Sunday, December 26, 2010

On Grace, Predestination and Total Depravity

     26. An act of love is not the best way of doing "what in one lies." Nor is such a deed the best preparation for the grace of God. Nor is it a method of repenting and drawing near to God.
     27. But it is an act ensuing from a repentance which has already happened and is complete. It comes in its own good time and proper way, and is a result of grace.
     28. In the texts, "Turn ye unto me and I shall turn to you" (Zech. 1:3), or again, "Seek and ye shall find" (Matt. 7:7), or again, "If ye seek me....I shall be found of you" (Jer. 29:13 f.), and statements like these, if they are interpreted as implying that the first half of the activity is man's contribution and the rest is of grace, then what is asserted is only what the Pelagians said.
     29. The perfectly infallible preparation for grace, the one and only valid attitude, is the eternal election and predestination of God.
     30. The only contribution man makes is to resist it. In actual fact, rebellion against grace precedes any receiving of it.
     31. It is the most worthless of fabrications to say: a presestined man can be damned in sensu diviso (that is if the notion of predestination is separated from the notion of damnation), but not  in sensu composito (that is if the notion of predestination and damnation are taken together).
     [Thomists have tried to support their theory of efficacious grace by the distinction between sensus compositus and sensus divisus. Take a rather simple and non-philosophical statement: a blind man cannot see. This is a false statement if taken in the first sense sensus compositus, that is if the blindness is taken together  (compositus) with his alleged seeing. But it may be a true statement if taken in the second sense sensus divisus, that is if the notion of blindness is taken apart from (divisus) the seeing.
     [To apply this simple distinction to the ideas under discussion, that a predestined man may be damned in one sense but not in another: -- What is being asserted is that a predestined man could be damned if the predestination and the damnation are separated as blindness was separated from seeing in the example just given. This is manifestly absurd. Luther is challenging such obscurantist sophistry in the interests of a biblical theology. He is arguing that a man cannot be properly described as predestined if he is going to be damned. Ed.]
    32. Furthermore, it gets us no further to assert: predestination is necessary for the sake of logical consequences (consequentia), but not for the sake of casual consequence (consequens).
     [The distinction is between consequence in the sense of logical nexus or connection, and consequence in the sense of proposition resulting in the virtue of logical nexus or connection, i.e., the conclusion of a piece of reasoning. The sophists are trying to have it both ways, saying that predestination is a logical consequence of God's decrees, but yet the election itself does not necessarily take place. This is the same sort of absurdity challenged in Thesis 31. Luther is again criticizing the sophistry that seeks to explain away the Biblical theology of predestination and election rather than explain it. Ed.]
     33. And that is a false dictum, too, which alleges that to do "all that in one lies" is to remove the obstacles to grace (against certain teachers).
     34. In short, the natural man possesses neither a sound reason nor a good will.

Martin Luther, Library of Christian Classics, Vol. XVI, pp. 268, 269.


No comments:

Post a Comment