Captivity or Autonomy? Philipp Melanchthon's Theological Anthropology

Inquiry 54 (5):460 - 477 (2011)
Abstract
Abstract Theology may well provide useful insights into the question of human autonomy?if one is willing to entertain the existence and authority of God as expressed through the scriptures. Accordingly, the Bible presents humanity as designed to exercise much autonomy. But, humanity immediately abused that freedom, resulting in the present universal captivity of the human will to sin and death. The will can now only be liberated from its self-centered bondage through the substitutionary death and resurrection of the God?Man Jesus Christ, received by grace through faith (according to the Protestant soteriological framework). With the acceptance of Christ by faith, the Holy Spirit enters into the believer, causing the will to begin a process of regeneration in which the old self-centered deformation of the will is gradually liberated to a restoration of its original design?a God-centered existence characterized by freedom in pursuing a life of genuine love and righteousness. Within this general theological anthropology, Christians often disagree about the relative level of self-determination at the most crucial point?the decision of faith. Philipp Melanchthon (1497?1560) provides an excellent snapshot of this theological debate, due to the evolutionary character of his own teachings on the subject. In 1519, he taught that human beings had no freedom in the choice of faith. At his death in 1560, he taught that human beings did have (at least some) self-determination in this decision. A survey of this doctrinal transformation allows for an in-depth exploration of human autonomy from a theological perspective
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