In Bondage of the Will, Luther is responding to Erasmus’ writing of The Freedom of the Will from a number of different perspectives with appropriate arguments for each. What
Luther supports his response to Erasmus’ arguments using the scripture and reason. Arguing from
Luther’s Pauline argument continues stating that perhaps by our will the works of the Law can be done, but that does not mean that we are fulfilling the Law. In this section,
Luther’s argument continues with Paul’s example of Abraham’s faith, distinguishing a righteousness of works versus that of faith.
Luther appeals to John as well. In this section,
In the section entitled The Mercy and Justice of God in the Light of Nature, Grace, and Glory, Luther’s argument compares humanity’s understanding, strength, power etc. are nothing at all compared to the majesty, wisdom, and power of God almighty. He refers to three “lights,” that of nature, of grace, and of glory. Concerning issues of theodicy, humankind is unable to understand God’s purposes by simply the lights of nature and grace. In the light of glory however, we understand God’s righteous and perfect judgments. Again we have the distinction of the human viewpoint (free choice) compared to the divine (grace).
To summarize, Luther’s argument is as follows: sin incapacitates us from working out our own salvation. We are all alike condemned. The human will is so severely affected by the Fall that we only will to do evil. Unredeemed humanity is dominated by the devil. When redeemed, the entire person is redeemed. We are thereby liberated to serve God. Truly, free will is non-existent for
This is a theme that runs throughout Luther’s teaching, that of God’s grace that does for us what we are utterly incapable of doing for ourselves. In Luther’s later work, The Small Catechism, he succinctly sums up his position on our power to save ourselves in his explanation of the Third Article of the Creed. “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in
 Ibid., 169.
 Ibid., 173.
 Ibid., 174.
 Ibid., 178.
 Ibid., 182.
 Ibid., 192.
 Ibid., 193.