Friday, February 24, 2012

The Common Ground of Lutherans and Arminians With Regard to the Free Will of Men

In combating charges of Pelagianism and heresy, Lutherans and Arminians have both expressed clear sentiments defining the orthodoxy of man’s limited freedom of the will. Philip Melancthon, Martin Luther’s contemporary friend and colleague, systematized Lutheran thought through his various contributions including the Augsburg Confession of 1530. This confessional document remains a bedrock source of original Lutheran ecclesiastical thought. Similarly, James Arminius conveyed complementary thoughts regarding the limited freedom of the will in his Sentiments. Both men reflected the orthodoxy of the Reformation church as it relates to the fallen condition of natural man. This agreement in orthodoxy is important to note in view of various sectarian efforts to separate one or the other from Protestant orthodoxy. Lutherans are generally not challenged with regard to their credentials of Protestantism (being the origins of European Protestantism)  however Arminians are often accused of having a lack in that regard, most often challenged by the various Calvinist sects as harboring Pelagian or the 4th century semi-Pelagian views of John Cassian.  As various theologians have demonstrated repeatedly over the last few centuries, the charges made against orthodox Protestant Arminians  are spurious.  Nonetheless, modern Calvinists continue to make these unfounded accusations to wit accusing Arminians of teaching that men have an innate unbounded free will capable of being the primary cause of any move toward the pursuit of righteousness.
Provided first below is Article 18 of the Augsburg Confession written by Melancthon in 1530. In it he addressed the nature of man’s limited free will and our utter dependency on the power of the Holy Spirit to engage in the spiritual works and goodness of God. He makes a great distinction between the free will works of our natural condition and those of a true spiritual nature keeping each subject to the full grasp of God’s providence. Following this is James Arminius comments on the free will of man in which he finds agreement with the necessity of the power of the Holy Spirit in all spiritual matters. Arminius also defined his thoughts on the providence of God in a separate writing that compliments these thoughts. Taken together, these comments by Melancthon and Arminius define Protestant orthodoxy with regard to the necessity of the power of the Holy Spirit as it pertains to man’s fallen natural condition.

Philip Melancthon regarding Free Will:

"... Of Free Will they teach that man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2,14; but this righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word. These things are said in as many words by Augustine in his Hypognosticon, Book III: We grant that all men have a free will, free, inasmuch as it has the judgment of reason; not that it is thereby capable, without God, either to begin, or, at least, to complete aught in things pertaining to God, but only in works of this life, whether good or evil. "Good" I call those works which spring from the good in nature, such as, willing to labor in the field, to eat and drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry a wife, to raise cattle, to learn divers useful arts, or whatsoever good pertains to this life. For all of these things are not without dependence on the providence of God; yea, of Him and through Him they are and have their being. "Evil" I call such works as willing to worship an idol, to commit murder, etc.
They condemn the Pelagians and others, who teach that without the Holy Ghost, by the power of nature alone, we are able to love God above all things; also to do the commandments of God as touching "the substance of the act." For, although nature is able in a manner to do the outward work, (for it is able to keep the hands from theft and murder,) yet it cannot produce the inward motions, such as the fear of God, trust in God, chastity, patience, etc..." – Augsburg Confession (1530), Article XVIII -  Of Free Will, Philip Melancthon

James Arminius regarding Free Will:

"... This is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace. But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace..." – Works, Vol. I, James Arminius (Sentiments)


Tom said...

Well, Mallett, here is one Lutheran who would take strong issue with your statement that Lutherans and Arminians share a "common ground" on free will:

A.M. Mallett said...

Tom, of course you take issue with it. You are a hyper-Calvinist so it is strange to have you now claim Luther and Melancthon as your theological ground. What is not strange and unexpected is your unwillingness to address the texts in discussion. Please feel free to dispute either Melancthon or Arminius' comments.

Tom said...


1. You persist in your LIE of calling those who embrace the historic Reformed Faith, which is nothing but Biblical Chritianity "Hyper-Calvinists." That is a LIE, spoken by those who hate the truth of God's Word and those who embrace it.

2. I showed you almost two years ago on Turretinfan's board by citing Lutheran theologians such as Francis Pieper the LIE that Arminians and Lutherans share "common ground" on free will, yet you persist in the LIE that they are.

3. Anyone who would bother to read Luther's "Bondage of the Will," would see through the LIE of an alleged "common ground" between Arminians and Lutherans, your superficial use of the Augsburg Confession notwithtading.

A.M. Mallett said...

For every hyper-Calvinist I encounter such as yourself there are several other Calvinists whom I have no problem with in regard to their love for Christ.
I do not recall any discussion with you in which you demonstrated anything at all either here or at TF (a site I have rarely commented on).
I have read Luther's "Bondage of the Will". Apparently you still have not read the text of my original post and still cannot comment on either Melancthon or Arminius' sentiments regarding free will. Why is that?

Tom said...

This reply is too large, so I will have to split it up:

Part 1

The hypocritical spectacle of Mallett thumping his chest over what a superior Christian he is while simultaneously persisting in his LIE that I am a “Hyper-Calvinist” is another illustration of how Arminianism is little more than an ideology of human arrogance.

Mallett, we’ve been down this road before. On May 12, 2010, on Turrretinfan’s blog, I wrote:

(btw, here is the link: }

“Lutherans do NOT consider themselves synergists. One of the standards works of American Lutheran theology is Francis Pieper’s “Christian Dogmatics”. Pieper says regarding synergism:

“Synergism, while opposing the SOLA GRATIA maintains with the same breath that it leaves the SOLA GRATIA intact. We find, however, that the arguments which it advances in its defense are of the same nature it employs in its offensive against the divine monergism.” )Vol. II, p. 480).

And further, “We have found that synergism has no basis in Scripture and that its objections against the divine monergism are not supported by logic.” (Vol. II, p. 483).

As for Melanchthon shaping Lutheran theology, that claim is also denied by the Lutherans themselves. J. A. O. Preus, former President of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, approvingly cites Jaroslav Pelikan in his book, “The Second Martin: The Life and Theology of Martin Chemnitz,” when Pelikan wrote:

“The debate which ensued over Melanchthon’s synergism issued in Article II of the Formula of Concord, in which Melanchthon’s stand is repudiated. Under the leadership of Martin Chemnitz, the Lutheran Church in the Formula rejected synergism and with it one of the basic planks in Melanchthon’s theological position. Thus the traditional interpretation is correct when it sees the Formula as the defeat of Melanchthon in the Lutheran Church.”

To which you gave a totally pathetic response by saying:

“Anyone who dismisses Melanchthon from the heart of the Reformation is generally unschooled in it's history and reach. He is considered by most students of the Reformation to have been the primary and first systematician of Lutheran theology. Show me a Lutheran who subscribes to limited atonement and I'll show a covert Calvinist. Remove limited atonement and the claim of Reformation exclusivity being the domain of Calvinism falls flat on it's face.”

And then said about how you wanted to make your departure.

Tom said...

Part 2

So before proceeding further, I’ll respond to your rather worthless points.

1. NOBODY said that Melanchthon was not a significant historical individual. What I did say, and it is confirmed by their best and brightest scholars is that LUTHERANISM REJECTED MELANCTHON’S VIEWS OF FREE WILL. Let me repeat that, since you are obviously a very dense fellow; LUTHERANISM REJECTED MELANCHTHON. Do you understand yet? LUTHERANISM REJECTED MELANCTHON.
3. As for your babbling about limited atonement, Lutheranism, and the Reformation; I NO WHERE ever made a statement that Lutheranism had no valid, legitimate claim to the Reformation. NEVER. It is therefore another one of your LIES if you continue to assert that I do.
4. What I did say, and will continue to say, is that ARMINIANISM has no valid claim to the Reformation. The only “Armiminians” during the Reformation were the Romanists, whom the Reformers opposed. BOTH LUTHERANS and Calvinists were professed MONERGISTS. Now I would say that Calvinism is a more consistent Biblical MONERGISM, but that does not negate the fact that BOTH Lutherans and Calvinists rejected and opposed SYNERGISM with all of their hearts. It is therefore the height of ignorance and stupidity for anyone to say that there is any “common ground” between historical, orthodox, conservative, confessional Lutherans and Arminians on free will; regardless of how many times a humanistic ideologue such as yourself may quote Melanchthon.

One Lutheran scholar I did not quote in the initial exchange was John Theodore Mueller, who wrote in his ”Christian Dogmatics”, pp. 22-23;

“Arminian theology erred by denying that grace alone (SOLA GRATIA) saves sinners. Over against the doctrine of SOLA GRATIA, so clearly taught by Luther, it reasoned that man’s conversion and salvation depends, at least to some extent, on his cooperation and exercise of his free will…..Arminianism is a departure from Holy Scripture, which ascribes man’s salvation exclusively to divine monergism……

“Synergism also denies the SOLA GRATIA and affirms, in opposition to Holy Scripture, that man’s conversion depends in part on his right conduct, self-decision, lesser guilt, etc. Synergism was introduced into Lutheran theology by Melanchthon, who maintained that there are three causes of salvation: the Holy Ghost, the Word of God, and man’s assenting will. This doctrine is distinctly antichristian, and, if actually believed, will prevent the sinner’s conversion, since saving faith is engendered only in a contrite heart, which trusts for salvation alone in divine grace. If synergists are actually saved, it is only because they give up their false doctrine and cling solely to God’s grace in Christ Jesus while smarting under the terms of conscience…..(Melanchthon), by promulgating his synergistic errors, caused divisions within the Lutheran Church that did incalculable harm and are still troubling the Church in many ways.”

Lutheran scholar Mueller goes so far as to say that those who truly hold to Arminian free will cannot be converted and saved!!! I see very little “common ground” there!!

Oh, and Martin Luther would regard you as a complete and total imbecile if you would attempt to convince him of “orthodoxy of man’s limited freedom of the will”; and rightly so.

A.M. Mallett said...

Tom, I am impressed with your talent for verbose denial. Anybody who denies the majority of Christians are saved because they do not adhere to your aberrant theology is a hyper-Calvinist. You can continue to deny that but the record you leave in your wake is hard to ignore.

I have yet to see you address the comments from Melancthon's Augsburg Confession and Arminius' comments regard the will. Until you do that, you do not really have much to add to the discussion. The comments of an extremist Lutheran regarding the greater body of Christ is not very persuading.

I await your comments regarding the actual opening post.

Anonymous said...

Hi A.M.

I was doing some research on Melancthon and found your blog.

I'm a Lutheran, and I'm in agreement with you on this. Just to start off, I get so tired of reformend folks hijacking Luther, granted Luther was monergistic, but he believed in universal objective justification.

And indeed, Melancthon was synergistic. And most of the people I teach in my Lutheranism 101 class, side with Melancthon.

We all say The Holy Spirit worked through both Luther, and Melancthon to get the big picture. That's the reason our theology seems kinda of a paradox, because it's a mix of both. Our confessions teach that Jesus died for all, and The Holy Spirit starts to regenerate ALL who hear the word, but some do reject this call.


A.M. Mallett said...

I appreciate your comments and interest. The early systematizing of Lutheran doctrine is a very interesting topic for me, especially as it regards the defining of Protestant soteriology from a Lutheran perspective. While I am not Lutheran, I admire much of Melancthon's perspective.

Blessings in Christ

Tom Cotton said...

Hi A.M. Mallet,

I am very curious in the differences between classical arminianism and classical lutheranism. Modern lutheranism rejects intuitu fidei and prevenient grace while classical lutheranism as far as I can tell embraces both. If you have time I've posted two books on my blog which illustrate this difference.


Tom Cotton (Japan)