Freed will

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.

Next time we’ll consider what freedom means for the Christian.  How does this account of freedom help me to live out my discipleship day to day?

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Posted on by Glen in election, freedom, gospel, sin

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

0 Responses to Freed will

  1. codepoke

    I’m in a lull on Calvinistic discussions. I can’t seem to find the heart for them. I think I last blogged on it over a year ago. But I had a thought years ago, and it still seems to have merit.

    Adam probably “willed” to obey. He probably didn’t “decide” to disobey.

    He was overcome.

    He was not overcome by the serpent, either. (And certainly not by his wife – that argument will get my ire up.) He was overcome by the immensity of God’s holiness.

    It was not enough to merely walk away from the fruit of the tree. He could only have been able to walk away from that tree by an act of immensely holy love. The serpent was stronger and smarter than Adam, and he had massively evil intentions. He was plotting the breaking of God’s heart, and getting at Adam was the way to do it. He would stop at nothing permitted by God.

    Adam did not love God enough to resist that kind of assault. Adam was not holy enough to be repulsed by the right things.

    Adam was empty.

    There was only one hope for Adam. He needed to be filled with divine love and divine holiness.

    That’s why there was that other tree. The Tree of Life could have saved Adam. The real one, that is. If Christ had been formed in him, he could have turned away from that tree, but nothing else could have done it. It’s not that our wills are not free, but that they are merely human and our enemies are much greater than us.

    So maybe it’s not that our wills are freed, so much as that they find real, living strength?

  2. kc

    I find it so difficult to address freedom scripturally these days but IMHO you’re doing a masterful job. It seems that so many are too entrenched in a given philosophy on “choice” to consider freedom from this perspective.

    I’m really looking forward (as usual) to your next article in this series. ;-)

    Codepoke I have enjoyed your thoughts around the blogsphere. I was considering your thoughts here on Adam with respect to his lack of love for God. Do you think perhaps that Adam did not really *know* God?

    (BTW Glen thanks for the link! ;-)

  3. glenscriv

    codepoke,

    I think the language of ‘overwhelming’ picks up some very important truths about freedom. Like falling in love. Note: ‘falling’ not ‘jumping’. In the relationships that count we find ourselves not to be clear-thinking neutrals able to assess and decide for or against. Instead we find ourselves either already constituted in those relationships or overwhelmed by them – i.e. we fall for them.

    Adam fell for Satan when the LORD was on offer. Crazy. But you’re right – it was relationship with Christ (and not simply responsible exercize of his will!) that would have stopped him. It was an issue of *who* would overwhelm him.

    Casey,

    thanks for the phrase! Is it your own?

  4. kc

    Nah, It belongs to us both (grin).

  5. Missy

    More, please!

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