Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Monday, September 8, 2014

September 1524 A.D. Erasmus of Rotterdam Publishes "On Free Will"

September 1524 A.D.  Erasmus of Rotterdam publishes On Free Will in September 1524. Luther responds with De Servo Abitrio published in December 1525.  As for the Anglican context, the 42 Articles c. 1552 and 39 Articles c. 1563, nearly 40 years later.  We quote Article 11: Of Free Will followed by some backstory on the Erasmus-Luther imbroglio.

Here’s the Anglican Article 11.

“IX. Of Original or Birth-Sin.

Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, p¢vnæa sapk¢s, (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh), is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.”

Now, for the backstory.

On the Bondage of the Will (Latin: 'De Servo Arbitrio', literally, "On Un-free Will", or "Concerning Bound Choice"), by Martin Luther, was published in December 1525. It was his reply to Desiderius Erasmus's De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio or On Free Will, which had appeared in September 1524 as Erasmus's first public attack on Luther, after being wary about the methods of the reformer for many years. At issue was whether human beings, after the Fall of Man, are free to choose good or evil. The debate between Luther and Erasmus is one of the earliest of the Reformation over the issue of free will and predestination.

Luther’s Bondage of the Will is a must-read.  It also is quite readable.  I’ll never forget the sheer delight of reading this in university.

Luther, Martin. Bondage of the Will.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic,  2012.  Available at:

Luther thought this volume his best (and he wrote voluminously).  Luther was proud of his On the Bondage of the Will.  He wrote a letter to Wolfgang Capito dated 9 July 1537 and said:

Regarding [the plan] to collect my writings in volumes, I am quite cool and not at all eager about it because, roused by a Saturnian hunger, I would rather see them all devoured. For I acknowledge none of them to be really a book of mine, except perhaps the one On the Bound Will and the Catechism.[1]

A few Luther remarks about Erasmus.

The Bondage of the Will from Vol. 33 of Luther's Works.

You foster in your heart a Lucian, or some other pig from Epicurus' sty.
You reek of nothing but Lucian, and you breathe out on me the vast drunken folly of Epicurus.
You find things irreverent, inquisitive, and vain just as all ungodly men do, or rather, as the demons and the damned find things hateful and detestable.
You seem to be wrangling about goat's wool, like the man who watched the play in an empty theater.
You are dumber than Seriphian frogs and fishes.
You conduct yourself like one drunk or asleep, belching out between your snores, "Yes, No."
How is it, then, that you drivel like people in their second childhood?
Just as in a picture or dream you might see the king of the flies with his lances of straw and shields of hay arrayed against a real and regular army of seasoned human troops, that is how you go to war.
Proteus is no Proteus compared with you.
You do nothing with all your profusion of words but fight a fire with dry straw.
Perhaps you want me to die of unrelieved boredom while you keep on talking.
Are you ignorant of what it means to be ignorant?
You speak and act only as an ungodly person does.

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