Luther’s Pastoral Approach to Predestination

Martin Luther was aware of the challenges of certain doctrinal issues. Predestination has always been an area that can produce philosophical anxiety and deep-seated fear. Luther’s pastoral touch is evident in this section from his Table Talk. Notice how he pushes us away from what we can’t know about God to what we can and do know about him.

Concerning predestination, it is best to begin below, at Christ, as then we both hear and find the Father; for all those that have begun at the top have broken their necks. I have been thoroughly plagued and tormented with such cogitations of predestination; I would needs know how God intended to deal with me, etc. But at last, God be praised! I clean left them; I took hold again on God’s revealed Word; higher I was not able to bring it, for a human creature can never search out the celestial will of God; this God hides, for the sake of the devil, to the end the crafty spirit may be deceived and put to confusion. The revealed will of God the devil has learned from us, but God reserves his secret will to himself. It is sufficient for us to learn and know Christ in his humanity, in which the Father has revealed himself.

C.S. Lewis on Predestination

What does C.S. Lewis think about the controversial theme of predestination? With his characteristic wit, he brings a refreshing perspective to the issue.

“On Calvinism, both the statement that our final destination is already settled and the view that it still may be either Heaven or hell, seem to me to imply the ultimate reality of Time, which I don’t believe in. The controversy is one I can’t join on either side for I think that in the real (timeless) world it is meaningless…All that Calvinist question — Free-Will and Predestination, is to my mind undiscussable, insoluble. Of course (say us) if a man repents God will accept him. Ah yes, (say they) but the fact of his repenting shows that God has already moved him to do so. This at any rate leaves us with the fact that in any concrete case the question never arrives as a practical one. But I suspect it is really a meaningless question. The difference between Freedom and Necessity is fairly clear on the bodily level: we know the difference between making our teeth chatter on purpose and just finding them chattering with cold. It begins to be less clear when we talk of human love (leaving out the erotic kind). ‘Do I like him because I choose or because I must?’ — there are cases where this has an answer, but others where it seems to me to mean nothing. When we carry it up to relations between God and Man, has the distinction perhaps become nonsensical? After all, when we are most free, it is only with a freedom God has given us: and when our will is most influenced by Grace, it is still our will. And if what our will does is not ‘voluntary’, and if ‘voluntary’ does not mean ‘free’, what are we talking about? I’d leave it all alone.”