De servo arbitrio

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De servo arbitrio (German: "About the enslaved Will" or "From unfree will") is a work by Martin Luther from December 1525. It was written as a reaction to the humanistic doctrine of the Dutchman Erasmus of Rotterdam , in particular to the De libero arbitrio ( September 1524), written and considered one of the most important theological texts of Martin Luther.


Arbitrium is the Latin word for "ability to choose", in contrast to voluntas , which means the will as a powerful emotion.

The theme of Luther's writing is the repeatedly discussed question of Christian thought, whether after the fall man kept the freedom to decide on his own in favor of divine grace, or whether this decision itself was already a gift of grace. With Paul and Augustine and against the optimistic anthropology of humanism , Luther vehemently emphasizes the sole effectiveness of grace. He firmly denied that humans have a free will with regard to the will of God , that is, with regard to what brings about salvation . Only the sovereign will of God decides about eternal salvation or eternal damnation .

“If we believe that it is true that God foreknowledge and foresaw everything, then he can neither be deceived nor hindered in his foreknowledge and predestination, then nothing can happen if he does not want it himself. That is reason itself forced to admit, which at the same time itself testifies that there can be no free will in humans, in angels, or in any other creature. "

Such statements by Luther and his later arguments, among others with Erasmus of Rotterdam, mean that Luther's theology is mostly perceived as predestined . John Calvin followed this theological view. Philipp Melanchthon , on the other hand, sought to be closer to the position of the Catholic Church in his Confessio Augustana (CA 18) .


  • Martin Luther: De servo arbitrio. In: D. Martin Luther's works. Critical complete edition. Volume 18, Weimar 1883ff., Pp. 600–787.
  • Martin Luther: De servo arbitrio. In: Wilfried Härle (Hrsg.): Latin-German study edition 1. Man before God. Leipzig 2006.
  • Martin Luther: On the unfree will. In: Kurt Aland (Ed.): Luther Deutsch. The Reformer's works in a new selection for the present. Volume 3, Stuttgart / Göttingen 1961ff., Pp. 151-334.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Ivo baths Butschle: Brittle foundations. A revision of the doctrine of justification, Lit-Verlag 2017, ISBN 978-3-643-13671-8 , Bäder-Butschle traces Luther's rejection of free will with reference to Augustine and takes a critical position on it.
  2. ^ Translation of De servo arbitrio, accessed on December 2, 2016.