Aubigné; with the ordinary English historical works relating to the period.
I don't question that Rundle-Charles actually read these sources and utilized them for her fictional Luther account. One biography says Rundle-Charles was instructed in "numerous languages" so perhaps she really did utilize these sources for her Luther citations. Interestingly, Rundle-Charles went on to put out another Luther book: Watchwords for the Warfare of Life From Doctor Martin Luther (1869). The preface posts the same sort of bibliographical information.  In another edition the preface states Rundle-Charles did indeed do the translation work,
The selections in this volume have all been freshly translated from Luther’s own German or Latin, with the exception of the extracts taken from the sixteenth century translation of the Commentary on the Galatians. The majority of the extracts are from the Letters and the Tischreden.-The Author.
Included in this follow-up volume, Rundle-Charles includes the following excerpt:
In the year 1539, on the 11th of April, Doctor Martin Luther was in his garden, and with many a deep thought, he looked at the trees - how fair and lovely they were, budding and blossoming and growing green; he said,” Praised be God the Creator, who in the springtime out of dead creatures makes all living again. Look at the little twigs,” he said, “so sweet and full; pregnant with new life. There we have a beautiful image of the Resurrection of the dead. The winter is death; the summer is the Resurrection of the dead, for then all live again and grow green.”
I  suspect Rundle-Charles was using the same source as the quote we're searching for. Notice the similarities: both describe Luther in the springtime, both describe bare branches that begin the blooming cycle again,  both link this to the resurrection. In this later volume she mentioned the majority of her selections were from letters or the Tischreden (Table Talk). Even though a date is included leading one to assume the source was a letter, (April 11, 1539), the way it unfolds sounds much more like a Table Talk statement.

I don't know which edition of the Tischreden Rundle-Charles had, but there is a Table Talk entry dated April 11, 1539 that says:

This comment can be found in : WA 4:337 (4484) in a mixed German / Latin form. This would be a comment recorded by Anthony Lauterbach. Lauterbach was careful with his dates (LW 54:253), so it appears he was the Genesis of "April 11,1539."  The content of this Table Talk entry is very similar  to that put forth by Rundle-Charles in her 1569 book.  There's also another a Table Talk comment that has a similar thrust,   WA 4:369. This comment is from April 28-29 1539. There Luther says,
No. 4542: Pleasures of a May Day in Late April April 28, 1539
 Afterward he gave thought to the pleasant weather of the month of May, whose blooms are a parable of the resurrection of the dead. “How pleasant the trees are! How delightfully green everything’s beginning to be! It’s like a charming day in May. I don’t recall one like it. If it continues this way it will be a very fruitful year and the world will be crammed full. Ah, would that we could trust God! If God can take such delight in our earthly sojourn, what must it be like in the life to come?”) (LW. 54:351).
Did Luther say,  "God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars"? If the source for this English quote is indeed Elizabeth Rundle Charles, I don't think he did say it. It appears that it was her literary license with the sources she utilized to create her fictional account of Luther. In other words, she embellished Luther's comments.  Interestingly though I came across a sermon from Luther that says the following:
Such comfort is also imparted in the beautiful parable of the budding trees, which He gives them that they may all the better appropriate to themselves this consolation. In spring, He says, when winter ceases and the whole earth becomes new; when the cold departs and the warmth takes its place; when the dry trees become green and blossom again, tell me, how does all this begin? Is it not true that buds first begin to swell, then to open? Then every one says that winter is past and summer will soon be here. Let this parable be your teacher, and the trees in the field your book, that you may learn to know how to await the last day. For God has written this article of the last day and resurrection of the dead not only in books, but also in trees and other creatures. As summer surely will follow when the sap rises in the trees, and they put forth leaves; so when the earth shall quake, the heavens tremble, and the sun and moon look dark and gloomy, then be no more afraid than you are when the young leaves appear and summer is about to come. Such signs shall be to you like the sap and leaflets on the trees, that you may with joy look for the eternal summer, and know that there shall now be an end of your distress and anguish. For this wretched life on earth is like the unfruitful winter when everything dries up, dies and decays. But it shall then have an end, and the beautiful, eternal summer shall come, namely, the kingdom of God, by which the kingdom of the devil shall be destroyed, on account of which you have had to suffer so much in this world. For in this world you must live among ungodly, wicked, false, penurious people, who blaspheme and slander the gospel, and seek to bring about all manner of misfortune. This you must see and hear every day, and may expect it to become still worse. From this I will redeem you by my coming, that you may no more see nor suffer such things. 
So perhaps Luther didn't say ""God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars," rather, he preached "God has written this article of the last day and resurrection of the dead not only in books, but also in trees and other creatures."

Addendum: Other References to Luther's Comment from April 11,1539
It was really touching to witness the manner in which the most common occurrences would arouse in Luther reflections of piety on the goodness of God, on the state of man before the fall, on the life to come, and other serious topics. Thus, a beautiful bough loaded with cherries, brought and put on the table by doctor Jonas, a few fishes from the little pond in his garden, that his wife placed joyfully on the board, the mere sight of a rose, or any other equally simple incident would rouse these pious sentiments in him. On the 9th of April, 1539, the doctor was walking in his garden, attentively looking at the trees and flowers, then in all the brilliancy of spring verdure ; he exclaimed with admiration, "Glory to God, who, from the dead creation, thus raises up life again in the spring-time. Behold these branches, how strong, how beautiful they are! Already they teem, and are big with the fruit which they will bring forth. They offer a beautiful image of the resurrection of all men. The winter season represents death; the summer-tide, the resurrection. Then all things live again, all is verdant. [source]

Addendum #2
CARM discussion

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Calvin Cites Augustine: "The Will of God is the Necessity of Things"

In chasing down a John Calvin quote, I came upon a citation of Augustine. In Institutes III.23.8, Calvin says,
Here they have recourse to the distinction between will and permission. By this they would maintain that the wicked perish because God permits it, not because he so wills. But why shall we say “permission” unless it is because God so wills? Still, it is not in itself likely that man brought destruction upon himself through himself, by God’s mere permission and without any ordaining. As if God did not establish the condition in which he wills the chief of his creatures to be! I shall not hesitate, then, simply to confess with Augustine that “the will of God is the necessity of things,” and that what he has willed will of necessity come to pass, as those things which he has foreseen will truly come to pass.
Calvin's comment here enters that controversial place many theists fear to go, God's absolute unchangeable will, God's permissive will, predestination, reprobation, and Adam's fall into sin. I was curious to see Augustine's citation in context, to see if Calvin either mis-cited or misused Augustine. Granted, this may seem in some sense like an invitation to debate or discuss God's sovereignty, but my goal is primarily academic, focusing on how Calvin cited Augustine.

Augustine: Documentation
The version of Calvin's Institutes I utilized was that translated by Ford Lewis Battles and edited by John T. McNeill. This text provides a reference:  Augustine, On Genesis in the Literal Sense VI. 15. 26 (MPL 34.350). MPL refers to Migne Patrologia Latina. Here is 34:350. The text reads:

Calvin appears to have cited last part of  the last sentence:

An English translation is available. For context, I've also included VI.14.25.

Augustine: Context

Calvin's comments occur in his overall discussion on predestination and reprobation primarily, but he ventures into the fall of Adam into sin. Did God permit man's fall into sin or did he ordain it? Calvin affirms the later and says, "I shall not hesitate, then, simply to confess with Augustine that 'the will of God is the necessity of things,' and that what he has willed will of necessity come to pass, as those things which he has foreseen will truly come to pass." Later in the same section Calvin states, "Accordingly, man falls according as God's providence ordains, but he falls by his own fault." If this sounds tricky, Calvin goes on to say that we should spend our time contemplating Adam as the evident cause of the fall rather than "seek a hidden and utterly incomprehensible cause in God's predestination":
Accordingly, we should contemplate the evident cause of condemnation in the corrupt nature of humanity—which is closer to us—rather than seek a hidden and utterly incomprehensible cause in God’s predestination. And let us not be ashamed to submit our understanding to God’s boundless wisdom so far as to yield before its many secrets. For, of those things which it is neither given nor lawful to know, ignorance is learned; the craving to know, a kind of madness.
What was Augustine writing about? His comments were not addressing predestination and reprobation. His comments are from a book entitled, The Literal Meaning of Genesis. His concerns are with creation and origins. in VI.14.25 tackles whether or not things were created fully formed or whether or not they developed. Augustine says "they were created with an aptitude for each mode." In the next section, Augustine applies this to the creation of Adam and says whichever way God did it, it would be his absolute will that determined it. If the creation of man was an instantaneous creation of a fully formed man, that happened by God's imposed necessity. If the creation of man was through a process of some sort, whether it be formed into the mud "in that primordial establishment of causes," that happened by God's imposed necessity. If the creation of man has the potentiality to be created either way, the way it happened is by God's imposed necessity.

Did Calvin mis-cite Augustine? I don't think so. Both Calvin and Augustine in essence agree that all things that God created conform to His sovereign necessity, however each applied it in different areas. The overarching point is God's necessity.  I see some overlap with Calvin the continuation of Augustine's comments in the next section. Augustine says we don't know if a person will grow old, but if he does, it was God's will, "who established all things" because "the hidden formula of old age is there in the youthful body" (VI.16.27). The necessity of the man growing old is because of God, "For if he wills that will of necessity be in the future, and it is those things that he has foreknown which will really be in the future" (VI.17.28). "The one who foreknows them [God] cannot be mistaken" (VI.17.28). He further refers to God adding fifteen years to the life of Hezekiah, something God knew he was going to do "before the foundations of the world (Eph 1:4) that he was going to do, and which he reserved to his own will" (VI.17.28).  "God's foreknowledge cannot be mistaken. And this is why what he foreknew would of necessity come to pass in the future" (VI.17.28).  Augustine further says that God "deliberately predetermined" Adam according to His will (VI.18.29).

Did Calvin misuse or misapply Augustine here? That's a little less clear to me.  I expected that when I tracked down the Augustine reference, the context would be directly related in some way to the issues of predestination or the fall into sin.  I was surprised to find a discussion about whether or not creation is created fully formed or whether it developed! I can certainly see how someone could be critical of Calvin's use of Augustine here, particularly since Augustine does attempt to tackle the implications of sovereignty and the fall in his writings, but not in this particular section Calvin referred to.

For an interesting discussion of Augustine's view on man's fall into sin, see: Robert F. Brown, "The First Evil Will Must be Incomprehensible: A Critique of Augustine," JAAR 46, no. 3 (1978) 315-329. While critical, the author helpfully lays out Augustine's various answers to the origin of the fall.
This author says that Augustine came up with various explanations, including that the fall was incomprehensible to human intellect, but at times moved beyond that to  causal explanations.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Luther: "God is the author of the evil as well as the good in us, and as He saves us without any merit on our part. He also damns us through no fault of ours. All that we do is done, not freely, but through pure necessity"

Here's some anti-Protestant commentary and an obscure Luther quote I recently came across:
A Protestant is not obliged to follow the 10 Commandments or practice what he reads in the Scriptures. The founders of the Protestant revolt teach that works are useless and even injurious to salvation. Every action is a sin. 
Luther and Calvin deny the existence of free-will in man. Luther wrote a book called ''Slave Will," in which he states: ''God is the author of the evil as well as the good in us, and as He saves us without any merit on our part. He also damns us through no fault of ours. All that we do is done, not freely, but through pure necessity." (Works of Luther, vol. ii., p. 435.)
This was put together by someone, as far as I can tell, is a defender of Roman Catholicism. The points being made are: 1) Protestants don't believe in or practice good works; 2) if free will is denied, there is no such thing as human responsibility. Let's track down this Luther quote and see what's going on.

The source provided is the ambiguous, "Works of Luther, vol. ii., p. 435." A quick search though reveals the entire two paragraphs are a reworking (a.k.a. plagiarism) of an old Roman Catholic book entitled, Christian Apologetics: A Defense of the Catholic Faith By Walter Devivier. A comparison of what this author states and what's posted above demonstrate the similarities:
Finally (it is hardly credible), a Protestant is not obliged to practise what he reads in the Scriptures, however clear it may be. For the founders of the Reformation teach that works are useless and even injurious to salvation; that faith suffices to make us the friends of God; that man once justified before God is sure of being saved, whatever crimes he may afterward commit. What is more, that it is even impossible for man to sin since he is not free. Luther and Calvin go so far as to deny the existence of free-will in manLuther wrote a book called “Slave Will,” which may be summed up thus: “God is the author of the evil as well as the good in us, and as He saves us without any merit on our part, He also damns us through no fault of ours. . . . All that we do is done, not freely, but through pure necessity.” (Works of Luther, vol. ii., p. 435.)
The "Works of Luther, vol. ii., p. 435" appears to be a reference to the vol. 2 of the Wittenberg edition of Luther's writings. Here is page 435. The text being cited appears to be:

This is an old Latin text dating back to the sixteenth century. A clearer image can be found here.

The quote comes from Luther's De Servo Arbitrio, known in English as The Bondage of the Will. It has been translated into English in LW 33. The place where this quote is located is LW 33:70.

But if we are unwilling to let this term go [free will] altogether—though that would be the safest and most God-fearing thing to do—let us at least teach men to use it honestly, so that free choice is allowed to man only with respect to what is beneath him and not what is above him. That is to say, a man should know that with regard to his faculties and possessions he has the right to use, to do, or to leave undone, according to his own free choice, though even this is controlled by the free choice of God alone, who acts in whatever way he pleases. On the other hand in relation to God, or in matters pertaining to salvation or damnation, a man has no free choice, but is a captive, subject and slave either of the will of God or the will of Satan. [LW 33:70]
In response to the original anti-Protestant comment which began this entry: first, there's nothing in the immediate context of Luther's words that he suggested acting against the Ten Commandments, that works were useless, and that all action is a sin. True, Luther abhorred the pseudo-works perpetuated by allegedly devout Roman Catholics. Pilgrimages, idolatry, monkery, self-denials, etc., which were considered good works one does for oneself on the road to eventual salvation. Luther plainly teaches that saving faith is a living faith,  a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us. Luther says,
We receive Christ not only as a gift by faith, but also as an example of love toward our neighbor, whom we are to serve as Christ serves us. Faith brings and gives Christ to you with all his possessions. Love gives you to your neighbor with all your possessions. These two things constitute a true and complete Christian life; then follow suffering and persecution for such faith and love, and out of these grows hope and patience.[Sermons of Martin Luther (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 1:34]
Second,  in regard to the Luther quote: it is true though that Luther spoke out against the concept of free will (his entire book the quote was purportedly taken from is about this subject). For Luther, the will is either enslaved by Satan or set free by God.  It is true also that Luther rejected performing works in order to achieve salvation: a rejection of personal merit to achieve salvation.

Third, a comparison of the purported Luther quote and the actual context shows a severe discontinuity.  As far as I can tell, there's nothing in the immediate context in which Luther directly says, "God is the author of the evil as well as the good in us." Was this meant to be a synopsis of Luther's words, "a man should know that with regard to his faculties and possessions he has the right to use, to do, or to leave undone, according to his own free choice, though even this is controlled by the free choice of God alone, who acts in whatever way he pleases"? If so, that someone would translate Luther's words in such a crude way shows a profound bias in textual interpretation. It's quite possible though whoever originally put the quote together was citing a different section of  De Servo Arbitrio altogether (see my entry here).

The purported quote goes on to say, "and as He saves us without any merit on our part, He also damns us through no fault of ours. . . . All that we do is done, not freely, but through pure necessity.”  
This seems to be similar to the lines, "On the other hand in relation to God, or in matters pertaining to salvation or damnation, a man has no free choice, but is a captive, subject and slave either of the will of God or the will of Satan." Notice in context, Luther says that humans have a limited freedom in regard to the daily things of life (but even that is subject to God's pure freedom) "a man should know that with regard to his faculties and possessions he has the right to use, to do, or to leave undone, according to his own free choice, though even this is controlled by the free choice of God alone, who acts in whatever way he pleases." This appears to have been presented as "All that we do is done, not freely, but through pure necessity"! That's certainly an abuse of Luther's words.

The main disconnect for Rome's defenders is Luther's insistence that human ability does not contribute in any meritorious way to salvation. For Luther, if the will is enslaved, it has no ability to do works pleasing to God unto salvation. Humanity, therefore is in total reliance on God's grace. Here is "ground zero" of the debate which requires one to simply read Luther's full argumentation.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Luther: I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something

"Let anybody try this and he will see and experience how exceedingly hard and bitter a thing it is for a man, who all his life has been mired in his work righteousness, to pull himself out of it and with all his heart rise up through faith in this one Mediator. I myself have now been preaching and cultivating it through reading and writing for almost twenty years and still I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness. And still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace; yet this is what I should and must do. The mercy seat alone must prevail and remain, because he himself has established it; otherwise no man can come before God."

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 51: Sermons I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 51, pp. 284–285). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.