Gems from Luther Part 1

I'm reading through Luther's Bondage of the Will right now,and am more pleased every day that I named my son after him. I'm going to be posting some of my favorite passages over the next few days. One thing that strikes me is the clarity of Luther's theology as he approaches his debate with Erasmus.

In this passage he is arguing against Erasmus's view that some of the Scriptures are obscure and difficult and some are plain. So there are some doctrines we ought to know and some doctrines that we ought not to worry our pretty little heads about. To prove this, Erasmus points to Scriptures that refer to the mystery of God's will and knowledge (Rom. 11:33; Isa. 40:13). Luther counters by saying that there are indeed many mysteries in God. However Scripture, as revelation, was given to man that he may know things. So while there may be mystery about things not revealed to us in Scripture, the things given in Scripture are given that we may know them. Here is Luther's argument:

"God and His Scripture are two things, just as the Creator and His creation are two things. Now, nobody questions that there is a great deal hid in God of which we know nothing. Christ himself says of the last day: 'Of that day knoweth no man, but the Father' (Matt. 24.36); and in Acts 1 he says: 'It is not for you to know the times and seasons' (John 13.18); and Paul says: 'The Lord knoweth them that are his' (2 Tim. 2.19); and the like. But the notion that in Scripture some things are recondite and all is not plain was spread by the godless Sophists (whom you now echo, Erasmus)--who have never yet cited a single item to prove their crazy view; nor can they...I certainly grant that many passages in the Scriptures are obscure and hard to elucidate, but that is due, not to the exalted nature of their subject, but to our own linguistic and grammatical ignorance; and it does not in any way prevent our knowing all the contents of Scripture...If words are obscure in one place, they are clear in another. What God has so plainly declared to the world is in some parts of Scripture stated in plain words, while in other parts it still lies hidden under obscure words. But when something stands in broad daylight, and a mass of evidence for it is in broad daylight also, it does not matter whether there is any evidence for it in the dark. Who will maintain that the town fountain does not stand in the light because the people down some alley cannot see it, while everyone in the square can see it?...


When you quote Paul's statement, 'his judgments are incomprehensible,' you seem to take the pronoun 'his' to refer to Scripture; whereas the judgments which Paul there affirms to be incomprehensible are not those of Scripture, but those of God. And Isaiah 40 does not say: 'who has known the mind of Scripture?' but: 'who has known the mind of the Lord?' (Paul, indeed, asserts that Christians do know the mind of the Lord; but only with reference to those things that are given to us by God, as he there says in 1 Cor 2...the distinction of persons in the Godhead, the union of the Divine and human natures of Christ, and the unpardonable sin. Here, you say, are problems which have never been solved. If you mean this of the enquiries which the Sophists pursue when they discuss these subjects, what has the inoffensive Scripture done to you, that you should blame such criminal misuse of it on to its own purity. Scripture makes the straightforward affirmation that the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the unpardonable sin are facts. There is nothing obscure or ambiguous about that. You imagine that Scripture tells us how they are what they are; but it does not, nor need we know...


In a word: The perspicuity of Scripture is twofold, just as there is a double lack of light...If you speak of internal perspicuity, the truth is that nobody who has not the Spirit of God sees a jot of what is in the Scriptures...The Spirit is needed for the understanding of all Scripture and every part of Scripture. If, on the other hand, you speak of external perspicuity, the position is that nothing whatsoever is left obscure or ambiguous, but all that is in Scripture is through the Word brought forth into the clearest light and proclaimed to the whole world."

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