Now to Luther’s fourth “exit”, which is to stop searching for a logical exit and simply accept and believe both sides of the paradox.
Luther believed that theological exit strategies too often lead us astray, in circles, or down blind alleys. We are so desperate to escape our Biblical paradox that we will, at great cost, reason our way out of it.
And on the subject of human reason, Luther had much to say. It is precisely here where Luther is most misunderstood and most criticized. This is because Luther believed human reason itself was paradoxical. He called it the devil’s bride and a damned whore. But he also called it God’s greatest gift to man, a glorious light.
So although Luther’s theology used reason to discover Biblical truths, his resultant theology sometimes ended up being quite “unreasonable.” That is to say, it embraced logical absurdities. He would simply not allow reason to stand in judgment of Scripture.
Luther believed that if something was taught in Scripture it didn’t matter to him if he and others thought it to be absurd. He saw, as did few before or after him, that logical attempts to escape from something clearly taught in Scripture often just ended in another kind of contradiction - contradicting the words of Scripture itself. This, to him, was more absurd than accepting a Biblical paradox on pure faith.
So Luther had no difficulty teaching contradictory absurdities. The saved are predestined to salvation, but the lost are not predestined to damnation. The saved cannot lose their salvation and, oh, by the way, yes they can. No one can make a decision to accept Jesus, but we can make a decision to reject Jesus. The saved are saved entirely by God, but the condemned are condemned entirely by themselves.
These are, to most theologians and philosophers, logical absurdities.
So it would be quite in keeping with Luther’s way to accept and believe in the universal restoration of all, and - at the same time - accept and believe in the eternal punishment of some. Both are taught in Scripture, so both can be believed and taught.
Maybe so. But it seems to me that one could hold to both sides of this paradox and still remain quite Lutheran.
Perhaps more Lutheran than Luther.