Gabriel Biel in MelanchthonÕs Apology:

A Representative Novus Pelagianus


A Research Paper for

Seminar On MelanchthonÕs Apology (S-822)

Concordia Theological Seminary

Professor Charles P. Arand



Jeffrey J. Meyers


St. Louis, MO Ð November 17, 1995



Melanchthon believed that his scholastic opponents were Pelagians in disguise, subtly camouflaging their errant theology of justification with so many worthless distinctions so as to effectively conceal their foundational teaching concerning the native powers of fallen man.  He warns against the subtle deceit of the new Pelagian in his Loci (1521): ÒMinore negotio Pelaginai veteres revelli possunt, quam nostrorum temporum novi Pelagiani.Ó[1]  Melanchthon here concedes a certain difficulty in rooting out the new Pelagians.  They are not always what they seem.  How can we discern Pelagianism when it occurs in such complex theological systems?  What is its defining characteristic?  Melanchthon has an answer: Òwhat is the difference between the Pelagians and our opponents, since both believe that without the Holy Spirit men can love God and perform Ôthe substance of the actsÕ [facere quoad substantiam actuum] required by his commandments and that without the Holy Spirit fallen humanity can merit grace and justification by works that reason produces on its own?  How many absurdities follow from these Pelagian notions which the schools teach with great authority!Ó (Ap XVIII, 1-2).[2]  According to Melanchthon, any theological system which ascribes to fallen man the native ability, apart from the internal, enabling work of the Holy Spirit, to love and fear God, keep his commandments, and thereby earn GodÕs favorÑsuch a system is essentially Pelagian.[3]  According to this classification, Gabriel Biel (d. 1495), one of the most widely respected late Medieval scholastic theologians, was not only the Òlast Medieval scholastic,Ó he was also, in MelanchthonÕs judgment, one of the foremost novi Pelagiani.[4]

Gabriel Biel as Novus Pelagianus

Melanchthon does not often quote Biel or mention him by name in his Apology of the Augsburg Confession.[5]  Nevertheless, we must not draw the wrong conclusions from this paucity of explicit references.  There are a number of reasons for believing that BielÕs theology underlies MelanchthonÕs polemic against the scholastics, especially his emphatic and repeated attacks directed against the opponents for attributing too much power to human nature.  BielÕs theology attributes foundational importance to the viatorÕs natural power to dispose himself for justification.  Of all the scholastics, both Franciscan and Dominican, Biel stands out for his positive assessment of manÕs native constitutional power (ex puris naturalibus) to achieve grace for himself, without external assistance.  In other words, Biel represents late Medieval scholastic theology not only in its most popular, but also in its most Pelagian form.  MelanchthonÕs anti-Pelagian polemic manifests a thorough familiarity with BielÕs theology and his widespread authority in early sixteenth-century theology.[6]  BielÕs theology of justificationÑespecially his understanding of the exalted capabilities of fallen humanity in its ability to elicit acts of love for God and merit the grace of justificationÑbest represents everything Melanchthon (as well as the other magisterial Reformers) finds wrong with scholasticism.

In order to understand the pivotal significance of MelanchthonÕs opposition to BielÕs Pelagian substructure, it will be helpf to outline BielÕs ordo salutis or, or as he calls it, the processus iustificationis.  To do so we will use the chart ÒGabriel BielÕs processus iustificationisÓ (Appendix 1).  We will explain BielÕs theology under the headings of his key theological terminology.  Rather than provide an alphabetized glossary, our explanation of BielÕs principal theological terminology will follow the order of the chart from top to bottom, left to right.  This procedure will also provide us with an historical/temporal perspective on BielÕs processus.    Each expression on the chart does not receive a separate entry; rather, the minor terms are explained under the headings of the major terms.[7] The reader should keep in mind that the following theological outline is not necessarily a general description of Medieval theology of justification; rather, it describes Gabriel BielÕs via moderna theology.  Nevertheless, familiarity with BielÕs neo-Pelatigan soteriology will help the student of the Reformation understand the ferocity of the ReformersÕ attacks on the late Medieval Roman system of justification.


De potentia absoluta / de potentia ordinata.  What God is able to do, or, better, what God could have done is expressed by the phrase de potentia absoluta (Òconcerning his absolute powerÓ).  According to GodÕs omnipotence and the absolute freedom of his will, he could have ordained a different system of salvation, one that made different demands on man.  In fact, he has ordained (de potentia ordinata) the system we now live under, which is unalterable and fully reliable.  Thus, the process of justification has been freely (libertas) established in space-time history (historice), according to the mercy of God (misericordia dei), and remains unalterable because of the dependable character of GodÕs covenant (pactum dei).  The establishment of this system of salvation has its origin in GodÕs grace to man (sola gratia), whereby he is willing to mitigate what he might have required from man in order to achieve eternal favor with or acceptability to God (acceptus Deo).  This ÒmoderatedÓ or ÒmitigatedÓ system of salvation is a closed system (from creatio to iudicium extremum) in which every relationship of cause and effect happens according to GodÕs ordained covenantal will (ex pacto divino).  What God could or might have established de potentia absoluta remains merely a hypothetical potentiality, and functions primarily as a foil for describing the origin and contingent character of the present order de potentia ordinata.  Therefore, no one relates to God de potentia absoluta.[8]


Voluntas.  BielÕs anthropology is tripartite (voluntas, intellectus, passiones) in its overall emphasis with the will (voluntas) at the directional center of manÕs being.  The will of man is either oriented toward his cognitive faculty (intellectus) so that he acts according to reason (ratio) by loving and enjoying God, or it is drawn down by the passions (passiones) toward the body and the temporal things of creation.  In order to help the will to act rationally, God also implanted the Òspark of conscienceÓ (syndresis or scintella conscientiae) within man to serve as a kind of bridge between the voluntas and intellectus.[9]   Through the syndresis the voice of natural law can speak to the will and provide a stimulus for living according to the dictates of reason.  Even pre-lapsarian man, however, encountered this tension within him, from which arose the potential, at least, for sin.  For this reason, God supplemented Adam and EveÕs natural powers with a superadded gift (donum superadditum) of infused righteousness (iustitia originalis).  This infused grace assisted man by counteracting the ÒnaturalÓ tendency of his will.  It is this vulneratus in naturalibus (Ònatural vulnerabilityÓ) that is aggravated and intensified when man falls.[10]


Peccatum originale.  As punishment for manÕs sin God withdrew the superadded gift of original righteousness and judicially strapped man with the guilt (culpa) and penalty (poena) of original sin.  According to Biel, imposition of original sin also necessarily brings with it concupiscentia.  It is not clear in BielÕs theology whether concupiscentia is something added to man after the fall or whether it is merely the ÒnaturalÓ result of the removal of original righteousness. When the voluntas loses its superadded assistance, then sensuality can no longer be held in check by reason.  The fallen will is directed toward the enjoyment (fruitio) of material things when it ought to be merely using (usus) them.  Concupiscentia foments and empowers the misdirection of the will toward temporal things; nevertheless, only a voluntary act of the will can properly be called sin.  Concupiscence, therefore, is the fomes peccati (Òtinder of sinÓ).  The fomes performs, in some sense, a function parallel to the syndresis, yet in the opposite Òdirection.Ó[11]


Baptismus.  The sacrament of baptism removes the culpa and poena of original sin.  In addition, man is infused with grace (prima gratia).   Initially, this infusion of grace includes the supernatural gift of fides infusa and the Holy Spirit (gratia increata). This is manÕs first justification (iustitia prima), which is easily lost when he commits mortal sin.  The baptized one also acquires fides acquisita  (informis) when he begins to hear and understand the content of the faith (fides quae).  Baptism and the infusion of grace weaken concupiscentia, but they do not eradicate it or neutralize its power to incite the will to sin (fomes peccati).  The fomes is inextinguishable because it is an exacerbation of a constitutional tension in man which was introduced at the fall when man lost his original justice.[12]


Homo viator.  At baptism homo lapsus becomes homo viator, suspended between the mercy of God, which is largely a past event (GodÕs establishment de potentia ordinata and sola gratia of a way of salvation), and the fearful expectation of the judgment of God in the future.  Shortly after baptism the viator will succumb to mortal sin, incur once again the guilt and punishment accompanying these actual sins, and lose the infused gifts of grace given to him at baptism (gratia prima, fides infusa, gratia increata, etc.).  As homo peccator the viator is thrown back on his own native powers (ex puris naturalibus), which he must exercise in accordance with the knowledge he retains (fides acquisita) in order to prepare himself for justification.[13]  The central significance of Christ for the viator pertains to his work as a sufficient revelation of GodÕs will. Christ has modeled in his obedientia activa the way of salvation for the viator.  The degree to which the viator imitates ChristÕs victorious obedience, to this degree he too will attain victory over sin and death.[14]


Fides informa.  Literally Òunformed faith,Ó it describes the intellectual knowledge of GodÕs work of creation, fall, and redemption de potentia ordinata.  It is sometimes called fides acquisita because it is acquired by natural means when one comes into contact with the knowledge of the way of salvation and works to learn it (facere quod in se est).  The adjective ÒunformedÓ refers to the absence of what completes and ÒformsÓ faith, namely, love.  The viator who possesses fides informa has yet to achieve fides caritate formata (Òfaith formed by loveÓ).  Nevertheless, fides informa is a necessary condition for achieving the infusion of faith and love that accompany justification.[15]


Ex puris naturalibus.  Literally Òout of pure nature,Ó this phrase does not refer to some hypothetically pure, pre-lapsarian human nature. It denotes fallen manÕs native powers apart from GodÕs superadded infused grace.  The modifier puris means Òwithout admixtureÓ Ñspecifically, without the added assistance of supernatural grace.  Whatever is required ex puris naturalibus is within the realm of manÕs natural constitutional powers.  The chart indicates with a dotted horizontal line the demarcation between what is possible for man to do (below the line) and what is infused into man supernaturally (above the line).  When the sinner does his best (facere quod in se est) he may achieve, without the aid of supernatural grace, what is necessary to merit de congruo the infusion of grace (gratia infusa).[16]


Gratia gratis data.  This phrase means Ògrace graciously given,Ó and is represented on the chart by a vertical dotted line pointing down below the dotted horizontal line and terminating just at the bottom of the upward slope entitled facienti quod in se est.  Gregory of Rimini calls this grace auxilium speciale and teaches that it is absolutely necessary for the enablement of the viator to do what lies within him (facere quod in se est) and merit de congruo justifying grace.  Herein lies the difference between Gregory and Biel.[17]  Biel teaches that this auxiliary grace is optional.  The viator does not absolutely need it.  God may give it to assist him, out of his sheer good pleasure (ex sua liberatate), but in no sense is it necessary for the viatorÕs successful accomplishment of what he needs to achieve for justification.  In other words, the disposition and preparation necessary to achieve the grace of justification is within manÕs power (ex puris naturalibus) to achieve without any special assistance from God.  To be sure, the viator has the general providential help of God in nature (concursus dei / influentia generalis), but no more than that is required.  As Oberman notes, the work of preparing oneself for grace, according to Biel, is arduous but possible. Grace comes at the end, as a result of laborious preparation.  Grace is Ònot the root but the fruit of preparatory good works.Ó[18]


Facienti quod in se est.  ÒDoing what lies within youÓ or Òdoing oneÕs bestÓ describes the viatorÕs process of preparing himself to merit de congruo the grace of justification.  This process, if successfully completed, moves from attritio (sorrow for sin out of fear of punishment [timor servilis]) to contritio (sorrow for sin out of love for God [timor filialis]).  Partial attrition (parum attritus) is not sufficient to merit grace; one must arrive at a state wherein one loves God apart from any benefit that may accrue to oneself, which is described as the love of friendship (amor amiciae) in contrast to a possessive love (amor concupiscentia), or as amor dei super omnia propter deum (Òloving God above all for his own sakeÓ).  This end result of the viatorÕs Òdoing his very bestÓ is sometimes described as the viatorÕs Òelicited act of love for GodÓ (elicit actuum dilectionis Dei).  The accomplishment of contritio can also be described from the perspective of faith as fides formata (Òfaith formed by loveÓ) and as a quality or disposition of grace in the soul of man (habitus gratia).  All of this, remember, is achieved by the viator in accordance with his own native constitutional powers (ex puris naturalibus) without needing any special gracious assistance from God.[19]


Meritum de congruo.  According to GodÕs graciously ordained system, the viatorÕs Òdoing what lies within himÓ is accepted Òaccording to the substance of the actÓ (quoad substantiam actus) as fitting, but not intrinsically worthy, of the reward of grace.  The causal connection between manÕs elicited act of love (elicit actuum dilectionis dei) and GodÕs corresponding infusion of grace must not be explained metaphysically, but covenantally (ex pacto divino).  Out of pure generosity (liberalis dei) God has condescended (de potentia ordinata) to accept this Òpartial meritÓ as sufficient grounds for the infusion of grace.  Once this occurs, the viatorÕs preparation for the grace of justification has ended, and through the infusion of grace, he enters into the state of grace in which alone he can become truly acceptable to God (acceptus deo) by means of works of condign merit.[20]


Gratia gratum faciens.  Having accomplished that which satisfies the requirements of GodÕs ordained system of salvation, man now receives from God the infusion of grace which makes him truly gracious.  Gratia gratum faciens refers to Òthe grace that makes one gracious.Ó  It seems best to regard all these terms (gratia gratum faciens, prima gratia, gratia infusa, fides infusa, gratia increata, etc.) as perspectival descriptions of the same essential infusio of grace.  They are ordinarily received by the viator at this point in his pilgrimage by means of the sacrament of penance.[21]


Meritum de condigno.  Acts of righteousness performed in the state of grace are said to be worthy of the reward of divine acceptation, according to strict justice (ex debito iusticiae).  Gratia gratum faciens is understood as a power that directs the will to produce meritorious acts of righteousness.  Even though ChristÕs work has established the possibility of GodÕs work of gratia infusa, ChristÕs merits are not considered sufficient for the adult viator.  Biel says, ÒIf we do not add our merits to those of Christ, the merits of Christ will not only be insufficient, but nonexistent.Ó[22]  Moreover, even these Òfull merits,Ó as Oberman calls them, which are added to ChristÕs, must be understood as meeting GodÕs requirements of justice de potentia ordinata, rather than in some sense transcending or by-passing GodÕs established system in order to bind God de potentia absoluta.  Consequently, understood as operating within the order of the pactum dei, condign merit is in reality more like three-quarterÕs merit.[23]


Acceptus deo.  If the viator cooperates with infused grace, he may (theoretically) reach the point at which he is truly acceptable to God, having a claim to eternal life.  Ultimately, it is GodÕs act of acceptance (acceptatio divina) rather than manÕs intrinsic ÒmeritsÓ or ÒclaimÓ to eternal life that guarantees eternal life.  Nevertheless, as a viator, the Christian always remains partly iustus and partly peccator, and therefore he is never able to transcend the dilemma of being suspended between the mercy and wrath of God.  Homo viator always remains without the possibility of certitudo salutis.[24]


If one thing is clear from the foregoing analysis, it is that Biel attributes a great deal of salvific power to unaided fallen nature, more than enough to justify the charge of neo-Pelagianism.   GodÕs grace is understood primarily as ÒstructuralÓ or ÒsystemicÓ grace.  He has established sola gratia only as an overarching complex of causal relationships (pactum), the appropriation and use of which is necessary for manÕs salvation.  Within this closed system of grace, man must work to take advantage of what God has offered.  If he works hard enough and achieves what God has required of him, then God will reward him with the grace of justification.  ObermanÕs analysis seems more than justified: ÒBiel has a remarkable doctrine of justification: seen from different vantage points, justification is at once sola gratia and solis operibus[25] Apparently for Biel, his understanding of the gracious nature of the system as a whole allows him to Òspeak in what appears to be such bold Pelagian language about the respective contributions of free will and grace as regards the moral quality of an act. . . .Ó[26] The bottom line, however, is that ÒBielÕs doctrine of justification is essentially Pelagian.Ó[27]

Failed Rescue Attempts

Various attempts have been made recently to rescue BielÕs theology from the stigma of Pelagianism, all of which fail to come to terms with the substantially Pelagian character of BielÕs teaching in regards to the capabilities of fallen manÕs natural powers unaided by grace.  Lawrence MurphyÕs argument, for example, if it is an attempt to exonerate Biel of Pelagianism, as it seems to be, is misguided.[28]  Murphy, who seeks to prove that BielÕs prologue to the Canonis missae expositio contains a more robust doctrine of original sin than Melanchthon seems to allow for (Ap II, 7-8), only succeeds in establishing MelanchthonÕs thesis: Biel, in spite of his doctrine of original sin Òattributes to human nature unimpaired power to love God above all thingsÓ (Ap II, 8).    Yes, Biel teaches that the intellect of fallen man is enslaved, as Murphy establishes, but not so much so that a good dose of revelation from God presented to the intellect of man could not provide sufficient ÒknowledgeÓ (fides acquisita) to enable the will to break out of its bondage.[29]  Murphy sums it up: ÒHowever much Biel in his prologue stressed the ignorance of fallen man, his whole approach presented a doctrine of enslaved intellect which might be interpreted as meaning that, once the mind was freed by revelation, the will would follow readily.Ó  This is precisely MelanchthonÕs criticism.  Human nature after the fall does not merely lack the necessary information, it has been stripped of the power to turn to God in love and good works (Ap IV, 9, 19, 26; XVIII, 1-2, 7; XX, 14). 


The issue is not whether fallen man is ignorant or whether the intellect is depraved and therefore lacking in true fear of and love for GodÑLawrence proves that Biel acknowledges this muchÑbut whether post-lapsarian man has the capacity or power to redirect his will towards God apart from the gracious assistance of the Holy Spirit (Ap IV, 291).  Melanchthon does not argue that late Medieval theology failed to come to grips with the wickedness of fallen man in terms of actual sins.  He argues that they failed to acknowledge the root problemÑmanÕs post-lapsarian powerlessness (Ap XVII, 10).  Lawrence cites passages that prove that Biel considered fallen man to be really bad, but the relevant question has more to do with fallen manÕs natural capacity or powers than with his actual sins, whether intellectual or affective.  Does man have the ability to redirect his will from evil to good, from the love of self to the love of God?  Can the individual sinner do so without the assistance of GodÕs internally operative grace?  Biel says, ÒYes,Ó Melanchthon, ÒNo.Ó  Lawrence has not cleared Biel of Pelagianism.


Wilhelm Ernst has also attempted to defend Biel against charges of Pelagianism.  He does so by venturing a reinterpretation of the relationship between gratia prima and the dispositio ad gratiam et iustificationem in BielÕs theology.[30]  Ernst argues that Biel never intended to teach that man is capable of performing acts that merit (even de congruo) the grace of justification.   The elicited act of love for God super omnia, which is the prerequisite disposition for justification, does not come before GodÕs infusion of gratia primaÑthey occur simultaneously.[31]  In other words, according to Ernst, the elicited act of love for God is not chronologically prior, nor is it really logically prior to gratia infusa, but it must be understood as collateral with infused grace.  This explanation might work were it not for BielÕs insistence that the love of God super omnia is Òthe ultimate and necessary disposition required for the infusion of grace.Ó[32]  Moreover, if it is a disposition or condition required for the infusion of grace, then what place is there for simultaneity?  Without the disposition grace is not given.  Ernst tries to put the best spin possible on it, but he runs up against BielÕs unwavering insistence that man does not need special grace to perform works which are meritorious de congruo.[33]  According to Biel, man has the power in his present fallen estate (ex puris naturalibus) to dispose himself such that God will reward him with grace without any auxiliary help (gratia gratis data).  Grace (prima gratia) comes at the end of the arduous process, not with, under, in, or even at the beginning of the viatorÕs journey.[34]  BielÕs Pelagian theology, therefore, resists ErnstÕs reinterpretation.


Alister McGrath seems to miss the mark, too.[35]  His defense of Biel, however, is more subtle.  McGrath argues that BielÕs teaching is actually anti-Pelagian because of BielÕs doctrine of GodÕs gracious ordination of the way of salvation.  God established sola gratia the system of salvation which is now operative.  He might have decided de potentia absoluta not to ordain a way of salvation at all or even to make a way that would be impossible for man to attain.  Instead, he has graciously ordained de potentia ordinata that salvation should be within the reach of every man.  One may achieve salvation within that system soli operibus, but no matter, the existence of the system as a whole, an evidence of GodÕs free grace, is enough to clear Biel of the charge of Pelagianism. 


In response, we must insist that whether the axiom facienti quod in se est, deus non denegat gratiam is considered de potentia absoluta or de potentia ordinata is not really the issue.  The fact that Biel locates the axiom within GodÕs pactum does not alter the fact that no ÒinternalÓ help is given to the viator to enable him to elicit an act of love which will merit the grace of justification.  Biel teaches that no help is needed.  Man is thrown back on his own resources, and the fact that God has decided de potentia ordinata to mitigate and soften what might have been very strict and strenuous requirements does not change the fact that man is expected to perform what is necessary ex puris naturalibus, which means without the assistance of superadded grace (gratia gratis data).[36]  It doesnÕt matter how ÒgenerousÓ God has been in terms of his pactum, the bottom line still remains: everything depends upon fallen manÕs unassisted, native abilities. The only help the viator needs comes in the form of cognitive knowledge (fides acquisita) and the external, objective means of grace.  He may receive extra help from God (gratia gratis data) in order to help him achieve the act (contritio, amor amiciae, amor dei super omnia, timor filialis, etc.) which finally merits (de congruo) the infusion of grace (gratia gratum faciens, gratia prima, fides infusa, gratia increata)Ñbut he does not need any special outside help (auxilium speciale).  This bottom line, as Oberman rightly notes, means that ÒBielÕs doctrine of justification is essentially Pelagian.Ó[37]


Ironically, in his attempt to absolve Biel of Pelagianism, McGrath erroneously has Biel defining Pelagianism in terms of BielÕs own doctrine of ex puris naturalibus![38]  In the passage cited by McGrath, however, Biel explains the Pelagian doctrine of salvation as one in which the creature is able to save himself naturally (posset aliqua creatura ex suis naturalibus salvari).[39]   Biel can deny the possibility of justification for the natural man apart from graceÑas he doesÑbut the question remains: what does Biel mean by ÒgraceÓ?[40]  As McGrath correctly points out, BielÕs doctrine of grace fundamentally concerns the freedom of God by which he constructed a covenantal system wherein man could be saved (ex pacto divino).  When Biel says that fallen man needs grace, he means something like ÒstructuralÓ or ÒsystemicÓ grace.  McGrath argues that if the charge of Pelagianism is Òtaken to mean that the viator can take the initiative in his own justification, the very existence of the pactum deflects the charge: God has taken the initiative away from man, who is merely required to respond to that initiative by the proper exercise of his liberum arbitrium[41]  But this concept of ÒcovenantalÓ or ÒstructuralÓ grace makes sense only over against a purely hypothetical alternate ÒstructureÓ that God might have ordained de potentia absolutaÑone in which the requirements might have been so vigorous that salvation would have been unattainable soli operibus!  This hypothetical possibility hardly deflects the charge of Pelagianism.


It is certainly plausible that within the parameters of his own system, Pelagius himself might have constructed a similar argument.  It might have sounded something like this: 


God himself has taken the initiative in creating man with the ability to turn to him and please him by means of good works.  God has graciously established this natural order and implemented it.  Within this gracious natural structure man has the power to love him and perform good works.  It is therefore manÕs duty to respond to the divine initiative in creation.  God has even given Christ as an example of the possibility of performing good works.  Man must respond to this systemic grace and achieve salvation soli operibus. 


Change a few terms here and there and we have BielÕs theology, which, as it turns out, is really not that much different than historic Pelagianism.  GodÕs pactum in BielÕs theology is ultimately as relevant to the salvation of the viator as PelagiusÕs divinely ordered Ònature.Ó  BielÕs system as a whole, the processus iustificationis, may have originated sola liberalitate; nevertheless, within BielÕs system man attains justification sola operibus.  According to Biel, man in his present fallen condition is able by works to make himself acceptable enough for God to grant him superadded infused grace: ÒThe free will of man ex suis naturalibus can elicit a morally good act without grace.Ó[42]  Surely we are justified in judging BielÕs system to be essentially Pelagian when grace functions not as the root but the fruit of good works, not as personal and enabling at all, but as a purely structural and systemic foil.[43]


McGrath thinks this criticism is unfair since all theological systems which require any sort of human response can be described as teaching justification solis operibus.  ÒPractically every mediaeval theologian who espoused the concept of congruous merit is open to precisely the same comment.  It is not clear what is so ÔremarkableÕ about BielÕs doctrine of justification.Ó[44]  On the contrary, other theological systems, even within BielÕs own Franciscan and Occamist tradition, explain manÕs necessary human response as an activity not just required by grace but enabled by grace.  For many, including Peter Lombard, manÕs will cannot perform good works unless it is first liberated and then assisted by grace.[45]  This doctrine of prevenient grace is optional in BielÕs theology.  Fallen manÕs natural endowments suffice for his accomplishing what is necessary to call forth GodÕs reward of infused grace.[46]  Thus, regardless of what God has done before, above, and around the viator (the ÒstructuralÓ grace of the pactum), it is clear that the viator is left to his own resources when in comes to achieving what is necessary to assure his own justification.  We may agree with McGrath that BielÕs system is not formally equivalent to classical fifth century Pelagianism,[47] and yet still, disagreeing with McGrath, judge BielÕs processus iustificationis as essentially and practically neo-Pelagian.  Oberman seems to have anticipated this critique, and so his verdict stands:

It is clear that the emphasis falls on Òjustification by works aloneÓ; the concept of Òjustification by grace aloneÓ is a rational outer structure dependent on the distinction between potentia absoluta and potentia ordinata.  The outer structure is, of course, discernible by one who in pious meditation retraces GodÕs revelation to its very sources, to that point where God could de potentia absoluta have decided otherwise.  But the message preached and taught by the Church is the inner structure itself.  An analysis of BielÕs sermons proves that this is indeed the case.  It is therefore evident that BielÕs doctrine of justification is essentially Pelagian.[48]


MelanchthonÕs Anti-Pelagian Polemic Directed at Biel

With this outline of BielÕs theology in mind, it is no wonder that Melanchthon consistently attacks late Medieval scholasticism for attributing more than is proper to human powers.  We are now in a better position to understand MelanchthonÕs warning about the subtle deception of the novi Pelagiani.  Whatever theology of systemic grace there may be in Biel, it is swallowed up by his doctrine of fallen manÕs power to achieve salvation by his own strength.  This point is repeatedly made by Melanchthon in his Apology as well as his Loci 1521.


MelanchthonÕs doctrine of original sin not only includes 1) negatively, the absence of original righteousness and 2) positively, the presence of evil lusts and inclinations (concupiscentia)Ñboth of these aspects are affirmed by many scholastic theologians, including Biel[49]Ñbut, in addition, he explicitly and repeatedly refers to the inability or powerlessness of man to have true fear of God or true faith in God. This emphasis in Melanchthon is the result of his desire both to expound accurately the Augsburg Confession (cf. AC II, 1) as well as to confute what has become by MelanchthonÕs time a foundational scholastic anthropology centered on the freedom of manÕs will (voluntas).[50]

This failure to identify the root of manÕs problem is what lies behind the ConfutationÕs distinction between actual guilt and original guilt (Ap II, 1).  Melanchthon defends the Augsburg ConfessionÕs assertion that Òall men are full of evil lusts and inclinations from their mothersÕ wombs and are unable by nature [von Natur] to have true fear of God or true faith in GodÓ (AC II, 1).  The Augustana explicitly labels Pelagian those who deny that original sin is truly sin and those who Òhold that natural man is made righteous by his own powers [damit sie die Natur fromm machen durch naturlich KrŠft]Ó (AC II, 2).[51]  The problem with the ConfutationÕs separation of actual guilt and original sin is that it attributes too much to human power, whereas Melanchthon denies not only the existence of actual fear of God, but also denies the very Òpossibility and gift to produce itÓ (Ap II, 3). The argument, then, according to Melanchthon, ought to be framed so as to discover whether Òhuman nature has the gift and capacity to produce the fear and trust of GodÓ (Ap II, 3).  The Confutation, following the general direction of the scholastics, particularly its most recent and popular theologian, Gabriel Biel, affirms the native capacity of fallen man to produce good works, whereas the Lutherans deny such a potential or capacity in fallen man.


ÒWe deny,Ó Melanchthon explains, interpreting AC II, Òthe existence not only of actual [actus] fear and trust in God but also of the possibility [potentiam] and gift [dona] to produce itÓ (Ap II, 3).[52]  Melanchthon precisely asserts that human nature ÒcannotÓ produce good works because it has not the Ògift or the capacityÓ [dona et vim] to do so.  This denial of manÕs capacity or ability to fear or please God is at the heart of MelanchthonÕs biblical doctrine of original sin. It is essentially the proposition that he seeks to defend in Ap II.  He repeats it over and over again using slightly different language to make his point clear (Ap II, 9, 10, 12, 14, 23, 25, 26, 31, 32, 41, 46, etc.).  Melanchthon intends to Òdeny to manÕs natural powers the fear and trust of GodÓ (Ap II, 14).   Fallen man is plagued not merely with Òactual guiltÓ and the sin of concupiscentia, but also with Òan abiding deficiencyÓ inherent in his Òunrenewed natureÓ (Ap II, 31).  When he concludes (peroratio) his apology for the Lutheran doctrine of original sin, Melanchthon reminds the reader of exactly what he has sought to refute, namely, that Òthe scholastics minimize both sin and its penalty when they teach that man can obey the commandments of God by his own powers [cum docent hominem propriis viribus posse mandata Dei facere]Ó (Ap II, 46).[53]

It is precisely the affirmation of such a capacity or ability on the part of man in spite of original sin (which, according to the scholastics, remains something almost peripheral to homo lapsus) that plagues Òthe adversaries in the schools.Ó  All attempts at defining original sin such that it only finds its locus in some part of man (concupiscentia as the Òmaterial aspectÓ adhering in some manner to the body or passions, for example) or such that its influence is limited to this or that aspect of human nature must be criticized as Òmissing the main issueÓ (Ap II, 7).[54]  Original sin contaminates and determines the Òhigher powersÓ of human nature so that fallen man is guilty of graviora vitia (Ap II, 8). These Ògrave vicesÓ are all acts and attitudes of the intellect, will, and affections of fallen man.  ÒConcupiscence is not merely a corruption of the physical constitution [corruptio qualitatum corporis], but the evil inclination of manÕs higher powers [in superioribus viribus] to carnal thingsÓ (Ap II, 25).[55]  The scholastics conveniently fail to mention these vices because Òthey even attribute to human nature unimpaired power [integras vires] to love God above all things [diligendum super omnia] and to obey his commandments according to the substance of the act [quoad substantiam actuum]Ó (Ap II, 8).[56]  Looking at the same problem from a slightly different perspective, Melanchthon accuses the scholastics of mingling ÒChristian doctrine with philosophical views about the perfection of nature and attributing more than is proper to free will and elicited acts [et libero arbitrio et actibus elicitis]Ó (Ap II, 12).[57] 


Consequently, at crucial points in his argument throughout the Apology, Melanchthon refers to the doctrine of Òelicited actsÓ by which a fallen man Òloves God according to the substance of the actÓ as examples of scholasticismÕs Pelagian substructure:


ÒThey even attribute to human nature unimpaired power to love God above all things and to obey his commandments Òaccording to the substance of the actÓ [quoad substantiam actuum]. . . . To be able to love God above all things by oneÕs own power and to obey his commandments, what else is this but to have original righteousness?Ó (Ap II, 8-9).[58]


ÒThe scholastics teach men to merit the forgiveness of sins by doing what is within them [faciendo quod est in se], that is, if reason in its sorrow over sin elicits an act of love to God [eliciat actum dilectionis Dei] or does good for GodÕs sakeÓ (Ap IV, 9).[59]


ÒFinally, it was very foolish of our opponents to write that men who are under eternal wrath merit the forgiveness of sins by an elicited act of love, since it is impossible to love God unless faith has first accepted the forgiveness of sinsÓ (Ap IV, 36).[60]


ÒOur opponents suppose that Christ is the mediator and propitiator because he merited for us the habit of love [habitus dilectionis]. . . . they imagine that we have access through our own works [accessum per propria opera], by which we merit this habit, and then, through this love, have access to GodÓ (Ap IV, 81).[61]


Ò. . . it imagines that we produce an act of love whereby we merit the forgiveness of sins [quod eliciamus actum dilectionis]Ó (Ap IV, 290).[62]


Ò. . . we are not justified by the law because human nature does not have the power to keep the law of God nor the power to love GodÓ (Ap IV, 297).[63]


Ò. . . our opponents say that we are forgiven in this way: Because a person who has attrition or contrition elicits an act of love to God [quia attritus seu contritus elicit actum dilectionis Dei], he merits the attainment of the forgiveness of sins by this actÓ (Ap XII, 75).[64]


Ò. . . what is the difference between the Pelagians and our opponents, since both believe that without the Holy Spirit men can love God and perform Ôthe essence of the actsÕ [facere quod substatiam actuum] required by his commandments and that without the Holy Spirit men can merit grace and justification by works that reason produces on its own? How many absurdities follow from these Pelagian notions which the schools teach with great authority!Ó[65] (Ap XVIII, 1-2).


If these references to fallen manÕs power to Òelicit actsÓ of Òloving God above all things according to the substance of the actÓ are not explicit references to Biel, they nevertheless accurately describe BielÕs theology, and especially BielÕs theology.  To be sure, other Medieval scholastics used these theological terms, proposing a number of different solutions with respect to the relation of preparation and justification,[66] but Biel stands out even among the via moderna party as one whose theology of justification stands or falls with the doctrine of fallen manÕs natural powers to achieve these acts.[67] 


The distinction between meritum de congruo and de condigno does not help rescue Biel from Pelagianism.  Just because BielÕs ordo iustificationis seems to afford congruous merit a pivotal place (more so than, say, ThomasÕs), does not necessarily imply that for Biel the merit of condignity ceases to have itÕs crucial function in justification.  In fact, given BielÕs overarching covenantal system, practically speaking, as far as the conscience of the viator is concerned, condign merit continues to be the principle cause of the acceptatio dei.  Accordingly, wherever Melanchthon critiques meritum de condigno (or any of the attending concepts, such as, for example the habitus dilectionis or gratia prima), he not only attacks the via antiqua, but also the via moderna, specifically Biel.  Melanchthon knows that at the heart of these systems of justification, however they are nuanced by the various schools, lies the objectionable presupposition that human nature has the power to keep GodÕs law and love God.  This is why Melanchthon can dispose of both ÒmodesÓ of justification with one foundational critique: Òboth modes exclude Christ and therefore both are to be rejectedÓ (Ap IV, 90).  Both modes error because Òhuman nature does not have the power to keep the law of God nor the power to love GodÓ (Ap IV, 291).[68]


Melanchthon seems always to be returning to the heart of the issue: fallen human nature without the assistance of the Holy Spirit is not able to love or fear God as it ought, certainly not enough to earn acceptance by God.  ÒMoreover it is false to say that a man does not sin if, outside of the state of grace [extra gratiam], he does the works prescribed in the commandments; to this they add such works merit de congruo, the forgiveness of sins, and justification.Ó[69]    Melanchthon interprets PaulÕs indictment of the natural man as an assault on Òthe man who uses only his natural powers [homo tantum naturalibus viribus utens]Ó (Ap XVIII, 7).[70]  MelanchthonÕs foundational concern in all of this is to establish manÕs need for the Holy Spirit.  This biblical and Patristic truth has been criminally suppressed Òby those who dream that men can obey the law of God without the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit is given to them out of regard for the merit of this obedience [accedat respectus meritorii]Ó (Ap XVIII, 10).



Gabriel Biel, according to Melanchthon, stands condemned for the criminal suppression of manÕs need of the Holy Spirit in order to be justified.  Ultimately, the importance of MelanchthonÕs robust theology of original sin and his emphasis on manÕs powerlessness to merit grace is to clear away the Òsophistical arguments of recent theologiansÓ so that we can clearly perceive the magnitude of the grace of Christ in the sobering context of the true knowledge of our guilt and powerlessness (Ap II, 32-34).[71]   BielÕs theology is accurately described as neo-Pelagian, since he teaches that grace is achieved rather than bestowed, worked for rather than received, merited rather than freely given.  He effectively neutralizes grace by his foundational emphasis on the elevated powers of fallen man.  MelanchthonÕs eagle-eyed attack on fallen manÕs capabilities accurately uncovers the very heart of the problem in Medieval theology, and in doing so, he cannot help but focus on the Òlast scholastic,Ó whose theology of justification, more than any of his predecessors, glorifies fallen manÕs native capacity to love God and merit his grace by good works.  ÒThe church of Christ has always believed that the forgiveness of sins is free; in fact, the Pelagians were condemned for maintaining that grace is given because of our works [qui gratiam propter opera nostra dari]Ó (Ap XX, 14).[72]  Although it is true that his Pelagianism is subtly packaged (some might even say insidiously), Melanchthon succeeds in exposing Biel as a representative novus Pelagianus .



[1]G. C. Brettschneider and Hendricus Bindseil, eds., Phillippi Melanthonis opera quae supersunt omnia, 28 vols. (vols. 1-28 of Corpus Reformatorum, Brunswick: C. A. Schwetschke and Son [M. Bruhn], 1834-60): 21:99; hereafter = CR.  This sentence occurs within the locus ÒThe Power and Fruit of Sin.Ó If we include the entire exposition of manÕs fallen estate, from ÒOn the Powers of Man, Especially Free WillÓ through ÒThe Power and Fruit of Sin,Ó then this section is the second most extensive discussion in his Loci of 1521 (justification by faith merits the most extensive exposition).  And even though the subject of original sin does not receive the same amount of space vis-a-vis justification in the Apology; nevertheless, the issues surrounding the freedom and power of fallen human nature will repeatedly surface in MelanchthonÕs polemic treatment of justification (Ap IV), penitence (Ap XII), and free will (Ap XVIII).

[2]English translations of the Apology and the Augsburg Confession are from Tappert, et al., trans. and eds., The Book of Concord: Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1959).  In some cases, however, where I have felt TappertÕs translation is in need of refinement, I have used F. Bente, ed., Concordia Triglotta (St. Louis: Concordia, 1921), which often gives a more literal rendering.  In each case I have compared the English translations to the Latin and German.  Throughout this essay all Latin and German references in the Lutheran confessions and catechisms are taken from Lietzmann, Bornkamm, Volz, eds., Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, herausgegeben im Gedenkjahr der Augsburgishen Konfession 1930 (Gšttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1930; Elfte Auflage, 1992). The text of the Roman Confutation, against which Melanchthon is responding, can be found in CR 27: 82-183.

[3]This identification of the essence of Pelagianism with attributing too much to fallen humanityÕs natural powers is a consistent theme in MelanchthonÕs Apology (Ap IV, 19; XVIII, 1-2, 7, 10; XX, 14), as well as his Loci of 1521 (The Loci Communes of Philip Melanchthon, trans. by Charles L. Hill [Boston: Meador Publishing Co., 1944], 69-110.)

[4]Luther also charges scholasticism, particularly Biel, with Pelagianism.  LutherÕs Disputatio contra scholasticam theologiam (1517) aims at refuting propositions taken directly from BielÕs works. See Leif Grane, Contra Babrielem. Luthers Ausseinandersetzung mit Gabriel Biel in der Disputatio Contra Scholasticam Theologiam 1517, Acta Theologica Danica, 4. (Gydendal, 1962).

[5]He quotes Biel once (Ap XVI, 22-23) and mentions him by name once (Ap IV, 210).  The BS, however, references at least eight other places where Melanchthon alludes to Biel (Ap II, 7, 8-9; IV, 9; XII, 7, 68, 75, 117; and XXI, 11), which is probably a very conservative interpretation.

[6]The question of MelanchthonÕs familiarity with BielÕs via moderna theology need not detain us long.  Suffice it to say that Melanchthon enjoyed six years of academic work at TŸbingen (1512-1518), where he, both as a student and teacher, became familiar with the Wegestreit at the university.  Although he determined to remain aloof from the theological party warfare, the intellectual path that he chose sought the best and avoided the worst (particularly in theology) of both the via moderna and via antiqua parties. See Wilhelm Maurer, Der junge Melanchthon: zwischen Humanismus und Reformation., Bd. 1 (Gšttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967), 28ff., and John R. Schneider, Philip MelanchthonÕs Rhetorical Construal of Biblical Authority: Oratio Sacra (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1990), 25-43.  Melanchthon probably spent his two years as Konventor at TŸbingen pursuing advanced studies with the faculty of theology (Schneider, 31).  This explains MelanchthonÕs experienced grasp of the theological issues of the day during his early years at Wittenberg.  The two professors of theology at TŸbingen were Jacob Lemp, who represented the via antiqua, and Wendelin Steinbach, a student of Biel and representative of the via moderna.  According to Maurer (Maurer, Bd. I, 36ff),  Melanchthon admired Steinbach and his work, while belittling Lemp as a ÒchatterboxÓ or ÒbabblerÓ (ÒThere remained in that place certain unlearned ones, unless one might count the theologian Lemp among the learned, that first among ton matailogon.Ó From a letter to Willibald Pirckheimer [September, 1521]: Melanchthons Werke in Auswahl: Studienausgabe, edited by Robert Stupperich, band VII/1 [GŸtersloh, 1951], 138.13ff.).  Considering MelanchthonÕs love for Reuchlin, and ReuchlinÕs praise of Lemp as the theologian from whom he learned all of his theology (Maurer, Bd. I, 41), it is astonishing that Melanchthon will make such disparaging comments about Lemp (CR 4: 718).  MelanchthonÕs favorable posture toward Steinbach, however, does not necessarily imply any attachment to the substance of the theology or methodology of the via moderna (such a commitment would have to be established from MelanchthonÕs own theology); nevertheless, it does most certainly suggest that Melanchthon was conversant in the theological issues and terminology associated with nominalistic scholasticism.  Apparently, it was SteinbachÕs scientific method that was attractive to Melanchthon: Òits main traits were stress on the limits and boundaries of human language before its sacred subject, a propriety of topical selection favoring matters which were suitable to human capacities and could be put into coherent language, and placing a focus upon the experimental meaning and realities made present therebyÓ (Schneider, 33).  As Maurer puts it, there is in Melanchthon, transmitted through Steinbach, Òa dependency upon BielÓ that is Òhelpful for understanding the theology of the ReformationÓ (Maurer, Bd. I, 37).

[7]Similar, though less detailed glossaries, can be found in Alister McGrathÕs Iustitia Dei  (Cambridge, 1986) and Heiko ObermanÕs Harvest of Medieval Theology (Eerdmans, 1967).

[8]For a discussion of BielÕs doctrine of the two powers, see Oberman, Harvest, 30-47, and Alister McGrath, Reformation Thought: An Introduction, second edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993), 75-78.

[9]It seems best to place the syndresis between the voluntas and intellectus to draw out the apparent parallel with the fomes peccati, which acts in the opposite direction to incite the will away from reason toward the passiones.

[10]See Oberman, Harvest, 128-131.

[11]Although Biel does not normally designate the fomes as ÒsinÓ, in one place at least (Sent. IV, d. 4. q. I art. 2 concl. 3) Biel speaks of it as being forgiven: Ò. . . quamvis baptismus fomitem peccati in rite baptisato non penitus extinguat ipsum tamen minuit et remittit.Ó See Oberman, Harvest, 120-130.

[12]See Oberman, Harvest, 134-135.

[13]See Ibid., 39, 47-49, 128-129.

[14]See Ibid., 267-70.

[15]See Ibid., 71-74.

[16]See Ibid., 128-129, 138-139.

[17]See McGrath, Iustitia, 87, 152-153, and Oberman, Harvest, 140-142.

[18]Oberman, Harvest, 141; see also 135-140.

[19]See Oberman, Harvest, 129-145, and McGrath, Iustitia, 87-89.

[20]See Oberman, Harvest, 167-173, and McGrath, Iustitia, 124-128

[21]See Oberman, Harvest, 153ff.

[22]Sent. II, ii G., cited in Oberman, Harvest, 268.

[23]Cf. Oberman, Harvest, 169-172, and Wilhelm Ernst, Gott und Mensch am Vorabend der Reformation: Eine Untersuchung zur Moralphilosophie und -Theologie bei Gabriel Biel,  (Leipzig: St. Benno Verlag, 1972), 408.

[24]Oberman, Harvest, 167, 181-184, 200, 288, and Steven E. Ozment, ÒHomo Viator: Luther and Late Medieval Theology,Ó in Ozment, ed., The Reformation in Medieval Perspective (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1971), 142-154.

[25]Oberman, Harvest, 176.

[26]Ibid., 166.

[27]Ibid., 177.

[28]Lawrence F. Murphy, ÒGabriel Biel and Ignorance as an Effect of Original Sin in the Prologue to the Canonis missae expositio,Ó Archiv fŸr Reformationsgeschichte 74 (1983): 5-24, and 75 (1984): 32-58, and ÒMartin Luther and Gabriel Biel: A Disagreement about Original Sin,Ó Science et Espirit 32.1 (1980): 51-72.

[29]Lawrence himself acknowledges this.  See Lawrence, ÒGabriel Biel,Ó 16, 23.

[30]See Wilhelm Ernst, Gott und Mensch am Vorabend der Reformation: Eine Untersuchung zur Moralphilosophie und -Theologie bei Gabriel Biel,  (Leipzig: St. Benno Verlag, 1972). 

[31]Ibid., 384ff.

[32]Denis Janz, ÒA Reinterpretation of Gabriel Biel on Nature and Grace,Ó Sixteenth Century Journal 8.1 (1977): 107.

[33]Oberman, Harvest, 131-141. Janz points out the almost total neglect of BielÕs doctrine of meritum de congruo in Ernst (108).

[34]Ibid., 141-145.

[35]Alister McGrath, ÒThe Anti-Pelagian Structure of ÒNominalistÓ Doctrines of Justification,Ó Ephemerides Theologicae Lovaniensis 57 (1981): 107-119, and Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, vol. 1, The Beginnings to the Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986), 77ff.

[36]Oberman, Harvest, 139, 140.

[37]Ibid., 177.

[38]Alister McGrath, ÒThe Anti-Pelagian Structure,Ó 117.

[39]Sent. II, 14 C. A full citation can be found in Oberman, Harvest, p. 166.

[40]ÒBiel can speak in what appears to be such bold Pelagian language about the respective contributions of free will and grace as regards the moral quality of an act because he feels that he brings the full biblical doctrine of grace to bear on the relation of good deeds and meritorious deedsÓ (Oberman, Harvest, 166).  In other words, the ÒcovenantalÓ or what we might call the ÒsystemicÓ grace of God, whereby he has established the way of salvation de potentia ordinata, supposedly suffices to deflect the charge of Pelagianism.

[41]McGrath, Iustitia Dei, 77, 78.

[42]Liberum hominis arbitrium ex suis naturalibus sine gratia elicere postest actum moraliter bonum.Ó (Cited in Janz, ÒA Reinterpretation,Ó 107.)

[43]Ultimately, remember, AugustineÕs difficulty with Pelagius and Celestius mainly concerns their denigration of the grace of God; for if an instance of human nature exists anywhere, of whatever age or circumstance, that is not corrupted by the first Adam, it therefore does not require the work of the second Adam, which necessarily implies that there is no universal need for the grace of Jesus Christ. Augustine warns: ÒNow, whoever maintains that human nature at any period required not the second Adam for its physician, because it was not currupted in the first Adam, is convicted as an enemy to the grace of GodÓ (De pecc. Or. 29; St. Augustine, On Baptism, trans. J. R. King, in The Writings Against the Manichaeans and the Donatists, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 4 of A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church  [1887; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979], 249.)

[44]McGrath, ÒAnti-Pelagian Structure,Ó 116.

[45]Sent. II. dist. xxv. 8-9. 

[46]Sent. II. d. 4 q. 1 art. I nota 2 E.  As Oberman explains, when the gratia gratis data is mentioned by Biel (which is not very often) it is not explained as the enabling grace necessary to empower the viator to Òdo his very best.Ó Rather, Òit is thoroughly naturalized and barely distinguishable from manÕs natural endowmentsÓ or Òit is identified with manÕs natural capacitiesÓ (Oberman, Harvest, 138).

[47]McGrath, ÒAnti-Pelagian Structure,Ó 117-118.

[48]Oberman, Harvest, 177.

[49]Ibid., 120-128.

[50]MelanchthonÕs Loci of 1521 contains an extended defense of the limited power of the will.  The will has Òa kind of liberty in things externalÓ (externorum operum, CR 21:90), but when in comes to matters of the Òinner motions of the heartÓ (internos cordis motus), loving and fearing God and man as we ought, truly God has no respect for the human will and its opera externa (CR 21:90).  The fallen will of man hypocritically Òfeigns affabilityÓ (simulat comitatem in externo opere, CR 21:91) when it comes to external works.  ÒNow this is that will which the foolish Scholastics have fashioned for us when they teach their fictitious penitences to wit, such a power which, no matter how you may be affected, can temper and moderate the affections. Just according as you are affected, they think that there is a faculty of the will for eliciting, as they say, Ôgood actsÕ [eliciendi. . . actus bonus]Ó (CR: 21:91).  Melanchthon decidedly rejects the entire scholastic anthropology centered on the autonomous voluntas.

[51]Tappert, 100; BS 53.

[52]Tappert, 101; BS 146

[53]Tappert, 106, emphasis mine; BS 156.

[54]The Bekenntnisschriften references BielÕs Sent. I. ii. d. 30. a. 3 dub 1. (W. Werbeck and U. Hofmann, eds., Collectorium circa quattuor libros Sententiarum, I [TŸbingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1979], 580-81; hereafter = COL).

[55]BS 152.

[56]Tappert, 101; BS 149.  The Bekenntnisschriften references BielÕs Sent. III. 27. q. un. a. 3 dub. 5. Q. and IV, 14. q. 1 a. 2. concl. 5. S. (COL III: 503-507 and IV/1: 434-35).  The first reference (Sent. III) is inaccurate. There is no Dubium 5Ñthe BS noteÕs citation is found under Dubium 2.

[57]At this period in MelanchthonÕs theological development, under the influence of Luther, he very decidedly rejects the scholastic doctrine of the autonomy of the will (See Hartnut Oskar GŸnther, ÒDie Entwicklung der Willenslehre Melanchthons in der Auseinanderstetzung mit Luther und ErasmusÓ [Ph.D. diss., Friedrich-Alexander-UniversitŠt, n.d.], 19-29).

[58]Tappert, 101, 102.

[59]Tappert, 109; BS 160-1.  The Bekenntnisschriften refers to the older Franciscan theologians and finally Biel.  Biel is quoted: Dubitatur, utrum, necessario Deus det gratiam facienti, quod in se est. . . . Est necessitas ex conditione seu suppositione.  Tunc dicitur, quod Deus dat gratiam facienti quod in se est ex necessitate immutabilitatis et suppositione, quia disposuit dare immutabiliter gratiam facienti quod in se est. . . . Illa ergo ordinatione stante et suppositione non potest non dare gratiam facienti quod in se est, quia tunc esset mutabilis (Sent. II, 27. qu. un. a. 3 dub. 4). ÒIt is to be considered whether God by necessity would give the habit of grace (gratiam facienti ) to the one who does what is in him . . . .  It is given by necessity arising from the condition or supposition.  In conclusion it is said, that insofar as God gives the habit of grace to the one who does his best it is out of immutable necessity and prerequisite, because he was disposed to give immutably grace to the one who does his best  . . .  Therefore by this standing decree and condition, it is not possible for him not to give the habit of grace to the one who does what is in him, because in that case he would be changeable.Ó

[60]Tappert, 112.

[61]Tappert, 118; BS 176.

[62]BS 218.

[63]BS 218.

[64]Tappert, 193; BS 267.  The BS references Biel, Sent. IV. d.16, q.2, a.1, C.

[65]Tappert, 225; BS 311.

[66] See Heiko Oberman, The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1992), 211ff.; McGrath, Iustitia, 83-91, and Oberman, ÒFacientibus Quod in se est Deus non Denegat Gratiam: Robert Holcot O.P. and the Beginnings of LutherÕs Theology,Ó in Ozment, ed., The Reformation in Medieval Perspective (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1971), 119-141.

[67]Oberman, Harvest, 153, 156.

[68]BS 218.

[69]BS 311.

[70]BS 312.

[71]BS 313.  Schneider discovers the same motivation in the order of MelanchthonÕs Loci of 1521: Melanchthon begins his Loci with a discussion of predestination, the powers of man, and the freedom of the will because his Òessential concern was that we come to an honest awareness of ourselves as being absolutely powerless to merit the goodness of God. . . . His main reason for beginning with this unsettling subject was to create the context for self-knowledge through the doctrines of law, sin, and grace.  His aim, once again, was to follow the inventive and dispositional pattern of the biblical oratio.Ó (Schneider, 217).

[72]BS 316.