“The doctrine of Predestination was a further cause of much affliction and anguish of soul to Luther. The Nominalist teachers at Erfurt, following Gabriel Biel, taught that the salvation or perdition of man depends entirely upon the divine decree of predestination, which no man can change. On the other hand, however, the declared that the basis of election is the merit of man forseen from eternity (propter meritum praevisum). By meriting the divine grace man merits his own election. This peculiar contradiction in the Nominalistic doctrine of election created in Luther an uncertainty which caused him to waver between hope and despair. Regardless of how he sought to merit grace and election, he could never attain certainty, since the final determining factor was the arbitrary decree of God.” (Uuraas Saarnivaara, “Luther Discovers the Gospel” (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 1951) Pg. 30
Recently my college mentor, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, had a book by Uuraas Saarnivaara “Scriptural Baptism” republished with a forward written by him. You can order that here. It is a great book on Baptism, and shows a Lutheran how to debate with a Baptist and figuratively at least give the guy a swirly.
However, I didn’t buy my mentors book with the forward, because I already inherited in prodigal fashion an earlier edition of this book in the “Concordia Heritage Series” which should be reprinted, talk about an essential Lutheran Library! The added benefit of this edition was a second book by Uuraas. (Finns don’t have enough consonants, because the Poles stole them all. That’s my theory.) This second book is “Luther Discovers the Gospel” and what a wonderful book it is.
What grabbed me about this is that predestination was the source of Luther’s anguish. Lutheran’s of course have a doctrine of predestination, but it is a different doctrine than the one explained above. It also marvels me how persistent this false doctrine of predestination is! This is precisely the intuitu fidei controversy that racked the Missouri Synod, and American Lutheranism in the 19th century! And this idea of intuitu fidei (in view of faith) has its roots in the same false view of predestination that Calvin also espoused. That is a view of predestination and election that is divorced from the means of grace, and is dependent on a decree not really made in eternity, but just a long long time ago before God even created the earth. Eternity is like another dimension of time, it is not just time going on forever, if it was God would be bound to time. God is outside of time. Perhaps String theory can sort all that out. But it is a skewed view of what is meant by eternity that give rise to this nonsense that tortures souls. God from eternity elects people to salvation now in time through the means of grace. Baptism is an act of election, for instance. In Baptism God elects the baptized to salvation, he grabs hold of them and makes them his own.
I think this also explains why there seems to be such an affinity in the reformed world for Roman Catholics, when you get done bouncing back and forth between Arminianism and Calvinism you can find a compromise in Catholic Nominalism. Predestination didn’t get its start with Calvin. Indeed one wonders if he might have first got his feet wet with this doctrine when he was studying to be a Priest in Paris.