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117 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest I have ever read!
Some will see this book as nothing more than Martin Luther's combative apologetic against the doctrine of free will and works salvation. But this is precisely why this book ranks among the best ever written because it passionately, logically, and decisively deals with the error concerning free will and the error adding any human merit to salvation. The subject matter...
Published on December 6, 1998

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great book, but not for everybody
Happy Birthday to Martin Luther's friend, John Calvin.

I purchased The Bondage of the Will, translated by J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, copyright 1957, published by Revell, a divison of Baker Publishing Group, paperback. I could not find this exact edition on Amazon.

The Bondage of the Will is a wonderful book, but not everybody will enjoy it or...
Published on July 10, 2009 by Stephen Bang


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117 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest I have ever read!, December 6, 1998
By A Customer
Some will see this book as nothing more than Martin Luther's combative apologetic against the doctrine of free will and works salvation. But this is precisely why this book ranks among the best ever written because it passionately, logically, and decisively deals with the error concerning free will and the error adding any human merit to salvation. The subject matter according to Luther is "the hinge on which the whole gospel turns". Luther himself said that this was perhaps his greatest work. I found my own logical attempts to resolve to free will controversy pinned to the mat by Luther's irrefutable logic and accurate use of the scriptures. This book should be a standard text in bible schools and seminaries. This book left me with the impression that the modern church as robbed God of His glory by insisting that a believer merits salvation because he/she was smart enough or had will enough to make a decision for Christ. In some ways it makes me realize that we have abandoned the true gospel in favor of a man-centered, warm-fuzzy, gospel. Read this book!!!!
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buy Packer & Johnston's translation - not Henry Cole's, February 4, 2006
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D. Mohr "mohrd3" (Tucson, AZ United States) - See all my reviews
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WARNING - Do not buy Sovereign Grace Publishers Henry Cole translation of Bondage of the Will.

After slogging through 95 pages of its barely understandable jargon, I asked my dad, Pastor Gerry Mohr (LCMS) if Luther's reputation for intellect was, perhaps, a bit unearned. He replied, "Cole whipped out his translation effort in three months or less. Luther's original is a direct reply to a work by Erasmus directly aimed against what Luther was teaching. Cole does not take the time to understand either Erasmus or Luther; he gets a quick job finished. Good translation is not generally done like that. And Cole does not convey well the arguments and language of Luther in English.

"Read the translation by Packer & Johnston. These translators say, "This edition was originally to have been a revision of Cole's. It became evident, however, that the tortuous style of this translation so obscured the meaning and force of the original that it was better to attempt a completely new translation, which might more adequately convey the impetuous flow and dialectical strength of Luther's powerful Latin."

"Packer & Johnston (who are Reformed, not Lutheran) say in their introduction, "This, then, is the Luther whom we meet in The Bondage of the Will: a great-hearted Christian warrior; a thorough exegete (he wins the battle of the texts hands down); a profound systematic theologian; and above all, an unflinching defender of the grace of a sovereign God.""
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115 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still a Masterpiece, February 18, 2003
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Seth Aaron Lowry (Olean, NY United States) - See all my reviews
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There are few books which written over 400 years ago are still applicable today; Martin Luther's masterpiece, The Boncage of the Will, is one of those books. Anyone desiring to know more about the root of dissent between Luther and the Catholic Church must read this book.
In his treatise Luther systematically demolishes Erasmus' arguments in favor of free-will. Luther brilliantly illustrates why the will is in total and complete bondage and enslavement to sin, and why free-will is a completely meaningless term. Luther argues that the only thing the will is free to do is to sin and rebel against God.
Luther shows that salvation is totally dependent on the grace of God and His sovereign Will. To say that even a small part of the human will can prepare itself to receive God's grace is an utterly ludricous sentiment. Erasmus believes that a human being by a very small effort can earn God's grace. Luther totally destroys this view and shows that to espouse such a view makes one worse than the Pelagians, who held that it took numerous great works to earn God's grace.
This book is as applicable today as it was when Luther first wrote this book. When so many Protestant Churches hold to a soteriological view more akin to that of Erasmus, it is absolutely vital that the truth of the Reformation be brought back into the spotlight. Read this book to gain a greater understanding of the major area of disagreement among the Reformers and the Catholic Church of the time, and also to understand that our salvation is not predicated on any meritorious work that we accomplish, but simply on the grace of God.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Single Volume on Reformation Theology, August 12, 1999
If you only have the time and/or inclination to read one book on Reformation theology, this is the book to choose. Luther hits the major topics through his discussion of a key issue and manages to speak derisively about his opponents at the same time. This is no dry theology text--not at all. Luther's prose drips with subtle sarcasm and wit--and he expounds his topic simultaneously.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! Luther continually calls Erasmus back to the Word, December 26, 2000
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I believe that anyone who considers themselves a Protestant or is a member of any Protestant church that developed from the Reformation should read this book. This book is known as "the Reformation Manifesto" because it addresses what Luther considered the main disagreement that people of his belief had with the Catholic Church. He called the papacy, indulgences, and other issues such as those, mere trifles. When you read this book, and understand how critical the debate on "free will" vs. total grace is, then you understand why Luther could then say that the other, more dramatic, better-known issues that Reformers took with the Catholic Church were merely "trifles". Those disputes simply stem from the difference in belief that true Protestants have with the Catholic Church when it comes to works and salvation. I only wish our society wasn't so scared to speak as openly and passionately as Luther does here about this issue (and many others) among Christian denominations. Every Protestant should read this book to know what they are truly protesting. And obviously I encourage any other believer or non-believer to read it as well.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An indispensible resource for all Christians, May 30, 2006
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Martin Luther's book The Bondage of the Will is an excellent treatment of a question that is just as relevant in the 21st century as it was at the time of its writing. While the title, the context, the author, and the message may not be immediately appealing to most of today's Christians, the book is not an abstract theological splitting of hairs. It addresses a question that is absolutely central to Christianity: What do individuals contribute to their own salvation? Are we truly saved by the grace of God alone, or is God dependent on our exercising our free-will to do our own part in our salvation?

Luther energetically affirms that the Scriptures clearly teach that man's "salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, cousel, pleasure and work of Another - God alone." The reason that Luther's thesis is as vital today as it was 500 years ago is because human nature, in all places and in all times, is characterized by the tendency to assert its own autonomy from God. Unfortunately, this is as true of Christians as it is of non-Christians. In his book, Luther answers all of the objections brought by Erasmus, carefully considering each passage of Scripture that Erasmus uses, and showing the arbitrary character of his interpretation. He also considers the arguments that Erasmus makes from "human reason", and considers other texts of the Bible that clearly teach the bondage of the will. The tone of Luther's writing in many places may come as a shock to modern ears in the age of sensitivity, but we must not forget that he was answering a point where he knew that the very essence of the gospel was at stake.

Luther's writing, presented in the Packer/Johnston translation, is not difficult to read. I enjoyed the book very much, and even found myself laughing out loud at certain points. I think that all Christians will benefit immensely from reading and thinking about this book. If you are familiar with reformed theology, you will enjoy reading one of the masterpieces of the reformation. If you are unfamiliar with reformed theology, or if you disagree with reformed theology, I would urge you to read and to carefully think about what Luther says in this book, and whether we can with sincerity dismiss what Scripture says about this issue. Think honestly with yourself whether or not it is true that our natural tendency as sinful people is to want to assert our own self-sufficiency in salvation, and to think that we can't really be as bad as God says we are. If you think that things like the freedom or bondage of the will and other such theological doctrines are unimportant, that is exactly what Erasmus thought too, who said in his preface that he finds "little satisfaction in assertions" (doctrines) and "prefer[s] an undogmatic temper to any other". Luther answers this position, too, and shows that if we call ourselves Christians, we cannot ignore assertions that God makes in His Word, and that the doctrine of the bondage of the will is so far from being an abstract and inconsequential bit of theology, that it is actually part of the very foundation of Biblical Christian faith.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura), June 29, 2004
Luther's emphasis on the veracity of God's word and insistance upon interpreting and applying the text plainly is a breath of fresh air in this age of twisted "scholarly" understandings. Luther cuts down Erasmus' arguments for the freedom of Man's will in salvation with the two-edged sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The power, sincerity, and passion of Luther's writing is matched only by the prophets, apostles and our Lord Himself.
No believer should be able to read this book and come away still believing in the total freedom of Man's will. Luther wisely handles the most difficult objections in the same manner as the apostle Paul, answering naysayers with the challenge "who are you to answer back to God?" (Romans 9:20).
The only downfall of the book is that Erasmus' arguments are so weak. Because of this, Luther spends much time refuting the foolish musings of reason and philosophy and therefore has less time to devote to the scripturally-based questions concerning this doctrine of the bondage of the will. Luther proves truly that "the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18).
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paradigm shifting book, April 14, 2000
Aside from the Bible, I would have to say this book has had a greater affect on me than any other. Luther grabs my respect immediately. His passion and use of biblical passages are difficult to ignore, as he speaks with an authority unparalleled by modern writers. Not only is Luther interesting to read, but he speaks as one whose mind and body are saturated in the revealed word of God. Luther does not hide his submission to God, neither in his will nor in his mind. Luther speaks as one who as knowledge of the Bible and whose thoughts are constructed accordingly. Luther consciously brings his mind into obedience with God's revelation to man, and he openly admits the difficulties he has had in doing so. Yet he still submits.
One would be hard pressed to ignore this man's testimony. Luther was a voice that would not go away. His boldness and courage in the face of the church and all its power is evidence enough that Luther had a vision and a drive that could only have been fueled by God. Whether or not you agree with everything Luther says, you will find yourself compelled by the passion, conviction, and boldness of one very unique man.
Luther would want nothing more than to see God glorified in all things and for men to see how true, perfect, and complete the gift of salvation really is.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still a Crippling Indictment of 'Free Will', April 10, 2003
This treatise by Martin Luther laid down in unmistakeable terms a clear line between the Reformers and Rome that has still not been resolved. And while modern readers may be taken aback by the overly polemical tone of Luther, this book nonetheless constitutes the most definitive Reformation era writing on the issue of free will.
Just as the debate between Augustine and Pelagius represented a dividing line that distinguished Christianity from non-Christianity, so this debate between Luther and Erasmus demonstrated just how close the Roman Catholic Church was (and is) to adopting the basic premises of Pelagianism that it had previously and rightly condemned. There is little doubt that Luther's heated passion about the need for reform in the Roman Catholic Church stemmed from the belief that the church was far flung on basic issues of doctrine, free will being one of the biggest.
As is described in the introduction to this book, it is clear that when Erasmus wrote his 'Diatribe' which precipitated this book-length response from Luther, he was writing as a person who was not particularly passionate about the issue and it showed in his writing. Erasmus was uncharacteristically careless in his Diatribe, and Luther makes him pay for it painfully in this book. Repeatedly citing Erasmus's contention/concession that the 'probable' correct view on the human will is that it can do no good, Luther proceeds to systematically dismantle the rest of Erasmus's treatise which contradicts that concession. Basically, Erasmus, like much of present day Arminianism, tried to have it both ways. Unable to deal with the many texts in Scripture describing the sinful state of humanity, they attempt to assert that while man is thoroughly sinful, he really isn't thoroughly sinful and has a free will that defies his sinful nature. It is this basic extrabiblical imperative of Erasmus that Luther destroys here. He eloquently demonstrates that one cannot have it both ways, and that the repeated plain teaching of Scripture militates against the free will imperatives that Erasmus forces onto the text. In particular, Luther is masterful in dealing with the exhortation commands in Scripture and demonstrating that such commands are not indicative of man's ability, but of God's holiness and man's obligation to that holiness - which should clearly lead man to fall at the mercy God's grace once it's clear that his ability cannot satisfy his obligation to God.
One can also get the basics of Luther's view on the law as well. The blueprint of the traditional Lutheran understanding of an antithetical relationship between law and grace can be seen in several places in Luther's book here. Also, it is quite ironic that in certain places in this book, Luther appears to strongly endorse what is known as 'double predestination', which the modern Lutheran church emphatically rejects.
While Luther's critique of the Diatribe is outstanding, the last chapter of this book, which summarizes Luther's own view on free will is perhaps the best part of the book. Here, he does outstanding exegesis on Romans 3 and 4, in addition to selected texts from John that have been the lynchpin of the non-Arminian Protestant position concerning free will and human ability. While I don't think the reader can consider Luther to be the final voice on this issue since the free will debate has evolved and become more nuanced since the writing of this book, it is nonetheless a riveting starting point to studying what the Reformers thought about this issue and to get to the origins of the free will debate.
Erasmus never recovered from the beating he took in this book. Luther was passionate about this issue, and it shows in his writing style and relentless engagement of the issue. While one could do without Luther's polemics, his passion should be a good object lesson for those in the church today who attempt to minimize or paper over critical doctrinal disagreements. To do so is to fundamentally betray the spirit of the Reformation that we draw our spiritual heritage from.
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47 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Luther really was a Calvinist, September 1, 1998
By A Customer
Wow. I first heard of this book mentioned by R. C. Sproul shortly after I read his tome, Classical Apologetics. (Sproul, Gerstner, Lindsley, Zondervan, 1984) which changed my life forever.
God blessed Luther with a find discriminating mind, and while Erasmus was no fool, he was no theologian either. The book is one sided. Luther takes each one of the (corrupted) conventional wisdoms of the Church (at least as Erasmus saw them) and turns it on it's head; how far had mother church come from the days of Augustine, the errors in logic and reason so destructive by the time Luther came on the scene. Luther dispatches the arguments with flourish, and I began to relish each upheaval as I, who had been incorrectly taught over the years, finally found my way. When Luther explains that "free will" is in fact an oxymoron (that is, that will cannot be free), I finally understood the true meaning of Grace - and Calvin's TULIP model. It is a disturbing concept - that we are completely powerless - but one that can not be rationally attacked. With Luther's book to guide you, you can dispatch that argument today as quickly as he did 500 years ago.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to students of church history and those not yet converted to a Reformed faith.
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The Bondage of the Will
The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther (Paperback - November 26, 2010)
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