Friday, September 10, 2010

The Bondage of the Will

The Bondage of the Will, by Martin Luther, is one of my favorites.  The particular version I have read, and  enjoyed, is translated(from the original Latin) by J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston.  Luther wrote the book in response to a work by Desiderius Erasmus , Diatribe seu collatio de libero arbitrio(Discussion, or Collation, concerning Free-Will), who defended the idea that man has a free will, is not in bondage to sin and that his choices, good or bad, are not determined by God. Luther's reply De servo arbitrio(On the Bondage of the Will), thoroughly critiques Erasmus's 'Diatribe', (as Luther terms it) and shows the absurdity of his arguments.  Luther defends God's freedom, and asserts than man is not free but a slave to his own desires.

I found this book not only instructive, but very 'entertaining' as well.  The reason being that Luther uses sarcasm as a large part of his attempts to demonstrate  the nonsense of the 'Diatribe's' statements.  An example of this being where Luther deals with Erasmus's argument that Luther can't produce any miracles to prove that the Holy Spirit is with him, Luther replies by demanding that Erasmus hold himself to the same standard "Where now is your demonstration of the Spirit?...Where are your miracles?......You may choose to work as tiny a miracle as you like.  Indeed, to prod your Baal (free-will)into action, I here challenge and defy you to create a single frog in the name and by the power of 'free-will'!  Why, the godless heathen Magi in Egypt could create frogs in abundance!...I will suggest a more trifling matter still: take a single flea or louse... and combine all the powers and concentrate all the energies both of your god and of all your supporters; and if, in the name and by the power of 'free-will', you can kill it, you shall be conquerors, your cause shall be established and we shall at once come and adore that god of yours, the amazing louse-slaughterer!"(italics added. Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will[Grand Rapids Michigan: Fleming H. Revell a division of Baker Book House Company, Sixteenth Printing 2004], 112-113.)  Be warned though, Luther does get, I think, too sarcastic at times.

All in all, Luther does an excellent job at asserting the bondage of man to sin, and defending the freedom of God, God's right to do with man whatever He pleases.  "God is He for Whose will no cause or ground may be laid down as its rule and standard; for nothing is on a level with it or above it, but it is itself the rule for all things.  If any rule or standard., or cause or ground, existed for it, it could no longer be the will of God.  What God wills is not right because He ought, or was bound, so to will; on the contrary, what takes place must be right, because He so wills it.  Causes and grounds are laid down for the will of the creature, but  not for the will of the Creator - unless you set another Creator over Him!"( Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will[Grand Rapids Michigan: Fleming H. Revell a division of Baker Book House Company, Sixteenth Printing 2004], 209.)  I highly recommend this work.

This book may be read in e-book form

At Google books 


This book may be purchased at (note that there are other translations/versions, but I like the one translated by Packer the best)


Monergism Books