Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions
XIV. The Synergistic Controversy.
151. Relation of Majorism and Synergism.
The theological connection between Majorism and synergism is much closer than is generally realized.Both maintain that, in part, or in a certain respect, salvation depends not on grace alone, but also on man and his efforts. The Majorists declared good works to be necessary to salvation, or at least to the preservation of faith and of salvation.Thus salvation would, in a way,depend on the right conduct of a Christian after his conversion. The Synergists asserted: Man, too, must do his bit and cooperate with the Holy Spirit if he desires to be saved. Conversion and salvation, therefore, would depend, at least in part, on man’s conduct toward converting grace, and he would be justified and saved, not by grace alone, but by a faith which to a certain extent is a work of his own. The burden of both,Majorism and synergism,was the denial of the sola gratia. Both coordinated man and God as the causes of our salvation. Indeed, consistently carried out, both destroyed the central Christian truth of justification by grace alone and,with it, the assurance of a gracious God and of eternal salvation-the supreme religious concern of Luther and the entire Lutheran theology.
Majorists and Synergists employed also the same line of argument. Both derived their doctrine, not from any clear statements of the Bible, but by a process of anti-Scriptural and fallacious reasoning. The Majorists inferred: Since evil works and sins against conscience destroy faith and justification, good works are required for their preservation. The Synergists argued: Since all who are not converted or finally saved must blame, not God, but themselves for rejecting grace, those, too, who are converted must be credited with at least a small share in the work of their salvation, that is to say,with a better conduct toward grace than the conduct of those who are lost.
However, while Majorism as well as synergism, as stated, represented essentially the same error and argued against the doctrine of grace in the same unscriptural manner, the more subtle, veiled, and hence the more dangerous of the two, no doubt, was synergism, which reduced man’s cooperation to a seemingly harmless minimum and, especially in the beginning, endeavored to clothe itself in ambiguous phrases and apparently pious and plausible formulas. Perhaps this accounts also for the fact that, though Melanchthon and the Majorists felt constrained to abandon as described in the preceding chapter, the coarser and more offensive Majoristic propositions, they had at the same time no compunctions about retaining and defending essentially the same error in their doctrine of conversion; and that, on the other hand, their opponents, who by that time fully realized also the viciousness of synergism, were not satisfied with Major’s concessions in the controversy on good works, because he and his colleagues in Wittenberg were known to identify themselves with the Synergists. For the same reason the dangerous error lurking in the synergistic phrases does not seem from the first to have been recognized by the Lutherans in the same degree as was the error contained in the Majoristic propositions, which indeed had even during Luther’s life to some extent become a subject of dispute. Yet it seems hardly possible that for years they should not have detected the synergistic deviations in Wittenberg from Luther’s doctrine of free will. Perhaps the fact that at the time when Melanchthon came out boldly with his synergism, 1548, the Lutherans were engrossed with the Adiaphoristic and Majoristic controversies may help to explain, at least to some extent,why the synergistic error caused small concern, and was given but little consideration in the beginning. As a matter of fact, although a considerable amount of synergistic material had been published by 1548, the controversy did not begin till 1556, while the error that good works are necessary to salvation was publicly opposed soon after its reappearance in the Leipzig Interim.At the Weimar Disputation, 1560, Strigel referred to this silence, saying: “I am astonished that I am pressed so much in this matter [concerning synergism], since three years ago at Worms no mention whatever [?] was made of this controversy, while many severe commands were given regarding others.” (Richard, Conf. Prin., 349.) The matter was mentioned at Worms, but Melanchthon is reported to have satisfied Brenz and others by declaring that in the passages of his Loci suspected of synergism he meant “the regenerated will.”
152. Luther’s Monergism.
According to Lutheran theology, the true opposite of synergism is not Calvinism with its double election, irresistible grace, denial of universal redemption, etc., but the monergism of grace, embracing particularly the tenets that in consequence of Adam’s fall man is spiritually dead and utterly unable to contribute in any degree or manner toward his own justification and conversion; moreover, that, being an enemy of God, man, of his own natural powers, is active only in resisting the saving efforts of God, as well as able and prone only to do so; that God alone and in every respect is the Author of man’s conversion, perseverance, and final salvation; and that, since the grace of God is universal and earnestly proffered, man alone is responsible for, and the cause of, his own damnation.
“Sola fides iustificat, Faith alone justifies”-that was the great slogan of the Reformation sounded forth by Luther and his followers with ever increasing boldness, force and volume. And the distinct meaning of this proposition, which Luther called “hoc meum dogma, this my dogma,” was just this, that we are saved not by any effort or work of our own, but in every respect by God’s grace alone. The restoration of this wonderful truth, taught by St. Paul, made Luther the Reformer of the Church. This truth alone, as Luther had experienced, is able to impart solid comfort to a terror-stricken conscience, engender divine assurance of God’s pardon and acceptance, and thus translate a poor miserable sinner from the terrors of hell into paradise.
In the Seven Penitential Psalms, written 1517, Luther says: “If God’s mercy is to be praised, then all [human] merits and worthiness must come to naught.” (Weimar 1, 161.) “Not such are blessed as have no sins or extricate themselves by their own labors, but only those whose sins are graciously forgiven by God.” (167.) “It is characteristic of God (es ist Gottes Natur) to make something out of nothing. Hence God cannot make anything out of him who is not as yet nothing … Therefore God receives none but the forsaken, heals none but the ill, gives sight to none but the blind, quickens none but the dead, makes pious none but the sinners, makes wise none but the ignorant,-in short, He has mercy on none but the miserable, and gives grace to none but those who are in disgrace.Whoever therefore, is a proud saint, wise or just, cannot become God’s material and receive God’s work within himself, but remains in his own work and makes an imaginary, seeming, false, and painted saint of himself, i.e., a hypocrite.” (183.) “For he whom Thou [God] dost justify will never become righteous by his works; hence it is called Thy righteousness, since Thou givest it to us by grace, and we do not obtain it by works.” (192.) “Israel the true [new] man, does not take refuge in himself, nor in his strength, nor in his righteousness and wisdom … For help and grace is not with themselves. They are sinners and damned in themselves, as He also says through Hosea: O Israel, with thee there is nothing but damnation, but with Me is thine help.” (210.) “He, He, God Himself, not they themselves,will deliver the true Israel …Mark well, Israel has sin and cannot help itself."(211.)
In his explanation of Ps. 109 (110), 1518, Luther says: “He calls these children [conceived from spiritual seed, the Word of God] dew, since no soul is converted and transformed from Adam’s sinful childhood to the gracious childhood of Christ by human work, but only by God, who works from heaven like the dew, as Micah writes: ．The children of Israel will be like the dew given by God which does not wait for the hands of men.' " (701.) Again: “In every single man God precedes with grace and works before we pray for grace or cooperate. The Doctors call this gratiam primam et praevenientem, that is, the first and prevenient grace. Augustine: Gratia Dei praevenit, ut velimus, ne frustra velimus.God’s grace prevenes that we will, lest we will in vain.” (710.)
In his 40 theses for the Heidelberg disputation, also of 1518, Luther says of man’s powers in spiritual matters: “13. Free will after sin [the Fall] is a mere titular affair [an empty title only], and sins mortally when it does what it is able to do. Liberum arbitrium post peccatum res est de solo titulo et dum facit, quod in se est, peccat mortaliter.” “16. A man desirous of obtaining grace by doing what he is able to do adds sin to sin, becoming doubly guilty.Homo putans, se ad gratiam velle pervenire faciendo, quod est in se, peccatum addit peccato, ut duplo reus fiat.” “18. It is certain that a man must utterly despair of himself in order to become apt to acquire the grace of Christ. Certum est, hominem de se penitus oportere desperare, ut aptus fiat ad consequendam gratiam Christi.” (W. 1, 354.) By way of explanation Luther added to thesis 13:“The first part [of this thesis, that free will is a mere empty title] is apparent, because the will is a captive and a servant to sin, not that it is nothing, but that it is free only to [do] evil-non quod sit nihil, sed quod non sit liberum nisi ad malum. John 8, 34. 36: ．Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.‘Hence, St. Augustine says in his book De Spiritu et Litera: Free will without grace can only sin-non nisi ad peccandum valet. And in his second book against Julianus: You call that a free will which in truth is captive, etc.“To thesis 16 Luther added: “When man does what he is able to do (dum facit, quod est in se), he sins, seeking altogether his own.And if he is minded to become worthy of, and apt for, grace by a sin, he adds proud presumption.”
In his sermon of 1519 on Genesis 4, Luther remarked: “This passage [．The Lord had respect unto Abel’] subverts the entire liberty of our human will. Hic locus semel invertit universam libertatem voluntatis nostrae.” (Weimar 9, 337.) In a sermon of September 8, 1520, we read: “By nature we are born accursed; … through Christ we are born again children of life. Thus we are born not by free will, not by works, not by our efforts. As a child in the womb is not born by its own works, but suffers itself to be carried and to be given birth, so we are justified by suffering, not by doing.” (474.) “Where, then,” Luther exclaimed about the same time in his Operationes in Psalmos, “will free will remain? where the doing what one can? Ubi ergo manebit liberum arbitrium, ubi facere quod in se?” (5, 544. 74.) In a sermon of February 2, 1521, he said: “Whatever grace is in us comes from God alone. Here free will is entirely dead.All that we attempt to establish with our powers is lost unless He prevenes and makes us alive through His grace. Grace is His own work, which we receive in our hearts by faith. This grace the soul did not possess before, for it is the new man … The great proud saints will not do this [ascribe everything to God and His mercy]. They, too,would have a share in it, saying to our Lord: ．This I have done by my free will, this I have deserved.'” (9, 573; 5, 544.)
Thus Luther, from the very beginning of the Reformation, stood for the doctrine of justification, conversion, and salvation by grace alone.Most emphatically he denied that man though free to a certain extent in human and temporal affairs, is able to cooperate with the powers of his natural, unregenerate will in matters spiritual and pertaining to God. This was also the position which Luther victoriously defended against Erasmus in his De Servo Arbitrio of 1525. Goaded on by the Romanists to come out publicly against the German heretic, the great Humanist, in his Diatribe of 1524, had shrewdly planned to attack his opponent at the most vulnerable point. As such he regarded Luther’s monergistic doctrine, according to which it is God alone who justifies, converts, preserves, and saves men,without any works of their own. In reality, however, as presently appeared from his glorious classic on the sola-gratia doctrine, Erasmus had assaulted the strongest gate of Luther’s fortress. For the source of the wonderful power which Luther displayed throughout the Reformation was none other than the divine conviction born of the Word of God that in every respect grace alone is the cause of our justification and salvation.And if ever this blessed doctrine was firmly established, successfully defended, and greatly glorified, it was in Luther’s book against Erasmus.
Justification, conversion, perseverance in faith, and final salvation, obtained not by any effort of ours, but in every respect received as a gracious gift of God alone- that was the teaching also to which Luther faithfully, most determinedly, and without any wavering adhered throughout his life. In his Large Confession of 1528, for example, we read: “Herewith I reject and condemn as nothing but error all dogmas which extol our free will, as they directly conflict with this help and grace of our Savior Jesus Christ. For since outside of Christ death and sin are our lords, and the devil our god and prince, there can be no power or might, no wisdom or understanding, whereby we can qualify ourselves for, or strive after, righteousness and life; but we must be blinded people and prisoners of sin and the devil’s own, to do and to think what pleases them and is contrary to God and His commandments.” (CONC. TRIGL. 897, 43.)
153. Luther’s Doctrine Endorsed.
To adhere faithfully to Luther’s doctrine of conversion and salvation by grace alone was also the determination of the loyal Lutherans in their opposition to the Synergists. Planck correctly remarks that the doctrine which Flacius and the Anti-Synergists defended was the very doctrine which “Luther advocated in his conflict with Erasmus.” (Prot. Lehrbegriff 4, 667.) This was substantially conceded even by the opponents. When, for example, at the colloquy in Worms, 1557, the Romanists demanded that Flacius’s doctrine of free will be condemned by the Lutherans, Melanchthon declared that herein one ought not to submit to the Papists, who slyly, under the name of Illyricus [Flacius], demanded the condemnation of Luther, whose Opinion in the doctrine of free will he [Melanchthon] was neither able nor willing to condemn. (Gieseler 3, 2, 232.) In their Confession, published in March, 1569, the theologians of Ducal Saxony (Wigand, Coelestin, Irenaeus, Kirchner, etc.) declared: “We also add that we embrace the doctrine and opinion of Dr. Luther, the Elias of these latter days of the world, as it is most luminously and skilfully set forth in the book De Servo Arbitrio, against Erasmus, in the Commentary on Genesis, and in other books; and we hold that this teaching of Luther agrees with the eternal Word of God.” (Schluesselburg, Catalogus 5, 133.)
Luther’s sola-gratia-doctrine was embodied also in the Formula of Concord, and this with a special endorsement of his book De Servo Arbitrio. For here we read: “Even so Dr. Luther wrote of this matter [the doctrine that our free will has no power whatever to qualify itself for righteousness, etc.] also in his book De Servo Arbitrio; i.e., Of the Captive Will of Man, in opposition to Erasmus, and elucidated and supported this position well and thoroughly [egregie et solide]; and afterward he repeated and explained it in his glorious exposition of the book of Genesis, especially of chapter 26. There likewise his meaning and understanding of some other peculiar disputations introduced incidentally by Erasmus, as of absolute necessity, etc.,have been secured by him in the best and most careful way against all misunderstanding and perversion; to which we also hereby appeal and refer others.” (897, 44; 981, 28.) In the passage of his Commentary on Genesis referred to by the Formula, Luther does not, as has been claimed, retract or modify his former statements concerning the inability of the human will and the monergism of grace, but emphasizes that, in reading De Servo Arbitrio, one must heed and not overlook his frequent admonitions to concern oneself with God as He has revealed Himself in the Gospel, and not speculate concerning God in His transcendence, absoluteness, and majesty, as the One in whom we live and move and have our being, and without whom nothing can either exist or occur, and whose wonderful ways are past finding out. (Conc.Trigl., 898.) And the fact that the Lutheran theologians, living at the time and immediately after the framing of the Formula of Concord, objected neither to the book De Servo Arbitrio itself nor to its public endorsement by the Formula of Concord, is an additional proof of the fact that they were in complete agreement with Luther’s teaching of conversion and salvation by grace alone. (Frank 1, 120.)
This sola-gratia-doctrine, the vital truth of Christianity, rediscovered and proclaimed once more by Luther, was, as stated, the target at which Erasmus directed his shafts. In his Diatribe he defined the power of free will to be the faculty of applying oneself to grace (facultas applicandi se ad gratiam), and declared that those are the best theologians who, while ascribing as much as possible to the grace of God, do not eliminate this human factor. He wrote: Free will is “the ability of the human will according to which man is able either to turn himself to what leads to eternal salvation or to turn away from it.” (St. L. 18, 1612.) Again:“Those, therefore, who are farthest apart from the views of Pelagius ascribe to grace the most, but to free will almost nothing; yet they do not abolish it entirely. They say that man cannot will anything good without special grace, cannot begin anything good, cannot continue in it, cannot complete anything without the chief thing, the constant help of divine grace. This opinion seems to be pretty probable because it leaves to man a striving and an effort, and yet does not admit that he is to ascribe even the least to his own powers.” (1619.) One must avoid extremes, and seek the middle of the road, said Erasmus.Pelagius had fallen into Scylla, and Luther into Charybdis.“I am pleased with the opinion of those who ascribe to free will something, but to grace by far the most.” (1666.) Essentially, this was the error held, nursed, and defended also by the Synergists, though frequently in more guarded and ambiguous phrases. But their theory of conversion also involved, as Schaff and Schmauk put it,“the idea of a partnership between God and man, and a corresponding division of work and merit.” (Conf. Principle, 600.)
However, these attempts to revamp the Semi- Pelagian teaching resulted in a controversy which more and longer than any other endangered and disquieted the Lutheran Church, before as well as after the adoption of the Formula of Concord.Whether the unregenerate man, when the Word of God is preached, and the grace of God is offered him, is able to prepare himself for grace, accept it, and assent thereto, was, according to the Formula of Concord, “the question upon which, for quite a number of years now, there has been a controversy among some theologians in the churches of the Augsburg Confession.” (881, 2.) And of all the controversies after Luther’s death the synergistic controversy was most momentous and consequential. For the doctrine of grace with which it dealt is the vital breath of every Christian. Without it neither faith nor the Christian religion can live and remain. “If we believe,” says Luther in De Servo Arbitrio, “that Christ has redeemed men by His blood, then we must confess that the entire man was lost; otherwise we make Christ superfluous or the Redeemer of but the meanest part of us, which is blasphemous and sacrilegious.“Reading the book of Erasmus, in which he bent every effort toward exploding the doctrine of grace, Luther felt the hand of his opponent clutching his throat. In the closing paragraph of De Servo Arbitrio Luther wrote: “I highly laud and extol you for this thing also, that of all others you alone have gone to the heart of the subject …You alone have discerned the core of the matter and have aimed at the throat, for which I thank you heartily.-Unus tu et solus cardinem rerum vidisti, et ipsum iugulum petisti, pro quo ex animo tibi gratias ago, in hac enim causa libentius versor, quantum favet tempus et otium.” (E. v. a. 7, 367. 137; St. L. 18, 1967; Pieper, Dogm. 2, 543.) And so the Synergists, who renewed the doctrine of Erasmus, also flew at the throat of Christianity. Genuine Lutheranism would have been strangled if synergism had emerged victorious from this great controversy of grace versus free will.
154. The Father of Synergism.
During the first period of his activity in Wittenberg, Melanchthon was in perfect agreement with Luther also on the question of man’s inability in spiritual matters and the sole activity,or monergism, of grace in the work of his salvation. As late as 1530 he incorporated these views in the Augsburg Confession, as appears, in particular, from Articles II,V,XVIII, and XIX.His later doctrine concerning the three concurring causes of conversion (the Holy Spirit, the Word, and the consenting will of man), as well as his theory explaining synergistically, from an alleged dissimilar action in man, the difference why some are saved while others are lost, is not so much as hinted at in the Confession.But even at this early date (1530) or soon after, Melanchthon also does not seem any longer to have agreed whole-heartedly with Luther in the doctrine of grace and free will.And in the course of time his theology drifted farther and farther from its original monergistic moorings. Nor was Luther wholly unaware of the secret trend of his colleague and friend toward-Erasmus. In 1536, when the deviations of Melanchthon and Cruciger, dealt with in our previous chapter, were brought to his notice, Luther exclaimed: “Haec est ipsissima theologia Erasmi This is the identical theology of Erasmus, nor can there be anything more opposed to our doctrine.” (Kolde, Analecta, 266.)
That Melanchthon’s theology was verging toward Erasmus appears from his letter of June 22, 1537, to Veit Dietrich, in which he said that he desired a more thorough exposition also of the doctrines of predestination and of the consent of the will. (C. R. 3, 383.) Before this, in his Commentary on Romans of 1532, he had written that there is some cause of election also in man, viz., in as far as he does not repudiate the grace offered- “tamen eatenus aliquam causam in accipiente esse quatenus promissionem oblatam non repudiat.” (Seeberg 4, 442.) In an addition to his Loci of 1533 he also spoke of a cause of justification and election residing in man. (C. R. 21 332.) In the revised editions of 1535 and 1543 he plainly began to prepare the way for his later bold and unmistakable deviations. For even though unable to point out a clean-cut and unequivocal synergistic statement, one cannot read these editions without scenting a Semi-Pelagian and Erasmian atmosphere. What Melanchthon began to teach was the doctrine that man, when approached by the Word of God, is able to assume either an attitude of pro or con, i.e., for or against the grace of God. The same applies to the Variata of 1540 in which the frequent “adiuvari” there employed, though not incorrect as such, was not without a synergistic flavor.
Tschackert remarks of the Loci of 1535: “Melanchthon wants to make man responsible for his state of grace.Nor does the human will in consequence of original sin lose the ability to decide itself when incited; the will produces nothing new by its own power, but assumes an attitude toward what approaches it.When man hears the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit produces spiritual affections in his heart, the will can either assent or turn against it. In this way Melanchthon arrives at the formula, ever after stereotype with him, that there are three concurring causes in the process of conversion: ．the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the human will,which, indeed, is not idle, but strives against its infirmity.' “(520.)
However, during the life of Luther, Melanchthon made no further measurable progress towards synergism. Perhaps the unpleasant experiences following upon his innovations in the doctrine of good works acted as a check also on the public development of his synergistic tendencies. During Luther’s life Melanchthon, as he himself admitted to Carlowitz (106), dissimulated, keeping his deviating views to himself and his intimate friends.After Luther’s death, however, he came out unmistakably and publicly, also in favor of synergism, endorsing even the Erasmian definition of free will as “the power in man to apply himself to grace.” He plainly taught that, when drawn by the Holy Spirit, the will is able to decide pro or con, to obey or to resist. Especially in his lectures, Melanchthon- not indeed directly, but mentioning the name of Flacius-continually lashed such phrases of Luther as “purely passive,” “block,” “resistance,"-a fact to which Schluesselburg, who had studied in Wittenberg, refers in support of his assertion that Melanchthon had departed from Luther’s teaching on free will. (Catalogus 6, 32.) While Melanchthon formerly (in his Loci of 1543) had spoken of three causes of a good action (bonae actionis) he now publicly advocated the doctrine of three concurring causes of conversion.Now he boldly maintained that, since the grace of God is universal, one must assume, and also teach, that there are different actions in different men, which accounts for the fact that some are converted and saved while others are lost. According to the later Melanchthon, therefore, man’s eternal salvation evidently does not depend on the gracious operations of God’s Holy Spirit and Word alone, but also on his own correct conduct toward grace. In his heart, especially when approaching the mercy-seat in prayer, Melanchthon, no doubt, forgot and disavowed his own teaching, and believed and practised Luther’s sola-gratia doctrine. But it cannot be denied that, in his endeavors to harmonize universal grace with the fact that not all, but some only, are saved, Melanchthon repudiated the monergism of Luther, espoused and defended the powers of free will in spiritual matters,and thought, argued, spoke, and wrote in terms of synergism. Indeed, Melanchthon must be regarded as the father of both synergism and the rationalistic methods employed in its defense, and as the true father also of the modern rationalistico-synergistic theology represented by such distinguished men as Von Hofmann, Thomasius, Kahnis, Luthardt, etc. (Pieper 2, 582; Frank l, 231.)
155.Unsound Statements of Melanchthon.
Following are some of the ambiguous and false deliverances ofMelanchthon: In the Loci of 1535 the socalled human cause of conversion which must be added to the Word and Spirit is described as endeavoring, striving, and wishing to obey and believe.We read: “We do not say this to ensnare the consciences, or to deter men from the endeavor to obey and believe, or from making an effort. On the contrary, since we are to begin with the Word,we certainly must not resist the Word of God, but strive to obey it …We see that these causes are united: the Word, the Holy Spirit, and the will, which is certainly not idle, but strives against its infirmity. In this manner ecclesiastical writers are accustomed to join these causes. Basil says:．Only will,and God will precede,' God precedes, calls, moves, assists us, but let us beware lest we resist … Chrysostom says: He who draws, draws him who is willing.” (C. R. 21, 376.)
In conversion and salvation God certainly must do and does His share, but man must beware lest he fail to do what is required of him. This is also the impression received from Melanchthon’s statements in the third elaboration of his Loci, 1543.We read:“Here three causes of a good action concur (hic concurrunt tres causae bonae actionis): the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the human will assenting to and not resisting the Word of God (humana voluntas assentiens, nec repugnans Verbo Dei). For it could expel [the Spirit], as Saul expelled [Him] of his own free will. But when the mind hearing and sustaining itself does not resist, does not give way to diffidence, but, the Holy Spirit assisting, endeavors to assent,-in such a struggle the will is not inactive (in hoc certamine voluntas non est otiosa). The ancients have said that good works are done when grace precedes and the will follows. So also Basil says: ．Movnon qevlhson, kai; qeo;” proapanta'/. Only will, and God anticipates. God precedes, calls,moves, assists us; but as for us, let us see to it that we do not resist.Deus antevertit nos, vocat, movet, adiuvat, sed nos viderimus, ne repugnemus,' (21, 658.) And Phil. 1, 6: ．He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,' i.e., we are assisted by God (adiuvamur a Deo), but we must hear the Word of God and not resist the drawing God.” (916.) “God draws our minds that they will, but we must assent, not resist.Deus trahit mentes, ut velint, sed assentiri nos, non repugnare oportet.” (917.) Here we also meet the remark: “But the will, when assisted by the Holy Spirit, becomes more free. Fit autem voluntas adiuvata Spiritu Sancto magis libera.” (663.) Frank comments pertinently that the magis presupposes a certain degree of liberty of the will before the assistance of the Holy Spirit. (1, 198.)
The boldest synergistic statements are found in the Loci of 1548. It was the year of the Leipzig Interim, in which the same error was embodied as follows: “The merciful God does not deal with man as with a block, but draws him in such a way that his will, too, cooperates.” (C. R. 7, 51. 260.) As to the Loci of this year, Bindseil remarks in the Corpus Reformatorum: “This edition is famous on account of certain paragraphs inserted by the author in the article on Free Will. For these additions contain the Erasmian definition of free will (that it is the faculty of applying oneself to grace), on account of which Melanchthon was charged with synergism by the Flacians … For this reason the edition is called by J. T.Mayer ．the worst of all (omnium pessima).' " At the Weimar colloquy, 1560, even Strigel was not willing to identify himself openly with the Erasmian definition of free will (facultas applicandi se ad gratiam) as found in one of these sections.When Flacius quoted the passage, Strigel retorted excitedly: “I do not defend that definition which you have quoted from the recent edition [ 1548 .When did you hear it from me? When have I undertaken to defend it?” (Frank l, 199. 135.) At the Herzberg colloquy Andreae remarked: “The Loci Communes of Melanchthon are useful. But whoever reads the locus de libero arbitriomust confess, even if he judges most mildly, that the statements are dubious and ambiguous. And what of the four paragraphs which were inserted after Luther’s death? For here we read: ．There must of necessity be a cause of difference in us why a Saul is rejected, a David received.' " (Pieper 2, 587.) From these additions of 1548 we cite: “Nor does conversion occur in David in such a manner as when a stone is turned into a fig: but free will does something in David; for when he hears the rebuke and the promise, he willingly and freely confesses his fault. And his will does something when he sustains himself with this word: The Lord hath taken away your sin.And when he endeavors to sustain himself with this word, he is already assisted by the Holy Spirit.” (C. R. 21, 659.) Again: “I therefore answer those who excuse their idleness because they think that free will does nothing, as follows: It certainly is the eternal and immovable will of God that you obey the voice of the Gospel, that you hear the Son of God, that you acknowledge the Mediator. How black is that sin which refuses to behold the Mediator, the Son of God, presented to the human race! You will answer: ．I cannot.' But in a manner you can (immo aliquo modo potes), and when you sustain yourself with the voice of the Gospel, then pray that God would assist you, and know that the Holy Spirit is effi- cacious in such consolation.Know that just in this manner God intends to convert us, when we, roused by the promise wrestle with ourselves, pray and resist our diffidence and other vicious affections. For this reason some of the ancient Fathers have said that free will in man is the faculty to apply himself to grace (liberum arbitrium in homine facultatem esse applicandi se ad gratiam); i.e., he hears the promise, endeavors to assent, and abandons sins against conscience. Such things do not occur in devils. The difference therefore between the devils and the human race ought to be considered. These matters however, become still clearer when the promise is considered. For since the promise is universal, and since there are no contradictory wills in God, there must of necessity be in us some cause of difference why Saul is rejected and David is received; i.e., there must of necessity be some dissimilar action in these two. Cum promissio sit universalis, nec sint in Deo contradictoriae voluntates, necesse est in nobis esse aliquam discriminis causam, cur Saul abiiciatur.David recipiatur, id est, necesse est aliquam esse actionem dissimilem in his duobus. Properly understood, this is true, and the use [usus] in the exercises of faith and in true consolation (when our minds acquiesce in the Son of God, shown in the promise) will illustrate this copulation of causes: the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the will.” (C. R. 21, 659f.) At the colloquy of Worms, 1557, Melanchthon, interpellated by Brenz, is reported to have said that the passage in his Loci of 1548 defining f dictum est: he faculty of applying oneself to grace referred to the regenerated will (voluntas renata), as, he said, appeared from the context. (Gieseler 3, 2, 225; Frank 1, 198.) As a matter of fact, however, the context clearly excludes this interpretation. In the passage quoted, Melanchthon, moreover, plainly teaches: 1. that in conversion man, too can do, and really does, something by willingly confessing his fault, by sustaining himself with the Word, by praying that God would assist him, by wrestling with himself, by striving against diffidence, etc.; 2. that the nature of fallen man differs from that of the devils in this, that his free will is still able to apply itself to grace, endeavor to assent to it, etc.; 3. that the dissimilar actions resulting from the different use of this natural ability accounts for the fact that some are saved while others are lost. Such was the plain teaching of Melanchthon from which he never receded, but which he, apart from other publications, reaffirmed in every new edition of his Loci. For all, including the last one to appear during his life (1559), contain the additions of 1548.“The passage added by the author [Melanchthon, 1548 after Luther’s death is repeated in all subsequent editions,” says Bindseil. (C. R. 21, 570.)
The sections which were added to the Loci after 1548 also breathe the same synergistic spirit. In 1553 Melanchthon inserted a paragraph which says that, when approached by the Holy Spirit, the will can obey or resist.We read: “The liberty of the human will after the Fall, also in the non-regenerate, is the faculty by virtue of which man is able to govern his motions, i.e., he can enjoin upon his external members such actions as agree, or such as do not agree, with the Law of God. But he cannot banish doubts from his mind and evil inclinations from his heart without the light of the Gospel and without the Holy Spirit. But when the will is drawn by the holy Spirit, it can obey or resist. Cum autem trahitur a Spiritu Sancto, potest obsequi et repugnare.” (21, 1078; 13, 162.)
Other publications contain the same doctrine. While in his Loci of 1543 he had spoken only of three causes of a good action (bonae actionis),Melanchthon, in his Enarratio Symboli Nicaeni of 1550, substituted “conversion” for “good action.“We read: In conversion these causes concur: the Holy Spirit, the voice of the Gospel, “and the will of man, which does not resist the divine voice, but somehow, with trepidation, assents. Concurrunt in conversione hae causae: Spiritus Sanctus … vox Evangelii … et voluntas hominis, quae non repugnat voci divinae, sed inter trepidationem utcumque assentitur.” Again: “And concerning this copulation of causes it is said: The Spirit comes to the assistance of our infirmity. And Chrysostom truly says: God draws, but he draws him who is willing.“Again:God’s promise is universal, and there are no contradictory wills in God; hence, though Paul is drawn in a different manner than Zacchaeus,“nevertheless there is some assent of the will (tamen aliqua est voluntatis assensio).” “God therefore begins and draws by the voice of the Gospel but He draws him who is willing, and assists him who assents.” “Nor is anything detracted from the glory of God, but it is truly affirmed that the assistance of God always concurs in the beginning and afterwards (auxilium Dei semper initio et deinceps concurrere).” (23, 280ff.)
Accordingly, God merely concurs as one of three causes, among which the will of man is the third. In his Examen Ordinandorum of 1554, Melanchthon again replaced the term “good action” by “conversion.” He says: “In conversion these causes concur: the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father and Son send to kindle our hearts, and our will, assenting and not resisting the Word of God (et nostra voluntas assentiens et non repugnans Verbo Dei) . And lest we yield to diffidence, we must consider that both preachings are universal, the preaching of repentance as well as the promise of grace … Let us therefore not resist but assent to the promise, and constantly repeat this prayer: I believe,O Lord, but come to the help ofmy weakness."(23, 15.) Finally in his Opinion on the Weimar Book of Confutation, March 9, 1559,Melanchthon remarks:“Again, if the will is able to turn from the consolation, it must be inferred that it works something and follows the Holy Spirit when it accepts the consolation. Item, so sich der Wille vom Trost abwenden mag, so ist dagegen zu verstehen, dass er etwas wirket und folget dem Heiligen Geist, so er den Trost annimmt.” (9, 768.)
W. Preger is right when he says: “According to Melanchthon’s view, natural man is able to do the following [when the Word of God is preached to him]: he is able not to resist; he is able to take pains with respect to obedience; he is able to comfort himself with the Word … This [according to Melanchthon] is a germ of the positive good will still found in natural man which prevenient grace arouses.” (Flacius Illyricus 2, 189f.) Schmauk writes:Melanchthon found “the cause for the actual variation in the working of God’s grace in man, its object. This subtle synergistic spirit attacks the very foundation of Lutheranism, flows out into almost every doctrine, and weakens the Church at every point.And it was particularly this weakness which the great multitude of Melanchthon’s scholars, who became the leaders of the generation of which we are speaking, absorbed, and which rendered it difficult to return, finally, after years of struggle, to the solid ground, once more recovered in the Formula of Concord.” (Conf. Principle, 601.)
R. Seeberg characterizes Melanchthon’s doctrine as follows: “A synergistic trait therefore appears in his doctrine. In the last analysis, God merely grants the outer and inner possibility of obtaining salvation. Without man’s cooperation this possibility would not become reality; and he is able to refuse this cooperation. It is, therefore, in conversion equally a cause with the others. Sie [die Mitwirkung des Menschen] ist also freilich eine den andern Ursachen gleichberechtigte Ursache in der Bekehrung.” God makes conversion possible, but only the decision of man’s free will makes it actual,-such, according to Seeberg, was the “synergism” of Melanchthon. (Seeberg, Dogg., 4, 444. 446.)
Frank says of Melanchthon’s way of solving the question why some are converted and saved while others are lost: “The road chosen by Melanchthon has indeed led to the goal. The contradictions are solved. But let us look where we have landed. We are standing- in the Roman camp!” After quoting a passage from the Tridentinum, which speaks of conversion in terms similar to those employed by Melanchthon, Frank continues: “The foundation stone of Luther’s original Reformation doctrine of salvation by grace alone; viz., that nothing in us, not even our will moved and assisted by God, is the causa meritoria of salvation, is subverted by these propositions; and it is immaterial to the contrite heart whether much or little is demanded from free will as the faculty of applying oneself to grace.“Frank adds:“What the Philippists, synchronously [with Melanchthon] and later,propounded regarding this matter [of free will] are but variations of the theme struck by Melanchthon. Everywhere the sequence of thought is the same, with but this difference, that here the faults of the Melanchthonian theory together with its consequences come out more clearly.” (1, 134f.) The same is true of modern synergistic theories. Without exception they are but variations of notes struck by Melanchthon,-the father of all the synergists that have raised their heads within the Lutheran Church.
156. Pfeffinger Champions Synergistic Doctrine.
Prior to 1556 references to the unsound position of the Wittenberg and Leipzig theologians are met with but occasionally. (Planck 4, 568.) The unmistakably synergistic doctrine embodied in the Loci of 1548, as well as in the Leipzig Interim, did not cause alarm and attract attention immediately. But when, in 1555, John Pfeffinger [born 1493; 1539 superintendent, and 1543 professor in Leipzig; assisted 1548 in framing the Leipzig Interim; died January 1, 1573 published his “Five Questions Concerning the Liberty of the Human Will-De Libertate Voluntatis Humanae Quaestiones Quinque. D. Johannes Pfeffinger Lipsiae Editae in Officina Georgii Hantschi 1555,” the controversy flared up instantly. It was a little booklet containing besides a brief introduction, only 41 paragraphs, or theses. In these Pfeffinger discussed and defended the synergistic doctrine of Melanchthon, maintaining that in conversion man, too, must contribute his share though it be ever so little.
Early in the next year Pfeffinger was already opposed by the theologians of Thuringia, the stanch opponents of the Philippists, John Stolz, court-preacher at Weimar composing 110 theses for this purpose. In 1558 Amsdorf published his Public Confession of the True Doctrine of the Gospel and Confutation of the Fanatics of the Present Time, in which he, quoting from memory, charged Pfeffinger with teaching that man is able to prepare himself for grace by the natural powers of his free will, just as the godless sophists, Thomas Aquinas, Scotus, and their disciples, had held. (Planck 4, 573. 568.) About the same time Stolz published the 110 theses just referred to with a preface by Aurifaber (Refutatio Propositionum Pfeffingeri de Libero Arbitrio) . Flacius, then professor in Jena, added his Refutation of Pfeffinger’s Propositions on Free Will and Jena Disputation on Free Will. In the same year, 1558, Pfeffinger, in turn published his Answer to the Public Confession of Amsdorf, charging the latter with falsification, and denouncing Flacius as the “originator and father of all the lies which have troubled the Lutheran Church during the last ten years.” But at the same time Pfeffinger showed unmistakably that the charges of his opponents were but too well founded. Says Planck: “Whatever may have moved Pfeffinger to do so, he could not (even if Flacius himself had said it for him) have confessed synergism more clearly and more definitely than he did spontaneously and unasked in this treatise.” (4, 574.) Frank: “Pfeffinger goes beyond Melanchthon and Strigel; for the action here demanded of, and ascribed to, the natural will is, according to him, not even in need of liberation by prevenient grace …His doctrine may without more ado be designated as Semi- Pelagianism.” (1, 137.)
At Wittenberg, Pfeffinger was supported by George Major, Paul Eber, and Paul Crell and before long his cause was espoused also by Victorin Strigel in Jena. Disputations by the Wittenberg and Leipzig synergists (whom Schluesselburg, 5, 16, calls “cooperators” and “die freiwilligen Herren”) and by their opponents in Jena increased the animosity. Both parties cast moderation to the winds. In a public letter of 1558 the Wittenberg professors, for example, maligned Flacius in every possible way, and branded him as “der verloffene undeutsche Flacius Illyricus” and as the sole author of all the dissensions in the churches of Germany. (Planck 4, 583.)
157. Statements of Pfeffinger.
Following are some of the synergistic deliverances made by Pfeffinger in his Five Questions Concerning the Liberty of the Human Will. paragraph 11 reads:“Thirdly,when we inquire concerning the spiritual actions, it is correct to answer that the human will has not such a liberty as to be able to effect the spiritual motions without the help of the Holy Spirit (humanam voluntatem non habere eiusmodi libertatem, ut motus spirituales sine auxilio Spiritus Sancti efficere possit)” paragraph 14: “Therefore some assent or apprehension on our part must concur (oportet igitur nostram aliquam assensionem seu apprehensionem concurrere) when the Holy Spirit has aroused (accenderit) the mind, the will and the heart. Hence Basil says; Only will, and God anticipates; and Chrysostom: He who draws, draws him who is willing; and Augustine: He assists those who have received the gift of the call with becoming piety, and preserve the gifts of God as far as man is able. Again: When grace precedes, the will follows-praeeunte gratia, comitante voluntate.” In paragraph 16 we read: “The will, therefore, is not idle, but assents faintly. Voluntas igitur non est otiosa sed languide assentitur.”
Paragraph 17 runs: “If the will were idle or purely passive, there would be no difference between the pious and the wicked, or between the elect and the damned, as, between Saul and David, between Judas and Peter. God would also become a respecter of persons and the author of contumacy in the wicked and damned; and to God would be ascribed contradictory wills,-which conflicts with the entire Scripture.Hence it follows that there is in us a cause why some assent while others do not. Sequitur ergo in nobis esse aliquam causam, cur alii assentiantur, alii non assentiantur.” paragraph 24:“Him [the Holy Spirit], therefore, we must not resist; but on the part of our will, which is certainly not like a stone or block, some assent must be added-sed aliquam etiam assensionem accedere nostrae voluntatis, quam non sicut saxum aut incudem se habere certum est.” paragraph 30: “But apprehension on our part must concur. For, since the promise of grace is universal, and since we must obey this promise, some difference between the elect and the rejected must be inferred from our will (sequitur, aliquod discrimen inter electos et reiectos a voluntate nostra sumendum esse), viz., that those who resist the promise are rejected, while those who embrace the promise are received … All this clearly shows that our will is not idle in conversion or like a stone or block in its conduct. Ex quibus omnibus manifestissimum apparet, voluntatem nostram non esse otiosam in conversione, aut se ut saxum aut incudem habere.”
Paragraph 34 reads: “Some persons, however, shout that the assistance of the Holy Spirit is extenuated and diminished if even the least particle be attributed to the human will. Though this argument may appear specious and plausible, yet pious minds understand that by our doctrine-according to which we ascribe some cooperation to our will; viz., some assent and apprehension (qua tribuimus aliquam synergiam voluntati nostrae, videlicet qualemcumque assensionem et apprehensionem)- absolutely nothing is taken away from the assistance rendered by the Holy Spirit. For we affirm that the first acts (primas partes) must be assigned and attributed to Him who first and primarily, through the Word or the voice of the Gospel, moves our hearts to believe, to which thereupon we, too, ought to assent as much as we are able (cui deinde et nos, quantum in nobis est, assentiri oportet), and not resist the Holy Spirit, but submit to the Word, ponder, learn, and hear it, as Christ says: ．Whosoever hath heard of the Father and learned, cometh to Me.' " paragraph 36: “And although original sin has brought upon our nature a ruin so sad and horrible that we can hardly imagine it, yet we must not think that absolutely all the knowledge (notitiae) which was found in the minds of our first parents before the Fall has on that account been destroyed and extinguished after the Fall, or that the human will does not in any way differ from a stone or a block; for we are, as St. Paul has said most seriously, coworkers with God, which coworking, indeed, is assisted and strengthened by the Holy Spirit-sumus synergi Dei, quae quidem synergia adiuvatur a Spiritu Sancto et confirmatur.” Evidently no comment is necessary to show that the passages cited from Pfeffinger are conceived, born, and bred in Semi- Pelagianism and rationalism.
Planck furthermore quotes from Pfeffinger’s Answer to Amsdorf, 1558: “And there is no other reason why some are saved and some are damned than this one alone, that some, when incited by the Holy Spirit, do not resist, but obey Him and accept the grace and salvation offered, while others will not accept it, but resist the Holy Spirit, and despise the grace.” (4, 578.) Again: “Although the will cannot awaken or incite itself to spiritually good works, but must be awakened and incited thereto by the Holy Ghost, yet man is not altogether excluded from such works of the Holy Ghost, as if he were not engaged in it and were not to contribute his share to it-dass er nicht auch dabei sein und das Seine nicht auch dabei tun muesse.” (576.) Again: In the hands of the Holy Spirit man is not like a block or stone in the hands of a sculptor, which do not and cannot “know, understand, or feel what is done with them, nor in the least further or hinder what the artist endeavors to make of them.” (576.) “But when the heart of man is touched, awakened, and moved by the Holy Ghost, man must not be like a dead stone or block, … but must obey and follow Him. And although he perceives his great weakness, and, on the other hand, how powerfully sin in his flesh opposes, he must nevertheless not desist, but ask and pray God for grace and assistance against sin and flesh.” (577.) Planck remarks: According to Pfeffinger, the powers for all this are still found in natural man,and the only thing required is, not to recreate them, but merely to incite them to action. (579.)
In 1558, in an appendix to his disputation of 1555, Pfeffinger explained and illustrated his position, in substance, as follows: I was to prove nothing else than that some use of the will [in spiritual matters] was left, and that our nature is not annihilated or extinguished, but corrupted and marvelously depraved after the Fall. Now, to be sure, free will cannot by its own natural powers regain its integrity nor rise after being ruined, yet as the doctrine [the Gospel] can be understood by paying attention to it, so it can also in a manner (aliquo modo) be obeyed by assenting to it. But it is necessary for all who would dwell in the splendor of the eternal light and in the sight of God to look up to and not turn away from, the light. Schluesselburg adds: “Haec certe est synergia- This is certainly synergism.” (Catalogus 5, 161.)
Tschackert summarizes Pfeffinger’s doctrine as follows: “When the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, influences a man, then the assenting will becomes operative as a factor of conversion. The reason why some assent while others do not must be in themselves … Evidently Pfeffinger’s opinion was that not only the regenerate, but even the natural will of man possesses the ability either to obey the divine Spirit or to resist Him.” (521.) According to W. Preger, Pfeffinger taught “that the Holy Spirit must awaken and incite our nature that it may understand, think, will and do what is right and pleasing to God,“but that natural free will is able “to obey and follow"the motions of the Spirit. (2, 192. 195.)
No doubt, Pfeffinger advocated, and was a candid exponent and champion of, nothing but the three-concurring- causes doctrine of Melanchthon, according to which God never fails to do His share in conversion, while we must beware (sed nos viderimus, C. R. 21, 658) lest we fail to do our share. Pfeffinger himself made it a special point to cite Melanchthon as his authority in this matter. The last (41st) paragraph in his Five Questions begins as follows:“We have briefly set forth the doctrine concerning the liberty of the human will, agreeing with the testimonies of the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, a fuller explanation of which students may find in the writings of our preceptor, Mr. Philip (prolisciorem explicationem requirant studiosi in scriptis D. Philippi, praeceptoris nostri).” And when, in the subsequent controversy Pfeffinger was publicly assailed by Amsdorf, Flacius, and others, everybody knew that their real target was none other than-Master Philip. Melanchthon, too, was well aware of this fact. In his Opinion on the Weimar Confutation, of March 9, 1559, in which the synergism of the Philippists is extensively treated, he said: “As to free will, it is apparent that they attack me, Philip, in particular.” (C. R. 9. 763.)
158. Strigel and Huegel Entering Controversy.
The synergistic controversy received new zest and a new impetus when, in 1559,Victorin Strigel and Huegel (Hugelius), respectively professor and pastor at Jena, the stronghold of the opponents of the Wittenberg Philippists, opposed Flacius, espoused the cause of Pfeffinger, championed the doctrine of Melanchthon, and refused to endorse the so called Book of Confutation which Flacius had caused to be drafted particularly against the Wittenberg Philippists and Synergists, and to be introduced. The situation thus created was all the more sensational because, in the preceding controversies, Strigel had, at least apparently, always sided with the opponents of the Philippists.
The “Konfutationsbuch-Book of Confutation and Condemnations of the Chief Corruptions, Sects, and Errors Breaking in and Spreading at this Time” was published in 1559 by Duke John Frederick II as a doctrinal norm of his duchy. In nine chapters this Book, a sort of forerunner of the Formula of Concord, dealt with the errors 1. of Servetus, 2. of Schwenckfeld, 3. of the Antinomians, 4. of the Anabaptists, 5. of the Zwinglians, 6. of the Synergists, 7. of Osiander and Stancarus, 8. of the Majorists, 9. of the Adiaphorists. Its chief object, as expressly stated in the Preface, was to warn against the errors introduced by the Philippists, whose doctrines, as also Planck admits,were not in any way misrepresented in this document. (4, 597. 595.) The sixth part, directed against synergism bore the title: “Confutatio Corruptelarum in Articulo de Libero Arbitrio sive de Viribus Humanis-Confutation of the Corruptions in the Article Concerning Free Will or Concerning the Human Powers.” The Confutation was framed by the Jena theologians, Strigel and Huegel also participating in its composition. However, some of the references to the corruptions of the Philippists must have been rather vague and ambiguous in the first draft of the book ; for when it was revised at the convention in Weimar, Flacius secured the adoption of additions and changes dealing particularly with the synergism of the Wittenbergers, which were energetically opposed by Strigel.
Even before the adoption of the Book of Confutation, Strigel had been polemicizing against Flacius. But now (as Flacius reports) he began to denounce him at every occasion as the “architect of a new theology” and an “enemy of the Augsburg Confession.” At the same time he also endeavored to incite the students in Jena against him. Flacius, in turn, charged Strigel with scheming to establish a Philippistic party in Ducal Saxony. The public breach came when the Book of Confutation was submitted for adoption and publication in the churches and schools. Pastor Huegel refused to read and explain it from the pulpit, and Strigel presented his objections to the Duke, and asked that his conscience be spared. But when Strigel failed to maintain silence in the matter, he as well as Pastor Huegel were summarily dealt with by the Duke. On March 27, 1559, at two o’clock in the morning, both were suddenly arrested and imprisoned. Flacius who was generally regarded as the secret instigator of this act of violence, declared publicly that the arrest had been made without his counsel and knowledge. About six months later (September 5, 1569) Strigel and Huegel after making some doctrinal concessions and promising not to enter into any disputation on the Confutation, were set at liberty. (Planck 4, 591. 604.)
In order to settle the differences, Flacius and his colleagues (Wigand, Judex, Simon Musaeus), as well as Strigel, asked for a public disputation, which John Frederick, too was all the more willing to arrange because dissatisfaction with his drastic procedure against Strigel and Huegel was openly displayed everywhere outside of Ducal Saxony. The disputation was held at Weimar, August 2 to 8, 1560. It was attended by the Saxon Dukes and their entire courts, as well as by a large number of other spectators, not only from Jena, but also from Erfurt,Wittenberg and Leipzig. The subjects of discussion, for which both parties had submitted theses were: Free Will, Gospel, Majorism, Adiaphorism, and Indifferentism (academica epoche, toleration of error) . The disputing parties (Flacius and Strigel) agreed that “the only rule should be the Word of God, and that a clear, plain text of the Holy Scriptures was to weigh more than all the inferences and authorities of interpreters” (Planck 4, 606.)
According to the proceedings of the Weimar Disputation, written by Wigand and published by Simon Musaeus 1562 and 1563 under the title: “Disputatio de Originali Peccato et Libero Arbitrio inter M. Flacium Illyr. et Vict. Strigelium Publice Vinariae Anno 1560 Habita,” the only questions discussed were free will and, incidentally, original sin. Strigel defended the Melanchthonian doctrine, according to which the causes of conversion are the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the will of man feebly assenting to the Gospel and, at the same time, seeking strength from God. He repeated the formula: “Concurrunt in conversione haec tria: Spiritus Sanctus movens corda, vox Dei, voluntas hominis, quae voci divinae assentitur.” Flacius, on the other hand, defended the mere passive of Luther, according to which man, before he is converted and endowed with faith, does not in any way cooperate with the Holy Spirit but merely suffers and experiences His operations. At the same time, however, he seriously damaged and discredited himself as well as the sacred cause of divine truth by maintaining that original sin is not a mere accident, such as Strigel maintained, but the very substance of man. The discussions were discontinued after the thirteenth session. The Duke announced that the disputation would be reopened later, charging both parties in the mean time to maintain silence in public,- a compromise to which Flacius and his adherents were loath to consent.
John Wigand and Matthias Judex however continued to enforce the Book of Confutation demanding an unqualified adoption in every point, per omnia. When the jurist Matthew Wesenbecius declined to accept the book in this categorical way, he was not permitted to serve as sponsor at a baptism. John Frederick was dissatisfied with this procedure and action of the ministers; and when they persisted in their demands, the autocratic Duke deprived them of the right to excommunicate, vesting this power in a consistory established at Weimar. Flacius and his adherents protested against this measure as tyranny exercised over the Church and a suppression of the pure doctrine. As a result Musaeus, Judex, Wigand, and Flacius were suspended and expelled from Jena, December, 1561. (Gieseler 3, 2, 244. 247.) Their vacant chairs at the university were filled by Freihub, Salmuth, and Selneccer, who had been recommended by the Wittenberg Philippists at the request of the Duke, who now evidently favored a compromise with the Synergists. Strigel, too, was reinstated at Jena after signing an ambiguous declaration.
Amsdorf, Gallus,Hesshusius, Flacius, and the other exiled theologians denounced Strigel’s declaration as insincere and in conflict with Luther’s book De Servo Arbitrio, and demanded a public retraction of his synergistic statements.When the ministers of Ducal Saxony also declined to acknowledge Strigel’s orthodoxy, a more definite “Superdeclaration,” framed by Moerlin and Stoessel (but not signed by Strigel), was added as an interpretation of Strigel’s declaration. But even now a minority refused to submit to the demands of the Duke, because they felt that they were being deceived by ambiguous terms, such as “capacity” and “aptitude,” which the wily Strigel and the Synergists used in the active or positive, and not in the passive sense. These conscientious Lutherans whom the rationalist Planck brands as “almost insane, beinahe verrueckt,” were also deposed and banished, 1562. Strigel’s declaration of March, 1562 however, maintaining that “the will is passive in so far as God alone works all good, but active in so far as it must be present in its conversion,must consent, and not resist, but accept,” showed that he had not abandoned his synergism. In the same year he applied for, and accepted, a professorship in Leipzig. Later on he occupied a chair at the Reformed university in Heidelberg,where he died 1569, at the age of only fortyfive years.
In 1567, when John William became ruler of Ducal Saxony, the Philippists were dismissed, and the banished Lutheran pastors and professors (with the exception of Flacius) were recalled and reinstated.While this rehabilitation of the loyal Lutherans formally ended the synergistic controversy in Ducal Saxony, occasional echoes of it still lingered, due especially to the fact that some ministers had considered Strigel’s ambiguous declaration a satisfactory presentation of the Lutheran truth with regard to the questions involved. That the synergistic teaching of Melanchthon was continued in Wittenberg appears, for example, from the Confessio Wittenbergica of 1570.
160. Strigel’s Rationalistic Principle.
Although at the opening of the disputation the debaters had agreed to decide all questions by clear Scripture-passages alone, Strigel’s guiding principle was in reality not the Bible but philosophy and reason. His real concern was not, What does Scripture teach concerning the causes of conversion? but,How may we harmonize the universal grace of God with the fact that only some are converted and saved? Self-evidently Strigel, too, quoted Bible-passages. Among others, he appealed to such texts as John 6, 29; Rom. 1, 16; 10, 17; Luke 8, 18;Heb. 4, 2; Rev. 3, 20; Luke 11, 13;Mark 9, 24; 1 Thess. 2, 13; Jas. 1, 18. But as we shall show later, his deductions were philosophical and sophistical rather than exegetical and Scriptural. Preger remarks: In his disputation Strigel was not able to advance a single decisive passage of Scripture for the presence and cooperation of a good will at the moment when it is approached and influenced (ergriffen) by grace. (2, 211.) And the clear, irrefutable Bible-texts on which Flacius founded his doctrine of the inability of natural will to cooperate in conversion, Strigel endeavored to invalidate by philosophical reasoning, indirect arguing, and alleged necessary logical consequences.
At Weimar and in his Confession of December 5 1560, delivered to the Duke soon after the disputation, Strigel argued:Whoever denies that man, in a way and measure, is able to cooperate in his own conversion is logically compelled also to deny that the rejection of grace may be imputed to man, compelled to make God responsible for man’s damnation; to surrender the universality of God’s grace and call; to admit contradictory wills in God, and to take recourse to an absolute decree of election and reprobation in order to account for the fact that some reject the grace of God and are lost while others are converted and saved. At Weimar Strigel declared: “I do not say that the will is able to assent to the Word without the Holy Spirit, but that, being moved and assisted by the Spirit, it assents with trepidation. If we were unable to do this, we would not be responsible for not having received the Word. Si hoc [utcumque assentiri inter trepidationes] non possemus, non essemus rei propter Verbum non receptum.” Again, also at Weimar: “If the will is not able to assent in some way, even when assisted, then we cannot be responsible for rejecting the Word, but the blame must be transferred to another, and others may judge how religious that is. Si voluntas ne quidem adiuta potest aliquo modo annuere, non possumus esse rei propter Verbum reiectum, sed culpa est in alium transferenda quod quam sit religiosum, alii iudicent.” (Planck 4, 689. 719; Luthardt, Lehre vom freien Willen, 222.)
Over against this rationalistic method of Strigel and the Synergists generally, the Lutherans adhered to the principle that nothing but a clear passage of the Bible can decide a theological question. They rejected as false philosophy and rationalism every argument directed against the clear sense of a clear Word of God. They emphatically objected to the employment of reason for establishing a Christian doctrine or subverting a statement of the Bible. At Weimar, Flacius protested again and again that human reason is not an authority in theological matters. “Let us hear the Scriptures! Audiamus Scripturam!” “Let the woman be silent in the Church! Mulier taceat in ecclesia!“With such slogans he brushed aside the alleged necessary logical inferences and deductions of Strigel. “You take your arguments from philosophy,” he said in the second session, “which ought not to be given a place in matters of religion. Disputas ex philosophia, cui locus in rebus religionis esse non debet.” Again, at Weimar: “It is against the nature of inquiring truth to insist on arguing from blind philosophy. What else corrupted such ancient theologians as Clement, Origen, Chrysostom, and afterwards also the Sophists [scholastic theologians] but that they endeavored to decide spiritual things by philosophy, which does not understand the secret and hidden mysteries of God. Est contra naturam inquirendae veritatis, si velimus ex caeca philosophia loqui. Quid aliud corrupit theologos veteres, ut Clementem, Originem, Chrysosthomum et postea etiam Sophistas, nisi quod de rebus divinis ex philosophia voluerunt statuere, quae non intelligit abstrusissima et occultissima mysteria Dei.” “May we therefore observe the rule of Luther: Let the woman be silent in the Church! For what a miserable thing would it be if we had to judge ecclesiastical matters from logic! Ita que observemus legem Lutheri: Taceat mulier in ecclesia! Quae enim miseria, si ex dialectica diiudicandae nobis essent res ecclesiae!” (Planck 4, 709.)
In an antisynergistic confession published by Schluesselburg, we read: “This doctrine [of conversion by God’s grace alone] is simple, clear, certain, and irrefutable if one looks to God’s Word alone and derives the Nosce teipsum, Know thyself, from the wisdom of God.But since poor men are blind, they love their darkness more than the light, as Christ says John 3, and insist on criticizing and falsifying God’s truth by means of blind philosophy, which, forsooth, is a shame and a palpable sin, if we but had eyes to see and know … Whatsoever blind reason produces in such articles of faith against the Word of God is false and wrong. For it is said: Mulier in ecclesia taceat! Let philosophy and human wisdom be silent in the Church.” (Catalogus 5, 665f.) Here, too, the sophistical objections of the Synergists are disposed of with such remarks as: “In the first place, this is but spun from reason, which thus acts wise in these matters.Denn fuers erste ist solches nur aus der Vernunft gesponnen, die weiss also hierin zu kluegeln.” (668.) “This is all spun from reason; but God’s Word teaches us better.Dies ist alles aus der Vernunft spintisiert; Gottes Wort aber lehrt es besser.” (670.)
Evidently Strigel’s rationalistic method was identical with that employed by Melanchthon in his Loci, by Pfeffinger, and the Synergists generally. Accordingly, his synergism also could not differ essentially from Melanchthon’s. Planck pertinently remarks:“It is apparent from this [argument of Strigel that natural man must have power to cooperate in his conversion because otherwise God would be responsible for his resistance and damnation] that his synergism was none other than that of the Wittenberg school; for was not this the identical foundation upon which Melanchthon had reared his [synergism]?” (4, 690.) Like methods lead to the same results, and vice versa. Besides, Strigel had always appealed to the Wittenbergers; and in his Opinion on the Weimar Confutation 1559, Melanchthon, in turn, identified himself with Strigel’s arguments. (C. R. 9, 766.) The “Confession and Opinion of the Wittenbergers Concerning Free Will- Confessio et Sententia Wittebergensium de Libero Arbitrio” of 1561 also maintained the same attitude.
161. Strigel’s Theory.
Strigel’s views concerning the freedom of man’s will in spiritual matters may be summarized as follows: Man, having a will, is a free agent, hence always able to decide for or against. This ability is the “mode of action” essential to man as long as he really is a man and in possession of a will. Even in matters pertaining to grace this freedom was not entirely lost in the Fall. It was impeded and weakened by original sin, but not annihilated.To be converted, man therefore requires that these residual or remaining powers be excited and strengthened rather than that new spiritual powers be imparted or a new will be created. Accordingly, persuasion through the Word is the method of conversion employed by the Holy Spirit.When the will is approached by the Word, incited and assisted by the Spirit, it is able to admit the operations of the Spirit and assent to the Word, though but feebly. Hence, no matter how much of the work of conversion must be ascribed to the Holy Spirit and the Word the will itself, in the last analysis, decides for or against grace.Man is, therefore, not purely passive in his conversion, but cooperates with the Holy Spirit and the Word, not merely after, but also in his conversion, before he has received the gift of faith.
“God who, outside of His essence in external actions, is the freest agent,” said Strigel “created two kinds of natures, the one free, the other acting naturally (naturaliter agentes). The free natures are the angels and men. Those acting naturally embrace all the rest of the creatures. A natural agent is one that cannot do anything else [than it does], nor suspend its action e.g., fire. Men and angels were created differently, after the image of God, that they might be free agents.Homines et angeli aliter conditi sunt ad imaginem Dei, ut sint liberum agens.” (Planck 4, 669.) This freedom, which distinguishes man essentially from all other creatures, according to Strigel, always implies the power to will or not to will with respect to any object.He says: The act of willing, be it good or evil, always belongs to the will,because the will is so created that it can will or not,without coercion. “Ipsum velle, seu bonum seu malum, quod ad substantiam attinet, semper est voluntatis; quia voluntas sic est condita, ut possit velle aut non; sed etiam hoc habet voluntas ex opere creationis quod adhuc reliquum, et non prorsus abolitum et extinctum est, UT POSSIT VELLE AUT NON SINE COACTIONE.” (674.) According to Strigel, the very essence of the will consists in being able, in every instance, to decide in either direction, for or against. Hence the very idea of will involves also a certain ability to cooperate in conversion. (689.)
This freedom or ability to decide pro or con, says Strigel, is the mode of action essential to man, his mode of action also in conversion. And in the controversy on free will he sought to maintain that this alleged mode of action was a part of the very essence of the human will and being.At Weimar Strigel declared: “I do not wish to detract from the will the mode of action which is different from other natural actions. Nolo voluntati detrahi modum agendi, qui est dissimilis aliis actionibus naturalibus.” (Planck 4, 668.) Again: “The will is not a natural, but a free agent; hence the will is converted not as a natural agent, but as a free agent … In conversion the will acts in its own mode; it is not a statue or a log in conversion. Hence conversion does not occur in a purely passive manner. Voluntas non est agens naturale, sed liberum; ergo convertitur voluntas non ut naturaliter agens, sed ut liberum agens … Et voluntas suo modo agit in conversione, nec est statua vel truncus in conversione. Et per consequens non fit conversio pure passive.” (Luthardt, 217. 219. 209.)
What Strigel means is that man, being a free agent, must, also in conversion, be accorded the ability somehow to decide for grace. According to the Formula of Concord the words, “man’s mode of action,” signify “a way of working something good and salutary in divine things.” (905, 61.) The connection and the manner in which the phrase was employed by Strigel admitted of no other interpretation. Strigel added: This mode of action marks the difference between the will of man and the will of Satan, for the devil neither endeavors to assent, nor prays to God for assistance, while man does. (Luthardt 220.) Natural man is by Strigel credited with the power of “endeavoring to assent, conari assentiri,” because he is endowed with a will. But shrewd as Strigel was, it did not occur to him that, logically, his argument compelled him to ascribe also to the devils everything he claimed for natural man, since they, too, have a will and are therefore endowed with the same modus agendi, which, according to Strigel, belongs to the very idea and essence of will. Yet this palpable truth, which overthrew his entire theory, failed to open the eyes of Strigel.
If, as Strigel maintained, the human will, by virtue of its nature as a free agent, is, in a way, able to cooperate in conversion, then the only question is how to elevate this ability to an actuality, in other words, how to influence the will and rouse its powers to move in the right direction. Strigel answered: Since the will cannot be forced,moral suasion is the true method required to convert a man. “The will,” says he “cannot be forced, hence it is by persuasion, i.e., by pointing out something good or evil, that the will is moved to obey and to submit to the Gospel, not coerced, but somehow willing. Voluntas non potest cogi, ergo voluntas persuadendo, id est ostensione alicuius boni vel mali flectitur ad obediendum et obtemperandum evangelio, non coacta, sed ALIQUO MODO VOLENS.” (Seeberg 4 491.) Again: “Although God is efficacious through the Word, drawing and leading us efficaciously, yet He does not make assenting necessary for such a nature as the will,-a nature so created that it is able not to assent, if it so wills, and to expel Him who dwells in us. This assent therefore is the work of God and the Holy Spirit, but in so far as it is a free assent, not coerced and pressed out by force, it is also the work of the will. Etiam si Deus est efficax per Verbum et efficaciter nos trahit et ducit, tamen non affert necessitatem assentiendi tali naturae, qualis est voluntas, id est, quae sic est condita, ut possit non assentiri, si velit, et excutere sessorem. Est igitur hic assensus opus Dei et Spiritus Sancti, sed quatenus est liber assensus, non coactus, expressus vi, EST ETIAM VOLUNTATIS.” (491.) Strigel evidently means: The fact that man is able not to assent to grace of necessity involves that somehow (aliquo modo) he is able also to assent, according to man’s peculiar mode of action (freedom) he must himself actualize his conversion by previously (in the logical order) willing it, deciding for it, and assenting to it; he would be converted by coercion if his assent to grace were an act of the will engendered and created solely by God, rather than an act effected and produced by the powers of the will when incited and assisted by the Spirit. Man is converted by persuasion only,because God does not create assent and faith in him but merely elicits these acts from man by liberating and appealing to the powers of his will to effect and produce them.
In defending this freedom of the will, Strigel appealed also to the statement of Luther: “The will cannot be coerced; … if the will could be coerced, it would not be volition, but rather nolition. Voluntas non potest cogi … si posset cogi voluntas, non esset voluntas sed potius voluntas.” However, what Luther said of the form or nature of the will, according to which it always really wills what it wills, and is therefore never coerced, was by Strigel transferred to the spiritual matters and objects of the will.According to Strigel’s theory, says Seeberg, “the will must be free even in the first moment of conversion, free not only in the psychological, but also in the moral sense.” (4, 492.) Tschackert, quoting Seeberg remarks that Strigel transformed the natural formal liberty into an ethical material liberty-“indem die natuerliche formale Freiheit sich ihm unter der Hand [?] verwandelte in die ethische materiale Freiheit.” (524.)
162. Strigel’s Semi-Pelagianism.
Strigel’s entire position is based on the error that a remnant of spiritual ability still remains in natural man. True, he taught that in consequence of original sin the powers of man and the proper use and exercise of these powers are greatly impeded, weakened, checked, and insulated, as it were, and that this impediment can be removed solely by the operation of the Holy Spirit. “Through the Word the Holy Spirit restores to the will the power and faculty of believing,” Strigel declared. (Luthardt, 250.) But this restoration, he said, was brought about by liberating, arousing, inciting, and strengthening the powers inherent in man rather than by divine impartation of new spiritual powers or by the creation of a new good volition Strigel plainly denied that natural man is truly spiritually dead. He declared: “The will is so created that it can expel the Holy Spirit and the Word, or, when assisted by the Holy Spirit, can in some manner will and obey-to receive is the act of the will; in this I cannot concede that man is simply dead-accipere est hominis; in hoc non possum concedere simpliciter mortuum esse hominem.” (Frank 1, 199.) Natural man, Strigel explained, is indeed not able to grasp the helping hand of God with his own hand; yet the latter is not dead, but still retains a minimum of power. (678.) Again: Man is like a new-born child, whose powers must first be strengthened with nourishment given it by its mother, and which, though able to draw this nourishment out of its mother’s breast, is yet unable to lift itself up to it, or to take hold of the breast, unless it be given it. (Preger 2, 209.)
With special reference to the last illustration, Flacius declared: “Strigel, accordingly, holds that we have the faculty to desire and receive the food, i.e., the benefits of God. Forsooth, you thereby attribute to corrupt man a very great power with respect to spiritual things. Now, then, deny that this opinion is Pelagian.” (209.) “Your statements agree with those of Pelagius, yet I do not simply say that you are a Pelagian; for a good man may fall into an error which he does not see.” Pelagius held that man, by his natural powers, is able to begin and complete his own conversion; Cassianus, the Semi-Pelagian taught that man is able merely to begin this work; Strigel maintained that man can admit the liberating operation of the Holy Spirit, and that after such operation of the Spirit he is able to cooperate with his natural powers.Evidently, then, the verdict of Flacius was not much beside the mark. Planck though unwilling to relegate Strigel to the Pelagians, does not hesitate to put him down as a thoroughgoing Synergist. (Planck 4, 683f.) Synergism, however, always includes at least an element of Pelagianism.
Strigel illustrated his idea by the following analogy. When garlic-juice is applied to a magnet, it loses its power of attraction, but remains a true magnet, and, when goat’s blood is applied, immediately regains its efficaciousness. So the will of man is hindered by original sin from beginning that which is good; but when the impediment has been removed through the operation of the Holy Spirit, the native powers of the will again become efficacious and active. (Tschackert, 524; Planck 4, 672; Preger 2, 198; Luthardt, 211.) Frank remarks: “The example of the temporarily impeded power of the magnet, which was repeated also at this juncture [in the disputation at Weimar], immediately points to the related papal doctrine, for the Catholic Andradius explains the dogma of the Tridentinum to this effect: The free will of natural man may be compared to a chained prisoner who, though still in possession of his locomotive powers, is nevertheless impeded by his fetters.” (1, 136.) Also the Formula of Concord, evidently with a squint at Strigel, rejects as a Pelagian error the teaching “that original sin is not a despoliation or deficiency but only an external impediment to these spiritual good powers, as when a magnet is smeared with garlic-juice, whereby its natural power is not removed, but only hindered or that this stain can be easily washed away as a spot from the face or a pigment from the wall.” (865, 22.)
163. Strigel’s “Cooperation.”
When the impediment caused by original sin has been removed, and the will liberated and aroused to activity, man, according to Strigel, is able also to cooperate in his conversion. At Weimar he formulated the point at issue as follows: “The question is whether [in conversion] the will is present idle, as an inactive, indolent subject, or, as the common saying is, in a purely passive way; or whether, when grace precedes, the will follows the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, and in some manner assents-an vero praeeunte gratia voluntas comitetur efficaciam Spiritus Sancti et aliquo modo annuat.” (Luthardt, 222.) Following are some of his answers to this question:When incited by the Spirit, the will is able to assent somewhat and to pray for assistance. Inter trepidationem utcumque assentitur, simul petens auxilium. Contrition and faith, as well as other virtues, are gifts of God, “but they are given to those only who hear and contemplate God’s Word, embrace it by assenting to it, strive against their doubts and in this conflict pray for the help of God.” (230.) The Holy Ghost converts those “who hear the Word of God and do not resist stubbornly, but consent,” and God assists such only “as follow His call and pray for assistance.” (229.) “The will and heart do not resist altogether, but desire divine consolation, when, indeed, they are assisted by the Holy Ghost.““The will is neither idle nor contumacious; but, in a manner, desires to obey.” (Planck 4, 682.) “Man is dead [spiritually] in as far as he is not able to heal his wounds with his own powers; but when the remedy is offered him by the Holy Spirit and the Word, then he, at least in receiving the benefit, is not altogether dead; for otherwise a conversion could not occur. For I cannot conceive a conversion where the process is that of the flame consuming straw (denn ich kann mir keine Bekehrung vorstellen, bei der es zugeht, wie wenn die Flamme das Stroh ergreift). The nature of the will is such that it can reject the Holy Spirit and the Word; or, being supported by the Holy Spirit, can in a manner will and obey. The remedy is heavenly and divine, but the will- not the will alone, but the will supported by the Holy Spirit-is able to accept it. One must ascribe at least a feeble consent and an ．Aye' to the will, which is already supported by the Holy Spirit.” (Preger 2, 208.) “In a betrothal, consent is necessary; conversion is a betrothal of Christ to the Church and its individual members; hence consent is required,” which the will is able to give when assisted by the Holy Spirit. (Luthardt, 224.)
It is, however, only a languid, wavering, and weak consent which man is able to render (qualiscumque assensio languida, trepida et imbecilla).“Compared with the divine operation,” Flacius reports Strigel as having said, “the cooperation of our powers in conversion is something extremely small (quiddam pertenue prorsus). If, after drinking with a rich man, he paying a taler and I a heller, I would afterwards boast that I had been drinking and paying with him-such is cooperation, talis est synergia.” (Planck 4, 677; Luthardt, 220. 222.) According to Strigel, therefore, man is not purely passive, but plays an active part in his conversion. With Melanchthon and Pfeffinger he maintained: “These three concur in conversion: the Holy Spirit, who moves the hearts; the voice of God; the will of man, which assents to the divine voice. Concurrunt in conversione haec tria: Spiritus Sanctus movens corda, vow Dei, voluntas hominis, quae voci divinae assentitur.” (Tschackert, 524.)
Flacius declared with respect to the issue formulated by Strigel: “I explain my entire view as follows:Man is purely passive (homo se habet pure passive). If you consider the native faculty of the will, its willing and its powers, then he is purely passive when he receives (in accipiendo). But if that divinely bestowed willing or spark of faith kindled by the Spirit is considered, then this imparted willing and this spark is not purely passive. But the Adamic will does not only not operate or cooperate, but, according to the inborn malice of the heart, even operates contrarily (1).” (Planck 4, 697.) Thus Flacius clearly distinguished between cooperation before conversion (which he rejected absolutely) and cooperation after conversion (which he allowed). And pressing this point, he said to Strigel: “I ask whether you say that the will cooperates before the gift of faith or after faith has been received whether you say that the will cooperates from natural powers, or in so far as the good volition has been bestowed by the renovation of the Holy Spirit. Quaero, an dicas, voluntatem cooperari ante donum fidei aut post acceptam fidem; an dicas, cooperari ex naturalibus viribus aut quatenus ex renovatione Spiritus Sancti datum est bene velle.” (Seeberg 4, 492.) Again: I shall withdraw the charge of Pelagianism if you will declare it as your opinion “that only the regenerated, sanctified, renewed will cooperates, and not the other human, carnal, natural will.““Confess openly and expressly and say clearly: ．I affirm that man cooperates from faith and the good will bestowed by God, not from the will he brings with him from his natural Adam- quod homo cooperetur ex fide et bono velle divinitus donato, non ex eo, quod attulit ex suo naturali Adamo.' " “We say, Only the regenerate will cooperates; if you [Strigel] say the same, the controversy is at an end.” Strigel, however, who, to use a phrase of Luther (St. L. 18, 1673), was just as hard to catch as Proteus of old, did not reply with a definite yes or no, but repeated that it was only a weak assent (qualiscumque assensio languida trepida et imbecilla) which man was able to render when his will was incited and supported by the prevenient grace of the Holy Spirit. (Preger 2, 217; Luthardt, 217. 222. 227; Frank 1, 115.)
At Weimar, Strigel insisted: The human will must not be eliminated as one of the causes of conversion; for without man’s will and intellect no conversion is possible. Flacius replied: The will, indeed, is present in conversion, for it is the will that is converted and experiences conversion; but the inborn power of the natural will contributes nothing to conversion, and therefore the will “is purely passive in the reception of grace.” (Preger 2, 217.) “We are pressed hard with the sophistical objection that man is not converted without his knowledge and will. But who doubts this? The entire question is: Whence does that good knowledge originate? Whence does that good volition originate?” (216.) “We certainly admit that in conversion there are many motions of the intellect and will, good and bad. But the dispute among us is not whether in conversion the intellect understands and the will wills; but whence is the capability to think right, and whence is that good willing of the will? Is it of us, as of ourselves, or is this sufficiency of willing and thinking of God alone?” (Planck 4, 711.) The fact that God alone converts man, said Flacius, “does not exclude the presence of the will; but it does exclude all efficaciousness and operation of the natural will in conversion (non excludit voluntatem, ne adsit, sed excludit omnem efficaciam et operationem naturalise voluntatis in conversione).” (Seeberg 4, 492.)
In order to prove man’s cooperation in conversion, Strigel declared: “Both [to will and to perform] are in some way acts of God and of ourselves; for no willing and performing takes place unless we will. Utrumque [velle et perficere] aliquo modo Dei et nostrum est non fit velle aut perficere nisi nobis volentibus.” Charging Strigel with ambiguity, Flacius replied: “You speak of one kind of synergism and we of another.You cannot affirm with a good conscience that these questions are unknown to you.“Strigel,protesting that he was unable to see the difference, answered: “For God’s sake, have a little forbearance with me, I cannot see the difference. If that is to my discredit, let it be to my discredit.-Bitte um Gottes willen, man wolle mir’s zugut halten; ich kann’s nicht ausmessen. Ist mir’s eine Schand', so sei mir’s eine Schand'.” (Frank 1, 136.) Strigel, however, evidently meant that man, too, has a share in producing the good volition, while Flacius understood the phraseology as Luther and Augustine explained it, the latter, e.g., writing in De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio: “It is certain that we will when we will; but He who makes us will is He of whom it is written: It is God who worketh in us to will. Certum est nos velle cum volumus; sed ille facit, ut velimus, de quo_____________Deus est, qui operatur in nobis velle.” (Frank 1, 238.) In his objections to the doctrine that man is purely passive in his conversion, Strigel protested again and again that man is not like a block or stone when he is converted. “That is true,” said Flacius, “for a block can neither love nor hate God, while man by nature hates God, and scoffs at Him. Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 2. Thus God is dealing with one whose will and heart is altogether against Him.But here [in the denial that man is purely passive in conversion] is buried a popish meritum de congruo and a particle of free will.” (Preger 2, 191.) Flacius furthermore explained that in his conversion man is able to cooperate just as little as a stone can contribute to its transformation into a statue. Indeed, man’s condition is even more miserable than that of a stone or block (miserior trunco), because by his natural powers he resists, and cannot but resist, the operations of the Spirit. (Planck 4, 696f.)
Strigel reasoned: If man is converted without his consent, and if he cannot but resist the operations of the Holy Spirit, conversion is an impossibility, a contradiction. He said:“If the will, even when assisted by the Holy Spirit, is unable to assent, it must of necessity resist Him perpetually, drive out, reject, and repudiate the Word and Holy Spirit; for it is impossible that motions extremely conflicting and contradictory, the one embracing, the other repudiating and persistently rejecting, should be in the same will. Si voluntas etiam adiuta a Spiritu Sancto non potest assentiri, necesse est, ut perpetuo ei repugnet, ut excutiat, reiiciat et repudiet Verbum et Spiritum Sanctum. Nam impossibile est in eadem voluntate esse motus extreme pugnantes et contradictorios, quorum alter est amplecti, alter repudiare et quidem perstare in reiectione.” Flacius replied: You need but distinguish between the sinful natural will inherited from Adam, which always resists, and the new consenting will implanted by God in conversion. “Man consents with the faith given by God, but he resists with the inborn wickedness of his Old Adam.“Your error is that you acknowledge only an inciting grace, which mere incitation presupposes powers of one’s own to do and to perform (talis incitatio includit proprias vires ad perficiendum). “I plead,” said Flacius, “that by original sin man is not only wounded, but, as the Scriptures affirm, entirely dead, and his faculties to do that which is good have been destroyed; on the other hand, however, he is alive and vigorous toward evil (hominem … penitus esse mortuum, extinctum et interfectum ad bonum et contra insuper vivum et vigentem ad malum).““The will is free with respect to things beneath itself, but not with respect to things above itself. In spiritual matters it is a servant of Satan.“Hence, said Flacius, in order to cooperate, new spiritual life must first be imparted to, and created in, man by the grace of God. (Planck 4, 693ff.; Frank 1, 224ff., Luthardt, 224; Preger 2, 216)
Strigel argued: If man is able only to sin and to resist the grace of God, he cannot be held accountable for his actions. But Flacius replied: “Also the non-regenerate are justly accused [made responsible for their actions] for with the remnant of the carnal liberty they are able at least to observe external decency (Zucht), which God earnestly demands of us, for example, to hear God’s Word, to go to church more frequently than into the tavern.““Furthermore, there are many carnal transgressions in which natural man could have done something which he has not done.” “God may justly hold us responsible also with respect to things which we are unable to do because He has bestowed uninjured powers upon the human race, which, though forewarned, man has shamefully lost through his own fault.” (Preger 2, 214f.)
Time and again Strigel told Flacius that according to his doctrine man is coerced to sin and compelled to resist the grace of God. But the latter replied: As far as his own powers are concerned, the natural will of man indeed sins and resists inevitably and of necessity (voluntas repugnat necessario et inevitabiliter), but not by coercion or compulsion. Necessity to resist (necessitas repugnandi), Flacius explained, does not involve coercion to resist (coactio repugnandi), since there is such a thing as a necessity of immutability (necessitas immutabilitatis), that is to say,man may be unable to act otherwise and yet act willingly. The impossibility of being able to will otherwise than one really wills, does, according to Flacius, not at all involve coercion or compulsion. The holy angels are free from compulsion, although they cannot sin or fall any more. It is the highest degree of freedom and Christian perfection when, in the life to come, our will to remain in union with God is elevated to immutability of so willing. Again, though Satan cannot but sin, yet he is not coerced to sin. Thus too, of his own powers, natural man is able only to resist grace, yet there is no compulsion involved. The fact, therefore, that natural man cannot but sin and resist grace does not warrant the inference that he is compelled to sin; nor does the fact that natural man is not coerced to resist prove that he is able also to assent to grace. The fact, said Flacius, that the wicked willingly will, think, and do only what pleases Satan does not prove an ability to will in the opposite spiritual direction, but merely reveals the terrible extent of Satan’s tyrannical power over natural man. (Luthardt 224. 231.) According to Flacius the will always wills willingly when it wills and what it wills. In brief: The categories “coercion” and “compulsion” cannot be applied to the will. This, however, does not imply that God is not able to create or restore a good will without coercion or compulsion. There was no coercion or compulsion involved when God, creating Adam,Eve, and the angels, endowed them with a good will. Nor is there any such thing as coercion or compulsion when God, in conversion, bestows faith and a good will upon man.
In his statements on the freedom of the will, Flacius merely repeated what Luther had written before him, in De Servo Arbitrio: “For if it is not we, but God alone, who works salvation in us, then nothing that we do previous to His work, whether we will or not, is salutary. But when I say,．by necessity,' I do not mean by coercion, but, as they say by the necessity of immutability, not by necessity of coercion, i.e., man, destitute of the Spirit of God, does not sin perforce, as though seized by the neck [stretched upon the rack] nor unwillingly, as a thief or robber is led to his punishment but spontaneously and willingly. And by his own strength he cannot omit, restrain, or change this desire or willingness to sin, but continues to will it and to find pleasure in it. For even if he is compelled by force, outwardly to do something else, within, the will nevertheless remains averse, and rages against him who compels or resists it.For if it were changed and willingly yielded to force, it would not be angry.And this we call the necessity of immutability, i.e., the will cannot change itself and turn to something else, but is rather provoked to will more intensely by being resisted, as is proved by its indignation. Si enim non nos, sed solus Deus operatur salutem in nobis, nihil ante opus eius operamur salutare, velimus nolimus. Necessario vero dico, NON COACTE, sed, ut illi dicunt, necessitate immutabilitatis, NONCOACTIONIS; id est homo cum vacat Spiritu Dei, NON QUIDEM VIOLENTIA, velut raptus obtorto collo, NOLENS facit peccatum, quemadmodum fur aut latro nolens ad poenam ducitur, sed sponte et libenti voluntate facit. Verum hanc libentiam seu voluntatem faciendi non potest suis viribus omittere, coercere aut mutare, sed pergit volendo et lubendo; etiamsi ad extra cogatur aliud facere per vim, tamen voluntas intus manet aversa et indignatur cogenti aut resistenti. Non enim indignaretur, si mutaretur ac volens vim sequeretur. Hoc vocamus modo necessitatem immutabilitatis, id est, quod voluntas sese mutare et vertere alio non possit, sed potius irritetur magis ad volendum, dum ei resistitur, quod probat eius indignatio.” (E. v. a. 7, 155f. 134. 157; St. L. 18 1717. 1692. 1718.)
Flacius was also charged with teaching that “man is converted resisting (hominem converti repugnantem).” In their Confession and Opinion Concerning Free Will, of 1561, the Wittenberg theologians repeated the assertion that Flacius taught “converti hominem… repugnantem et hostiliter Deo convertenti adversantem.” (Planck 4, 688.) But Flacius protested: “I do not simply say that man is converted resisting (hominem repugnantem converti). But I say that he resists with respect to his natural and carnal free will.” “It is not denied that God converts us as willing and understanding (quin Deus nos convertat volentes et intelligentes), but willing and understanding not from the Old Adam but from the light given by God and from the good volition bestowed through the Word and the Holy Spirit.” (692.) “Man is converted or drawn by the Father to the Son not as a thief is cast into prison, but in such a manner that his evil will is changed into a good will by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Preger 2, 218.) It is the very essence of conversion that by the grace of God unwilling men are made willing.
In support of his error that natural man is able to cooperate in his conversion Strigel appealed to Rom. 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities,” etc., and appealing to the Augustana for the correctness of his interpretation, he declared that this passage proves that one may speak of a languid and weak assent in man even before he is endowed with faith. Flacius replied that this Bible-passage referred to such only as are already converted, and that Strigel’s interpretation was found not in the original Augustana, but in the Variata.-From the admonition 2 Cor. 5, 20:“Be ye reconciled to God,” Strigel inferred that free will must to a certain extent be capable of accepting the grace offered by God. Flacius answered that it was a logical fallacy, conflicting also with the clear Word of God, to conclude that man by his own powers is able to perform something because God demands it and admonishes and urges us to do it.-From Acts 5, 32: " … the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him,” Strigel argued that the will is able to consent to the Holy Spirit. But Flacius rejoined that this passage refers to special gifts bestowed upon such as are already converted.-In support of his synergism, Strigel also appealed to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, who himself repented and returned to his father. But Flacius answered: If every detail of this parable taken from every-day life were to be interpreted in such a manner, Strigel would have to abandon his own teaching concerning prevenient grace, since according to the parable the repentance and return of the son precedes the grace bestowed by the father. (Preger 2, 210f.)
165. Teaching of the Anti-Synergists.
While the Philippists, also in the Synergistic Controversy, endeavored to supplant the authority and doctrine of Luther by that ofMelanchthon, their opponents, Amsdorf, Flacius,Wigand, Hesshusius, and others (though not always fortunate in the choice of their phraseology), stood four-square on Luther’s teaching of the sola gratia, which, they were fully convinced, was nothing but the pure truth of the Gospel itself. They maintained that, as a result of the Fall, man has lost his original holiness and righteousness or the image of God; that both as to his intellect and will he is totally corrupt spiritually; that of his own powers he is utterly unable to think or will anything that is truly good; that not a spark of spiritual life is found in natural man by virtue of which he might assent to the Gospel or cooperate with the Holy Spirit in his conversion; that his carnal mind is enmity toward God; that of his own powers he is active only in resisting the work of the Holy Spirit, nor is he able to do otherwise; that such resistance continues until he is converted and a new will and heart have been created in him; that conversion consists in this, that men who by nature are unwilling and resist God’s grace become such as willingly consent and obey the Gospel and the Holy Spirit; that this is done solely by God’s grace, through Word and Sacrament; that man is purely passive in his conversion, inasmuch as he contributes nothing towards it, and merely suffers and experiences the work of the Holy Spirit; that only after his conversion man is able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit; that such cooperation, however, flows not from innate powers of the natural will, but from the new powers imparted in conversion; that also in the converted the natural sinful will continues to oppose whatever is truly good, thus causing a conflict between the flesh and the spirit which lasts till death; in brief, that man’s conversion and salvation are due to grace alone and in no respect whatever to man and his natural powers.
The Book of Confutation, of 1559, drafted, as stated above, by the theologians of Jena, designates the synergistic dogma as a “rejection of grace.“Here we also meet with statements such as the following: Human nature “is altogether turned aside from God, and is hostile toward Him and subject to the tyranny of sin and Satan (naturam humanam prorsus a Deo aversam eique inimicam et tyrannidi peccati ac Satanae subiectam esse).” It is impossible for the unregenerate man “to understand or to apprehend the will of God revealed in the Word, or by his own power to convert himself to God and to will or perform anything good (homini non renato impossibile esse intelligere aut apprehendere voluntatem Dei in Verbo patefactam aut sua ipsius voluntate ad Deum se convertere, boni aliquid velle aut perficere).““Our will to obey God or to choose the good is utterly extinguished and corrupted. Voluntas nostra ad Dei obedientiam aut ad bonum eligendum prorsus extincta et depravata est.” (Tschackert, 523; Gieseler 3, 2, 229.)
The second of the Propositions prepared by Simon Musaeus and Flacius for the Disputation at Weimar, 1560, reads: “Corrupt man cannot operate or cooperate toward anything good by true motions, and such as proceed from the heart; for his heart is altogether dead spiritually, and has utterly lost the image of God, or all powers and inclinations toward that which is good. Homo corruptus nihil boni potest veris ac ex corde proficiscentibus motibus operari aut cooperari, nom plane est spiritualiter mortuus et Dei imaginem seu omnes bonas vires et inclinationes prorsus amisit.” The third: Not only “has he lost entirely all good powers, but, in addition, he has also acquired contrary and most evil powers, … so that, of necessity or inevitably, he constantly and vehemently opposes God and true piety ita ut necessario seu inevitabiliter Deo ac verae pietati semper et vehementer adversetur.” The fourth thesis states that God alone, through His Word and the Holy Spirit, converts, draws, and illumines man, kindles faith, justifies, renews, and creates him unto good works, while natural or Adamic free will is of itself not only inactive, but resists (non solum non cooperante ex se naturali aut Adamico libero arbitrio, sed etiam contra furente ac fremente). (Planck 4, 692; Gieseler 3, 2, 245.)
The same position was occupied by the Mansfeld ministers in a statement of August 20, 1562, and by Hesshusius in his Confutation of the Arguments by which the Synergists Endeavor to Defend Their Error Concerning the Powers of the Dead Free Will. They held that in his conversion man is purely passive and has no mode of action whatever; that he is but the passive subject who is to be converted (subiectam patiens, subiectum convertendum); that he contributes no more to his conversion than an infant to its own formation in the womb of its mother; that he is passive, like a block, inasmuch as he does not in any way cooperate, but at the same time differs from, and is worse than, a block, because he is active in resisting the Holy Spirit until he has been converted. The Confession presented by the theologians of Ducal Saxony (Wigand, Coelestinus, Irenaeus, Rosinus, Kirchner, etc.) at the Altenburg Colloquy March, 1569, occupies the same doctrinal position. As stated before, these theologians made it a special point also to declare their agreement with Luther’s book De Servo Arbitrio. (Schluesselburg 5, 316. 133.)
166.Attitude of Formula of Concord.
The second article of the Formula of Concord, which decided the questions involved in the Synergistic Controversy, takes a clear, determined, and consistent stand against all forms and formulas of synergism. At the same time it avoids all extravagant, improper, offensive, and inadequate terms and phrases, as well as the numerous pitfalls lurking everywhere in the questions concerning free will, against which also some of the opponents of the Synergists had not always sufficiently been on their guard. Article II teaches “that original sin is an unspeakable evil and such an entire corruption of human nature that in it and all its internal and external powers nothing pure or good remains, but everything is entirely corrupt, so that on account of original sin man is in God’s sight truly spiritually dead, with all his powers dead to that which is good (dass der Mensch durch die Erbsuende wahrhaftig vor Gott geistlich tot und zum Guten mit allen seinen Kraeften erstorben sei) “(CONC. TRIGL. 879, 60); “that in spiritual and divine things the intellect, heart, and will of the unregenerate man are utterly unable, by their own natural powers, to understand, believe, accept, think, will, begin, effect, work, or concur in working, anything, but they are entirely dead to what is good, and corrupt, so that in man’s nature since the Fall, before regeneration, there is not the least spark of spiritual power remaining, nor present, by which, of himself, he can prepare himself for God’s grace, or accept the offered grace, nor be capable of it for and of himself, or apply or accommodate himself thereto, or by his own powers be able of himself, as of himself, to aid, do, work, or concur in working anything towards his conversion either wholly, or half, or in any, even the least or most inconsiderable part; but that he is the servant [and slave] of sin, John 8, 34, and a captive of the devil, by whom he is moved, Eph. 2, 2; 2 Tim. 2, 26. Hence natural free will according to its perverted disposition and nature is strong and active only with respect to what is displeasing and contrary to God” (883, 7; 887, 17); that “before man is enlightened, converted, regenerated, renewed and drawn by the Holy Spirit he can of himself and of his own natural powers begin work,or concur in working in spiritual things and in his own conversion or regeneration just as little as a stone or a block or clay.” (891, 24)-that, moreover, “in this respect” [inasmuch as man resists the Holy Spirit] “it may well be said that man is not a stone or block, for a stone or block does not resist the person who moves it, nor does it understand and is sensible of what is being done with it, as man with his will so long resists God the Lord until he is converted (donec ad Deum conversus fuerit)” (905, 59); that “the Holy Scriptures ascribe conversion, faith in Christ, regeneration, renewal, and all that belongs to their efficacious beginning and completion, not to the human powers of the natural free will, neither entirely, nor half nor in any, even the least or most inconsiderable part, but in solidum, that is, entirely and solely, to the divine working and the Holy Spirit” (891, 25); that “the preaching and hearing of God’s Word are instruments of the Holy Ghost, by, with, and through which He desires to work efficaciously, and to convert men to God, and to work in them both to will and to do” (901, 52); that “as soon as the Holy Ghost … has begun in us this His work of regeneration and renewal, it is certain that through the power of the Holy Ghost we can and should cooperate (mitwirken), although still in great weakness” (907, 65); that this cooperation, however, “does not occur from our carnal natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts which the Holy Ghost has begun in us in conversion,” and “is to be understood in no other way than that the converted man does good to such an extent and so long as God by His Holy Spirit rules, guides, and leads him, and that as soon as God would withdraw His gracious hand from him, he could not for a moment persevere in obedience to God,” and that hence it is not a power independent from, and coordinated with, the Holy Spirit, as though “the converted man cooperated with the Holy Ghost in the manner as when two horses together draw a wagon” (907, 66); and finally, that as to the three-concurring-causes doctrine it is “manifest, from the explanations presented that conversion to God is a work of God the Holy Ghost alone, who is the true Master that alone works this in us, for which He uses the preaching and hearing ofHis holy Word as His ordinary means and instrument. But the intellect and will of the unregenerate man are nothing else than subiectum convertendum, that is, that which is to be converted, it being the intellect and will of a spiritually dead man, in whom the Holy Ghost works conversion and renewal, towards which work man’s will that is to be converted does nothing, but suffers God alone to work in him until he is regenerated and then he [cooperates] works also with the Holy Ghost that which is pleasing to God in other good works that follow in the way and to the extent fully set forth above” (915, 90).
It has been said that originally also the Formula of Concord in its Torgau draft (Das Torgausche Buch, i.e., the draft preceding the Bergic Book = Formula of Concord) contained the three-concurring-causes doctrine ofMelanchthon and the Synergists.As a matter of fact, however, the Torgau Book does not speak of three causes of conversion, but of three causes in those who are already converted,-a doctrine entirely in agreement with the Formula of Concord, which, as shown, plainly teaches that after conversion the will of man also cooperates with the Holy Spirit. In the Torgau Book the passage in question reads: “Thus also three causes concur to effect this internal new obedience in the converted. The first and chief cause is God Father, Son, and Holy Ghost … The second is God’s Word … The third is man’s intellect, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, which ponders and understands God’s command [threat and promise], and our new and regenerate will, which is governed by the Holy Spirit, and now desires with a glad and willing heart (herzlich gern und willig), though in great weakness, to submit to, and obey, the Word and will of God.” In the same sense, at the colloquy in AItenburg, 1568 to 1569, the Jena theologians also mentioned as a “third cause” “the mind of man, which is regenerated and renewed, and yields to, and obeys, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (des Menschen Gemuet, so wiedergeboren und erneuert ist und dem Heiligen Geiste und Gottes Wort Folge tut und gehorsam ist).” (Frank 1, 214f.)