Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Freewill and the Nature of God

When Adam and Eve were created in the garden, they were specially made by God. They alone are said to be formed by his action rather than his word, and alone were "in-spirited" by his breath. He got his hands dirty making man and preparing a place for them--for everything else mere words were sufficient. Only they were made in the image of God and became living souls. When God was finished creating them, his response elevated from the merely good to the very good.

It seems obvious to me, that God was creating companions for himself in Adam and Eve--folk who could relate to him on his level. Lest you think I'm wandering off into Mormonism, go to the source (Jesus) and see his actual vision for redeemed mankind. God may have built a park for us to live in, but he wasn't opening a zoo. He was building a pleasant place to fellowship with people.

So to understand the nature of man one must look to the nature of God. I think it impossible to view God as shackled, bound, conscripted in any way. He's nobody's puppet! He is the picture of freedom and freedom of will. This is the image in which he's built mankind. He called it good. God's desire as reflected in pristine creation, pronounced good by him who would know, is mankind not coerced, or oppressed, or forced to do, or to act, or to think in any certain way. God's not like that and he did not build man to be like that.

In the best condition that humans could be in God allowed them have free reign. It was what separated them from all else and made them true companions to God. They had to have such freedom, or they wouldn't be God-like, and could not fellowship with God at the level he wanted. However, being God, in all his perfections, they also could not hope to exert will in opposition to God. That is untenable, unsustainable and, well, just plain evil. Nonetheless, even at the best they would ever be, God did not coerce or make his will irresistable to them. Why would anyone expect him to change his mind now?

21 comments:

  1. Good Point! It would seem that Calvinists would need to completely reject the Biblical teaching that mankind is still made in God's image. Both total depravity, and the lack of free will would certainly be inconsistent with being created in God's image.

    Of course they hold to a tainted image of God - as the creator of evil who is glorified by people eternally suffering in hell. Hmm.. let's see... that image is coming into focus...

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  2. Cindy,
    How nice to hear from you! I miss all the interaction that used to occur at Beside the Point.

    What a great comment, especially the killer last paragraph! That could explain a lot, I should share it with some of my Arminian blogging buddies. Although, I suppose, trying to glorify God by insulting his very nature might be a sign of depravity! :-)

    I absolutely hate "miserable worm" Christianity. It's has all the baggage of false humility, without any of the joy of God's plans for us. Besides, it makes us the issue in our relationship with God rather than him. Some glory, huh?

    Whereas, I cannot buy into the utter incapacity that some Calvinists attribute to Total Depravity; I do believe that God's image has been so tainted in sinful mankind as to render them unable to reach or to discover God, or to do godliness on their own. In his grace, God reaches across the chasm and calls us all home, and gives his Spirit to them that believe.

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  3. Oddly enough, I used to think that I agreed with Calvinism until I read what they meant by TULIP! Ugly stuff. Actually, it makes me very angry how they blaspheme my God. I do hold to the security of the believer, and many of us who do feel that we are then "Calvinists". Not so...in fact Arminius actually did as well. I think it's a generally good idea to reject doctrine that has a man's (or woman's) name tacked on to it.

    We currently attend a Baptist church which is being greatly influenced by the likes of Piper. I'm reading a Dave Hunt book called "What Love is This", and he does a pretty fair job of dealing with Calvinist errors. Very disturbing. I have friends who are very much caught up in this stuff, but I doubt that they realize the implications.

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  4. Queen bees started as larvae equal to the drones and workers, but they got fed royal jelly, and that made all the difference. In a similar way, the key difference between Man and everything else in the universe is that little implementation difference between being made by God's voice and being made by God's hand. Thus everything, EXCEPT MAN, responds to God's voice and obeys. Only Man had the option of hearing God's voice and not automatically obeying it, because it has no
    "creation-leverage" within him: it wasn't what created him, and so isn't what controls him.

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  5. Gerald,
    I don't see the distinction that you are making between mankind, and the rest of creation being created by spoken vs non-spoken means. Genesis 1:26 begins with the spoken words: Then God said, "Let us make man...". It is the same pattern as the rest of the creation.

    We have no reason to believe that man didn't respond to God's voice perfectly before the fall. I would also point out that it would seem that animals can disobey God since under God's law an ox who gored someone was to be killed. This would seem to indicate that animals are also affected by the fall, and are accountable for their actions.

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  6. Earlier this year, I was watching my eight-year-old daughter's ballet class. Some of the girls were behaving beautifully, and some not so much. As I was getting irritated at those little girls; a powerful realization hit me...You see, I reminded myself that these precious girls were loved by God and that Jesus died for them... and so I prayed for them. I then realized, that there were those who considered themselves Christians who might think otherwise. Perhaps it might be easy to dismiss some of these little girls as .... unelect. The ultimate bigotry!

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  7. Gerald,
    What an interesting way to see things!

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  8. Cindy,
    I think blasphemy is the proper word to attribute to Calvinism when one considers what that system actually says about God--all in the name of glorifying him!

    As far as Gerald's comment goes, I think he was merely picking up on the theme of my post. God spoke to himself concerning mankind (1:24), but he acted, rather than spoke, in order to actually create them (1:27; 2:7).

    The things we learn at dance recitals. ;-) What an awesome realization! I think historically, the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election has spurred an unevangelical sentiment among the Christians who hold to it, and perhaps even a snobbery.

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  9. Hello SLW

    Am catching up with this late, as we've had laptop trouble.

    I have been investigating the tenets of Calvinism after your FACE post a while back. I found a few simple explanations, and a couple of ebooks by Hunt etc. It was grim reading...

    I agree with Cindy that it's not a pretty picture. James White on the Line of Fire show was asked how he felt about the idea that one of his children might have been selected for damnation, and he was fine with it. EH? Mind you, I noticed that he swiftly moved on to discuss how he'd feel about the child being one of the elect.

    Why are all these Calvinists bothered about the 80% falling away rate among children of believers? Why are they discussing how to stop it? Surely they should celebrate God's will being done?

    I;m posting to thank you for your blog. I've noticed that most of the Christian blogs are v v Calvinstic, and have seen how unbelievers are reacting to the picture of God presented therein.
    Non-Calvinstic ones help to balance things out.
    Anthea

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  10. My apologies for not following up on Cindy's comment myself: things have been terribly busy at work and I was out of town.

    I think the distinction between being made by God's hand and being made by God's voice is a matter of control mechanism: in the scriptures, the forces of nature respond to God's word, and it was an obvious deduction to make that Jesus was God's Son because He stilled the storm with a word, just like God could. This happens because all that is created, except man, was created by the Word of God, and thus responds to the Word of God. If man was created the same way, then Man would automatically react to everything God said because God said it, not that man would have agreed to it "on his own." By making Man "by hand", rather than
    "By voice", the option to disobey what God said "by voice" was pre-built into Adam. Thus, however Adam would have behaved in response to what God requested of him, good or bad, would have sprung from a free choice uncompelled by a "program" that would dictate that one must "always do what God says".

    The argument from "the evil that animals do" fails to take into account the fact that the animals and the earth were given to Man as his dominion, and many theologicans argue that said dominion passed to Satan when the former obeyed the word of the latter.

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  11. Gerald,

    I still fail to see the distinction that's being made in the creation account of man between a verbal and non-verbal program. The Godhead says, "Let us make man"... That is spoken. So man is created by spoken and non-spoken means.

    Regarding animals, I did state that "after the fall" they were accountable under God's law. I do understand that after the fall; they were under the dominion on Satan. It is interesting though, that God treats them in a manner which indicates a certain amount of free will. I don't believe that they always act in obedience to God, or to Satan (or us for that matter). I just had to open that theological can of worms :). Are they always in a tug-of-war between spiritual forces, or do they ever choose? Certainly they do both good and evil. The Bible doesn't attribute their behavior to only natural forces such as instinct, or the law wouldn't punish violence done by animals.

    It would seem that unredeemed man also responds to the voice of God in certain instances of scripture. We don't know if the son of the widow of Nain was among the righteous or not when Jesus resurrected him. Also, when Jesus is being arrested and responds by saying "I am He"; the soldiers fall down. I don't doubt that He could've controlled them all, and led an army of revolt against Rome...if He had desired to do so.

    I guess what I'm saying is that I believe that God could completely control us verbally or otherwise, but has chosen to give us free will. I don't see the distinction between the spoken command or witness of creation (Romans 1) when it comes to our obedience or disobedience.

    One reason that this concerns me is that there is a lot of teaching out there which uses techniques such as those of scientology which includes emphasis on causing events through the spoken word. I've been exposed to Christians who very much practice the -speaking something into existence - type of "prayer" and distainfully regard the prayer of the heart to God as ineffectual.

    I'm not accusing you, Gerald, at all. It's just something that I've come across, and it concerns me.

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  12. Anthea,
    Nice to hear from you again. I trust all is well with you on the other side of the pond.

    You raise a good point--that's it's hard for a godly Calvinist to truly act according to the dictates of that system. In my experience, every good Christian who happens to be a Calvinist ends up acting like an Arminian when it comes to evangelism, or even the status of their own loved ones.

    My thought is why bother with the trappings? Why not just proceed to the bottom line? If, practically, one ends up acting like an Arminian in order to be a good Christian, why not just be an Arminian? In that case, one doesn't worry about what's lost in the inscrutible machinations of God's mind (like who might be elect), but instead just acts in honest love.

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  13. Cindy,
    You make a point well-taken about occultic "word" practices leeching into the church. I don't have a problem with speaking in authority if the Spirit is actually, presently inspiring it, but if it is a "faith" exercise wherein the speaker is taking it upon him or herself then--ding, ding, ding--the alarms start sounding!

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  14. SLW,
    I totally agree. After all, all good counterfeits resemble the real thing.

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  15. Cindy, please re-read my comment you are worried about: I said nothing about MAN controlling nature by voice, but merely proposing why nature obeys GOD's voice but man does not, which I felt was relevant to the article. Doubtless you have heard many approach the "Word of Faith" teaching using the same tack, but to say, "I think you're going there", then to talk as if I Went there, when I said nothing at all about "there" is digging for fault where there is no evidence for it.

    There is, of course, plenty of evidence, and scripture, to support the assertion that the spoken word of a righteous man, as well as his spoken prayers, avail much, so to cite Scientologists believeing it as a reason NOT to belive that is a bit of a stretch: the few examples of effective "heart prayer", such as the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' robe, Nehemiah before the Persian King, and Gideon worshipping in the Midianite camp, are probably better accounted for by God showing grace to someone in circumstances where silence was the wisest course of action to take.

    I agree with SLW: there is much more to this "system" than merely speaking what one wants, and not just because of lack of power. There are certainly permissions issues as well as mundane tactical ones: Deciding where to PUT a mountain one has lifted with one's command having a mustard seed of faith is best done BEFORE lifting it, lest one be as puzzled as a dog given to chasing cars when he actually CATCHES one, or as those who paint themselves into a corner. Jesus suggested dropping it into the ocean, but it was in the context of cursing the fig tree, and some recent findings about the unique characteristics of waves generated by matter displacement, instead of wind action, makes such actions unadvisable.

    Apparently, you BELIEVE that such a thing is not possible, despite what Jesus said. My *perception* is that your belief springs from it never actually BEING done. I believe it is possible, but I also believe that there are "systems" requirements that need to be met, one of which SLW mentioned, and some others whose identities I confess I have not the vaguest clue. However, I do not wish to *argue* about whether it is true or not, any more than the Wright brothers *argued* about the possiblity of heavier-than-air flight. Rather than wasting time *arguing*, they spent their time doing what it took to FLY. However, my thinking about the strategics impacted by such an ability leads me to believe that there are better things to do with my life than deal with the hassle of being known to turn a mountain into a weapon of mass destruction...

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  16. Gerald,
    As I said:
    I'm not accusing you, Gerald, at all. It's just something that I've come across, and it concerns me.

    I'm not sure why you think that I don't believe certain things from the Bible. I'm actually a Spirit-baptized, Bible-believing Christian.

    I don't, however, believe that there is a special difference between spoken and unspoken prayers since the power comes from God.

    Some of the neatest testimonies to answered prayer that I have, were answers to very simple prayers from my heart.

    Again, I don't mean to imply that your comment was promoting "name it and claim it". I was simply desiring to contrast what's Biblical in terms of the spoken word from what isn't. In my 53 years, I've seen quite a lot on this spectrum.

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  17. I have tendency to agree with Cindy in debates like these, and I have been known to diverge at bit now and then. Here, I have to confess that I'm more of her party, although I don't think that Gerald is all wrong.

    I have some experience with what I am fairly convinced was the demonic or at least unpleasant phenomena of preternatural more broadly considered. In that case, I felt led by the Spirit to assert my relationship to G-d through Jesus verbally, such as I could, and it seemed to be troublesome to whatever it was. I would note, however, that the thing already seemed to be troubled when I prayed silently to G-d beforehand, so I really can't conclude too much from the affair.

    Not being ignorant of past times when it was considered licit -- even in certain Protestant circles -- for Christian magi to practice "holy" magic in the name of G-d (even and especially using the Tetragrammaton and references to Christ) and in supposed obedience to the command to "subdue" the Earth, it is of utmost importance to me that I keep in the forefront of my mind what is the essential difference between prayer and magic: that is, who is the manipulator. Are we really manipulating G-d or are we affirming our obedience to Him and our desire that, not our will, but G-d's be done? Does G-d need us, or does G-d desire our collaboration in what G-d is doing? Let our hearts speak first in obedience, and let G-d, then, do as G-d knows best. How we perform our prayer is of minimal relevance, to my mind, at least in terms of efficacy -- and to emphasize it is to flirt with magic, if not make it full wife and mistress like Helen to Faust.

    G-d does know what is internal and unspoken well enough, and the Spirit of G-d translates for us in our great ignorance of what to ask (Romans 8:26) or to say (Acts circa 2:4-11; Exodus 4:12 ; Isaiah 6:5-6), anyway.

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  18. Corineus,
    You make very good points in your comment. Something to consider here is that the demonic situation could probably be compared with dealing with a human intruder. While we should always pray for God's help,guidance and protection, we also would tell the intruder to leave - if we had the authority to do so. Since we have the authority over these evil supernatural beings given to us by Christ, we can do so. We also have the example of Jesus in dealing with unclean spirits, and He spoke to them. I would however contrast his example with the extended conversations and circus-style antics of some. I personally believe the Enemy uses many of these dramas to his benefit.

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  19. I would however contrast his example with the extended conversations and circus-style antics of some. I personally believe the Enemy uses many of these dramas to his benefit.

    I could not agree more!

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  20. It seems that though the business of life, I have not been able to get back to this thread as expeditously as I would have liked to have. To me, it isn't fair to comment on what cindy or Corineus have said without them knowing I said it and had opportunity to reply.

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  21. Gerald,
    I'm not sure I know what you mean, but you're welcome to reply anytime to either Cindy or Corineus. My comment to Corineus applied to the quotation cited, not to the discussion you, he and Cindy were engaged in.

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Any comment in ill taste or not germane to the post may be deleted without warning. I am under no obligation to give anyone an opportunity to call me names or impugn my motives or integrity. If you can't play nice, go somewhere else and play.