Thursday, September 24, 2009

Free Will?

Philemon 1:12-16 (ESV)
I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. [13] I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, [14] but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will. [15] For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, [16] no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

But I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compuls but of your own free will. Of your own free will, a taboo subject. Is our will free? The two most common answers is the Calvinist no, and the Arminian yes. The Lutheran answer is seldom heard, and often less understood. The Lutheran answer tries to determine of what you are talking about. If it is in the realm of spirituality, no it is not free. It is Christ who chooses us, we do not choose him. God elects us to salvation not from some point in time, but from eternity through the means of grace, the spoken word, the sacraments. Faith is beyond our abilities, God has to give it to us. But then we do believe we have free will where temporal things are concerned. God doesn’t guide us around like robots forcing us to marry the women we marry. (If that were the case I’m fairly sure there would be fewer divorces.) He doesn’t force us to plant fields, hand over our slaves to Paul, or even go to church. We are free in these temporal things.
What is strange is how often people forget this. There is no sanctification by legislation. Yet so many in the Christian world think that they can sanctify their neighbor by forcing him to comply to some law, such as no buying liquor on Sunday. Really? What is it to you if your neighbor buys a fifth of Jack on Sunday? What is the purpose of that law? Force him to be sober one day out of the week. I doubt you really have succeeded in that. If you believe it is sinful to drink, then don’t drink. But even if it was sinful to drink, what good does it do me to abstain if the only reason I’m doing it is some stupid blue law? Of course, good works are only good in Christ. But they aren’t much good at all if they have been forced.


Jonathan said...

I don't think blue laws are really intended to help sanctify the neighbor so much as to show the piety of those who enact or espouse them in order to sanctify themselves by showing the lengths they go to keep the Sabbath Holy.

Funnier still was one place in the south I lived where you could buy wine or beer on Sunday (afternoon, of course) but not spirits. Talk about carving out a little niche for the self-righteous!

Bror Erickson said...

Yes I think you are quite right. However, I doubt they would say the same thing. Beer and wine but not spirits? funny.
Yesterday, I read "The word of wisdom" you know Joseph Smiths verbal vomit. I found out that Strong drink is for washing the body, but not drinking. Coincidentally though, Barley is for the making of mild drinks, which can only be beer. Somewhere there position has changed on that.

Jonathan said...

Every time I try reading momo verse I get a headache--no kidding. Not saying it's divine providence at work, probably just psychosomatic. Several misionaries ('Read it and pray, brother') I've told of my ailment didn't quite know how to respond. One said, 'I'll pray for you.' When he came back, I said, 'well, it didn't work.' I found it kinda humorous, but not good for evangelism! God Bless your work there!