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Servum Arbitrium

And Three Meanings of the Servum Arbitrium at Martin Luther
AUTHOR(S)BANDOL, Radu

PUB. DATE August 2012
SOURCE Philobiblon: Transylvanian Journal of Multidisciplinary Research; 2012, Vol. 17 Issue 2, p402

SOURCE TYPE Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE Article

ABSTRACT
The present study aims at analyzing several aspects of the concept of will from the perspective of Saint Augustine and Martin Luther. The authors are “classical” sources of the free will issue, the former in asserting it, the latter in coming to doubt it with regard to the “superior” choices. The actuality of the theme resides not only in the fact that it is profoundly transdisciplinary and that it continuously pursues a balance between what depends on the deliberating agent and what influences it in action from the outside, but also in that the authors we are dealing with were frequently investigated, resorted to and quoted in their age about the matter of the assertion and negation of free will. In the case of Augustine we take into consideration the relationship between arbitrium and voluntas, the former as a faculty of judgement and free consent, the latter as a complex of inclinations or dispositions. In the case of Luther three hypostases are identified in which arbitrium is slave (servum): an enslavement due to its impossibility of removing the aversion to God, an enslavement due to its impossibility of responding to God’s grace and the last one towards the sovereignty of God’s governing of the universe. The theological theory of will has the “advantage” of relating to a superior, perfect, modelling Will. Our attempt is to notice the essential anthropological aspect in which Luther distances himself from Augustine and the effect it has on understanding the arbitrium.

Teaching how to pray

3. The absolute necessity of using this means, if we would receive any gift from God, yet farther appears from that remarkable passage which immediately precedes these words: “And he said unto them,” whom he had just been teaching how to pray, “Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and shall say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves: And he from within shall answer, Trouble me not; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity, he will rise, and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you.” (Luke 11:5, 7–9.) “Though he will not give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.” How could our blessed Lord more plainly declare, that we may receive of God, by this means, by importunately asking, what otherwise we should not receive at all?

Wesley, J. (1999). Sermons, on several occasions.

We have only to consult the oracles of God; to inquire what is written there

And, in fact, he hath not left us undetermined; he hath shown us the way wherein we should go. We have only to consult the oracles of God; to inquire what is written there; and, if we simply abide by their decision, there can no possible doubt remain.

Wesley, J. (1999). Sermons, on several occasions.

ye are restored to the favour and image of God, not for any works, merits, or deservings of yours, but by the free grace, the mere mercy of God

6. So little do they understand that great foundation of the whole Christian building, “By grace are ye saved:” Ye are saved from your sins, from the guilt and power thereof, ye are restored to the favour and image of God, not for any works, merits, or deservings of yours, but by the free grace, the mere mercy of God, through the merits of his well-beloved Son: Ye are thus saved, not by any power, wisdom, or strength, which is in you, or in any other creature; but merely through the grace or power of the Holy Ghost, which worketh all in all.

Wesley, J. (1999). Sermons, on several occasions.

Every believer in Christ is deeply convinced that there is no merit but in Christ alone

4. We allow farther, that the use of all means whatever will never atone for one sin; that it is the blood of Christ alone, whereby any sinner can be reconciled to God; there being no other propitiation for our sins, no other fountain for sin and uncleanness. Every believer in Christ is deeply convinced that there is no merit but in Him; that there is no merit in any of his own works; not in uttering the prayer, or searching the Scripture, or hearing the word of God, or eating of that bread and drinking of that cup. So that if no more be intended by the expression some have used, “Christ is the only means of grace,” than this,—that He is the only meritorious cause of it, it cannot be gainsayed by any who know the grace of God.

Wesley, J. (1999). Sermons, on several occasions. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

the hatred of the Holy Ghost all that is not in keeping with God’s holiness

The love of God at work in me makes me hate with the hatred of the Holy Ghost all that is not in keeping with God’s holiness. To walk in the light means that everything that is of the darkness drives me closer into the centre of the light.

Chambers, O. (1986). My utmost for his highest: Selections for the year. Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering.

the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin so that God Almighty can see nothing to censure in me

If I walk in the light as God is in the light, not in the light of my conscience, but in the light of God—if I walk there, with nothing folded up, then there comes the amazing revelation—the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin so that God Almighty can see nothing to censure in me.

Chambers, O. (1986). My utmost for his highest: Selections for the year. Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering.

the impartation of His absolute perfection

It takes the last reach of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that is, the impartation of His absolute perfection, to make a man know what sin is.

Chambers, O. (1986). My utmost for his highest: Selections for the year. Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering.

thank God for what grace you have; praise him for that degree of holy confidence whereunto you have attained

Meanwhile, if you cannot yet claim the result of long experience, thank God for what grace you have; praise him for that degree of holy confidence whereunto you have attained: walk according to that rule, and you shall yet have more and more of the blessing of God, till your faith shall remove mountains and conquer impossibilities.

Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

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