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An Overview of Luther’s Understanding Of The Bondage of the Will

 

An Overview of Luther’s Understanding
Of
The Bondage of the Will

Systemic Sinnership (not merely actual sins committed) is the primal predicament of humankind before God. ThisSin is unbelief. Unbelief isn’t cerebral agnosticism but rather the ungrateful, contemptuous denial of God’s goodness and repudiation of his command (gift). “Unbelief is not one of the grosser passions, but sits and holds sway at the summit — the citadel of the will and reason, just like its opposite, faith.” (214)

The human predicament is universal: there are no exceptions to it or modifications of it or alternatives to it.

While the structure of reason survives the Fall (otherwise fallen humans would no longer be human), the integrity of reason does not (otherwise fallen humans could reason themselves out of their predicament.)

To assert “free choice” (i.e., the freedom or non-bondage of the will) is insist that we can will ourselves out of our predicament, and therefore to affirm self-justification.

Perforce the righteousness we need but cannot furnish for ourselves has to be gift.

The gift of righteousness isn’t the gift of something but is rather the self-bestowal of Jesus Christ, the Righteous One himself.

This gift has to be revealed to us, since humankind cannot anticipate the nature of its depravity or the nature of righteousness or the means by which it is wrought for us (the cross) or the nature of our coming to possess it. I.e., because Sin not only corrupts us but also blinds us we cannot foresee the nature of our predicament, the nature of its cure, or the nature of the application of the cure.

Since the gift is gift, it can only be owned in faith, faith being, amidst much else, the admission that “Nothing in our hands we bring.”

Since we live in sin, and therein come to apprehend that sin lives in us, we can live in Christ (and live out of Christ, live from Christ) only as Christ lives in us.

To say we contribute, however slightly, to our justification is to claim a residual capacity, however slight, for reason or will with respect to our “rightwising” before God.

In sum, the affirmation of “free choice” eliminates every aspect of the gospel: “the purpose of grace, the promise of God, the meaning of the law, original sin, divine election.” (203)

 

 

 

Reverend V. Shepherd