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Bound Choice, Election, And Wittenberg Theological Method: From Martin Luther To The Formula Of Concord (Lutheran Quarterly Books) [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   381
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.04" Width: 6.08" Height: 1.06"
Weight:   1.19 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 1, 2005
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802829228  
EAN  9780802829221  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Galvanized by Erasmus's teaching on free will, Martin Luther wrote De servo arbitrio, or The Bondage of the Will, insisting that the sinful human will could not turn itself to God. In this first study to investigate the sixteenth-century reception of De servo, Robert Kolb unpacks Luther's theology and recounts his followers' ensuing disputes until their resolution in the Lutheran churches' 1577 "Formula of Concord."

Publishers Description
In "De servo arbitrio," bOn the Bondage of the Will, b Martin Luther insisted that the sinful human will could not turn itself to God in any way. At the same time, Luther struggled to hold his conviction that God exercises total responsibility for everything in creation in tension with his conviction that God has given human beings responsibility for obedience in their own spheres of life. Lutheran scholar Robert Kolb unpacks the theology of "De servo" and of Melanchthonbs critical response before narrating how Lutherbs students fell into controversy over how to balance the responsibilities of God and humans. Kolb recounts these disputes over the freedom of the will and predestination until their resolution in the Lutheran churchesb 1577 bFormula of Concord.b "Bound Choice" is an important book for anyone with a focused interest in the Reformation and the development of Christian thought.

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More About Robert Kolb

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Robert Kolb is Professor of Systematic Theology emeritus at Concordia Seminary.

Irene Dingel is Professor of Church History and the History of Dogma at Johannes Gutenberg University.

L'ubomir Batka is Dean of Lutheran Theological Faculty at Comenius University.

Robert Kolb currently resides in the state of Missouri. Robert Kolb was born in 1941 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Loyola University, Chicago Loyola University Chicago, USA Loyola Unive.

Robert Kolb has published or released items in the following series...

  1. Christian Theology in Context
  2. Concordia Scholarship Today

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An excellent presentation of early Lutheran views of election  Jun 3, 2008
I recently finished reading this fine book. I got the book to help me answer the question, "How do Lutherans reconcile the idea of God's sovereign activity in salvation, as expounded by Luther in his book `The Bondage Of The Will,' with the Lutheran idea that a person can lose his salvation?"

I should give some background on myself. I am 48 years old. I was raised in the LCMS. My father was a Lutheran teacher and principal. Though not destined to be a clergyman myself (I am a public school music teacher), I was passionate about doctrine, from my youth until today. As a teen, I used to stay up late at night reading Koehler's "A Summary Of Christian Doctrine." It was fascinating to me, and I appreciated the fact that Koehler pulled no punches in claiming that Lutherans were right and others were wrong, when it came to the Sacraments.

I got married in 1985. My bride had been a Methodist, and we decided to look for a Lutheran church to attend, but could not find one in which we felt at home. So we expanded our search to non-Lutheran churches. We happened upon a Presbyterian church (PCA), and joined. This was around 1987. I was attracted to the Presbyterian church because they practiced infant baptism, albeit with a different meaning attached to the sacrament. I had planned to remain a sort of `covert Lutheran,' maintaining my Lutheran views of the Sacraments, while participating in the life of this PCA church. But what I did not know is that these Presbyterians were just as passionate about their history and doctrine as any group of Lutherans I have known. I attended the new members' class, and read a booklet called "The Five Points Of Calvinism." When I reached the section on "Limited Atonement," I could not believe what I was reading. How could any orthodox Christian group believe such a thing? (And how could I have been oblivious to this concept all these years? I had never heard of this.)

But the more I read and studied, the more I became convinced that what Reformed people call the "Doctrines of Grace" really do accurately reflect what the Bible teaches regarding salvation. (I still believe this.) Books by R. C. Sproul and others helped me to grow in this understanding, as well as a 1000-page biography of George Whitefield, detailing Whitefield's relationship with Wesley, and in so doing, illustrating the contrasts between Calvinism and Arminianism. (The pastor of the PCA church that we attended was constantly making reference to "George Whitefield this" and "George Whitefield that," with the congregation nodding in recognition. Everybody seemed to know who George Whitefield was except me! So I went to the library and found a bio by Arnold Dallimore. It was too long, I thought, but it was the only bio they had. So I checked it out and read it. In addition to being a very readable biography of GW, the book also illustrated the tensions between Calvinism and Arminianism, in the persons of Whitefield and Wesley.)

(This book, as it turns out, was also my introduction to the historical method. I later earned a master's degree in history from Butler University here in Indianapolis. While there, I took a class in British history, where the professor allowed me to do a paper on the relationship between Whitefield and Wesley.)

Within the last few years, I have had the pleasure of becoming re-aquainted with my LCMS campus pastor from my undergrad years, through the miracle of e-mail. There was an LCMS chapel close to the campus of Ball State University. The pastor there was a great help to me, inviting me to anchor my faith in the trustworthiness of Scripture, and the reality of the existence of God. This renewal of our relationship has caused me to rethink my exit from the Lutheran church. I recently read Bainton's "Here I Stand" and also Luther's own "The Bondage Of The Will." In the historical preface to BOTW, editor Packer writes of Luther's views on predestination, and that "confessional Lutheranism did not follow Luther in this regard." Why not, I wondered? I had always been given the impression as a youngster in the Lutheran church that whatever Luther believed, that's what Lutherans believed. But could it be that Luther himself leaned to what became known later as the Reformed view? Why had I not heard about this? I have since learned that many Reformed scholars appeal with approval to Luther's BOTW as a classic Reformation-era treatment of the subject of human free will and predestination. But I was ignorant of the work until rather recently. And because I had seen so many citations by Reformed scholars of BOTW as supporting a strict Calvinist view of predestination, I had to satisfy my curiosity and read BOTW for myself. I did find that Luther seemed to be much more Reformed in his thinking about election than I had ever realized.

So I wanted to know why Lutherans apparently do not share Luther's views views on predestination recorded in BOTW. So I began to search for resources, and happened upon Dr. Kolb's very fine book. This book is an exhaustive resource of the views, discussions, and arguments that took place among the first generation of Lutherans after Luther and Melancthon. It will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about early Lutherans' discussions about predestination and human free will. On that score, I give the book high marks. But alas, it left my question unanswered. I will attempt to flesh out the question:

If you use the Formula of Concord as your guide to confessional Lutheran belief, you can find passages there which sound very Reformed in regard to election. For instance:

That finally He will eternally save and glorify in life eternal those whom He has elected, called, and justified. (Election, 22]8.)

So that sure sounds like the Reformed view of election. If He has called you and justified you, it sounds like you're also elected, and that He will finally save you. Sounds very Calvinist. See chapter 3 of the Westminster Confession.

But what the right hand gives, the left hand takes away:

But when the baptized have acted against their conscience, allowed sin to rule in them, and thus have grieved and lost the Holy Ghost in them, they need not be rebaptized, but must be converted again, as has been sufficiently said before. (FoC, Free Will, 69)

Hold on, now, FOC. If you need to be converted again, then apparently you have lost your salvation. But how can that happen, in light of 22.8 above? I think the Reformed view of things is more consistent here. Once God saves you, you stay saved, because God is the one who keeps you saved.

The reader may recall my original question, "How do Lutherans reconcile the idea of God's sovereign activity in salvation, as expounded by Luther in his book `The Bondage Of The Will,' with the idea that a person can lose his salvation?" I have a theory as to why Lutherans do not hold to the Reformed idea of eternal security. (Perhaps readers of this review can critique my theory, or point me to relevant resources.) I was hoping to find a discussion of this theory of mine in Dr. Kolb's excellent book, but I did not find it there. My theory is that Lutherans were and are so committed to the idea of infant baptismal regeneration that they also must hold to its necessary corollary, that a person can lose his salvation, in spite of their strong teachings on man's total depravity and God's sovereign activity in election and conversion. Were it not for Lutherans' strong attachment to infant baptismal regeneration, their theology might have evolved quite differently.

It's not difficult to identify adults who were baptized as infants, who never showed any evidence of regeneration later in life. So that must mean that either baptism is not a means of grace unto salvation, or if it is, such salvation is not necessarily permanent. Lutherans would of course reject the former view, which leaves them only the latter view as an option. This would necessarily mean that there are some people who can be saved, and truly know the grace of God, and enter into a saving relationship with Him, who will not ultimately reside with the Lord in heaven, because they have lost their salvation. But, this former-Lutheran-now-Reformed Christian asks, how can this be if God has given me the gift of salvation in spite of my inability to choose Him?

The Catechism: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true."

God keeps me in the true faith, this paragraph says. I don't know of any Reformed brethren who would disagree. But the difficulty here for Lutherans, I think, is the idea that a person could lose his salvation (Free Will 69 FOC). All of a sudden, once I'm saved, I am in charge of my own salvation. It was up to God to give it to me, but once I've got it, now it's up to me to keep it. Conversely, in the Reformed view (and also in the Catechism paragraph above), God gives me salvation in spite of my lack of reason or strength to lay hold of it, and once I've got it, God keeps me in His kingdom, much as he will when I am in Heaven. God has truly "kept me in the true faith." It seems to me that when Lutherans pay heed to paragraphs like this one from the Catechism, they are truly giving credit where credit is due, namely, to God, for all aspects of salvation, from regeneration to conversion to glorification in Heaven. Paul agrees in Philippians 1:6: "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

The force of the argument that says God in His sovereignty chose me for salvation is the same force of the argument which says that God keeps me in His flock, and once I am His, I am His forever. Just as once I get to Heaven, I have no chance of losing salvation, so in this life also, God sees to it that I persevere to the end.

But while Lutherans are willing to hold the first argument, they have no choice but to reject the second one, because it is obvious to all that if infant baptism is a means by which God imparts salvation, that salvation does not always continue to the end of life. But rather than adopt the idea of the perseverance of the saints, Lutherans would rather hold on to the idea of infant baptismal regeneration, and its unpleasant baggage, the idea that one can lose his salvation.

So this book review is somewhat unconventional, I admit. I did not so much review Dr. Kolb's book as I wrote about my own wonderings about Lutheran theology. For me, once I became convinced of the idea of the perseverance of the saints, I had to give up the idea of infant baptismal regeneration. I had hoped to find that early Lutherans had similar intramural debates, but I did not find them in the pages of this book, and since the book is so thorough, I must conclude that this particular debate was not at the forefront of Lutheran thinking in the early years of the Reformation.

I did learn a lot about Melanchthon from the book, and about early controversies involving his leadership, which have colored the perceptions about him among Lutherans to this day. Dr. Kolb did his best to give Melanchthon his due, and show why he thought certain actions were necessary, such as the writing of the variata to the Augburg Confession, and his willingness to adjust his confessional phrasing to appease Catholic political leaders, to insure that the embryonic Lutheran church could continue without persecution. Melanchthon thought such tweaks to Lutheran confessions could be done to appease Catholic political authorities, so long as `essentials of the faith' were not compromised. But many Lutherans did not agree with him as to what comprised the essentials, and what could be fudged, to get along. That was a very interesting chapter. Melanchthon was flesh and blood, and as such was subject to errors in judgment, but I certainly would hesitate to second-guess him and his choices. Had I been in his shoes, I don't know that I could have chosen my steps more wisely.

I also learned quite a bit about "Wittenberg Theological Method," which Kolb refers to as attempting to hold in tension opposing ideas like the integrity of the human being vs. the sovereign action of God in salvation. Man is not simply a block of wood, various Lutheran scholars would say again and again through several decades, and this phrase found its way into the FOC. As well, God is not the author of sin. This thought was repeated again and again through the years leading up to the FOC. I learned a bit about Cyrus Spangenberg and his very Reformed-sounding notions about salvation and God's sovereignty, which were not new, only echoing BOTW and indeed Scripture itself. I found myself cheering for Spangenberg in his responses to his Lutheran critics. All in all, I had no idea until reading the book that there were so many early Lutherans who held views of salvation which I find indistinguishable from today's Calvinists, Spangenberg being chief among them.

The book is, without a doubt, written at the seminary level. Kolb assumes the reader has knowledge of many events and personalities of church history. Many of the people, places, and events Kolb referred to were unknown to me, but hey, that's what Google is for, right? Mostly, though, I just plowed ahead without bothering to look up each unknown reference. What stuck with me were the Bible debates among early Lutherans about predestination which employed the same verses which today's Calvinists and Arminians use to support their positions. The more things change, the more they stay the same, it seems.

I highly recommend this book to any Reformed or Lutheran Christian who wants to broaden his knowledge of the early years of the Reformation.

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