On one hand we are reaching the same destination with differing routes. The Lutheran says By Gods Grace through Faith we are Saved. The result is good works. Orthodox say By Gods Grace we are saved through Faith and Works.
I think the main difference may be in the view of Free Will. Lutherans believe that there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn Gods Grace. By saying we have to cooperate with Gods Grace or accept it is to take away Gods Glory and to place some of it, even if the smallest amount on our own shoulders. It takes away the absolute sovereignty of God. We are saved because God alone has willed it. We are predestined to be saved by Christ on the Cross. If we have even the smallest amount of influence we will fail everytime because of our nature of sin.
We can't accept what we already have. I can't accept my arm because it's something God has already giving me. What I can do is reject my arm. I can cut it off the same way I can cut off Gods Grace through a denial of Faith.
"I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want "free-will" to be given to me, nor anything to be justify in my own hands to enable me to endeavor after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities, and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground and hold fast my "free-will" (for one devil is stronger than all men, and on these terms no man could be saved); but because, even were there no dangers, adversities, or devils, I should still be forced to labor with no guarantee of success, and to beat my fists at the air. If I lived and worked to all eternity, my conscience would never reach comfortable certainty as to how much it must do to satisfy God. Whatever work I had done, there would still be a nagging doubt as to whether it pleases God, or whether He required something more. The experience of all who seek righteousness by works proves that; and I learned it well enough myself over a period of many years, to my own great hurt. But now that God has taken my salvation out the control of my own will , and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. "No one," He says, "shall pluck them out of my hand, because my father which gave them me is greater than all" [John 10:28-29]. Thus it is that, if not all, yet some, indeed many, are saved; whereas, by the power of "free-will" none at all could be saved, but every one of us would perish."
Hi happy Lutheran, thank you for your thoughtful reply dear. I am learning alot from you my brother.
Inaddition to what David has already answered , let me say a fewthings from what Martin Luther have said about God's control over his will, as I understand it. as key word to understanding what I have to say know I am talking about Synergy, that is possible because of Grace and in which grace requires to work in and through. Not control but willful participation and union. he speaks of control, i will speak of union of love that will lead to being fruitful in love and through love.
Honestly speaking what martin Luther says makes me sad. The reason being 1 he for all practical purposes equate the having of free will as being a rebellion against God’s will, thus something that has to be shunned 2, If we are all saved without the participation of our will, what is being saved is not human but a drone that God certainly have not made in his Image and Likeness, and God would not be Love (in this term are held all other virtues). 3. It is not simply having a free will that saves me or condemns me as martin seems to think, if the entire point of saving mankind was to impose upon him God’s unchanging Love then we have to change our understanding of God not as loving but a tyrant, who punishes some because he wills it and worse because he does so for something that is not their fault because it was after all his will that they in particular should not be saved, and others he forcefully annexes to this lifestyle.4, if my free will can only function in rejection of God, but ceases to function when I am in union with God, is it really me that is in Union or what happens to my free will then did I even ever had it in the first place? Also what happens when I want to return back to God, who is the one that returns? A drone without freewill; which as soon as he is plugged to the source, becomes the toy of the source? What is the good in taking a sentient being and stripping him of that which makes him what he is then saying he IS Living? If we have no participation with our salvation then it must follow that we have no participation in our damnation, it must have been God who made us sin then, God forbid we would say such a thing! but according to Luther’s logic such is the God he portrays albeit unintentionally in an attempt at portraying God as all powerful and that we are not the cause of our salvation, which are both true, yet he falls short of the fullness of truth when he tosses out the role of the human free will, with which that the mercy of God seeks cooperation not domination with. What is the point of Christ’s Incarnation, the reason that the Eternal Logos became like us in all things except sin? what is the purpose of uniting our will to his if not to heal it, like the rest of what makes us human, it needed healing and saving so he healed it by making it his own in his Incarnation our will united to the will of God without any confusion or mixing, or alteration, heals the broken, the weakened , and makes us whole , gives us what we are created to be, makes us truly human ( in the sense that the human is created to have communion with God through God’s Grace that was perfected in Christ when God became Man, in Christ God’s Will is fully united with Man’s Will without one altering the other , without one dominating the other, without one mixing with the other, without one separating from the other without one eliminating the other.). So are we saying our will be done? not at all, we are saying may thy will be united with our will and our will with thy will and in the harmony of that union we will BE Truly ourselves in that we become truly Children of God.
In the Orthodox Liturgy we say, Our God is a Consuming fire, a Fire of Healing, for the righteous of heart who do His will, a Fire that destroys for the rebellious who deny His Name. What is meant by this is that God is God at all times, he remains what and who He is i.e. Love. This love can be different things for different hearts, for those who are willing to receive it, it is the most natural thing to them, and it heals and strengthens them. To those that reject it, it becomes the source of unbearable pain not by changing what it is, but rather by remaining the same, for the heart that wants to exist delighting in such a state subjects itself to the pain of the presence of ultimate Love( again let us keep in mind all the virtues held in there). We see then that he is not the one who is rejecting those who are damned, but it they who are rejecting him, he remains who he is at all times, he cannot deny himself thereby altering himself, those that reject him do so because He is Love that can only be freely given and freely received.
If like Luther said God wills some to be saved and others to be damned since free will has nothing to do with salvation, then He and I are not speaking about the Same God. The Supreme Love, (holding in it Mercy, Truth, Justice, etc...) Becomes a falsity, a sham a major orchestration of Divine Joke on Humanity yeah even the entire Created Universe. If that was true I too would have cried with Luther, and perhaps resigned myself to the whim of this God whether or not I am among those whom he wills to save and for that matter what am I being saved from, do I even want to be? But it will also mean if I am among the chosen I cannot reject God in this life, because now I am like a drone he dictates. So even though I am told I can reject God, in truth I cannot reject him since I have no say in the matter of living united to him.
Still I do understand what Luther was trying to portray, yet he lost the balance the Fathers have maintained and in Orthodoxy such balance or synergy is always what it is about in regards to our relationship with God because it is indeed a relationship of Love. When you go to one extreme at the expense of all others there is always the danger of sacrificing truth to your will. I understand and my heart is moved in compassion to what Luther was struggling with and to what a kind and Loving God he must have thought that he is portraying, when he shunned free will and its participation with Gods will, and making God’s will (separate from men) alone and our faith in this predestined and forcefully infused and sustained salvation of God with no need for our participation, except perhaps to say or hold the opinion that it is so, to be the reason we are saved. Yet by this very logic he ended up creating a tyrant of ‘good will and cheer’ who gives no choice to those he loves, whose love is an oppression, whose justice is selective and biased, whose deceit lets others think they are free yet they are not, they think they can chose him but they can’t as he has already chosen those he wills to save, the others he discards once he gets done with them playing a role he has written for them. I am sure the God Loving and good man Luther would be horrified if he realized this is the image of God he actually portrays when he says that the Free will of man is not important, yet he is correct in that having free will alone will not save anyone, nor does ones struggle alone to achieve righteousness with his works do him any good. Yet when God deals interacts with Humans he deals with Free beings He created in His Image and Likeness, because our God is that Good, that Loving, that he would chose to create such free beings capable of choosing Him or rejecting Him, but the underlying factor which is also the unifying one is that God remains Who He IS, the I AM that is always IS, regardless of what state man is in. Ever Loving God, Whose Grace is ever Present to us if we are willing to accept it.
Luther was arguing against the possibility of losing salvation, it seems motivated by fear but fear that was based on the wrong reasons. He should indeed be afraid of losing salvation because it is possible to lose salvation not because Grace is denied to some, it is not! Or that God wills some to be condemned, He does not! Or that salvation is something we earn by our works, we cannot! Or something we earn by our faith alone, we do not! But because the Human is capable of rejecting what is freely given, the human can stop saying fully yes to God’s Will, who Wills ALL to Come to Salvation. Do you see the union here? As rejection is the cessation of saying yes to God and saying yes to God is possible to us through God’s Grace itself working in unison with our will. The fear of Luther would have been like the one the apostle commands ‘work out your own salvation in fear and trembling’ had Luther not equated it with losing confidence in God, as relying only in One’s work to earn what is un-meritable for none can merit such Life, because the Life we receive is God Himself, and who among us can earn God with what he has, even if he or she was to give their very lives as even that is not theirs and it belongs to him. Philippians 2:12-13 work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
So what does it mean to Work out ones salvation in fear and trembling, surely we are not the ones who are earning our God as reward for whatever we have done, if that was the case we should all despair, for none of us can do that, so what is the apostle saying? If we read on we will know that such despair is unwarranted and in fact we have much reason to be confident about and that is the Grace of Our Merciful Loving God, who will strengthen our Faith and Sanctify our Works for without him we can do nothing but with him we bear much fruit so when he comes he may find us fruitful in Him and through Him! As the apostle continues to say “ for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ do you see the unity of God’s will with our Will, here without any confusion or mixing or alteration between them? Do you see the balance? In Such a union we can boldly say it is not I that lives but Christ in Me. Does this mean I cease to be Me? Not at all it only means I am more Me or Truly Me in Christ who is the Perfect Man than I am alone and I am Truly Christ in so far as it is possible by Christ who Transfigures me through this union to look and become like Him who is the Only Begotten Son of the Father thus bearing the image of the Son and as the Living Temple of the Spirit I too will be called daughter and Son of the Father through Grace. For this communion of Love, what is freely given must freely be received and that freedom itself we received from God.
The Apostle states clearly how this participation with Grace works and how one must bear the fruit of such participation by the death of the old man and the life of the new man in Christ, if while saying we are justified in our faith in Christ we are found acting in sinful manner then we have no real union with Christ because he is not a minster of sin. thus our faith in him must also be manifest in our fruit of life in him and through him. We need Him to give us life and we need not frustrate the grace of God or we must participate with the grace of God, otherwise if we can achieve life by our works alone then he died in vain.Galatians 2: 16- 21 16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 17But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live to God. 20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Luther seems to say that once a believer has found his or her faith they cannot possibly fall or lose their salvation, because no one can take us away from God. Yet this is simply not true like we said, the Love that is God is unchanging but it is quite possible for us to change while we are in this battle field, in this tabernacle, it is quite possible to fall as it is quite possible to rise up again. Luther’s God is a terrifying tyrant, who wants to be told that one believes in his goodness and is easily appeased by that and punishes those that have a differing opinion because it’s all about ones held opinion about him that brings in his benevolence to select group of people who he has already programed to have such opinion about him. Such God incites rebellion and defiance, not Love. And that is not the Christian God, him you will find get this, Born in an animal manger, Dead on the Cross and Risen in Incorruption all for the Love of Adam and his Children even as he dies by our hands, he did not force his will upon us yet he loved us all the same, even while we were vile sinners. Because he has become one of us and done this much for us he will be just in all his judgments towards us who have tasted the good wine and rejoiced not in it.
However Luther chose to reject the part that Free will plays in the drama of Salvation out of fear that his misconceptions lead him to believe of what is meant by participation or cooperation of the human with God incited in him. He looked at it as if the Human is earning salvation (or in other words that the human is striving in an ever futile effort for something that is impossible i.e. to earn salvation), by freely accepting God’s Grace that is offered freely to him, this misconception ignores that even Faith is an act of Grace acting in cooperation with the Free will of Man. like we have seen earlier, who can earn our life which is God. Yet we all can see God is not imposed upon us even if our very nature requires that we unite with him in order to be what we truly are, Children of Light, Truth and Love. However Love although free, calls all to choose her continually even as she calls, motivates, strengthens, and acts to help and sustain those who respond with all their being. Wisdom does not go charging about and enslaving people against their will, even though she longs for them to come to her, even though she has stretched her arms stood at the highest place and called with everything she has in her that they may come to her and share her life as they were meant to be. For she is the soul of their soul, life of their life, strength of their strength, the light of their intellect, the beauty of their countenance, if only they were willing to come , she is ever waiting and willing to aide those who chose her, to go out in battle with them and so long as the will is willing she will squash their enemy, heal their wounds, raise them up if they fall and lead them to the place of safety and Eternal Rest, Eternal Joy, where they in Union with Her may ascend from Glory to Glory for all eternity.
Time has run out , and I must get ready to go to the Divine Liturgy now, I have not got enough time to organize my thoughts better so my apologies, I am no theologian or scholar, so keep in mind that all the wrong words and ideas are mine.
To be continued…. I'm kidding lol