A Jagged Contention: The Bound Will

“If we do not want to drop the term altogether—which would really be the safest and most Christian thing to do—we may still in good faith teach people to use it to credit man with ‘free-will’ in respect, not of what is above him, but of what is below him. That is to say, man should realize that in regard to his money and possessions he has a right to use them, to do or to leave undone, according to his own ‘free-will’—though that very ‘free-will’ is overruled by the free-will of God alone, according to His own pleasure. However, with regard to God, and in all that bears on salvation or damnation, he has no ‘free-will,’ but is captive, prisoner and bondslave, either to the will of God, or to the will of Satan.”

– Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J.I. Packer & O.R. Johnston. pg 107


Question:

What do you make of Luther’s distinction between humanity having a free will in regards to that which is “below” verses having no freed will towards what is “above?” What dangers arise when such a distinction is lost or confused? How should the message of humanity’s bound will be understood and proclaimed in light of the saving work of Christ?

Share your thoughts in the comments

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One comment

  1. Well, the first thing that came to my mind was Is God a Taoist by Raymond Smullyan, a wondeful and thoughtful treatise on the conflict between the absence of free will and the absence of self-awareness.

    The next thing was Watchman Nee’s wonderful book “The Normal Christian Life” which teases out the distinction between the two distinct effects of the Salvation Christ won for us by His death on the cross, and the Eternal Life that we have by surrendering our lives as temples of the Holy Spirit and instruments of God’s Will. And of course Nee spends a great deal of time on Romans 7 which is about what we Will vs. what we Do.

    I am a pragmatist, just as in Matthew 21:28-32. Would Jesus have told that story if there was no will, no decision to be made?

    Even if nobody agrees I hope this is food for thought.

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