Review: The Bondage of the Will

books

The Bondage of the WillThe Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish I had known about this book when I was in high school. For much of my formative years I have struggled with seeing free will in the Bible, being taught about the “age of accountability” and told that it was very explicit in the pages of Scripture. It came down to a single decision: stand alone on the argument against free will or submit to the teaching of the church. Submit was what I thought was my only option.

Happy I was to find out more than a year ago that I was not alone: there are many people who agree that there is no free will in the face of God’s omnipotence. Not only that, but it is not a new idea at all. Martin Luther does a masterful job in this classic of laying out the teaching of the Bible and its very staunch view of God’s action in drawing us to himself as the only way to be reconciled to him.

The only difficulties that I have with the book are Luther’s interpretation of the subjunctive mood and how he speaks almost exclusively in terms of justification and rarely, if not never, speaks about sanctification. Granted the latter difficulty presumes the former, but in terms of the life of the Christian, empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the good works that have God prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10).

With A Doubt

A little trip to grammar school: the subjunctive tense.  Use of the subjunctive can signify many different things.  It can express a wish as in “if only my husband had remembered Valentine’s Day was yesterday.”  Obviously from this statement he forgot, but the speaker wishes that he had.

Secondly, the subjunctive could signify doubt.  “If I had wings I would fly to Aruba.”  Not likely that a million dollars would show up out of no where, so here we could read a lot of doubt.  Finally, the subjunctive could signify contingency: “if I had a million dollars I would buy a nice car.”  There could still be some doubt there, but buying the car is contingent on having the money to do so.

Luther reads the subjunctive mood (as it is termed in Greek and Hebrew) exclusively as expressing doubt.  His contention is that any time Scripture uses the subjunctive mood it does so in order to tell us what we should do, but with no hope that we can do it for ourselves.  I hesitate to disagree with him in the context of the book because, as stated above, he speaks almost exclusively about justification.  I completely agree that without justification we are at the mercy of God’s wrath.  With the gift of salvation, being justified by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we are made wholly new.  Therefore, under the power of the Holy Spirit, we now can do the work that God has made for us to do, but only because he is doing the work through us.

The Bound Will Is Good News

I have never understood why people would want to argue against our wills being bound to Christ.  Even being born again we are latched to Christ and he lives through us.  Our lives are not our own!

The omnipotence and prescience of God cannot be thwarted, and our will cannot be free if God is God.  His power is over all, in all, and through all which leaves no room for me to make my own decisions.  Free will makes our God a pauper, begging for our acceptance and adoration.  He owes nothing to us, but in his infinite freedom gave all for us who could never deserve it.

Where do you stand in terms of free will?  What does your church teach?  How do you handle passages like John 6:44 and Romans 10:20?

View all my reviews

SEE ALSO: The Good News of the Bound Will

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About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

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