Bondage of the Will – Other Old Testament Passages, and the Imperative and Indicative Moods (WA 676-680)

Just_out_of_reach[1]Another passage is quoted by our Diatribe, from Gen. 4(:7),
where the Lord says to Cain: “The desire of sin shall be under A
thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it.” 37 It is shown her:.
says Diatribe, that the motions of the mind toward evil can bc
overcome, and that they do not carry with them the necessity if
sinning. (E., p. 54.) This statement, that the motions of the mir!
toward evil can be overcome, is ambiguous; but the whole tent!
of the sentence, the inference and the facts themselves, compel U
to take it as meaning that it is the business of free choice D
overcome its own motions toward evil, and that these motions be
not carry with them the necessity of sinning. Once again, what i
omitted here as not attributed to free choice? What need is thx
of the Spirit or of Christ or of God if free choice can over
the motions of the mind toward evil? Where, again, is the y
able opinion which says that free choice cannot even will »
Yet here the victory over evil is attributed to that which neither
wills nor wishes anything good! It is really too, too thoughtless
our Diatribe.
Here is the truth of the matter in a nutshell. As I have said,
such sayings man is shown what he ought to do, not what he can
d0. Cain therefore is being told that he ought to master sin and
keep its appetite under his control; but this he neither did nor
could do, as he was already held down under the alien yoke of
Satan. For it is well known that the Hebrews frequently use the
future indicative for the imperative, as in Ex. 2o(:g, 13 f.): “Thou
shalt have none other gods”; “Thou shalt not kill”; “Thou shalt
not commit adultery”; and countless similar instances. Otherwise,
if they were taken indicatively (as they are expressed) , they would
be promises of God, and since God cannot lie, the result would be
that no man would sin, and then there would be no need of them
as precepts. Hence our translator would have rendered this passage
more correctly thus: “Let its appetite be subject to thee, and do
thou master it,” just as he should also have said regarding the
woman: “Be thou subject to thy husband, and let him have do-
minion over thee” (Gen. gz 16). That it was not spoken indicatively
to Cain is proved by the fact that it would then have been a divine
promise; but it was not a promise, because the very reverse hap-
pened and was done by Cain.
The third passage is from Moses: “I have set before your face
the way of life and of death. Choose what is good,” etc. (Deut.
30:15, ig). What, says Diatribe, could be put more plainly? God
leaves man freedom to choose. I reply: What is more plain than
that you are blind here? How, pray, does he leave freedom to
choose? By saying, “Choose”? Do they then choose as soon as Moses
says, “Choose”? Then once more the Spirit is not necessary. And
seeing you so often repeat and hammer away at the same things,
it will be permissible for me too to go over the same things again
and again. If there is freedom of choice, why has the “probable
opinion” said that free choice cannot will good? Can it choose
without willing or against its will? But let us listen to your simile.
It would be ridiculous, you say, to say to a man standing at a
crossroad, “You see these two roads; take which you like,” when
only one was open to him.

Martin Luther
p.188-189

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