A. Before The Formula Of Concord.
Sin has most deeply depraved and corrupted man’s body and soul together with all his powers. His mind and will, for instance, rarely choose by nature, even in earthly and temporal things, the golden middle-path; man is ever inclined to run to extremes, to deviate to the one side or the other. This proclivity inheres even in the best of Christians, because their depraved flesh and blood still clings to them. And it manifests itself in the most varied ways, in things bodily as well as in things spiritual, in the social and civil as well as in the religious and moral life. And we find that even the religious and dogmatic thinking of most men reveals this inborn onesidedness. All, even the worst of heresies contain at least a grain of truth, and have arisen in this very way that some truths were neglected or set aside, while others were in a onesided way emphasized and developed and thus perverted and distorted. We accordingly meet this onesidedeness repeatedly when we examine the History of Dogma on the doctrine of Predestination and subjects connected with it.
The doctrine of predestination held by any teacher or denomination in the church is in reality their final answer to the question as to the relation of human liberty to divine grace, — one of the most difficult, and at the same time one of the most important questions in the field of religion and dogmatics. In answering this question there appeared quite early the onesidedness just mentioned; the teachers of the Greek or Oriental Church laid the greatest stress on human liberty, while those in the older or Western Church placed most emphasis on divine grace. The former onesided view found its consistent outcome in Pelagianism, the other in an absolute predestination and in an irresistible grace.
The Greek teachers were influenced by their justifiable and even necessary opposition to the heathen, and especially Stoic, [[@Page:4]]philosophy with its doctrine of fate, “which rules with irresistible power the destiny of men, and reduces moral freedom to a minimum”; they were influenced likewise by their opposition to Gnosticism with its doctrine of evil created in man; and thus they permitted themselves to fall into the opposite extreme.
John of Damascus, the well-known representative dogmatician of the Greek Church (died about 760), gives expression to this view in the following words: “Election is in our own hands; the perfecting of the good, however, is something belonging to the co-operation of God (τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ συνεργείας), which is active in those who choose the good with an honest resolution.… Moral goodness has been implanted into our nature by God. He is the source and cause of all good, and without His co-operation and help (συνέργεια καὶ βοήθεια) all willing and doing of the good is impossible for us. Yet it is left to us, either to continue in moral goodness and to follow God, who calls us thereto, or to forsake the good, i.e., to turn to the evil and to follow the devil, who draws us thereto, although without coercion.” (Thomasius, “Dogmengeschichte,” I., 492.) With these synergistic principles predestination could, of course, be made to rest only on the divine foreknowledge of man’s free conduct toward that which is good. John of Damascus speaks indeed quite correctly about an antecedent will of God desiring the salvation of all men, and about a subsequent will conferring salvation only upon a few; yet he wrongly rests this latter will on the divine foresight of the right, and wholly free, conduct of man toward things praiseworthy and blameworthy.
The chief representatives of the older Latin Church are Ambrosius of Milan (d. 397) and Augustine of Hippo Regius (d. 430). The former is not far removed from the view of the Greeks, although he emphasizes far more the depth of inherited depravity and the necessity of divine grace, which must precede the human will and prepare and enable it to choose the good. At least, he rests predestination on the divine foreknowledge of the good works or merits of the individual concerned: quorum merita præscivit, eorum præmia prædestinavit (whosesoever merits He foresaw, their rewards did He predestinate — referring to Rom. 8. 29). — Before the Pelagian controversy began even Augustine stood essentially on synergistic ground. According to his own confession in the Retractationes, he at that time thought that to believe and to will were in man’s own power, and that God’s part [[@Page:5]]was to bestow upon him who believed and willed the ability to do good, by His Holy Spirit, through whom love is poured out in our hearts (nostrum est credere et velle, illius autem dare credentibus et volentibus facultatem bene operandi per Spiritum Sanctum, per quem charitas diffunditur in cordibus nostris). This was the synergistic extreme to which Augustine permitted himself to be driven by his opposition to the dualistic and fatalistic Manicheism, whose satanic depths he had learned to understand in a painful experience of nine years. His later thorough understanding of the inherited depravity of human nature, of the doctrine of the Scriptures, of the process of his own conversion, and especially the warning example of Pelagianism, this recklessly consistent synergism; turned him back from this extreme. Over against Pelagius and his adherents with their denial of original sin and of the absolute necessity of divine grace, Augustine victoriously upheld both, and his work in this regard will ever be appreciated by the orthodox church. Unfortunately, however, he too was carried into an extreme, namely into an absolute predestination and an irresistible grace. Predestination he takes to be the eternal act of God, by which, from among the mass of men lost in sin. He infallibly foreordained those whom He would unto conversion, sanctification, and salvation, whilst He left the rest to their destruction. “For the elect, and only for them did Christ die; for them the saving institution of the Gospel exists; to them the efficacious call comes which also irresistibly produces its results in them; to them is given the donum” (perseverantiæ, the gift of perseverance) “which they cannot lose again. The rest God leaves (relinquit) to their destruction. And this is an act not of injustice, but of justice, for in this they receive only what they deserve for the sin in which they are entangled: pro meritis justissime judicantur; qui damnantur non habent quod reprehendant” (according to their merits they are most justly judged; they who are damned have no cause for complaint). “And there is also no especial decretum divinum reprobationis” (divine decree of reprobation), “inasmuch as the final cause of their damnation does not lie in this that God willed their destruction and caused their sin; but whosoever is lost perishes because he belongs to the race which has sinned in Adam. Whoever is saved has salvation purely and solely by grace. But why, when all are equally sinful and unworthy, God should elect the one and leave the other, this Augustine explains at times by declaring: ‘That liberty may show itself [[@Page:6]]in all the clearer light,’ and commonly by saying that man must here seal his lips, and bow his head in reverence beneath the unsearchable counsel of God.” (Thomasius, ibid., p. 541.) — Concerning the operation of converting and saving grace Augustine has, among other utterances, the following: “When God wills to save no will of man resists. It is not to be doubted that no will of man can resist the will of God, which has made in heaven and earth all that He would, so that He should not do what He wills; inasmuch as He even does what He wills with the will of man himself.… And yet He does this in no way but through the will of man himself, as beyond doubt He has the most omnipotent power over the human heart to incline it whither He pleases.” (Deo volenti salvum facere nullum hominum resistit arbitrium. Non est dubitandum, voluntati Dei, qui in coelo et in terra omnia, quaecumque voluit, fecit, humanas voluntates non posse resistere, quominus faciat ipse quod vult; quondoquidem de ipsis hominum voluntatibus, quod vult, facit.… Qui tamen hoc non facit nisi per ipsorum hominum voluntates, sine dubio habens humanorum cordium quo placeret inclinandorum omnipotentissimam potestatem.) Luthardt (“Die Lehre vom freien Willen,” The Doctrine of Free Will, p. 36, sq.) summarizes the opinion of Augustine on this point in the following sentences: “It is the almighty God who turns the resisting will unto faith, operating therefore with the same unconditional will and power of omnipotence, which He exerts in the domain of nature, also in the domain of moral choice (self-determination), thus lowering it into a mere form of His own operation. God utilizes and determines also the evil will in the domain of sinful action according to His pleasure, so that here also He is the actor. Accordingly God turns the human will as He wills, agreeeably to His mercy or to His righteousness. Why He works in the one in this way and in the other in that, saves the one, permits the other to be lost — who can explain this? This is the secret will of God. And it is thus established, Augustine reiterates in his work De corr. et gr., that in all things God’s will is to be acknowledged. For man can have no other will than God wills him to have; and whichever God’s will wills him to have, that man must have, for God’s will cannot fail of its result. These are, if not the words, yet the thoughts which Augustine here develops. As in our natural life, so also in the spiritual, all gifts are to be referred back to God’s will, that is to His omnipotent will. And thus also perseverance in the good [[@Page:7]]is a pure gift of God’s grace. For could not God have called those who fell away, out of the world before they fell? If He did not call them away, if He permitted them to fall, it was only because He did not will to give them the donum perseverantiæ” (the gift of perseverance), “with which, if they had had it, they could not have fallen. Those alone, however, to whom God gives this gift are children of God in His eyes. For those who fall away have in full truth never been children of God. They belong, indeed, to the vocati (the called), but not to the electi (the elect); for the latter cannot be lost. For the result must be in accordance with the will of God. These alone are sons of God; yet also all these, even if they have not yet been born again; yea, even if they have not yet been born at all. For only God’s predetermining will is decisive here. With this will God’s assisting grace and its operation coincides … New Testament grace, as the saints predestinated to the kingdom of God receive it, includes of necessity” (not only the possibility of perseverance, but also) “its actuality — non solum ut sine isto dono perseverantes esse non possint, verum etiam est per hoc donum nonnisi perseverantes sint” (not only that without this gift they cannot persevere, but also that through this gift they cannot otherwise than persevere).
Evidently it was nothing but self-deception when Augustine imagined that he could hold fast, together with these propositions of absolute predestination, the freedom of the will and the liberty of man, and when he even declared in his Retractationes: “Both faith and the production of good works is our own by reason of the liberty of our will, and both, therefore, have been imparted to us through the spirit of faith and love. Both are of God, because He prepares our will; and both are our own, because we will them.” It is only playing with words to say of a will of God, operating unavoidably and insuperably (indeclinabiliter et insuperabiliter), bringing the most almighty power to bear in an irresistible manner, that this will does not coerce the will of man, since it works not without but in him, as also the operations, faith and love, are in the strictest sense acts of man’s free will. This is true only in the sense that, taken strictly, the will itself can never be coerced, but only man, to will as he wills, and therefore it really says nothing. It was likewise a strange self-deception when Augustine imagined that his doctrine agreed with the Scriptures; and only by the delusion into which the most shrewd and approved influential theologian may fall, when once he has fully started on a [[@Page:8]]onesided line, can it be explained, that Augustine did not scruple to misinterpret the beautiful passage 1 Tim. 2. 4: “Who will have all men to be saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth,” in numberless ways: sometimes “all men” are taken as all those of whom God wills that they shall come to grace, hence only the elect. Again, they are taken as men of all kinds and all branches of the human family; again, simply as many; again, the passage is thought to say that no man can be saved except God will it; again, that it can be said of God, that He would have all men to be saved, because He induces us to wish this!
It is to be ascribed, at least in great part, to this unevangelical onesidedness and harshness of Augustine’s doctrine that his contention against Pelagianism did not receive undivided approval in the church, especially in that of the West. Augustine was undoubtedly right over against Pelagius; for the latter carried the onesided view of the Greek Church, with which he had become conversant through its writings or through a visit to the East, consistently to its last extreme, making predestination depend on the divine foreknowledge of man’s free choice (self-determination), which really needs no grace; and this good work of Augustine the church acknowledged. His own onesidedness, however, could not be adopted. Yet to offset this the whole truth was unfortunately not taken. The middle-path between the extremes of Pelagius and Augustine was not really chosen, although this was intended; repelled by the predestinarianism of the latter, a course too near Pelagianism was entered. This is the Semi-Pelagianism of John Cassianus, a pupil and friend of the Greek Chrysostom and of his likeminded adherents, the Massilians. “The relation of grace to free will Cassianus sets forth as a constant being-side-by-side and working together of both, in which he makes the good proceed at one time from grace, at another from human choice (self-determination). Which of the two is the rule cannot be decided a priori. Experience shows, on the one hand, that God anticipates man in that He calls him, yea, at times draws some without or against their will unto salvation,” e. g., the publican Matthew, the Apostle Paul; on the other hand, that man also without being moved or solicited from without, wholly from within, disposes himself for the good and makes the beginning (initium fidei et boni operis), e. g., Zacchæus, or the malefactor on the cross” (?). (Thomasius, ibid., p. 561.) Here predestination was made to rest entirely on the divine foreknowledge of the moral [[@Page:9]]condition of man. This controversy between Pelagianism and Augustinianism, waged especially in France, was finally closed for several centuries at the Council of Orange in the year 529. Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism were rejected with all clearness and decision, likewise the most objectionable form of predestinarianism, predestination unto evil, which, to be sure, neither Augustine nor, as far as we know, any adherent of his doctrine has ever maintained. Irresistible grace, however, and the particularism of predestination were passed over in silence.
How the Western Church, without being conscious of the fact, gradually left the standpoint of Augustine, who was honored as the highest authority, we see in Gregory the Great (d. 604). God has elected those from eternity of whom He foresaw that they would accept His grace and persevere therein unto the end. Suos et electos nominat, quia cernit, quod in fide et bono opere persistant (He calls them His own and His elect, because He sees that they persevere in faith and good work). This juxtaposition of faith and good work already reveals the Semi-Pelagian position of Gregory, and indeed it forms the transition to the Semi-Pelagianism of the Romish Church later on. This position of Gregory is shown even more fully by his declarations on the relation between divine grace and human action. “Man, sick with sin, in need of a physician, must be willing to be helped, if he is to be healed. Grace alone heals him of his disease; but the fact that he receives this grace willingly is his merit. The good that we do is the result of a co-operation between God and ourselves.… Grace is anticipating and liberating, but the subsequens liberum arbitrium” (the subsequent free will) “consents (consentit), and this establishes the meritum liberi arbitrii” (merit of free will). Foreordination is determined according to the conduct of free will toward prevenient and liberating grace; it rests on the foreknowledge of this conduct.” (Luthardt, ibid., p. 53.) In the first half of the 9th century, however, the monk Gottschalk, detained against his will in a monastery, and then seeking comfort in the study of Augustine’s writings, revived this father’s doctrine of predestination in its harshest form; indeed, he developed it to a double foreordination, that of the elect unto life and that of the reprobate unto death, although Augustine as a rule had spoken only of a committal (relinquishing) of the evil to their deserved punishment. The cruel treatment of Gottschalk by his ecclesiastical superiors made many sympathize with him, [[@Page:10]]and his doctrine, too, found much approval; yet workrighteousness, which became ever more influential both theoretically and practically, and from which Augustine also had not been free, turned attention more and more away from the doctrine of Gottschalk. The most powerful of the scholastics, Thomas Aquinas, however, still endeavored to harmonize the absolute predestinarianism of Augustine with Semi-Pelagian principles. According to him, it is divine grace which enables man to perform good and meritorious works. This grace, however, is bestowed according to an absolute predestination upon the one and not upon the other. His antipode, Duns Scotus, made predestination conditional on the divine foreknowledge of man’s free conduct. According to him grace does not, as is taught by Thomas, necessarily come first, but man may, and should, make himself fit to receive this grace, by a proper use of his free will. And it is Duns Scotus, and not Thomas, who has left his stamp upon the Romish Church, the stamp of Semi-Pelagianism. It was in vain that Thomas of Bradwardina, succeeding his renowned namesake in his ecclesiastical order and in his opinions (d. 1349 as the Archbishop of Canterbury), endeavored to maintain the cause of free and unconditional divine grace over against the error of Pelagianism. The absolute predestination and the irresistibility of the saving will of God, which he too thought necessary for this purpose, found a refuge more and more only among the so-called heretics. Among these were Wiclif and Hus. The former writes in his Dialogus: “And thus it appears to me probable that God moves each single active creature with necessity to its every activity. And thus some are predestined, i.e. appointed after their labor unto glory; others foreknown, i.e. appointed after a miserable life to perpetual punishment. (Et sic videatur mihi probabile, quod Deus necessitat creaturas singulas activas ad quemlibet actum suum. Et sic sunt aliqui praedestinati, hoc est post laborem ordinati ad gloriam; alii præsciti, hoc est post vitam miseram ad poenam perpetuam ordinati.) Hus is dependent here, as well as in general, not only as far as the matter itself, but also as far as the manner of expression is concerned, upon Wiclif. And thus it came to pass that predestinarianism was regarded ever more and more as the mark and production of heresy, and the opposite extreme of Semi-Pelagianism as the true doctrine of the Christian Church.
It was no wonder that Luther and those whom God placed [[@Page:11]]at his side and under his leadership in the blessed work of the Reformation, at first assumed more or less the standpoint of Augustine in their absolutely necessary opposition to the prevailing Semi-Pelagianism. In Luther this was all the less surprising, as he was an Augustinian monk, and seems to have studied the writings of Augustine in the latter years of his monastic life with special zeal. The work of Luther which here demands chief attention is his De servo arbitrio, of the year 1525. What judgment the Lutheran Church, by its most important teachers, has passed on this much discussed book, we have endeavored to set forth in Vol. III. of the “Columbus Theological Magazine,” pp. 213-230, in an article entitled: “The Voice of the Lutheran Church Concerning Luther’s Book ‘De Servo Arbitrio.’” We give here only the main points of this more extended discussion. According to Walch in his edition of Luther’s works. Vol. XVIII., p. 121, sqq., Lutheran theologians, as to their opinion on this work of Luther, can be divided into three classes. The first class thinks that “Luther has expressed himself on predestination in this book in such a manner that he in fact agrees with Calvin and his adherents.” To this class belong the theological members of the strictly Lutheran University of Rostock in the year 1595, 15 years after the first publication of the Book of Concord. This its Opinion the faculty expresses in a judgment given on Ruber’s doctrine of predestination, which will be referred to later; and the writer of this Opinion is one of the chief authors of the Formula of Concord, David Chytræus, most certainly an unquestionably Lutheran theologian. This judgment is addressed to the theological faculty of Wittenberg. After quoting a few of the strongest expressions of Luther’s work, it continues: “These and many similar exceedingly terrible utterances, which at that time were taught in your school as divine revelations, are now nowhere retained except in the schools of the Calvinists. Philippus (Melanchthon) our common teacher, has gradually softened and removed them … and this already while Luther was living.” (Haec et multa his similia, horridiora, quae tunc in vestra cathedra velut oracula docebantur, nunc nusquam nisi in Calvinianorum scholis retinentur, Philippus, communis praeceptor noster, paullatim leniit et sustulit … idque vivo adhuc Luthero.) To this class belongs also Dr. F. A. Philippi (d. 1882 as professor at Rostock), in our opinion the greatest Lutheran dogmatician since Hollaz. In his work, “Kirchliche Glaubenslehre,” Vol. 4, 1, 2d ed., p. 37, we [[@Page:12]]read: “Erasmus attacked in his work, De Libero Arbitrio, the vital principle of the Reformation, and endeavored to bring the church to reject the fundamental doctrine of the Reformation and to return to the Romish Semi-Pelagianism; and moreover he treated absolute predestination as the necessary result of the Augustinian doctrine of sin and grace, and used it as a bugbear. Thereupon Luther, to assure the safety of the evangelical basis of salvation, made a truly gigantic assault on this theological dwarf in his work, De Servo Arbitrio, and did not hesitate to draw also the inferences from his position, but accepted, with an over-bold defiance born of faith, on the one hand, the theological deduction of an unconditional election, from the premise of the enslaved will, and, on the other hand, the speculative deduction of the bondage of the will, from the premise of an unconditional omnipotence and an eternal prescience. Yet Luther merely accepted the position offered him by his opponent, and permitted himself for the moment to be carried so far beyond his goal only by his opposition. In reality he sought rather to establish a basis than to draw conclusions. And then in his doctrine of justification, and the central position which this assumed with him, as well as in his doctrine of the means of grace, there was shown, already at that time and still more later on, an irreconcilable opposition against this absolute predestination, whereby it was bound to be completely superseded. And therefore, Luther not only never after accepted this doctrine, but taught in fact the very opposite of it in his unequivocal proclamation of the universality of divine grace, of the universal application of Christ’s merits, of the universal operation of the means of grace; and he even controverted this doctrine and took back his earlier utterances on this point by his later corrections.” A similar position is taken by other noteworthy Lutheran theologians of to-day.
The second class of Lutheran theologians maintains “that Luther used expressions in his work, De Servo Arbitrio, which in themselves are not to be approved, and appear to declare an absolute decreee of God concerning man’s salvation and his condemnation; that he is nevertheless to be excused,” inasmuch as at that time “the light of evangelical knowledge had not yet fully dawned for him,” or inasmuch as he used inconsiderate and imprudent expressions without a Calvinistic meaning on his part, or inasmuch as he treated the matter “more philosophically than theologically,” etc. To this class the majority of our older theologians [[@Page:13]]belong, e. g., M. Chemnitz, John Gerhard, A. Calov, V. E. Loescher, etc. Some of them almost agree with the first class, namely those who assume that at that time Luther yet lacked “the full light of evangelical knowledge.”
The third class is a very small one, and consists of those Lutheran theologians who claim that there is “nothing erroneous, and questionable contained in these expressions, but that everything is correctly set forth in them, if only they are taken in Luther’s sense.” The most prominent of these theologians is, among the older, Seb. Schmidt, among the later, A. G. Rudelbach.
Our present opinion we have already indicated above. Formerly, and also in the article referred to, we were inclined rather to the second class. However, the first class seems to be in the right, as their explanation seems to be the most natural and least strained, and because it is established that Luther at this time had not yet in all things attained his later clearness. The following passages, for instance, seems to us to demand this explanation: “The will of God is efficacious and cannot be impeded, as it is the natural power of God (Voluntas Dei efficax est, quae impediri non potest, cum sit naturalis ipsa potentia Dei).” — “He does everything in an immutable way, and His will can neither be resisted, nor changed, nor impeded (Immutabiliter omnia facit et voluntati ejus neque resisti neque eam mutari aut impediri posse).” — “It is God for whose will neither cause nor reason can begiven. For not because He should will, or should have willed, thus, is that right which He wills, but on the contrary, because He Himself willed it, therefore, whatever occurs must be right (Deus est cujus voluntatis nulla est causa nec ratio. Non enim quia sic debet vel debuit velle, ideo rectum est quod vult, sed contra, quia ipse vult, ideo debet rectum esse quod fit).” — “It is therefore also especially necessary and salutary for a Christian to know that God foresees nothing contingent, but that He foresees and ordains and does all things with His immutable and eternal and infallible will. With this stroke free will is entirely crushed and annihilated (Est itaque et hoc inprimis necessarium et salutare Christiano nosse, quod Deus nihil præscit contingenter, sed quod omnia incommutabili et aeterna infallibilique voluntate et praevidit et proponit et facit).” — “If there had been in Pharaoh a possibility of turning or liberty of the will, so that he might have done the opposite, then God could not have predicted his obduracy so certainly (Si hic ulla erat vertibilitas aut libertas[[@Page:14]] arbitrii in Pharaone, quae in utrumque potuisset, non potuisset Deus tarn certo praedicere ejus obdurationem).” — “The wicked man comes not, even though he hear the word, except the Father inwardly draw and teach him, which He does by bestowing His Spirit. Here is another kind of drawing than that which is from without” (through the mere Word) “(Impius non venit, etiam audito verbo, nisi intus trahat doceatque Pater, quod facit largiendo Spiritum. Ibi alius tractus est quam is, qui foris est).” — “This is the hidden and fearful will of God, by which He determines in His counsel which and what kind of people shall, according to His will become fit for and partake of His preached and proffered mercy. And this will is not to be searched into, but to be reverently worshipped as the most adorable mystery of divine majesty, which He has reserved for Himself alone and forbidden us.” — “God, hidden in His majesty, does neither deplore nor remove the death (of the sinner), but works life, death, and all in all. For He has not restricted Himself in this regard in His Word, but has reserved for Himself liberty over all things. — For He (God as preached) would have all men to be saved, when with His word of salvation He comes to all; and it is the fault of the will which receives Him not, as He says, Matth. 23: How often would I have gathered thy children and ye would not! Why, however, that majesty does not remove this fault of our will or change it in all men since this is not in man’s power, or why He imputes it to a man when he cannot avoid it, is not for us to inquire, and though we should inquire much, we would still not discover it. (Deus absconditus in majestate neque deplorat neque tollit mortem, sed operatur vitam, mortem et omnia in omnibus. Neque enim tum verbo suo definivit sese sed libertum sese reservavit super omnia. — Nam ille (Deus prædicatus) vult omnes homines salvos fieri, dum verbo salutis ad omnes venit, vitiumque est voluntatis, quae non admittit eum sicut dicit Matth. 23: quoties volui congregare filios tuos, et noluisti. Verum quare majestas ilia vitium hoc voluntatis nostrae non tollit aut mutat in omnibus, cum non sit in potestate hominis, aut cur illud ei imputat, cum non possit homo eo carere, quaerere non licet, ac si multum quaeras, nusquam tamen invenias.)” — This assuredly is not the manner of expression nor the doctrine of the later Luther, nor of the Confessions of the Church bearing his name. When our latest Confession appeals to this book of Luther in the article on the Free Will, it does [[@Page:15]]this referring at the same time to his later exposition of Genesis, where the subject is not only “repeated and explained,” but where he has also, “in the best and most careful way, guarded against all misunderstanding and perversion, his opinion and understanding of some other peculiar disputations introduced incidentally by Erasmus, as of Absolute Necessity, etc. ([[Formula of Concord, Sol. Decl. II., 44 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:II:44]], Jacobs’ Translation, p. 560, 561). But that Luther’s De Servo Arbitrio can be prized even by those who recognize those defects is seen by the quotation from Philippi above and also by the following utterances of Luthardt (ibid., p. 122): “It is a powerful composition, defiant and confident, bold in word and thought, full of holy zeal, of mighty earnestness, written from the deepest convictions of his soul. It is one of the most important and richest of Luther’s writings. And it is easily understood that in later years, when he was displeased with his other writings and with Saturnine hunger would have destroyed these children of his spirit, he named this work, beside the Catechism, as among those which he could acknowledge as his true writings. For scarcely anywhere else do the waters of his soul pour themselves forth with equal power and richness.”
At first Melanchthon went, if possible, even further than Luther in his doctrine of the absolute will of God. This appears from the following utterances: “Free will is a ridiculous invention, because our will is so little free, that it turns only in the direction toward which God impels it (ut eo tantum feratur, quorsum a Deo impellitur).” — “We say that God does not only permit His creatures to act, but that properly He Himself works all things (ipsum omnia proprie agere). — As they confess that the conversion of Paul was properly God’s work (proprium Dei opus), so they should confess (fatentur? — most probably: fateantur or fatemur) that those works also which are called Adiaphora, as for instance eating freely, things we have in common with the animals (qua media vocantur ut comedere libere communia cum brutis), as also those which are evil, as David’s adultery, are properly God’s work. — Now it is estabHshed that God does all things not merely permissively, but potentially (non permissive, sed potenter), so that, to use a phrase of Augustine, Judas’ betrayal as well as Paul’s call is His own proper work (proprium opus).” — “There is, therefore, no reason why we should accept the frigid explanation (frigidum glossema) that God permits evil, yet does not work it Himself.” — “In the first place, it is not in [[@Page:16]]man’s power to prepare himself for salvation. It is not in our power to convert ourselves. From this it follows, that since many are not converted, God does not will to save them.” — “They believed not because they were not chosen.” — “All that takes place, takes place necessarily according to the divine predestination. There is no liberty of the will.” — Gradually Melanchthon came not only to give up this awful standpoint, but even went to the other extreme, embracing synergism, by accepting three causes of conversion, namely, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the consenting will of man; he maintained, that the natural man had the facultas applicandi se ad gratiam (the faculty of applying himself to the grace of God). And in this course Melanchthon was followed by his whole school; Philippists and synergists have become synonimous terms. One of the main representatives of this school was Victorin Strigel. He compared free will to a magnet, which, when covered with the juice of garlic, ceased to attract iron, but the moment this outward hindrance is removed, again exerts its own proper power, the manifestation of which had only been arrested outwardly (comp. F. C., art. II., Jacobs’ Transl., [[p. 554, 15 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:2:15]] and [[p. 556, 22 >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:2:22]]). Evidently, the doctrine of predestination held by this school could not be correct.
The leader of the strictly Lutheran tendency, which battled with all its energy against Philippism, was Flacius. In a lengthy debate with Strigel, as is well known, he allowed his well-founded opposition to Strigel’s synergistic interpretation of the word accidens to force him to the proposition, that original sin is no accident at all, but the very substance of fallen man. By substance (substantia formalis or forma substantialis) he meant that which gives to man his peculiar condition morally, especially the moral attitude of his soul’s highest powers, of his reason and will. Prior to the fall this was the image of God, perfect holiness and righteousness; after the fall it was original sin. “The change in the relation of these powers to each other, their destruction and degeneration, this was what Flacius understood by the new forma substantialis which has entered man in consequence of the fall. And if these terms are at all employed, it must be confessed that the expression forma substantialis is to be preferred to the other, forma accidentalis.” This is the judgment of Preger in his admirable work, “Matthias Flacius Illyricus und seine Zeit” (M. F. I. and his Times), which dare not be overlooked by those who would understand aright the times of the “Thirty Years’ War” [[@Page:17]]within the Lutheran Church, extending from the death of Luther to the publication of the Formula of Concord. And yet, if we consent to call “all that is (alles, was da ist)” either substance or accident, taking these terms in their usual significance, we cannot, as far as the terms are concerned, avoid siding with Strigel over against Flacius, as does the Formula of Concord in its first article (Jacobs’ Transl. [[p. 549, etc. >> BookOfConcord:Formula:SD:1:54-56]]). To be sure, everything then depends on setting forth what kind of an accident original sin is, namely the total depravity and wholly perverted tendency of man’s noblest powers. Little or nothing can be objected to Flacius’ explanation of his hitherto unheard-of expressions. “It must not be overlooked that in reality the disputants differed but slightly, and that Flacius meant by his forma substantialis what Melanchthon had placed among the qualitates.” “He meant by his calling original sin forma substantialis in summo gradu nothing but what his opponents also meant.” “And for this reason alone the proposition of Flacius concerning sin as a kind of substance seemed dangerous to his opponents, because they understood by substance merely that which is material, that which, according to the popular notion, can subsist for itself.” Flacius, accordingly, was misunderstood by his opponents, and the Formula of Concord does not really condemn his opinion in its first article, but rather his mode of expression, as also its interpretation by his opponents and by some of his own adherents. Flacius then did not make “the devil the creator of a new substance, but the corruptor of a good substance. He did not make God the creator of sin, but taught with Luther that God formed man out of the matter which the devil had corrupted; in the corrupt substance he distinguished matter and form, and of the form of the soul-substance he called only the higher, moral form original sin.” And therefore, he did not before his death, as Kurtz, for instance, asserts, retract the expression which he understood correctly, into which, however, both synergists as well as strict Lutherans uncharitably put an interpretation wholly repudiated by himself. “But in spite of this we must note that Flacius drew false inferences from his view. The Wittenberg school and Strigel had a right to maintain against Flacius that conversion takes place not without and not against the will of man, as Flacius taught. And Hesshusius and his friends were right when they contended that God did not form man out of a simply sinful substance, and that the idea of God was not wholly obliterated in man. These doctrines of Flacius, [[@Page:18]]however, resulted from his extending the power of original sin too far, and from his annihilating completely all that is commonly connected with the remnant of the divine image in man; thus he lost the true idea of man’s capacity for salvation.” “According to Flacius conversion is always a violent act, performed without the will of man, indeed, against his will, and all responsibility on his part is taken away.” Beyond doubt this view had much to do with the choice of the controverted expression; although, according to the exposition of its originator, it may be understood correctly. And its logical outcome had to be an absolute predestination. Flacius repells this doctrine, his associates in the contest against synergism, as also those who later on became his opponents, express it without hesitancy. Wigand for instance teaches a grace which is particular from the start, and consequently finds himself compelled, like Augustine, to misinterpret passages such as these: “There is no respect of persons with God,” and “God will have all men to be saved.” “God’s having no respect to persons simply signifies that He gathers His church from among all peoples, without regard to differences of sex or gifts.” “All men” are “all conditions of men.” Hesshusius says directly: “Here” (Rom. 9. 22) “the apostle discusses the causes, why God in His election passed by some and left them in their condemnation, viz: That He might constitute in them an example of His burning wrath against sin. God, therefore, does not in this respect want all to be saved; for He has not elected all and does not draw all by His grace.” And Amsdorf writes: “As stones and blocks are in the power of God, so also the will and mind of man is subject to the will of God (in voluntate Dei), and consequently man cannot in the least will or choose, except what God wills or declares, whether it be in grace or in wrath.” And it must be admitted that Luthardt in a certain sense is right when he says (ibid., p. 244): “As long as such doctrine could be taught in the Church, and that by such an illustrious representative of the past and such a close friend of Luther, so long — it must be confessed — the Philippistic school was a necessity,” i.e., to counter-balance and prevent the total and exclusive domination of this view. “For this determinism endangered the most essential moral interests of practical Christianity.”
“In the beginning of the Reformation nearly all the representatives of the evangelical church who touched upon this question, taught an absolute predestination, an eternal foreordination [[@Page:19]]of some unto salvation, and of others unto damnation.” (Thomasius, ibid., II., 623). “And so Luther also exhibited the teaching of the evangelical church at this time, when he put forth his predestinarian propositions against Erasmus. But the Church had not yet attained purity and clearness in this doctrine, and was endangered thereby also in other respects. Through the Word, it was said, God carries out His election and His counsel. But the Word is directed to the many, to the masses. And so the conclusion seemed plain, that God sent the proclamation of salvation to many only seemingly, and that His Spirit does not operate everywhere through the Word as a means of grace. Then again, the peace and security of the conscience was made doubtful; and further, there was no satisfactory answer to the question, Where is the church?” (G. Plitt, “Einleitung in die Augustana” — Introduction to the A., I., 363.) With Luther, however, and his pupils absolute predestination was only an auxiliary, which at first seemed necessary to them to guard the center, salvation by grace alone; and the Lutheran Church therefore dropped this doctrine, or rather never took it up, when it was seen that it was not necessary to shield this central point, that in fact by its unavoidable consequences it annulled the Biblical and Lutheran doctrine of the means of grace. It was quite different with the fathers of the Reformed Church. Absolute predestination was the center of its entire theology, and its doctrine of the means of grace had to conform to this. Consequently this Church has no means of grace in the Lutheran sense, and can have none. Zwingli, for instance, writes in a letter of the year 1527: “It must be an unalterable canon that all things are ruled and directed by the providence of God; otherwise God would not be God, would not be the all-wise and eternal Being. He worketh both to will and to do. Should some one ask whether he can cater to his lusts, since all that he does is done through God, — the questioner, by his very question shows whose sheep he is. Suppose we grant that through God’s ordering this man becomes a murderer, yet it is the result of God’s goodness alone that by these signs he who becomes a vessel of wrath betrays himself in that he commits the crime without repentance. I say: They become such through God’s ordering (Vorsehung), but by the same ordering they are appointed unto eternal punishment. There you have my canon, which fortifies me against all the Scripture passages adduced in favor of free will.” And in another place: “Election precedes [[@Page:20]]faith. Thus it comes that they who have been elected and have not attained to the knowledge of faith, as for instance children, nevertheless receive eternal salvation; for it is election that saves.” — “If, however, the attainment of salvation is attributed to faith, then that which originates from the primary and actual cause is ascribed to something secondary, which is, as it were, only a seal. For faith is the seal of the election through which I am actually saved. If election had not preceded as the blossom never would faith have followed.” — “Everything that takes place with regard to man, whether it apply to his body or to his soul, proceeds from God as the real and only cause, so that even the work of sin (opus peccati) proceeds from none other than God, although it is not sin for Him.” — “Faith itself does not save, speaking accurately, but it is a sign of salvation and election. The Father’s drawing saves and justifies, and the operation of the Holy Spirit; faith, however, is the sign of all the elect.” (Compare Thomasius, ibid., p. 412, sqq.) And Zwingli never retracted this. “This doctrine of predestination remained in Reformed theology. Hence no one took offense when Calvin gave it a very rigid form.” The following are the main features: “From all eternity God has ordained salvation for some men and damnation for others. Men are thus not equally conditioned when they enter life. Christ’s work of redemption pertains only to the elect. For them alone, therefore, the means of grace are what they claim to be; for only in their case do they work eternal life. Although these thoughts did not enter practical life in the form of such abstract conclusions, but were broken and modified by practical tendencies and necessities; yet it cannot be denied that here there is a view different from the Lutheran. The Lutheran doctrine of the appropriation of salvation (Heilsaneignung) can never exist beside such a doctrine of predestination and its consequences. This doctrine denies the universality of the grace of God and of the merits of Christ, whereon alone the sinner’s consolation rests; indeed, it destroys the very conception of compassionate grace, since it places over against it a punishing justice, which for its own glorification has made and appointed some of its creatures to be vessels of wrath. The seriousness of the divine proclamation and offer of salvation is thus made doubtful for the individual sinner, since an outward and an inward call are distinguished, yea, separated from each other, and thereby the [[@Page:21]]promise made in the preached Word robbed of its truth, and faith, which rests altogether on the means of grace, robbed of its certainty.
Yet the difference in doctrine between the two churches also on this point was not at once recognized as such. As Luther took no offense at Zwingli’s sermon on predestination which he heard in 1529 at Marburg, so also other Lutheran theologians, after the controversy on the sacraments was renewed, saw nothing objectionable in the predestinarian utterances of their opponents. The Philippists, it is true, like their leader, were not satisfied with these expressions. But the very theologians who were the means of advancing the Confession and bringing about the Formula of Concord, were yet attached in good part to predestination, attached to it manifestly because of their efforts thus to destroy synergism in the root.” Among these was, for instance, Flacius, although very guardedly; furthermore Brenz, Wigand, Amsdorf, Hesshus, Heerbrand; cf. Frank, “Theologie der Konkordienformel,” IV., 125, 251 et sq. “Not till the year 1561 did predestination become a mooted question between Reformed and Lutheran theologians, and this was occasioned by differences occuring at Strassburg between Hieronymus Zanchi and John Marbach.” (Thomasius, ibid., 625, sqq.)
Zanchi was an adherent of the strict doctrine of predestination. Marbach did not deny that there is a predestination of the elect, and that by virtue of the divine knowledge there are also a definite number of reprobate. The real dispute turned on the donum perseverantiae (the gift of perseverance), as Zanchi maintained, and Marbach denied, that the elect received faith only once and could never fully lose it. An actual decision was not reached even now, since the real difference was not yet clearly defined. In the year 1563 a formula of agreement was signed, but by Zanchi only with the reservation of his own interpretation. The formula was probably composed by Jacob Andreae. Calvin said of it, that it did not deny predestination, but covered it with a veil. Thomasius (ibid., 629) is right in saying: “The Strassburg Formula lay wholly along the line which Lutheran theology had for some time taken in the doctrine of predestination, rather feeling its way instinctively than seeing it clearly. … The formula was, in the line of sound dogmatico-historical development, the foundation of the corresponding article in the Formula [[@Page:22]]of Concord, its author, as is well known, using the formula extensively.” It wants predestination to be taught so “as never to appear to rob the distressed conscience of repentance, or of consolation and hope.” Predestination is, therefore, to be sought only in Christ, as far as He has revealed it, and by all men. “The revealed will of God, being in no wise contradicted by His secret will, is set before us in Christ, to whom all must hold.” “The fact that God who calls all does not give faith to all, is a secret known only to God, and never to be fathomed by the human mind.” — “The difference had come to be felt. That the contest ceased for the time, was due to the vacillation and indefiniteness to some extent yet existing concerning predestination in the Lutheran Church; as also to this that as yet no threatening danger was apprehended from the Calvinistic doctrine on this point, as was the case regarding the sacraments. In the first draught of the formula of agreement from the pen of Andreas there is no mention of predestination. When, after treating of other differences, an article ‘Of God’s Eternal Foreknowledge and Election,’ was introduced into the Formula of Concord as it took shape, it was thought necessary to justify its admission in a certain sense by these words: ‘Concerning this article no public dissension has occured among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession.’ The article, therefore, referred more to the future than to the past. There were no long dogmatico-historical controversies to be settled by this article, but rather such controversies were to be prevented, at least in the Lutheran Church itself. And for this the Church felt prepared. After it had been decided to discuss this doctrinal difference in the Confession also, a firm and fixed stand was taken. It was known that for all that was to be said here an actual uniform doctrine of the Lutheran Church could be appealed to … This article contains a summary of all the preceding articles, or rather it reveals their organic unity, as it goes back to the eternal will of God, which is realized in the entire revelation of salvation (Heilsoffenbarung). Certainly, it cannot be said that by these declarations all difficulties are solved, nor that all the single propositions of the Confession are scientifically harmonized with each other. It cannot be denied that there is some lack of clearness in this respect. But the scientific result is not the first consideration in a confessional statement. The question is whether it gives expression to the common faith. Now, the facts [[@Page:23]]of the Lutheran faith have been expressed by the Formula of Concord. Also in this place it testifies of the evangelical doctrine of free grace in Christ, and does so by declaring, first, its absolute importance as the sole foundation of our salvation, over against Semi-Pelagianism, and, secondly, its universality, over against a false particularism.” (Thomasius, ibid., 629 sqq.) [[@Page:24]]