Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Martin Luther, Selections from His Writings

Martin Luther, Selections from His Writings
Edited by John Dillenberger
I’ve owned this book for quite some time, and find myself returning to it often if nothing else for its accessibility. I have many different versions of Many of Luther’s works, including several in German and Latin, and in Electronic format the “American Edition” put out by Fortress and CPH. But this volume is just more convenient when I’m being lazy. I do think that for the English Speaking Lutheran Laity, there isn’t anything better that I have seen. It’s a good little volume that introduces a person to the more essential writings of Luther. Those writings that have been most influential, these include “”The Pagan Servitude of the Church” “Secular Authority: To what Extent It Should be Obeyed” “The Freedom of a Christian (absolutely essential reading for Lutherans) and “Two Kinds of Righteousness”
I would include here “The Bondage of the Will” except that it is truncated by a man who does not understand Luther, same for “A Commentary on St. Paul’s epistle To the Galatians.’ Concerning thse two volumes it is better to pick up the more complete versions, even if translated by reformed translators, and read them in total, rather than allow them to be butchered by men who don’t share Luther’s theology, but actually reject it.
That is the weakness of this volume. The editor is reformed and lets his biases show. Perhaps he is just ignorant and not malicious when he doesn’t see that the “Heidleberg Disputation” presents “Luther’s Theology of the Cross” that was the heart of the his reformation activities forming it from beginning to end. But it does illustrate the problem, and makes one very suspicious, and rightfully so, of what he left out in his truncation of the Bondage of the Will. One who does not understand “The Heidleberg Disputation” will not begin to understand “The Bondage of the Will”, which Calvinists like only because they refuse to understand it, or take it with the seriousness it deserves.
I suspect that if a Lutheran had selected the writings for a book like this there would be some overlap, but perhaps there would be a little more concerning the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps they would even include the Small Catechism. Furthermore, probably needed in an accessible form for laity is Luther’s Treatise “On Whether Soldiers too can be Saved.” But it is to the shame of Lutheran Publishers that they haven’t put a reader like this together, at least not one that I have seen, which is as remotely accessible as this one.

1 comment:

Larry said...


"One who does not understand “The Heidleberg Disputation” will not begin to understand “The Bondage of the Will”, which Calvinists like only because they refuse to understand it, or take it with the seriousness it deserves"

Having been a Calvinist now Lutheran, it has been a more or less shock that this is a link (what you said above) that it seems too few Lutheran theologians make for some reason. I don't say that accusingly but sadly.

Nothing gets to me quicker than when a Lutheran theologain says in essence, "Well on the total depravity of the will, the "T"" we agree." NOTHING could be further from the truth. Lutheran "total depravity", i.e. Bondage of the Will, i.e. the HD is not only NOT the same as Calvin's but in reality Calvin's/reformed "total depravity", i.e. calvinistic-bondage of the will is precisely opposite of Luther and the HD points this out starkly.

One of the many "lynch pins" in the HD that shows this are the thesis in which Luther speaks of the difference between a deadly and dead works being a perilous surrender of the fear of God and linking that to HIS mortal/venial distinction in contradistinction with Rome’s. They key there with Calvinism/Reformed or Baptist thought cannot be missed in which the “once saved/truly elected” cannot fall away. I.e. If as a Calvinist/baptist you are on the side of the saved/elected line then your doctrine tells you that you CANNOT commit a mortal sin that falls away from God, the fear of God surrendered in this way! So on the “saved/elect side”, if you really believe it for yourself, does not allow you to seriously confess today in the present yourself as a REAL sinner. If you actually believe that for yourself you cannot in the present tense really pray as the tax collector did, but more like the Pharisee giving glory to God thanking him that now, “I am not like…”, all by the grace of God (reformed infusion of grace).

THIS actually sets one up to resist the real grace of God as Luther sets forth starkly in the HD and thus becomes under Luther’s definition a true mortal sin (separation from the grace of God for self salvation) which in reality IS the very bondage of the will to save itself, hold out for its own (under the guise of ‘by the electing grace of God’ per Calvin), which is really the Lutheran “total depravity” that is not the same as the Calvinist TD or BoW.

You are 110% right, fail to see the HD, and a Calvinist CANNOT in ANY sense understand the BOW they like to quote so very much, and I mean the best of the Calvinist like the Dr. Horton’s of the world.