Erasmus vs Luther; Discourse on Free Will.

Essay by QuigyUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, April 2003

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The Erasmus-Luther Discourse on Free Will begins with the Diatribe concerning free will, written by Erasmus. Luther then refutes Erasmus' Diatribe with The Bondage of the Will. The question being debated is whether man is in control of his own will, or whether everything is preordained by God, thus leaving man without free will. Their diverging philosophies have been interpreted as being the basic difference between Catholic and Protestant positions regarding free will. This debate offers two very conflicting views, although both philosophies were basic principles in their respective religions. Erasmus builds his argument without a solid foundation; like building a house without a foundation, it can easily crumble. Thus, Luther convincingly attacks Erasmus' Diatribe.

Erasmus holds that man is left with the choice of doing either good or evil. It is man's choice and therefore, free will exists. In the opinion of Erasmus, the freedom of the will in Holy Scriptures is as follows: if on the road to piety, one should continue eagerly to improve; if one has become involved in sin, one should make every effort to extricate oneself, and to solicit the mercy of the Lord.

Two conclusions concerning Erasmus' beliefs can be drawn from this statement; firstly that man can himself find repentance and secondly that God is infallible, meaning that a person engages in evil acts with his own will. The definition of free will given by Erasmus is "the power of the human will whereby man can apply to or turn away from that which leads unto eternal salvation."

While addressing the topic of Adam and Eve, Erasmus states, "In man, will was so good and so free that even without additional grace it could have remained in a state of innocence, though not without help of grace could it attain the blessedness...