Full Text for Predestination and Human Responsibility (Text)

C!tnurnrbtu lUqrnlngtrul flnut~l!J Continuing LEHRE UND WERRE MAGAZIN PUER EV.-LUTH. HOMlLETIK THEOLOGICAL QUARTERL y-THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY Vol. V March, 1934 No.3 CONTENTS W idmung ....•....................•........•...•.. Page 161 162 164 172 Sldzze und Schriften Dr. L. E. Fuerbringers .....•.•..•• Predestination and Human Responsibility. T heo. Graebner •• Die Heilsgewissheit nach der Xonkordienformel. ] . T. Mueller The Thorough Exegetical Study of the Sermon Text the Conditio sine qua Non for Good Serrw>nizing. J. H. C. Fritz 178 The Argument of St. Augustine's "Confessions." J(. S. Sommer 185 Die Lehre von der Inspiration nach 1 Petro 1 , 10-12. W.Arndt 192 Hebrew Prophecy a Unique Divine Bestowal. W . A. Maier.. 199 Lut hers eigene Verbesserungen an seiner Bibeluebersetzung. P. E. Kretzmann li!06 Ottomar Fuerbringer. W. G. Polack ••••••••••••••••••••• Zur Lehre von der Beue. Theo. E nge\der ••••••••••••••••• Die gemaessigte Linke im sozialen Reformprogramm der B eformationszeit. R. W. H eintze .••••••••••••••••••••• The Ca techism in Public Worship. Theo. Lact.ch •••••••••• Indulgences. Theo. Hoyer •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• The Practical AppUcation in the Sermon. E . ] . Friedrich. ••• 211 218 227 234 242 249 Ein Preclfcer muza IIJcht aJlein wridtft. aIIo cIaI or die 8chafe unterwei8l, wle ale reehte Ohrilltell IOlJm .In, IIODdem anch daneben dell Woelten toel'lreft • .s- lie die 8chafe DJclit aqr8Ifen und mit talacher Lehre 'feIfoIhND 1IJId Irrtmn e1n. fuehreR. - Lulher. Ea tat bin Dine. daa die Leute IIIIhr bel der JUrcbe behaelt denn cUe pta Predlgt. - Apolot1W. "'rI. II. If the trumpet lift an 1IIIcertafD 1IOIIDd. who &ball prepare hlmaelf to the battle r 1 0.,..4.& Published for the Bv. Luth. Synod of lIrtlssourl, Ohio, and Other stat. CONCORDIA PUBLISHING HOUSE, at. Louis, ][0. 164 Predestination and Human Responsibility. Predestination and Human Responsibility. The assertion of an irrational factor in the doctrine of predestina- tion has been the reply of our Ohurch both to the Oalvinistic and the synergistic antitheses. Reason is incapable of bridging the gulf be- tween special election and universal grace. Our alii prae aliis? Our essay does not presume to offer an answer. Ignoraml~s atque ignora- bimt~s. But the transcendent nature of the problem l ) thus raised is worthy of investigation, not so mnch for the purpose of satisfying our reason, thwarted at this point, but for the purpose of recognizing the unfathomable depth of the problem and the scope of its effect on our conceptions of human personality and divine foreknowledge. I. Personality involves free will and moral responsibility. Divine foreknowledge involves Necessity,2) the doctrine that nothing is con- tingent (so that it can be or not be), that nothing is done by a free act of the human choice. The classical expressions of Luther in his book on The Bondage of the Will are here reproduced:- "God foreknows nothing by contingency, but he foresees, pur- poses, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. . .. It follows unalterably that all things which we do, although they may appear to us to be done mutably and con- tingently and even may be done thus contingently by us, are yet in reality done necessarily and i=utably with respect to the will of God. As His will cannot be hindered, the work itself cannot be hindered from being done in the place, at the time, in the measure, and by whom He foresees and wills." (P. 38 f.) This absoluteness of God is not the subject of theology. It involves "that secret and to-be- feared will of God, who, according to His own counsel, ordains whom, and such as, He wills to be receivers and partakers of the preached and offered mercy; which will is not to be curiously inquired into, but to be adored with reverence as the most profound secret of the divine I) The paradox that of two contradictory propositions both may be in reality true, though logically irreconcilable. 2) Luther's profound criticism of this term is worth the attention of our philosophers: "I could wish indeed that we were furnished with some better term for this discussion than this commonly used term Necessity, which cannot rightly be used either with reference to the human will or the divine. It is of a signification too harsh and ill suited for this sub- ject, forcing upon the mind an idea of compulsion and that which is alto- gether contrary to will; whereas the subject which we are discussing, divine or 7vuman, does what it does, be it good or evil, not by any com- pulsion, but by mere willingness or desire, as it were, totally free." (The Bondage of the WilT; tr., Cole-Vaughn, Eerdmans, 1931, p.39.) Predestination and Human Responsibility. 165 majesty, which He reserved unto Himself and keeps hidden from us." (P.171.) On the other hand, man "is to be allowed a 'free will,' not in respect of those things which are above him, but in respect only of those which are below him; that is, he may be allowed to know that he has, as to his goods and possessions, the right of using, acting, and omitting, according to his 'free will.'" (P. 79.) "I know that 'free will' can by nature do something; it can eat, drink, beget, rule, etc." (P.313.) But now, "if God be not deceived in that which He foreknows, so that all which He foreknows must of necessity take place," and if Wyclif was right in maintaining that "all things take place from necessity, that is, from the immutable will of God" (p.201), then what remains of human responsibility, of man's per- sonality and will? Here Luther acknowledges an irrational element: "Why that Majesty does not take away or change this fault of the will in all," - man's resistance to the Gospel, - "seeing that it is not in the power of man to do it, or why He lays that to the charge of the will which the man cannot avoid, it becomes us not to in- quire; and though you should inquire much, yet you will never find out." (P.173.)3) The absoluteness of God implies necessity in all temporal affairs, human and cosmic. Infinite wisdom must include a perfect knowledge from eternity of all existences and events. God's foreknowledge can never be disappointed. All existences and events will be as God has from eternity foreknown them; therefore the opposite to what is, and the different from it, cannot be; the power to the contrary does not exist. The inference is not merely the non-existence of a power to the contrary, but its impossibility. Divine governance and human freedom constitute an insoluble problem. Under the aspect of God's providence, necessity; under the aspect of human conduct, the contingence and freedom of man's actions. Nor does the concursus, or cooperation of God in the acts of His creatures, with all its refinements of concursus generalis, spe- cialis, specialissimt[s, nor the distinction of necessitas hypothetica and absoZuia supply more than a resting-point for our thinking as 3) The concurrence of God also in evil acts is thus explained by Luther: "Since, therefore, God moves and does all in all, He necessarily moves and does all in Satan and the wicked man. But He so does all in them as they themselves are and as He finds them; that is, as they are themselves averse and evil, being carried along by that motion of the divine omnipotence, they cannot but do what is averse and evil. Just as it is with a man d'riving a horse lame on one foot or lame on two feet; he drives him just so as the horse himself is; that is, the horse moves badly." (P. 224.) "But whoever wishes to understand these things, let him think thus: that God works evil in us, that is, by us, not from the fault of God, but from the fault of evil in us." (P. 227.) 166 Predestination and Human Responsibility. it hovers over the abyss. Hoenecke discusses IJrophecy in its rela- tion to man's freedom. He says (Dogmatik, II, p. 269): "Dass darin kein absoluter und darum kein unleidlicher Determinismus liegt, zeigt eine U nterscheidung del' 'vVeissagung." The distinction which he UTgcS is that between the Messianic and the preparatory prophe- cies; a valid distinction, - which, however, leaves OUT problem un- touched. For what is more unreasonable than Hoenecke's concluding sentence: "Die Weiss agung also, wiewohl sie sich notwendig erfuellt, hebt doch die menschliche :Freiheit nicht auf"? And what is more ScriptUTal? The difficulty was well stated by Rev. Stallmann in Schrift und Belcenntnis (Zwickau, 1920): "Solche Wahlfreiheit des Menschen in aeusserlichen Werken und natuerlichen Dingen wird auch nicht dUTCh Gottes Allwissenheit, wozu ja seine Praeszienz odeI' sein V orauswissen aHer zukuenftigen Dinge odeI' Ereignisse ohne Unterschied gehoert, aufgehoben. Fuel' unsere V crnunft bleibt hier aHerdings ein un- erklaerliches Geheimnis bestehen, da einerseits das unfehlbare Vor- herwissen aHer guten wie boesen ,Villensentschluesse del' Kreaturen von seiten Gottes eine unbedingte und zwingende N otwendigkeit der- selben mit sich zu bringen, andererseits die Zufaelligkeit [contin- gencyJ jener Entschluesse Gottes Vorhel'wissen darum aufzuheben scheint." Dr. Pieper, more succinctly: "Wenn wir auch den Begriff des blossen goettlichen V orauswissens festhalten, ohne damit den Begriff del' Wirkung odeI' Hervorbringung del' vorausgewussten Dinge zu vel'binden, . . . so bleibt dabei fuel' unser menschliches Begreifen dennoch eine Schwierigkeit bestehen, die wir nicht beseitigen koennen. Gottes unfehlbares Vorauswissen einerseits und die Ungezwungenheit des menschlichen Willens und die menschliche Verantwortlichkeit andererseits sind zwei Wahrheiten, die wir auf Grund del' Schrift festhalten muesscn, ohne dass uns in diesem Leben die Erkenntnis moeglich waere, wie beide nebeneinander bestehen koennen." (Ohrist- liche Dogmatik, I, p. 553.) Any effort, says Dr. Pieper, to harmonize these two principles will either result in surrendering the infallible omniscience of God or in yielding the autonomy (Ungezwungenheit) of the will and human responsibility for sin.4) 4) In agreement with Luther's Bondage of the Will our Confessions (Apology and llormula of Ooncord) definitely assert natural man's inability to exercise choice in spiritual matters and his ability to use his will in "outward matters," also in the moral field. The doctrine may be sum- marized thus: 1. Man has absolutely no free will whatsoever in spiritual matters. By spiritual matters are meant the attitude of man toward the call of the Gospel, the preaching of repentance, God's offer of salvation as a free gift, etc., briefly stated: the operations of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. These, natural man resists, since his will always and Predestination and Human Responsibility. 167 II. Our difficulties increase when we consider the nature of free will. That we exercise choice is not to be denied. But there seems to be good reason, also psychologically, for Luther's hesitancy 5) to use the term free will even in reference to man's natural endowment of choosing between courses. It is foolish to talk of liberty as belonging to will itself, for the will itself is not an agent that has a will; the power of choosing itself has not the power of choosing. Predicating liberty of the will is apt to lead to conceiving of the will as separated from the agent, or the will is regarded as being out of sympathy, detached from the other faculties of the soul. The soul of course is only tends to do and choose the evil. 2. This inability of man does not destroy his responsibility. Man is able to recognize the choice before him. He has the capacity of knowing both good and evil and is conscious of guilt when 'he sins, rejects grace, etc. Therefore man is responsible for the choice which his will makes. 3. Determinism is rejected. Man is not a machine that works according to external forces and causes in external matters. The Confessions refer to "the delirium of philosophers, who taught that everything that happens must so happen and cannot happen otherwise and that everything man does, even outward things, he does by compulsion and that he is coerced to evil works and deeds, as unchastity, robbery, murder, theft, and the like." (Trigt-, p.787, Art. II, Sec. 18. See Luther in Footnote 2, above.) 4. Man has a free will in external things (physical acts). "In the things that are subject to reason, in those mat- ters wherein man may exercise his ability to understand, in the things wherein the senscs of man are active, therein man has free will to take or leave, to do or not to do, to choose one or the other." The Confessions take the matter back only to the reason and intellect of man. Preexisting causes and external influences are not considered. They begin with the knowledge that is found in the mind of the man, and starting with this as a basis, they state that in external matters man has a free will, viz., he is able to choose that which his mind tells him is the better or which his will decrees or which his understanding sets up as the strongest motive. 5. Also in the field of morals natural man has a certain freedom of choice. "Of free will they teach that man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness." (Trigl., p.51, Ar. 18.) "Since there is left in human nature reason and judgment concerning objects subjected to the senses, choice between these things and the liberty and power to render civil righteousness are also left." (P.335, See. 70.) This is based upon the conception of man as a rational crcature even after the Fall. As such he may "of his free will do, or abstain from doing, anything good or evil." (P. 889, Art. II, Sec. 19.) The line dividing such moral acts from spiritual things is clearly drawn; as a rational creature he has such moral powers, while with respect to "divine things" (p.905, Sec. 159) he has neither will nor understanding. 5) Luther had already adverted to the theological difficulty of assum- ing free human acts under the absolute foreknowledge of God. 168 Predestination and Human Responsibility. only a unit. The will is only the soul willing. Again, it is manifest that no act of the will is without necessity, because the acts of the will are connected with the dictates of understanding. Every act of choice or refusal depends on an antecedent cause. Things thus represented to understanding in order to determine the choice would be purposeless if the will were not dependent on the dictates of under- standing. And since every act of the will has a cause, it is evident that every act of the will is excited by some motive. This is neces- sary because it has a necessary connection with its cause. If there is no motive, then the mind aims at nothing. But every act of the will must be the effect of motives; for volition is not from any seH-determining power in the will, but is caused by previous induce- ments. (The famous argument of Jonathan Edwards.) From the standpoint of pure reason it should be admitted that the doctrine of necessity has very much in its favor. The only argu- ments for the doctrine of free choice are those derived from con- sciousness and from conscience. The first runs thus: Our conscious- ness - the mind observing its own activity - tells us that we have the power of choosing between one path and another, the purchase of one hat or another, the choice of one route between St. Louis and Chicago and another, etc. We are aware of acting in the light of what we determine to be the best Teason. Man is conscious that he has the power of deciding or of withholding decision, and that, even if he decides, he can defeT carrying his decision or choice into effect. Yet such reasoning is not as strong as it appears to be. We are not really conscious of "will." Consciousness does not discern cer- tain faculties of the mind sepaTate from their workings; it is only awaTe of the mind's operations, not of a power or faculty behind such operations. And to assume a "will" behind the actions of the mind is as little valid as assuming a substance called "matter" be- hind the phenomena which we observe with our eyes. Furthermore, the assumption of the possibility of a contrary choice is more difficult than appears on the suTface. Let it be assumed that the will has the power of making a different or contrary choice to that which it does make, what follows? Either that the will chooses the contrary of what it chooses, which is nonsense; or it does not choose the con- trary, and then evidently there was something lacking in this con- trary which was not sufficient to bring about the effect of a choice. The thing actually chosen was the only possible choice. And this eliminates the freedom of the will. The other argument for free will is derived from conscience, which tells us that we are responsible for our acts. This means that we are under no compulsion to do or to leave undone. The murderer, the thief, can choose to do or not to do. The law considers him Predestination and Human Responsibility. 169 a free moral agent. It holds him accountable. Closely inspected, this is of course not a demonstration of the freedom of choice, but a principle based upon it. To urge it as proof for the freedom of the will would be an intolerable begging of the question. Are we, then, committed to ne('f)ssity? On purely Tational grounds, yes. But now the thought suggests itself - Is there not a possibility that reason is not a true guide in this matter ~ Is it not possible. that the intuition which we have of a freedom of choice and the voice of conscience supporting this intuition are truths of a higher order than the. rational? Is it possible that we can demon- strate free will and Tesponsibility, though reason cannot supply any proof? And if this holds good, as I think it does, regarding the doctrine of free will, and since its contTadictory, necessity, is like- wise demonstrable, what will prevent us from extending this prin- ciple (of truths that can be demonstrated but not pToved; see Foot- note 1, above) to related fields, both in philosophy and theology? III. As a matter of fact, OhTistian thought assumes both, an over- ruling power of God, which makes all events necessary, and a freedom of choice, which makes us truly responsible for what we do. The motives of Joseph's brothers were perfectly clear. Their acts were free. By their acknowledgment, Gen. 42,21; 50, 15, they had acted on their own evil intentions. Yet Joseph reveals to them that a God did send me before you to preserve life ... ' Gael sent me be- fore you to preserve you a posterity in the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So, now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God/' Gen. 45. The determinacy of God's plans had not eliminated free choice on the part of the brothers, as little as it eliminated the freedom of David's act in counting the people, 2 Sam. 24,1; 1 Ohron. 21, 1; cpo 21, 8.17. The entire factor of prophecy enters into this problem. Regard- ing the suffering and death of Ohrist, everything was determined. Jesus was "delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." Yet by "wicked" hands the Jews had taken Him and cru- cified Him, Acts 2,23; cpo vv. 36. 37. The motives for the betrayal by Judas were not so strong as to eliminate the responsibility of the traitor for his act; he went and hanged himself; yet the betrayal was taken up into God's eternal plan and foretold in ancient prophecy, Acts 1, 16. The gospels refer to many events in the life of Ohrist with such phrases as "that the Scripture might be fulfilled"; and our Lord Himself brings His entire Passion under the head of fulfilment that was by absolute necessity. Yet both the good and the evil persons involved in the events of our Lord's life and Passion acted as free moral agents. Everything was "necessary," and everything was free. 170 Predestination and Human Responsibility. The same sharp dualism runs through all the work of the Ohurch and the events of the individual Ohristian as such. On the one hand, the Ohristian is assured and comforted by the knowledge that there is no detail in his life which God has not included in His counsels and has predetermined before the individual is born. Of that we are assured through example and testimony by the entire Scriptures. Yet these same Scriptures impress upon us the necessity of prayer and make the course of our life, the success of our undertakings, the escape from perils, contingent upon prayer. The same God who has fixed all things in advance is the God who commands us to pray and pledges His truthfulness to us for the hearing of prayer. Is the span of our life absolutely fixed ~ Of this there can be no doubt whatsoever. Oan we do things to shorten or lengthen life? Universal experience says yes, and to this bears witness the "that thou mayest live long on the earth" in the Fourth Oommandment. Each of these propositions exdufleR the other (as in all the examples given above); yet both are true. Have we, then, disestablished the Law of Oontradiction which is fundamental to all our reasoning ? We have done no such thing. But we have established the fact that in this field (of Necessity and Free Will) the law is without force; in other words, reason has lost its power. This is a truly astonishing result of our study, Yet the Ohristian life runs its quiet course without any concern over the abyss of irrationality upon which it rests. The Ohristian reposes his hope for the recovery from illness upon the power 'Of God alone; yet he will employ a physician and medicine, and rightly so. The heathen, who are lost, have no excuses to offer since they refuse worship to the true God whom they recognize in nature, Rom. 1, 19; yet we lay the salvation of the heathen upon the consciences of our people, and rightly so, Mark 16, 15. 16, though-in the light (or shall we say darkness n of pure reason - most irrationally so. The scope widens until all our voluntary and involuntary acts, our habits and our character, our secular and our religious employ- ments, appear, on the one hand, as being under necessity and, on the other, are matters for which we are truly responsible and held ac- countable both to God and man. The last sentence requires a cor- rection. It does not only so "appeal'," but such is the actual l'eaZity. Obviously we have here the true reason for the irrational element in the doctrine of predestination. The existence of an irrational factor in this doctrine has been the point of controversy between those who accept the doctrine of the Formula of Ooneord and those who have supplied a rational explanation of this mysterious thing, either by a (Oalvinistic) denial Predestination and Human Responsibility. 171 of universal grace or by a (synergistic) denial of universal total de- pravity. You have no longer an irrational element in this doctrine if those who are lost are under a decree which from everlasting con- signed them to perdition; and you have also eliminated the unrea- sonable factor if you assume that some men conduct themselves with greater willingness under the call of grace. Now, the Scriptures assert the paradoxical nature of this doctrine, Rom. 9, 1~21; 11, 33. 34; cf. Phil. 2, 12. 13. And our Oonfessions reach a point where they bid us place a finger upon our lips and acknowledge our inability to harmoniy,e everything that is involved in election. From this conclusion there is no escape. Ooncede that in predestination we are dealing in a most patent manner with the relation of God's foreordination to human personality, to human responsibility, that is, to the human will, - and the insoluble nature of the problem, its resistance to any alchemy of human reason or philosophy, is evident. Philosophy is unable to accomplish anything in this field. In his Kj·,iWc de1" rein en Vernunft, Kant has listed the doctrine of neces- sity and free will among those which reason is unable to deal with successfully. In parallel columns he gives first the logical proof for the freedom of the will and then the logical argument against it in order to demonstrate that rational thought does not operate in this field - as little as our lungs operate in water or the gills of a fish function in air. Dubois Reymond, 1891, made a list of seven prob- lems, cosmic riddles, insoluble by science or reason. The seventh is the problem of free will. "Ignommus" said the German scientist and then added "Ignombimus!" Not because the data are insuf- ficient, as when we have an unsolved problem in mechanics, chemistry, or astronomy, but because the human mind is so constituted that it does not operate in this field. Nothing should indu~e us to render less wide and unfathomable the gulf which exists between the doctrine of God's foreordination and that of human moral responsibility; between the doctrine of predestination and the doctrine of universal grace; between the state- ment that only the elect will be saved and the statement that those who are lost are lost by their own responsibility. Though acknowl- edging the truth of both propositions in each of these statements amounts to saying that both opposites of two contradictory judgments are true, that a fundamental law of thought therefore is violated, that the thing is irrational, unreasonable, - though such tremendous assumptions are involved in accepting the doctrine of the election of grace and that of full human responsibility, we should not be dis- mayed by the necessity of such an acknowledgment. By making it, we simply acknowledge a limitation of human reason which is ar- rived at by the most rigid logical procedure and is a clear doctrine of the inspired Word. THEODORE GRAEBNER.