Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Something from Luther -- God works even through evil men

            Here is something from the Luther Lecture at our Octoberfest (October 4).  While Detuch scholar, Erasmus, claimed that man has free will and can move himself toward God's grace (still taught by Protestants today), Luther demonstrated that man is bound to his sin and is bound to sin until he is freed from his condition by God's Spirit.
            Luther even shows how God works in evil people and even in Satan himself.  It is not that God sponsors the evil or favors the evil.  It is that God works all in all, even in the wicked, since they cannot exist or act unless God is active in them.  If God is no longer active in you, then you are dead.  But if you are alive and doing something, then God is the one who moves you and sustains you, even if what you are doing is evil.
            Luther explains:

            “Since, then, God moves and actuates all in all, he necessarily moves and acts also in Satan and ungodly man.  But he acts in them as they are and as he finds them; that is to say, since they are averse and evil, and caught up on the movement of this divine omnipotence, they do nothing but averse and evil things.  It is like a horseman riding a horse that is lame in one or two of its feet; his riding corresponds to the condition of the horse, that is to say, the horse goes badly.  But what is the horseman to do?  If he rides such a horse alongside horses that are not lame, this will go baldly while they go well, and it cannot be otherwise unless the horse is cured.  Here you see that when God works in and through evil men, evil things are done, and yet God cannot act evilly although he does evil through evil men, because one who is himself good cannot act evilly; yet he uses evil instruments that cannot escape the sway and motion of his omnipotence.

            “It is the fault, therefore, of the instruments, which God does not allow to be idle, that evil things are done, with God himself setting them in motion.  It is just as if a carpenter were cutting badly with a chipped and jagged ax.  Hence it comes about that the ungodly man cannot but continually err and sin, because he is caught up in the movement of divine power and not allowed to be idle, but wills, desires, and acts according to the kind of person he is.” (On the Bondage of the Will;  Luther's Works: American Edition, Vol. 33, p 176)