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The Bondage of the Will

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  6,792 ratings  ·  190 reviews
First published in 1525, Martin Luther's "Bondage of the Will" is acknowledged by theologians as one of the great masterpieces of the Reformation. It is Luther's response to Desiderius Erasmus's "Diatribe on Free Will, " written in his direct and unique style, combining deep spirituality with humor. Luther writes powerfully about man's depravity and God's sovereignty. The ...more
Paperback, 322 pages
Published December 21st 2006 by Fleming H. Revell Company (first published 1525)
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4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,792 ratings  ·  190 reviews

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Douglas Wilson
Apr 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
Just great. Little pieces of Erasmus flying everywhere. Also read in June of 1988.
Jay Miklovic
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book was very difficult to get through because so much was packed in each sentence. While reading this book I found myself on a number of occasions reading less than a page in a sitting. With that said, this book was worth the effort.

Luther absolutely obliterates Erasmus, and he is anything but cordial in doing so. This book is laden with sarcasm, insult, and downright nastiness at times. This book is as intense as a polemic could be. While I typically tire of fundamentalist polemics, this
Paul Rhodes
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: To all Catholics who believe that the Reformation was all Rome's fault
Recommended to Paul by: A Random Internet Calvinist
In the chapter before the conclusion of On the Bondage of the Will, Luther belches out this rather shocking paragraph:

"Only observe, therefore, the simplicity of the words By the law is the knowledge of sin; and yet, these alone are of force sufficient to confound and overthrow Free-will altogether. For if it be true, that of itself, it knows not what is sin, and what is evil, as the apostle saith here, and Rom. vii. 7-8, I should not have known that concupiscence was sin, except the law had sai
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m going to relate the movie ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and a John Steinbeck novel to this book.

But first, after having read this book there is no doubt that there are still modern day reverberations from this author which still echoes around the world of today from various Christian apologist who believe in an all powerful, all knowing, all merciful, and everywhere creator God of the Bible such as Franklin Graham, W. L. Craig and Jerry Falwell Jr. claim to believe in and each of them offer less pers
Brent McCulley
Oct 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, theology
An attractive unabridged translation of Martin Luther's magnum opus, "Bondage of the Will" stands out as a theological gemstone packaged into 250+ pages of Luther's diatribe at its best. Written as a response to the Catholic theologian Erasmus of Rotterdam's defense of freedom of the will, Luther sets out on one mission only: destroy any inclination of free-will. His weapon of choice? The scriptures alone, for they speaks for themselves; sharper than a double-edged sword, Luther smashes any effo ...more
Amber Standridge
Aug 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Excellent engagement with the various passages used by Erasmus to support the Catholic view of free will in salvation. Also, very helpful images throughout to explain the arguments. One image I found particularly helpful: Erasmus posited that God would not give man a command (for instance, to believe unto salvation) without also giving him the ability to comply. Luther counters with the image of a man who is bound from head to toe in chains but who believes himself unencumbered -- One might comm ...more
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Holy crap, what a dick.
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Luther: 1
"Free-will": 0

Erasmus, my friend, you have been owned.
Jul 31, 2008 rated it did not like it
Luther is an utter jackass when writing this book. While there may be stylistic differences between how people wrote in the 16th Century to now, there's not a whit of Christian charity show in the tone of the book. I found myself more sympathetic to Erasmus than "The Great Reformer."
Michael Cunningham
Difficult at times, but highly rewarding. Must read again!
Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Luther’s, The Bondage of the Will, is a doctrinal treatise first arguing against Erasmus’ doctrine of free will, and then arguing for the Bible doctrine of the will’s bondage. Luther argues that, counter to Erasmus’ view, man is not able to freely choose Christ for his salvation. Man is enslaved in his sin and unable to act in any way towards his own salvation. Apart from divinely initiated grace, man is incapable of not only meriting salvation through his works, but of even choosing God. Luthe ...more
Mar 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trice by: growing up in the RP Church and talking to my dad along the way

3/20/2011 halfway through the first part of the Discussion
Keep feeling like I'm taking it in great gulps and then realize only 30 pages have passed - this definitely takes more concentration as each sentence is full. I've ended up reading half of it out loud and for some reason it seems to be clearer this way. The parts where he focuses on the issue at hand are definitely better (more important? more informative? more grace-filled?) than the parts where he's lashing away at Erasmus, tearing him
Rick Sam
Luther is writing this as a response to Erasmus, who was a well known humanist scholar. Erasmus decided to stay within the Roman Catholic church. Erasmus wants Luther to see the ramifications of saying, "there is no free will." However, Luther forcefully counters all the polemics made by Erasmus.

He says, everything is by God and if he is omniscient, his immutable will shall prevail no matter what. I could really feel Luther's caustic words. He quotes a lot of scriptures and simply shows that it
Charles Puskas
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Empassioned defense by Luther of our human inability to win God's favor by making right choices and living an upright moral life. He is saracastic, satirical and whimsical in his rebuttal of the learned and famous Erasmus of Rotterdam who relied heavily on the interpretations of Jerome and Origen to bolster his support for a semi-Pelagian form of synergism. Erasmus, following Duns Scotus and other medieval scholastics, argues for our human abilities, damaged from the fall of humanity, but often ...more
Full of contradictions. Full of what is, in truth, despair--"We [human beings:] being evil by nature" and "For one devil is stronger than all men, and on these terms no man could be saved."

Reveals more than any other Luther-text I've read that Luther constructed his theology basically to placate his hyper-sensitive conscience. After he has achieved his own understanding of God, he has "the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merc
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
Luther admitted he thought this was his best work and I am inclined to agree. In this response to Erasmus of Rotterdam he presents a compelling case for the exhaustive sovereignty of God over all of creation and particularly in electing and predestining those whom he saves, he also shows how this does not conflict with the idea that man is held responsible for his sin, addressing the same question Paul does in Romans 9, "How can [God] still blame us, if no one resists his will?" Luther's writing ...more
Drikus Roux
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality
I found this book to be a real diatribe. It reads heavilyy, with long sentences, and lack of punctuation. The fire of Luther is very apparent.

It's not a technical book, but the same arguments we have today, over free-will and the will bound, abounded then. The low-road of Erasmus, is still present today, in the free-will or synergetic salvation churches.

The high-road view of Luther, based on St. Augustine, and that held by Calvin, is the minority of reformed churches today.

It's a read to be had,
Rachel Worley
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: faith
This book helped me a lot with understanding the argument of free will and predestination. I've always understood the basic arguments, but once I started thinking deeper into the topics, things weren't as clear for me. This really helped me understand the deeper issues. So even though it was hard to read, I'm so glad I read it because of that. Unfortunately, I had to read through it kind of quickly because I read it for a class and had a deadline to finish it by. So I wasn't really able to read ...more
Acutally, I heard this on sermonaudio, which means not all of it sank in, but I got the gist of it. Luther was a deep thinker, and he has many good points here, most of which I agree with. At times he was perhaps a little too harsh and dogmatic, but overall a good book to sink your teeth into. It probably deserves more than three stars, but it was not the most easy listen, and thus not the most enjoyable to me.
Tom F
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don't have time, or the ability to write a review of such a work. Suffice it to say the book was excellent, humorous, and helpful. I wish I could recommend it to so many people, unfortunately the people today proclaiming free-will aren't typically the kind of people to read much, and definitely not Reformation Era. Anyway, great read. And, I appreciate the respect Luther pays to Erasmus at the end. It really shows Luther was about the issue, the biggest issue, rather than about Erasmus.
Ryan Jankowski
Every good book is better the second time through. Luther eviscerates Erasmus in this work; his response to Erasmus' diatribe on free-will. This was one of the few works that Luther thought should be preserved. Though it never ceases to confuse me how any Lutheran could conclude that Luther did not advocate a dual-predestinarian perspective. Luther never (or perhaps rarely) evokes witnesses outside of Scripture in support of his position, rather distinctively to an approach like Calvin's.
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-books
Profound in spots and contradictory in many others. I did not care for Luther as an author by this sample of his writing, and did not like his style of argument, but I am still glad that I chose it for a college research paper. I like some of the passages, which are quite quotable, but some of it does get heavy. I would recommend this to serious students of theology and mature Christians.
Amazing! Luther is so clear, so blunt, so biblical. I thought reading this would be very difficult, but it was a joy. The translators have much to do with this experience, I'm sure, and their introduction was exceptionally helpful!
Ryan Hawkins
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, of course. Luther argues sufficiently against Erasmus that the will truly isn’t free, but it is enslaved. He argues that we must have God’s intervention to make us saved—salvation must be totally by grace through and through.

The book content is organized mainly around what Erasmus said. And as a result, Luther’s organization isn’t stellar, per se. His last section might be considered his case for the biblical doctrine without much reference to Erasmus. But overall, it’s just respondin
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
FINALLY finished a most elegant and thorough treatment of man's free-will before a Sovereign God.
Luther may touch on all possibilities regarding man's free-will. I highly recommend this book to any of who wants to understand God's sovereignty and man's free-will.
Zach Wilke
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Luther won.
Ian Caveny
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wonder how I would have received The Bondage of the Will had I read it just a few years earlier in my life? After all, here is one of those books that represents a major dichotomy in Christian belief and practice: on the one side those who hold that the Gospel has the power of transformation, and on the other side moralism and "good deeds." In Luther's time, this manifested in the dichotomy of the Catholic Church and Luther's community of rebels, but in our day and age this dichotomy manifests ...more
Kerry Campbell
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit I read this book probably 30 plus years ago now and I still refer back to it occasionally. What prompted me to read it was because I heard some quotes and his name was dropped into sermons and conversations often enough to know this guy was important in the history of the church and I should read some source material. I certainly was not prepared for this book- it was both very difficult to read and I struggled with his concepts, no doubt to a lack of ability in me to think criti ...more
Ben Zornes
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology, history
A lot of ink has been shed debating the nature and ability of man's will as it relates to doing good, and for anyone who would discuss this topic with well-informed knowledge of what each position holds, Luther's "De Servo Arbitrio" or "On Bondage of the Will" is an important voice in that conversation.

This seminal work of Luther's was incredibly illuminating into the issue of so-called "free-will". In it Luther interacts with Erasmus' work: "On Free Will". Erasmus, as a medieval humanist, conte
Joseph Kiser
Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This edition (J.I. Packer as Translator) is brought forth with a flair for the dramatic. Packer states in the beginning that he is translating in the spirit of the matter and not necessarily the literal work. Because I know this work, the history of this work and I know of the men involved, I am confident in the effort to hold true to Luther's intent. That being said, this is one of the best books I have read.

If you hate Jesus, if you are a card carrying Catholic or a card carrying Baptist, you
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Reformed Readers: Bondage of the Will discussion - will contain spoilers 13 33 Apr 03, 2011 09:42AM  

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Martin Luther was a German monk, theologian, university professor and church reformer whose ideas inspired the Protestant Reformation and changed the course of Western civilization.

Luther's theology challenged the authority of the papacy by holding that the Bible is the only infallible source of religious authority and that all baptized Christians under Jesus are a spiritual priesthood. According
“many pass for saints on earth whose souls are in hell.” 31 likes
“The truth of the matter is rather as Christ says, "He who is not with me is against me." ... He does not say "He who is not with me is not against me either, but merely neutral.” 28 likes
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