Argue with Martin Luther

Guest Post by Alan Gibson—

The two of us loiter together in the coffeehouse of my imagination, arguing like a couple of old friends.

“I wish that the expression ‘free will’ had never been invented, ” he remarked the other day. “It is not recorded in Scripture and should more justly be called self-will, which is  worthless.” This was Marty at his most pedantic.

“Which is to say that the self is worthless?” I parried. “You seem to preclude the possibility that my will can be in concordance with God’s.”

“Concordance indeed,” he spluttered, going on to ask how dare I equate myself with God—which I hadn’t meant to do, as Marty well knew.

“I only meant that free-will or self-will can be divinely instigated,” I suggested. “Would God have men be puppets, our will superimposed?”

He left, saying he’d just as soon have me be a puppet, which remark, whoever’s will it reflected, was certainly on the testy side.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Argue with Martin Luther

  1. Clark Kent

    Philosphers and theologians have written volumes on this topic. For many topics nowadays I check out Wikipedia as my first source, and I see that the information there is overwhelming. It’s obviously presumptuous for someone like me to make comments of any significance on this topic, but I see that you’ve read this far, so to some extent you’re a captive audience, aren’t you? Free to go at any time, of course. But if you choose to go, are you doing this of your free will are are you just kidding yourself?

    It’s amazing how much we have learned about life, the world, the universe, and just as amazing what we don’t know. Clearly you humans are able to make choices. And it is equally clear that your choices are influenced by contingencies, some of which you are aware of but a great many others that you have absolutely no inkling of. I think the final issue is: Are all of your decisions completely influenced by such contingencies. I think Hans Vaihinger had the right approach, that we must view choosing through an “as if” framework; we choose as if we have the freedom to choose, respecting and cautioned by the complex of pre-existing contingencies that influence our choices.

    You may note that I have blown my cover somewhat in this note. I am choosing to do this – or am I?

    Regards, Clark

  2. Linda

    Re the coffee conversation with “Marty Luther,” our free will responses aren’t always in concordance with God’s will, of course. I suspect some of the most valuable free will exercises may be one’s outside God’s will because they are powerful teachable moments.
    A story about a Vermont farmer says a tourist admiring the his crops, pulled up to the fence and asked him, “How did you grow such beautiful crops?” “Good decisions,” the farmer said. “How did you know how to make good decisions?” “Bad decisions.”

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