I've been trying to read an online copy of Luther's "Bondage of the Will before writing this post. I really have - but the man won't get to the point. Every time I think he's about to say something important, it turns into another "You're such a moron, Erasmus" rant - and ya know, I'm really, really sick of this theme by now. Anybody got a Cliff's Notes of this damn thing?
I'm giving up - but here's the Conclusion, and I hope that's enough for now (I'm reading it for the first time as I'm posting this):
Sect. CLXVII. - I SHALL here draw this book to a conclusion: prepared if it were necessary to pursue this Discussion still farther. Though I consider that I have now abundantly satisfied the godly man, who wishes to believe the truth without making resistance. For if we believe it to be true, that God fore-knows and fore-ordains all things; that He can be neither deceived nor hindered in His Prescience and Predestination; and that nothing can take place but according to His Will, (which reason herself is compelled to confess;) then, even according to the testimony of reason herself, there can be no "Free-will" - in man, - in angel, - or in any creature!
Hence:- If we believe that Satan is the prince of this world, ever ensnaring and fighting against the kingdom of Christ with all his powers; and that he does not let go his captives without being forced by the Divine Power of the Spirit; it is manifest, that there can be no such thing as - "Free-will!"
Again:- If we believe that original sin has so destroyed us, that even in the godly who are led by the Spirit, it causes the utmost molestation by striving against that which is good; it is manifest, that there can be nothing left in a man devoid of the Spirit, which can turn itself towards good, but which must turn towards evil!
Again:- If the Jews, who followed after righteousness with all their powers, ran rather into unrighteousness, while the Gentiles who followed after unrighteousness attained unto a free righteousness which they never hoped for; it is equally manifest, from their very works, and from experience, that man, without grace, can do nothing but will evil!
Finally:- If we believe that Christ redeemed men by His blood, we are compelled to confess, that the whole man was lost: otherwise, we shall make Christ superfluous, or a Redeemer of the grossest part of man only, - which is blasphemy and sacrilege!
Sect CLXVIII. - AND now, my friend Erasmus, I entreat you for Christ's sake to perform what you promised. You promised 'that you would willingly yield to him, who should teach you better than you knew.' Lay aside all respect of persons. You, I confess, are great and adorned with many, and those the most noble, gifts of God; (to say nothing of the rest,) with talent, with erudition, and with eloquence to a miracle. Whereas I, have nothing and am nothing, excepting that, I glory in being almost a Christian!
In this, moreover, I give you great praise, and proclaim it - you alone in pre-eminent distinction from all others, have entered upon the thing itself; that is, the grand turning point of the cause; and, have not wearied me with those irrelevant points about popery, purgatory, indulgences, and other like baubles, rather than causes, with which all have hitherto tried to hunt me down, - though in vain! You, and you alone saw, what was the grand hinge upon which the whole turned, and therefore you attacked the vital part at once; for which, from my heart, I thank you. For in this kind of discussion I willingly engage, as far as time and leisure permit me. Had those who have heretofore attacked me done the same, and would those still do the same, who are now boasting of new spirits, and new revelations, we should have less sedition and sectarianism, and more peace and concord. - But thus has God, by the instrumentality of Satan, avenged our ingratitude!
But however, if you cannot manage this cause otherwise than you have managed it in this Diatribe, do, I pray you, remain content with your own proper gift. Study, adorn, and promote literature and languages, as you have hitherto done, to great advantage, and with much credit. In which capacity, you have rendered me also a certain service: so much so, that I confess myself to be much indebted to you: and in that character, I certainly venerate, and honestly respect you. But as to this our cause:- to this, God has neither willed, nor given it you, to be equal: though I entreat you not to consider this as spoken in arrogance. No! I pray that the Lord may, day by day, make you as much superior to me in these matters, as you are superior to me in all others. And it is no new thing for God to instruct a Moses by a Jethro, or to teach a Paul by an Ananias. And as to what you say, - "You have greatly mist the mark after all, if you are ignorant of Christ." - You yourself, if I mistake not, know what that is. But all will not therefore err, because you or I may err. God is glorified in His saints in a wonderful way! So that, we may consider those saints who are the farthest from sanctity. Nor is it an unlikely thing, that you, as being man, should not rightly understand, nor with sufficient diligence weigh, the Scriptures, or the sayings of the Fathers: under which guides, you imagine you cannot miss the mark. And that such is the case, is quite manifest from this:- your saying that you do not assert but collect. No man would write thus, who was fully acquainted with and well understood his subject. On the contrary I, in this book of mine, have collectedthing, but have asserted, and still do assert: and I wish none to become judges, but all to yield assent. - And may the Lord, whose cause this is illuminate you, and make you a vessel to honour and to glory. - Amen!
Well, that doesn't really help, does it? I guess I'll have to find a summary of this book someplace if I ever want to write on this Step with the "Bound Will" in mind - and I think I do.
Give me a few hours. I just baked a cake and now must go frost it; then I'll speed-read some of the previous chapters in this book and see if I can get anything from it.
Perhaps I'm not meant to, and must do this another way, though. It could be as simple as that.
To be continued....