The Heart of Luther’s Theology

At the heart of Luther’s theology was a deep appreciation of the sovereignty of God. When Erasmus attacked Luther in his work On Free Will, Luther responded in The Bondage of the Will with these words of thanks to Erasmus:

Moreover, I give you hearty praise and commendation on this further account – that you alone, in contrast with all the others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with those extraneous issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences and such like – trifles, rather than issues . . . you, and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot. For that I heartily thank you.
Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), 319.

The key area of dispute between Luther and Erasmus was that of who gets to be sovereign in man’s salvation. Erasmus said it is man, Luther said it is God. Luther clearly understood that the issue of God’s sovereignty in salvation was the central issue at stake in his dispute with the Roman Catholic Church’s man-centered theology. For Luther, this was no secondary matter of little importance. It was the “hinge” upon which the entirety of his theology turned.


  1. Luther was incredible. I’ve been reading The Bondage of the Will–very slowly–and it is wonderful to read his answers to Erasmus and see how well they apply to today’s postmodern attitudes.

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