Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Historical Theology

First Advisor

Robert Rosin

Scripture References in this Resource

John 19:33, 36


Heckel, Matthew C. "'His Spear Through My Side into Luther:' Calvin's Relationship to Luther’s Doctrine of the Will." Ph.D. Diss., St. Louis, MO: Concordia Seminary, 2005. 307 pp.

In thesis thirteen of his Disputation Against Scholastic Theology (1518), Luther stated that free choice before grace was a reality in name only and when it does what it can it sins mortally. This statement had a significant impact as it was one of the sparks that ignited Luther's conflict with Rome, as Luther's thesis was singled out for condemnation as the thirty-sixth article of the papal bull Exsurge Domine (1520). Luther responded with his Assertio omnium articulorum(1520), where he claimed that Article 36 was the essence of his reform. Luther's defense of Article 36 later became the subject of Erasmus's Diatribe on Free Choice (1524) and Luther’s response, The Bondage of the Will (1525), made the break with Erasmus complete. Luther continued to have influence beyond the debate as his thought became part of a later contest between another humanist and reformer—that of Albert Pighius and John Calvin. Pighius attacked Luther and Calvin, writing his Ten Books on Free Choice (1542). Calvin answered with The Bondage and Liberation of the Will (1543), not only defending Luther but also claiming to fully agree with him while softening some of his rhetoric. Today, Anthony Lane also challenges Calvin’s claim to solidarity with Luther, holding that Luther's reduction of everything to “absolute necessity" embarrassed Calvin. Lane says that Calvin did not openly disagree with Luther at the time out of a desire to maintain Protestant unity. Lane argues however, that Calvin finally did distinguish himself from Luther when he adopted the medieval distinction between necessitas consequentiae and necessitas consequentis in his work The Eternal Predestination of God (1552).

My thesis explores Calvin's relationship to Luther's doctrine of the will and argues that Calvin’s claim to full solidarity with Luther in The Bondage and Liberation of the Will is supported by his defense of Luther's necessitarian argument, and that Calvin's claim was not reversed by his later work The Eternal Predestination of God. Luther's influence on Calvin is also explored. In claiming full agreement with Luther, Calvin exhibited certain parallels that suggest Luther's influence. Detecting influence from Luther on Calvin calls for a special comparison that reveals characteristic features of Luther's thought in Calvin. Following this approach, this study argues that Luther was a formative influence on Calvin's doctrine of the will. In fact, Luther's influence appears more decisive than Augustine. Calvin appealed to Augustine for support of the position that he and Luther held in common. The reformers' link to Augustine’s doctrine of grace has been challenged by Harry J. McSorley, but this study finds that both Reformers were faithful to Augustine's anti-Pelagian writings. This study not only analyzes the validity of Calvin's claim to solidarity with Luther, the influence of Luther, and both reformers' claim to Augustine, but it also explores Calvin's relationship to Luther's doctrine of the will in the related categories of the fall, divine providence, predestination, and the hiddenness of God.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.