The Highway

Luther on Predestination

Posted By: Tom

Luther on Predestination - Tue Sep 17, 2019 5:02 PM

As many of you know, I was very fond of the teaching of RC Sproul.
Often when I am discussion a topic, I have included an article by men such as RC Sproul.

Recently, when duscussing predestination I gave an article by RC Sproul on predestination and he said in the article that Luther actually wrote more on predestination than Calvin did.
That was challenged by someone by saying that they had a lot of respect for Dr. Sproul; however he was wrong on this. Saying Luther even in his book 'Bondage of the Will' never talked about predestination. Emphasizing that Luther believed we should not speculate on subjects like predestination.

My question to the forum, is for anyone who knows anything about Luther.
Is RC Sproul correct? I do not know a lot about Luther, but until this challenge, I never even thought to question Sproul on this matter.

Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: Luther on Predestination - Tue Sep 17, 2019 7:07 PM

1. I would hazard an educated guess that R.C. Sproul was taught this idea re: Luther's writings on predestination, by Dr. John Gerstner. This is NOT to suggest that R.C. Sproul didn't do his own research and come to the same conclusion.

2. Luther did write on the subject of predestination in his Bondage of the Will, basing his view, at least in part, on Ephesians 2:8–10.

3. see here: Double Or Nothing: Martin Luther's Doctrine of Predestination by Brian G. Mattson (1997).
Posted By: John_C

Re: Luther on Predestination - Wed Sep 18, 2019 2:07 PM

I'm finishing up a great history book by Nick Needham. It is '2000 Years of Christ's Power - Volume 3 Renaissance and Reformation'. I intend to read the other volumes as well.

According to the book, it mentions Luther writings on predestination, so Luther may have more to say on predestination than Calvin. Yet, Calvin wrote a lot more on Election.

I think what set Luther and Lutheranism apart from the Reformed were their insistence upon their views on the Eucharist and church government. They sided too much with Rome and Civil Magistrates on those.
Posted By: Tom

Re: Luther on Predestination - Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:34 PM

Apparently Mattson''s article has been challenged before.
Responded to that here:

Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: Luther on Predestination - Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:01 PM


Originally Posted by [i
allegedly[/l] Luther]This is what Luther wrote on all men in Bondage:

Therefore it is rightly said, 'if God does not desire our death, it is to be laid to the charge of our own will, if we perish:' this, I say, is right, if you speak of GOD PREACHED. For He desires that all men should be saved, seeing that, He comes unto all by the word of salvation, and it is the fault of the will which does not receive Him: as He saith. (Matt. xxiii. 37.) "How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not!"

What does that quote have to do with predestination? Godless men, by their own unfettered will crucified Christ according to "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). Men perish due to their personal hatred of God and refusal to repent and believe in Christ, resting solely upon His atoning merits and perfect righteousness. These are those whom God predestinated to judgment and eternal damnation and chose to not show mercy nor grace in order that they would be saved. The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are BOTH unassailable truths.

What's the problem? scratch1
Posted By: John_C

Re: Luther on Predestination - Fri Sep 27, 2019 8:06 PM

In the Formula of Concord, written in 1560-70, Lutheran doctrine appears to assert MORE or less an universal election. Quoting from Needham's Volume 4, page 30, he writes:

"To preserve the reality, the universality, and the trustworthiness of God's love, the framers of the Formula maintained that God in Christ was equally intent on saving all. If some were actually saved, they must credit this entirely to His grace and not in any sense to themselves. However, if others were lost, they must not ascribe this to any failure of saving intent in God, but exclusively to their own resistance to His grace. If this appeared to violate logic, so much the worse for logic"

So, Lutheran thought has a strong belief in monergism, but probably be only 2 point Calvinist. I wonder if their was a similar Synod of Dort between Calvinist and Lutherans, how would that be debated and written. The Formula of Concord is still used as the standard of conservative Lutherans today.

PS1 Why Concord, it was not held in a place called Concord. Concord must be a descriptive word in Germany.
PS2 The formula stated that the two natures of Jesus Christ were omnipresent, at least could be.
Posted By: Tom

Re: Luther on Predestination - Sat Sep 28, 2019 1:43 AM

Thankyou for the quote from the Formula of Concord. That is basically my understanding of the document and the belief of Lutherans today.
However, I am more interested on whether or not the document is actually consistent with Luther's beliefs. Unfortunately, depending on who you read or talk to, you will get conflicting views on that. Talk to a Lutherans and obviously they with will say the Formula of Concord in consistent with Luther view. Reformed writers are not unanimous on this either, some saying Luther was more consistent with Calvin and some in line with the Formula of Concord.
Something I found fairly consistent, from those on both sides is the mention of Luther's successor. They either used him as proof that the Formula of Concord was consistent with Luther. Or the very opposite. That Luther's successor went against Luther.

Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: Luther on Predestination - Sat Sep 28, 2019 10:36 AM

According to a "Wiki" article, the "Formula of Concord" was not unanimously accepted by Lutherans:

Subsequently, it was signed (subscribed to) by three electors of the Holy Roman Empire, twenty dukes and princes, twenty-four counts, four barons, thirty-five free imperial cities, and over 8,000 pastors. These constituted two-thirds of the Lutheran Church in Germany at the time. Every clergyman in the Electorate of Saxony had to either subscribe or write his objections with respect to the Formula of Concord. A rhyme was circulated [at the time]: "Write, dear Sir, write, that you might remain at the parish" (schreibt, lieber Herre, schreibt, dass Ihr bei der Pfarre bleibt).

The Formula of Concord was not accepted by Lutherans in Hesse, Zweibrücken, Anhalt, Pommeranian (Land), Holstein, Denmark, Sweden, Nürnberg, Strassburg, and Magdeburg, and the government of Queen Elizabeth I of England lobbied in its German embassies to prevent acceptance of it among the German estates.

Re: John... It is admittedly an uneducated guess on my part, but perhaps "Concord" doesn't refer to a place but rather the "unity" of Lutherans in regard to doctrine (e.g. 2Cor. 6:15 KJV)?
Posted By: John_C

Re: Luther on Predestination - Sat Sep 28, 2019 2:26 PM

From what I gathered, Luther did not developed deeply his thoughts on predestination He had a strong disdain for the Reformed (Calvinists). When he died, many Lutheran theologians held varying views on theology. His right-hand man, Phillip Melanchthon, held a closer view of the Lord's Supper to that of the Reformed. Then he held some views like synergism which was very unlike both Luther and the Reformed. Many Lutheran theologians fought along side with him on some issues and against him on other issues after Luther's death. Luther was able to keep everyone in line due to his dynamic presence, but as I said many of his views were undeveloped in detail theological thought.

Some of the areas where there were strong disagreements with Lutheran theologians at the time were antinomianism, adiaphorist controversy regarding worship, Calvinism regarding the Lord's Supper, good works in salvation, justification not as forensic declaration, synergistic, and other theological disputes. These issues were debated for and against men who felt they were following in Luther's theological framework.

The Formula of Concord allow the various factions to come together to mete out an agreement in theology. Since they agreed with Luther on the Lord's Supper against the Reformed, the framers went ahead and added a chapter on God's Eternal Foreknowledge and Election to combat future inroads with Reformed thinking.

Tom, if you are interested in church history at that time, I would highly recommend '2000 Years of Christ's Power" by Nick Needham. Volume 3 has a chapter on Luther as it reviews the Reformation, and Volume 4 has a chapter on the Lutheran faith right after the Reformation. I have read Volume 3 and in the midst of Lutheran faith in Volume 4.
Posted By: Tom

Re: Luther on Predestination - Sat Sep 28, 2019 4:53 PM


Thanks, it might be something I may be interested in reading.
I found your opening sentence interesting, because men like RC Sproul said the very opposite, that Luther actually wrote more about predestination than Calvin did.
Perhaps that is not all that surprising, because Luther is not the only one that is interpreted differently.
For example Jonathan Edwards, on few subjects has even Calvinist disagreeing on what he meant. I talked to one Reformed pastor about Edwards in the hope to clear the matter up. He told me that to be honest he was not a big fan of Edwards for that very reason. He would rather read clearer people for that very reason.
I am of course, talking about the controversy John Piper started years ago with "Christian Hedonism" and his claiming Edwards basically taught the same thing. But I digress, I don't want to open that can of worms.

If you are interested in reading one article found on 'Double Predestination' by Sproul in which he quotes Luther, you can at the following link.

Just to let you know, I have read sections of Luther's 'Bondage of the Will'. As you know Bondage of the Will was written as a reply to Erasmus on the subject of predestination. The way I understood it he seemed very much to agree with Augustine on the subject. But others who have read the same sections disagree entirely.

Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: Luther on Predestination - Sat Sep 28, 2019 5:50 PM

rofl The article you referred to has been on The Highway for many years and linked to countless times in discussions here. Oh yeh, it is the #1 read article on The Highway too.

The link is here: Double Predestination
Posted By: Tom

Re: Luther on Predestination - Sun Sep 29, 2019 4:34 AM

Yes I am aware that it is on the Highway, in fact I probably first read it here. I thought however it was worth pointing to again because it makes my point.

Maybe I should not have?

Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: Luther on Predestination - Sun Sep 29, 2019 9:52 AM

NOT THE POINT! crazyeyes I just thought it rather odd that you would provide a link to the article elsewhere rather than to The Highway, particularly since you even admit that you read it first on The Highway. [Linked Image]
Posted By: Tom

Re: Luther on Predestination - Sun Sep 29, 2019 10:18 PM

Sorry, now I understand your point.
However, I had forgot that the link was on the Highway until you said that.

Posted By: John_C

Re: Luther on Predestination - Mon Sep 30, 2019 1:54 PM

I realize many here are suspicious of the Gospel Coalition, but when googling 'Was Luther a Calvinist', I ran into this article that may answer some of Tom's questions.

This article compares Lutheranism and to some extent Luther with the 5 points of Calvinism, point-by-point. The author took over from Timothy George as the Dean of Beeson Divinity School (or Seminary). He might be Lutheran, but George was Reformed.

From the article I take that Luther was more in sync with the Reformed in his early writings, but not in his later writings. ... calvinist/
Posted By: Tom

Re: Luther on Predestination - Tue Oct 01, 2019 5:49 AM


Please check the link you provided.
I went there and the article is called 'Is There Sex In Heaven?" I am doing my best not to laugh, sorry.

Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: Luther on Predestination - Tue Oct 01, 2019 11:08 AM

Tom, did you take the time to read the article John linked to?... I DID grin

1. The author of the content of the article is Peter Kreeft, whose most infamous book is probably Ecumenical Jihad.
2. FYI, he 'converted' from the RCA (Reformed Church in America) to Roman Catholicism.
3. He can easily be classified as belonging to the 'far left' branch of Catholicism.

OKAY, so here is yet another good reason to avoid "The Gospel Coalition" at all costs. [Linked Image]

PS. The article would be laughable if it wasn't so illogical and void of biblical truth. igiveup
Posted By: John_C

Re: Luther on Predestination - Tue Oct 01, 2019 12:19 PM

Originally Posted by Tom

Please check the link you provided.
I went there and the article is called 'Is There Sex In Heaven?" I am doing my best not to laugh, sorry.


Let me try again
Posted By: Tom

Re: Luther on Predestination - Wed Oct 02, 2019 6:03 AM


No I did not read the article, mainly because it was not the article John wanted me to read.

However, after seeing your response, I did take another look and read enough of it to know I don't want to read the whole thing. Lets just say I am a little surprised they used Peter Kreeft; but maybe I should not be. Sigh..
By the way, quite some time ago, when I realized what one of the co-founders of The Gospel Coalition (Tim Keller) believed on a number of issues. I became extremely suspicious of them and even wrote a few of their members concerning the beliefs of Tim Keller. To this day, I never got one response back.
I was disappointed mainly because I have listened to a broadcast by Dr. Albert Mohler, who is a Gospel Coalition member, concerning 'Theistic Evolution' and he was very clear (even to someone who called in) that no Christian should believe in Theistic Evolution. He used some pretty strong language against it as well. Yet, if he believes that; why on earth would he belong to an organization with Tim Keller at the helm? It does not make any sense at all. It kind of reminds me of JI Packer signing ECT.

I also know of other Christians who warn against The Gospel Coalition. I also have a friend who owns a ministry called 'Take Heed' in Northern Ireland, who I have been in contact with. He also has written members of The Gospel Coalition and he didn't receive a response back either.
His name is Cecil Andrews and I have known him for a number of years, because he has been a guest speaker at my Church on a number of occasions.
He has written about Tim Keller and many other unsavory characters.

Posted By: Anthony C.

Re: Luther on Predestination - Mon Oct 14, 2019 10:56 PM

Quick points, I could be wrong, but I read a lot on Luther and even read Needham, who John referenced. I believe Luther very much held to Predestination. Bondage of the Will blew me away as far as Luthers pro-predestination position.

Luther was not a fan of Zwingli because he reminded him of Karlstadt (and Müntzer)who were what Luther considered spiritualists who separated word from spirit. I also believe Melanchthon tried to endear Luther to Calvin (who had great respect for Luther and his works). I believe Luther had a limited but good opinion of Calvin and ultimately probably was closer to Calvin in theology and doctrine than his dear friend Melanchthon. But yeah Calvin systematized his theology much more than Luther ever did , although they both held similar views and teachings with both being greatly influenced by that great thorn in the (contemporary)RomanCatholicChurch’s side Augustine
Posted By: Anthony C.

Re: Luther on Predestination - Wed Oct 16, 2019 5:12 PM

I should have wrote that Karlstadt and Müntzer separated spirit from word.
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