Previously on Christ the Truth…
We discussed the impossiblility of a humanistic account of freedom. To say ‘I am who I am / I will be who I will be’ is both idolatrous and, ironically, makes us slaves of our own desires. Such “freedom” enthrones the self and simultaneously locks the self off from the claims of others in whom I find my true self. Satan rules us precisely where we seek to rule ourselves.
So then, rather than begin with Adam in the garden exercising his will to disobey, we decided to think freedom from the perspective of Jesus – the Other Adam in the other garden. As the Son He is beloved, obedient and free. And yet in Gethsemane He definitively proved that these things are not competing realities but perfectly expressed in Him. The One who calls God ‘Abba’, submits Himself entirely to the unbound will of the Father and in so doing expresses supremely His identity as the Son. The Son was never more gloriously Son-like than in this act of supreme obedience. To have chosen disobedience would not have been the exercise of freedom but the abandonment of His own Self. The decision for obedience was simultaneously the decision for freedom.
From this way of thinking we have a quite different definition of freedom. Perhaps something like: “The responsible use of the will in expression of ones true self.” Or perhaps “Keeping in step with your grace-given, relational identity.”
When we have this kind of definition then the capacity for evil cannot create or increase freedom but only thwarts the responsible use of the will. We realize that freedom is not expressed but forfeited in the choice of evil. It is only mantained in obedience to God.
So then, “Am I free to sin?” By no means! Free to sin?? Such a statement should strike us as completely confused and confusing. I’m free to be His slave, and in this way only is my freedom upheld! (cf Romans 6!)
Once this understanding of freedom is in place then we can side-step a lot of unfruitful theological discussions. We don’t have to argue about the when, the how and the how much of our supposed ‘freedom’ to rebel against God. How could we recognize disobedience as freedom or freedom in disobedience? It can only ever be slavery.
And yet what does Ephesians 2 call us in our natural state? ‘Sons of disobedience’ (Eph 2:2). By nature our identity is given to us through our fallen head Adam. We cannot please God (Rom 8:8) but can only live out our rebellious desires.
Into this situation Jesus comes as Redeemer. And He purchases us for Himself. More on that next time.
But here’s the point for now: The Christian does not believe in free will. Not in the abstract and certainly not by nature. We believe in freed will. (I got this phrase from Casey.) We are not free to choose or not to choose Christ. We are liberated by Christ now to be free in Him. To walk in freedom we must begin from our redemption in Christ. We simply cannot work towards this freedom but receive it from the outset. Whatever else the doctrine of election is trying to uphold, this must be central – we do not choose ourselves into Christ but rather find ourselves chosen in Him. We have not exercised our freedom to make Christ ours, He has accomplished our liberation to make us His.
So then Rousseau’s famous statement, ‘Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains’ is exactly wrong. Man is born a slave but everywhere he walks free since Jesus has loosed our chains.