I understand that Martin Luther believed in the redemption of the will to serve God as part of God's redemptive work. Can someone clarify how this differed from Erasmus' viewpoint? I know I could figure this out through self-research, but I'm looking for an abridged version.

2 Answers 2


I don't know how abridged a version can be, since it is a very subtle topic. If you really want to understand it in depth, I recommend "Luther: Right or Wrong" by Harry J. McSorley; I consider it one of the best works in the English language on this topic and soteriology in general. This was a topic that affected me greatly in college and reading this book really revolutionized my understanding of justification and salvation, so I really recommend it. If you want a couple-page overview of the debate, here is a link that provides a lot of the context.

If you want a summary that is so general that people will take immediate exception to it (alas), Erasmus believed that free will played more of a role in salvation than did Luther; Erasmus said free will and God's will played a synergistic role and Luther totally rejected that and said our will is in complete bondage to sin or God.

I will happily add that the different perspectives on salvation were eventually reconciled in the Joint Declaration On The Doctrine of Justification, which heals a lot of this huge theological divide.


Martin Luther of Germany, and Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, were both leaders of the northern humanist movement, along with Thomas More. Luther was a priest and scholar, while Erasmus was a monk. Erasmus' ideas influenced Luther's ideas, for example, Luther translated the New Testament into German, and he worked from Erasmus' text. Because of this, Luther had thought that Erasmus was on his side in the campaign to win the Church reform. However, Erasmus chose to not get caught up in the religious commotion at the time. Because of this, he was hated by people and by the church. Erasmus believed that men have to power to have their own free will, and was hated for it. Luther believed otherwise. In my opinion, times have changed. I believe that men have always had the power to have their own free will (but scarcely acted on it), but before the 20th century the consequences on earth (having to do with religion perhaps and the Church, but not God directly) were grave, such as exile and being despised, like Erasmus. Today, with so many atheists and new science and technology, I believe that free will is essential for human success and survival on Earth, in most cases (not all).

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    Can you present some evidence for this? And a lot of it can be cut out. We don't need a general introduction to who either of them were, and personal opinions are off topic for this question.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 20, 2015 at 22:25
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    Jan 21, 2015 at 0:45

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