Continuing my pondering of Luther’s less famous 97 Theses and what difference they might make to our preaching:
5. It is false to state that man’s inclination is free to choose between either of two opposites. Indeed, the inclination is not free, but captive. This is said in opposition to common opinion.
Everyone assumes they are self-moved and free to choose in any situation. Luther argues that this is not the case. The will is not free, but captive. So as a preacher, I need to ponder deeply what the state of the human will actually is. If it is free then that will result in one approach to ministry. If it is not free, then that will result in another approach. As humans, we make choices all the time. We can call that liberty of choice. But those choices are not made by a free will, but by a will held captive.
6. It is false to state that the will can by nature conform to correct precept. This is said in opposition to Scotus and Gabriel.
Luther reinforces the point by denying that human wills will obey clear and compelling application by their own nature. So when we preach, are we indulging in an exercise to convince people to move themselves to what is right? Luther says no.
Theses 7-9 – The will may be neutral in itself, but it is captive to a non-neutral dictator. God’s grace is needed so that the will can do anything other than always choose evil. When we preach, we aren’t speaking to neutral folk, but to a captive set of wills. Lest you assume some sort of heavenly puppeteering here, let me tip you off that Luther is not saying the will is captive to God’s direct control.
Theses 10-12 – Just because we proclaim that something is good does not mean that people will strive in that direction. It would be good to ask Luther what he thinks of moralistic preaching, for instance. Is our role as preachers to call everyone to live in a godly way? Seems slightly misdirected if no natural will is able or free to strive toward what we declare to be good.
2 thoughts on “97 Luther Thoughts for Preachers – Part 2”
Thanks so much for this series, Peter. Can’t wait for the rest! I’m obviously not a preacher, but the learning is wonderful. Thank you!
Thanks Gretchen, hope it is helpful!