Sunday, February 26, 2012

Was Luther a Barthian?


To be brief, there are two kinds of clarity in Scripture ... : one external and pertaining to the ministry of the Word, the other located in the understanding of the heart. If you speak of the internal clarity, no man perceived one iota of what is in the Scriptures unless he has the Spirit of God ... If, on the other hand, you speak of the external clarity, nothing at all is left obscure or ambiguous, but everything there is in the Scripture has been brought out by the Word into the most definite light, and published to all the world.

— Martin Luther, On the Bondage of the Will, in Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation (ed. by E. Gordon Rupp and Philips S. Watson; Philadelphia: Westminster Press: 1969)


Charlie J. Ray said...

I do not believe that Luther said that. And even if he did, the distinction is not between propositional truth and hidden truth. The distinction is between faith and unbelief. The propositions of Scripture are plain to everyone who reads them. "Jesus died for the sins of His elect sheep." That is a propositional truth claim. According to basic logic, either it is true or it is not true. The unbeliever, who has not been first regenerated, understands the claim and rejects it. The believer, who has been born again first, accepts it and believes it.

The difference is not between bifurcation of truth into internal and external categories. The difference is between election and reprobation, regeneration and unregenerate. The truth never changes. What God has revealed is in no way beyond the comprehension of the world. It is plain to all when it makes commands and truth claims. "He is risen indeed" is not a metaphor or an analogy. It is a factual claim that is rational, logical and propositional.

Either Jesus rose from the dead or He did not. You decide.


Charlie J. Ray said...

This comes from the section on Erasmus' Sceptism in The Bondage of the Will:

"You, therefore, when you adduce Paul, saying, "His judgments are incomprehensible," seem to make the pronoun His (ejus) refer to Scripture (Scriptura). Whereas Paul does not say, The judgments of the Scripture are incomprehensible, but the judgments of God. So also Isaiah xl. 13, does not say, Who has known the mind of the Scripture, but, who has known "the mind of the Lord?" Although Paul asserts that the mind of the Lord is known to Christians: but it is in those things which are freely given unto us: as he saith also in the same place, 1 Cor. ii. 10, 16. You see, therefore, how sleepily you have looked over these places of the Scripture: and you cite them just as aptly as you cite nearly all the passages in defense of "Free-will."

The Bondage of the Will.

The short answer is that Westminster California, like Philly, reads everything in Christian history through their darkened glasses of Van Tilian theology of analogy. Unfortunately, such an approach amounts to nothing more than a biased and revisionist reading of church history and historical theology.

Daniel C said...


Luther did say that; it is in the book.

I, and Luther, did not say that truth is bifurcated into interanl and external categories. The whole quote is about the objective clarity of the Word of God, and the subjective experience of that clarity by Man when our minds are illumined by the Scriptures.

Anonymous said...

Where are my reading glasses...oh!, Barthian, not Martian, sheesh, sorry.

Daniel C said...



Charlie J. Ray said...

Yes, I did verify that Luther said what you quoted. However, it does not translate that Luther was somehow a Van Tilian or that Luther accepted the Van Tilian theology that Scripture is not univocally the Word of God. It only means that Luther advocated that only the regenerate will accept and assent to the propositional truths stated clearly for all in Scripture. Even a child can understand the propositions in Scripture and believe them and be saved (2 Timothy 3:15). The theology of Scripture as only analogy and not propositional truth is akin to Barthian neo-orthodoxy, not biblical Christianity.

It is this sort of relativist and irrational attack on the doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture that I find disturbing. Unfortunately it seems to me that Westminster Cal is not that much better than Westminster PA when it comes to the doctrine of special revelation in the Scriptures.

Daniel C said...


where did I ever mention Van Til, or univocity or whatever else you are speaking of?

I just asked a question, gave a simple answer of "NO," and gave the quote by Luther.

Methinks you need to calm down and stop reacting to imagined enemies.