Sunday, February 28, 2010
Posted by RevFisk
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
With the onset of Lent, heightening responsibilities with PLM, and an otherwise fairly packed schedule, I'm going to be approaching the further eNews "theological musings" a bit differently, at least for a little while. First off, rather than publishing "bits" of a chapter weekly, I'm going to wait until I have an entire chapter to put forth at a time. But this means I will only be putting out a chapter, at best, once a month. Sometimes it might be faster, sometimes not, but for now, that's the way it will be.
I also hope to be bringing out some other materials in the near future, so don't stop checking in.
Posted by RevFisk
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
This week's section is the last in the chapter on "Freedom." If you've been diligently reading along, all the puzzle pieces should start of all into place. We aren't robots after all, and we are free in a sense, but how does any of that help us? Where is the Gospel in it? And when does my freedom from God become slavery to myself? Those are the questions we've been driving towards. Those are the answers we will look for in this week's installment.
It has been clearly revealed to all the world that the Almighty God intends to be the Savior of mankind.1 But this means that now he is faced with the problem of having to free sinners from their freedom to commit sins. He must make slaves of sin into slaves of righteousness.2 Humanly speaking, this is simply an impossible task.3
It isn't rational. What sane, selfish human would ever willingly give up his will's freedom to decide things for itself? Remember: “But we are not robots!” This is our great defense against the God who has said he will do everything divinely possible in order to save us from our robotic commitment to freedom from him. So utterly corrupt is the human will that we think that God's grace extended in order to save us from our corrupted wills is actually a great evil. So blighted is human nature that we hasten to believe that anything which might be done “against my will” is the very definition of evil. For us, there is no other option. We have placed “what I want” on the throne of God.4
That is the problem with sinners. Sinners don't repent. They can't. It's against their nature. Addicts do not quit. Slaves are not free.
Here we sit, making our constant, daily choices over every little aspect of life. But not a one of these choices is actually “free” in the full sense of the word, precisely because you have to make every single one of them. This means that every free choice is “bound” to be the choice that you want to make, and in this ironic sense, you actually don't have a choice in the matter. Then, if you roll into this equation how the God of Holy Scripture has said that he has destined himself to hold you accountable for every last one of these thoughts, words and deeds, whatever freedom does exist in all of your wants and desires ends up being a matter of debt on a scale before the Judgment seat of the Almighty.5
This is hardly liberating. Life is lived on borrowed capital, and the owner of that capital is going to demand more than a little interest earned from a savings account.6 All this being true, the pretend “freedom” to do whatever we want whenever we want, which we defend so vociferously, stops looking like its really the best apple on the tree. To the contrary, a will that is totally free to make all choices is only free enough to receive the full consequences of those choices.7
With exponential fury, the freedom begins to mount up a supernatural weight of slavery played out in the guilt we feel day by day.8 Even a minimal amount of restriction starts to look pretty helpful – like gutter-rails on a bowling lane. It's like the difference between being given two different types of quizzes by your high school teacher – you'll remember these. The first was the simple multiple choice quiz, with four options, “A, B, C, D.” No matter what, you always had a 25% chance of getting the answer right (50% if you marked “C”!) But then there were those horribly cruel examines with questions something like, “The teacher's favorite non-primary color is _________.” Oh, what a curse was that freedom! How much more every one of us longed for some boundaries to our answers!
Not all freedom is so very helpful. On those tests in high school, we were set free to receive the worst grade possible. But in real life, the freedom that we do have in our choices is all part of a series in which we are compelled to answer, “The teachers favorite color is my favorite color.” We hand in test after test and pop-quiz after pop-quiz with the open ended answers flush to the brim with only what we want the answers to be, bit by bit binding ourselves into a defintion of freedom and goodness that is merely the gravitational pull of me. And, this happens to be God's very definition of evil.9
Ever since Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, having known only good before, we are getting quite a lesson in evil. But this lesson does not end in a pop-quiz. It ends in receiving the full wages which are earned.10 Payment for the knowledge of evil is death.11 Death is no doorway to something better, no portal to a spirit world, no developing too for the fittest to survive. Death is the beginning of something much worse. Death is the foretaste of hell.12
How free does all this make you feel? This is the problem – your problem. A truly free will is a profound and terrifying idea, and you are, in a very real sense, bound to it. This freedom is slavery.
But this is also why learning to believe what Scripture reveals about how we are all possessors of such a bound will is the prelude to some profoundly good news. Remember, God has said that he considers this freedom we have grabbed not merely to be evil and the worst kind of slavery, but that it will be his great glory to save us from it.13 He is Almighty and free in all the best senses of the terms, and he has promised that he is using this Almightyness and freeness according to his own plan, directing everything and anything in all of the cosmos' history (including the fall which we chose and the constant poor decisions which we make) according to this good will.14
God also tends to do only what he wants. The difference is that what he wants is always what is best for everyone else – and, he is powerful enough to pull it off every time.15 What God wants, in your case, is to save you from every last one of your very worst (most freed from him) decisions, choices and actions. And this is the root of the Gospel.
Imagine it: the entire universe is being moved and worked by God according to his designs to save you. There is still no “oops.” There is only his plan, his pre-destiny. Our little rebellious “wills” are running around doing whatever it is that we “will” do, but none of us ever manages to get outside that transcendent completing of salvation which God has set in motion. Not as a robot, but as a sinful human, you make all your decisions, good and (more often) bad, free and (because of it) bound, yet all the while God is being God, not relinquishing one inch of his claim to be your King, and, for that reason, not budging an inch on his intention to save you from the death and hell you have bound yourself into freely choosing (unless he intervenes.)
Scripture reveals that God is much more God than our natural reason would ever wish to believe, and this is an imperially good thing. He has enough Godness that he can even overlook our silly disputes about the extent of our “free” wills until where we actually draw the line becomes a wonderfully moot point.16 Whatever you choose, on your own it can never amount to the ultimate right thing.17 If you were given even once chance to save yourself by choosing to give up your freed will, you could be stood up at the gates of hell and you still wouldn't back down. So it is right at that point that God is playing the trump card of his ultimate Sovereignty in order to save you from that most terrible, childish decision you are freely bound to make.
Yet, there is one last piece to this “willful” puzzle. God has planned to save you from your will that will never choose to be saved from. But he also knows that he cannot force that decision either. The bent will cannot be made straight. That would not be salvation. That would be making you a robot, compelling you to live against your everlastingly selfish will for the rest of an eternity. All the good you might do you would actually hate. That wouldn't be any kind of real good at all.
“Aha!” the old flesh in you now must say. “God will not force me to love him. This is a great defense. It appears that must be free choose after all.”
Oh no. It is far worse (and better) than that. God knows that there is no way to force a sinner to genuinely repent. He knows that setting rules and laws doesn't help wicked men become good men. So now, in his Godness, in order to save his creation, he has taken the kind of radical tact and action which none of us could have foreseen, much less chosen. Man needs to be set free from his free (from God) will. Man needs his worst enemy (himself) to be gotten out of the way. So, God has elected to kill Man. That will do the trick. Once Man is dead, he can no longer say “no.” Dead and buried, his sinful will can be stripped away, purged, cleansed and made new. Once dead, he can be regenerated into freedom from himself, from his selfishness, from his bound tyranny. Only once Man is dead, can he be resurrected.
Here is the heart of the matter. Here is the profound reality of what has in fact happened in the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.18
1. 1 Timothy 4:10 “We have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people.”
2. Romans 6:20 “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.”
3. Mark 10:26-27 “They were exceedingly astonished, and said to him,'Then who can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man it is impossible...' ”
4. Romans 7:14 “I am of the flesh, sold under sin.”
5. Revelation 20:12 “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.”
6. Matthew 25:77 “Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.” cf. 25:14-30
7. Ezekiel 25:35 “Thus says the Lord God: Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, you yourself must bear the consequences of your lewdness and whoring.”
8. Psalm 25:11 “For your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.”
9. James 3:16 “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
10. Psalm 5:10 “Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.”
11. Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death.”
12. Revelation 20:14 “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”
13. Isaiah 30:18 “The Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.”
14. Ephesians 3:10-11 “Through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
15. Exodus 34:6-7 “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.”
16. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
17. Psalm 14:3 “They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”
18. Romans 8:3-4 “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh....”
Posted by RevFisk
Sunday, February 14, 2010
My apologies to all. I have yet again managed to misplace the recording of this mornings sermon. Somehow, I have recorded well over an hour's worth of silence. Not exactly sure what happened, but I will hopefully have it fixed by next week.
Posted by RevFisk
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
In the meditations on "Freedom" I've been sharing with you, we've been wrestling with the Biblical teaching of what Martin Luther called "The bondage of the will." This week, we build on the foundation laid in the previous two sections.
The theology of "the will" is a hot point of debate in many circles of Christianity. Even the so-called "non-denominational groups (who will tell you, "I'm just a Christian," or "Our church just teaches what the Bible says,") still end up sitting in one of the classic denominational-dogmatic camps (usually a slightly Baptist Methodism.) No matter that they might think, all churches and all Christians believe something about the human will.
The Lutheran position on the will stands alone like an eye in a storm, a middle ground between to towering mountains on either side. The purpose of this chapter is to try and bring out the uniquely Lutheran contribution to the table, precisely because by holding up all the passages of Scripture, the Lutheran view finds that the teachings on our will press us once more back into the Good News about Jesus.
For that very reason, this chapter (along with the entire book) is written as something of a gimmick. It doesn't come out blasting, "We are Lutherans! We have the answers!" (Or, at least, it tries not too.) Rather, it's written so that, if it falls into the hands of those people who like to say, "I'm just a Bible-believing Christian," they will be confronted with everything that the Bible actually says.
It's a gambit, to be sure. As I pointed out last week, writing a book is a somewhat loony thing to do to begin with. On top of that, as I said in the first section on freedom, this chapter is the breaking point for the entire book, at least, for any one who is not already a Lutheran. The earlier chapters on "Vanity" (original sin,) "Entropy" (the cursed world,) "Aliens" (resurrection) and "Goodness," (justification) are topics that most Christians will be able to engage in, if only with an "Oh yeah, I remember that!" approach. That's the hook. But then, with "Freedom," the reel starts to tug. If the reader fights it the hook down and swallows it, then the hope is that, from that point on, the Bible will be a newly opened book once again: the depths of the good news in baptism, forgiveness, the Supper, and much more, will all start to slip into place.
In that sense, this "book" is trying to be something of a post-modern large catechism for popular consumption (or, more precisely, [and perhaps ironically!] an "enchiridion").
So...last week's "You're Will" moves into this week's "Will You," continuing to delve into the dilemma of discovering exactly what being a "will" means, especially a "will" that is now "free" in all the wrong ways, particularly from the constraints of God, and hisown (much more perfect) will.
The struggle over understanding what Scripture has to teach us about the relative “freedom” of our wills often stems from those passages which clearly state that God does and will hold all humans accountable for their rebellion against him.1 If God is going to hold us accountable for our deeds, then it seems reasonable that we must have some way of pleasing him, of choosing him, or of avoiding the condemnation which he threatens to bring. In a sense, humanity did have that chance. The problem is, that choice was already made a long, long time ago.2
There is an old saying: “The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.” When my grandparents used to say this, what they meant was that a daughter is always the product of his parents. “He's a real chip off the old block.” The son is no different than his father. Although this conventional wisdom doesn't always hold true in every corner of our lives, it is a wonderful description of the Biblical truth that “all mankind fell in Adam's fall.”3 We are all chips off the old block. We have fallen from the tree in more ways than one.4 The entire predicament of humanity is wrapped up in one man's choice, so much so that now there is actually nothing that any of us can do about it.5
Adam originally sinned. That means that he rebelled against God. This choosing of evil over good was not a part of God's plan. We know from Scripture that God didn't say “oops,” but we also know that this sin was not some sort of trojan program implanted on Adam's hard drive, as if humanity had no choice in the matter.6 We very much had a choice, and there is the kernel of this entire paradox. But it's a nut we are not quite able to crack, and Scripture never cracks it for us.7 Instead, Scripture reveals two sides of a coin that seem as different as heads and tails. 1. God did not break the world. It was not his idea. He did not will it to be.8 2. We broke the world by choosing abandon the Almighty God – a God so powerful that it is impossible to abandon him and live.9
What this means is that Adam's original sin was the closest thing to an absolutely “free” choice that has ever been made in the history of the cosmos.10 He was not a robot. He had a will, but he chose to corrupt it – horribly so! And the apple didn't fall far from the tree. His children, each and every one, is a chip off the old block. You have a will – the same one as your father before you. Like him, your will has been bound to seek more freedom from God, so much so that you are an utter slave to it.11
“You will be like God,” the serpent said to Eve. “If you come to know both good and evil, your will will be free to choose, to make, to be. The true image of God is having a free will.”12 This was the great lie. It's just not true. You have a will that your ancestor segregated from his God, but it did not give him everlasting, god-like freedom. Quite the opposite. Like the proverbial monkey who puts his hand in a jar to grab a nut, he became trapped by his own greed, unable to let go of the nut even though it meant remaining caught in the trap. This is the reality of your everyday struggle between God's good and the evil which ever seeks to be “freed” from him. Such freedom is no freedom at all.13
All of us have far less freedom than we'd like. You do not have the freedom to not die, no matter how hard you wish it. Neither do you have the freedom to, should you accidentally die, choose to rise to life again. Even in much smaller matters, say, for example, what you chose to wear this morning, you aren't very free. Think about it. Even if you had no constraints put upon you by anyone outside of yourself, you still couldn't bring yourself to wear that old shirt you once spent money on but now can't seem to stand. (You know the one.) But the reason you weren't “free” to put it on was because of no one but yourself. You were bound to do nothing except your own will. Yet for that very reason, your own will was the only thing you could do. In one very important sense, you didn't have any choice in the matter at all.
At first glance, being a slave to your own will might not seem like such a big deal. But Scripture reveals it to be the one, great human predicament.14 We simply cannot “will” ourselves to prefer the things we don't prefer.15 I can't decide to dislike the things which I already adore (except when I realize that I'm enslaved to them, in which case I love them and hate them at the same time, all the while hating myself for loving them, and loving that I love them even though I hate doing so.) Perhaps, by training and discipline, a person might be able to train himself to stop loving something – like, say, that cup of coffee I have every day. Or, one might learn to like something he hates, like, say, running on a treadmill. But this is the most strange kind of freedom, for it is a case where one must work (and very hard at that) in the hopes of thwarting your own will.
At the end of this road likes the fact that you are not so free as you would like, most especially when it comes to the tyranny you hold over yourself.
All of this is to show once more that any freedom that you do have is an incredibly relative thing. Your will is always as much in bondage as it is free. This comes to bear powerfully in the Biblical teaching that because you are segregated from God by the choice of Adam, you now are absolutely powerless to will yourself back into his good graces, most especially by trying harder and harder to exercise your free will to do so.16
It's like being trapped in quicksand. The harder you struggle to choose the actually Almighty God, the more you are exercising your attempt to free yourself from an actually Almighty God – so much so that when Jesus comes and says things like, “I have chosen you,”17 and “you are predestined,”18 and “not because of anything you have done,”19 the “natural man” in us has the terrible audacity to think that we would have been better off if he'd left us some choice in the matter.20
On top of all of this, the truth remains that even the most ardently freed will – a will freed from God – is still not actually free from God. God is still God, even if we don't believe it. He still controls, upholds and propagates the universe. You can't escape it. The more you try, the more you will find yourself trying to escape you – and you are the one person you can't ever get away from – not a robot, but a sinner and a rebel “will” enslaved to your own freedom.
This is the bondage of the human will, our collective chips off the old block. There is not answer to it that you can choose or find. Even the problem itself needs to be revealed to us. The only hope is that there is someone left beyond ourselves who is powerful enough to save us from it.
1. Romans 2:6 “He will render to each one according to his works.”
2. Genesis 2:16-17 “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.' ”
3. Romans 5:12 “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”
4. Genesis 3:24 “He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”
5. Romans 5:14-15 “Death reigned from Adam....Many died through one man's trespass.”
6. Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
Ezekiel 18:23 “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”
7. Romans 9:11,15 “They were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls...he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy.”
Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
8. 1 John 1:5 “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
9. Genesis 3:17,19 “And to Adam he said, 'Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you...cursed is the ground because of you...till you return to the ground...for you are dust....”
10. But “how did he, a good being, choose a bad choice”? That is the nut we can't crack. It is the great unanswerable mystery in all Biblical theology, called the “crux telegorum” or “the problem of the cross.” It is the heart of the nagging question, “Why some, not others?” and it is at the root of all controversies we have in discerning the bondage of our wills. God has not revealed in Scripture “how” Adam fell. But he has revealed that Adam did in fact do so, and with petrifying results!
11. Ephesians 2:1 “You were dead in the trespasses and sins.”
12. Genesis 3:4-5 “The serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.' ”
13. 2 Peter 2:19 “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”
14. cf. Romans 7:7 “I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, 'You shall not covet.' ”
15. Romans 7:15 “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
16. cf. Mark 10:17-31
17. John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you.”
18. Romans 8:30 “Those whom he predestined he also called...”
19. Ephesians 2:8 “This is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
20. 1 Corinthians 2:14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Posted by RevFisk
Sunday, February 07, 2010
Thursday, February 04, 2010
(If you're looking for the next installment, just scroll down to the next post!)
So why is it that I'm writing a book? There are a number of answers to that question.
For example, in the book "Why Johnny Can't Preach?" which the circuit pastor's conference just read for our January meeting, T. David Gordon, makes the case that a pastor who doesn't spend a good number of hours a week writing (it doesn't matter what - journaling, poetry, articles, etc.) is a pastor who will be a poor preacher. (The same, he says, goes for reading and contemplation as well!)
Then there is that part of Pastor Fisk you might not know yet: I am a writer. It's what I do. Originally, it was my intention to make writing a career. I didn't plan to be a pastor. I planned to write, to teach English, to compose, to edit: I wasn't quite sure. But my BA is in Creative Writing (which includes a minor in English Lit.) From the time I was twenty I've been trying to write books - both fiction and theology. (I do place some emphasis on that "trying" part. I did finish one fiction novel when I was 23, but...let's just say it'll stay in the files. And I have several theological books in complete first draft forms, but not at a point ready for publication.)
So I love to write, which, (as George Orwell points out in his little book, "Why I Write,") means that I hate to write but I have no choice in the matter: I write. In his words, "Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some [passion that] one can neither resist nor understand."
So, there's two reasons. Pastors are supposed to write, and Pastor Fisk can't help but write. And then, there is this: the eNews. I started this eNews when we were in the midst of implementing the Revitalization process. It became clear that we needed a central source for information as we "moved forward" week by week. At that point, the writing I was doing for the eNews was an attempt to create some stability and purpose to the ideas we were pursuing. Revitalization came and went, but the eNews lived on. The new dilemma was that, without a goal to write about, the writing started to take a toll on me. I started banging my ahead against a wall every Tuesday afternoon trying to figure out what to talk about to keep the eNews feeling eNewsy.
Then my eyes (somehow) drifted across an old, half finished book I kept in a three ring binder on my shelf. "The Meaning of Life," I had called it. "That's good stuff," I thought. "It's mostly simple, has a purpose, and will give me a muse to pull ideas from." So I started to pull my eNews topics from the chapters and sections of that book.
I fear that the publication has become less engaging since I went from publishing entire chapters, to publishing sections. You might remember that simple time-constraints have pressed me to write in bite-sized chunks. I could, of course, not publish anything until a chapter is finished, but then, I wouldn't be serving the eNews.
Maybe you see a little of the dilemma? It's even more bizarre, in that "The Wisdom of Foolishness" (the tentative new name for the book,) is not even the book I really am compelled to be working on! (That book, if I'm lucky, I get to work on for about an hour on Thursday mornings - but I haven't touched it for two weeks and going.) Wheels within wheels within wheels!
So I could (A) just stop writing this book and not include any theology in the eNews. Or I could (B) write in bite-sized chunks, but only send out full chapters. Or (C) just keep going along as it is.
I'm not sure. What do you think?
I'm rather convinced bite-sized chunks is not the best way to read a book like the one I'm writing. It is meant to be read a chapter at a time. But it's a great way to write one because, with a deadline, its a good way to crank out a 1-2 pages a week. There could even be some real advantages to the long term goals. Think of it: the world really does need a Biblical counter to the massively popular "Purpose Driven Life" phenomenon. And here we are, a writer and a group of readers who could, conceivably, provide immediate feedback every week. We would not be the first congregation to see the writing of books as a valid and important part of Christian outreach and mission. But even that would look a little different than what we're doing right now.
In any case, I just wanted to pass on some of my thoughts that are bouncing around my head as I labor to get a little "writing" done for the eNews. For now, I'm out of time!
Posted by RevFisk
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
I've had some trouble trying to keep my focus in writing the chapter "Freedom." This is because wrestling with the doctrine of the bondage of the will (and it's counterpart teaching about where and how humans might have a "free will") is always a struggle. That's part of the point. The doctrine of election, which is one which is given in order to comfort us, often ends up giving us a great deal of duress. This is because it takes the power out of our hands and puts it back into God's hands.
Trying to fit a book's worth of theology into a chapter of a few pages is then a significant challenge. I keep having to ask, "What questions will the reader have?" and "What objections with the skeptic bring?" This weeks section of the serial is almost entirely given over to one such question. Before we can learn the value of believing in the bondage of the human will, first we must set the foundation of the claim.
In order to strike as many birds with one stone as I can, I've settled on the argument which seems (to me) to some up all the arguments against the Biblical teaching of predestination: "But we aren't robots, are we?" Even so, this week's section is very much the set up for what will follow. Last week "Deep Raving" introduced the relative nature of the words "freedom" and "slavery," that is, how these words can have different meanings in different contexts.
This week, that same train of thought continues. Does not being a robot mean that we have a "free" will in all things? Does having freedom mean that we are never slaves? And, most importantly, is our tendency to resist the Bible's teaching that we do not have a fully "free" will bound up in our misunderstanding of what a "will" actually is? These questions and more are at the heart of the next section, "You're Will."
As soon as one begins talking about the Biblical teaching that humans do not have a “free will,” the devil will launch an immediate counter-attack. Like any good politician, he does not tell his lies outright, but he will mask every deception with a strong kernel of truth.1 “But...people are not robots,” he entices us to say. It is true. We are not robots.2 But this is not really an argument against what the Bible has to say about the problem of our wills. It is a classic tactic of deception: misdirection.
It is a misdirection because it pretends that we live in a reality in which everything is always, purely “either”...“or.” Either we have complete, autonomous, free wills, capable of choosing all things for ourselves, both good and evil, life and death, right and wrong...or we have no wills at all, but are only robotic creations of fatalism, every one of our thoughts, words and deeds prescribed for us before time and taking place, as it were, against our wills. In the Bible, God draws a line through the heart of our either/or syndrome. Are we free? Are we bound? Free from what? Bound to what?
This morning, I got up, I put on clothes, and I headed out to do my reading over a cup of coffee.3 And, this morning, God Almighty breathed life into my flesh, protected my every step, sent his Spirit to enliven me through his Word, and providentially compels my works into the working of all things for the good of those who are in Christ.4 Was God Almighty? Yes.5 Am I still responsible for my actions? Yes.6 Am I a robot? No.7 Does that mean I have an absolutely “free” will in all things? Not exactly.8 Is there forgiveness? Of course.9 Does that forgiveness give me the freedom to choose evil? May it never be!10
But all of this talk makes it much more complicated than it really is. The simple revelation is that God is an all-powerful, saving, predestining God,11 and I am one of his creatures who has unwittingly come to believe that there is nothing more threatening to my freedom than that simple answer.12 This makes things something of a mess. But my own discomfort with a God who chooses to save me even though I have chosen to rebel against him is also part of his revealed answer.13 Scripture teaches that the reason we struggle to believe what Scripture teaches is because it is the natural inclination of our wills to hate God's answers, because God's answer is that our wills have gotten themselves stuck looking for freedom in all the wrong places. like in ourselves.14
God created humans to have wills. Jesus also had a will.15 The problem is that, in one sense, our wills have made an idol out of considering themselves free. Of course, the real question is, “Free from what?” When we ask that question in order to see what is lurking behind that voice of dispute, “But we're not robots!” what we find that we're defending is our right to be free from God.16
In any revolution, “freedom fighters” are not robots. They are rebels. Rebels, by definition, oppose being slaves to the established authority. They are free. But they are not free. They are slaves to the rebellion.17 The reason Jesus teaches us that we cannot have two masters is not because having masters is evil. It is because, at the end of the day, you can only have one. Humans do not have cosmically free wills because we must serve either God or mammon. This time, there is no both/and.
1. 2 Corinthians 11:14 “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”
2. Genesis 2:7 “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
3. Genesis 1:28“God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion.”
4. Romans 8:28 “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
5. Genesis 17:1 “The LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.”
6. Genesis 17:1 “The LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.”
7. Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
8. Romans 9:16 “It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
9. Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
10. Romans 6:1-2 “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
11. Ephesians 1:11 “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
12. Romans 1:22-23 “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
13. Romans 9:20 “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”
14. 1 Corinthians 2:14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
15. John 6:38 “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
16. Romans 2:21-23 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
17. 2 Peter 2:19 “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”
Posted by RevFisk