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Kant and Luther’s Understandings of Human Freedom

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For Kant and Luther, the question of human freedom and the amount individuals are at liberty of, if any, is determined in an effort to achieve high morality. However, it precisely the outlook that Kant deems fatalist which Luther argues for, that is, freedom through faith. For Luther, we do not posses the liberty required to live a moral life without God’s guidance. On the other hand, for Kant, the predestination that Luther argues for places individuals in a state of “immaturity” and therefore unable to achieve freedom to be moral. In contrast to Luther’s argument, for Kant self-determination, autonomy, and morality are closely related to his notion of human freedom.

Luther preaches grace and in so free choice is abolished, suggesting that divine grace and human freedom are contradictory concepts. Because reconciliation between God and humans is made possible through the death of Jesus, God’s gift, it is foolish to assume that the exercise of freedom could have any relevance to salvation. Human freedom in Luther’s eyes is derived from the notion that individual’s are already saved through God’s righteousness and confirmed with the works of Christ, you are saved because of your possession of faith:

"We reach the conclusion that faith alone justifies us and fulfils the laws; and this because faith brings us the spirit gained by the merits of Christ. The spirit, in turn, gives us the happiness and freedom at which the law aims…"

Additionally, it is important to understand Luther’s distinction between the Law and the Gospel in order to further explore Luther’s understanding of human freedom. The Law is God’s commands; it allows humans to coexist, limits chaos and condemns sinfulness, though it is not God’s road...

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...must refer everything to God. For Luther, everything in relation to salvation is determined through the will of God, therefore leaving no room for individual will, leaving Kant and Luther’s views irreconcilable. Kant attributes freedom as a presupposition of human action, he attributes a higher status to human freedom, to far from simply being determined by God or even Satan, rather freedom can achieve to the level of self-determination. Freedom according to Kant is will independent from foreign will and therefore reason should guide to individual principles independent of outside influences. Still everything relates back to an attempt to achieve a high morality, however for Luther this idea goes completely against spiritual righteousness, for him we are seemingly free through our spiritual righteousness and moral acts which are determined by God and he alone.
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