Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther

The following comes from a paper presented for Dr. Scott Manetsch at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for the course Classic Texts in the History of Christianity CH 8100.

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In The Bondage of the Will Martin Luther sets out to investigate what ability human freedom possesses and how it relates to God’s grace (II.iii.). For Luther, this theological dispute over human freedom is of utmost importance. He claims it is the fundamental disagreement between himself and the Catholic tradition (II.iii.; VIII.). Because this topic strikes at the heart of soteriology, truths of “eternal consequence” are at stake ( To know nothing of these matters is to know nothing of Christianity (II.iii.); the entirety of the Christian faith and the gospel would be ruined by such ignorance (II.v.).

Responding to Desiderius Erasmus’ Discourse on Free Will, Luther asserts that man has no “free-will.” Contrary to Erasmus (IV.i.), men are not autonomous in regards to meriting or even willing salvation (II.x.), but are enslaved, “ever turned in the direction of their own desires, so that they cannot but seek their own” (V.iv.). God’s will is carried out necessarily; no room is left for man’s so called “free-will” (V.vii.).

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Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton


The New York Times called Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton, “Excellent . . . illuminating and eloquent” and “The most readable Luther biography in English.” Echoing this, I found this book to be incredibly interesting and a rather easy and enjoyable read. Bainton fused scholarly with pleasurable. It is obvious that he both knew Luther and Luther’s historical setting extremely well. The book is filled with pictures of wood carvings from the time period as well as other art pieces such as musical scores which provide an interesting as well as helpful learning aid. Bainton organizes the book in a largely chronological fashion, yet at times diverts from this pattern with some occasional topical sections when deemed helpful (and it is). One of my favorite aspects of the book was the frequent quotes from Luther himself. Luther’s own words are worth the read. He is incredibly challenging, inspiring, witty, and quite humorous. At times I even found myself laughing audibly.

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