Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Doctrine of Man in Classical Lutheran Theology VI

(The Freedom of the Will in External Conduct)

“In this whole discussion we must carefully guard against the fallacy of unqualified generalization. That is, just because in spiritual actions there is no freedom for a will not freed, let not the will be deprived of freedom in external matters in general. The following teaching is presented in respect to the liberty of the will in external conduct.
Right conduct consists in diligent control of external acts and restraint of external members in accordance with the precepts of the Decalogue, even if inward impulses either are not present or do not agree.” Pg. 81
So Lutherans believe in free will, kind of. I think sometimes we lose sight of this, that though we are sinners, we still can control to a certain extent what sins we are going to be guilty of committing. We can conduct ourselves in outward acts. So we are responsible for those things we say and do.
How this meshes with providence is something else. I agree that I have free will in external matters. To what extent then can I believe in luck? If my actions are not determined by God, are cards at a casino? And are all my actions my own? Or are some of them determined by God?
I’m inclined to believe that some of what I do and don’t do is determined by God, but not all. I am inclined to believe that God has his hand in guiding major events in History, but perhaps doesn’t get his hands dirty with every detail. Is this qualified determinism? We do know that he works all things for good for those who love him. (Romans 8)
As I think on the ramifications of all this, my mind spins and I realize I will never have all the answers this side of glory, and maybe not on the other side either. Though there I think I’ll be too busy enjoying life to care. Then again, I find great enjoyment here thinking about these things so why not there? The one thing I do know is God is capable of doing anything, and if he wants to create a world where I have control over some things, even as he sticks his hand in to guide history to its final consummation, lets cards at a casino come out a shoe at random, and a nation elect the president, even while he governs the outcome of a war, well then he can do it, even if I can’t comprehend it.


Jason Zoske said...

"I’m inclined to believe that some of what I do and don’t do is determined by God, but not all."

Pastor, I agree. I have been irritated at difficult times or failings in my life, (due to my own actions) when those close to me, in an attempt to comfort, will say, "God's in control, or this happened for a reason." Whether that is true or not doesn't provide comfort in times of discomfort that are most often brought on by our own sin. Maybe (obviously) that's because our comfort isn't in the sovereignty of God, but in Christ. But I also realize that much of my life I would tell myself the same thing in an attempt to "feel better." My point is, I agree, I don't think we can give God credit for everything that happens in our life. We have a free will to sin and do it often, and some times it brings about hardships or situations in our life we don't like. But I believe God can and does strengthen our faith with His Word in those times. So what things in our life and this world are brought about directly by God or by our free will to reject God and sin, I don't know. But I know I continue to ponder things in my own life, wondering is this God's doing and will, or am I being guided by my own belly?


Brigitte said...

Since we can't know the mind of God other than what he has revealed, which is his grace and favor (thanks for that), I can't be forever worried about God's will.

I can't keep looking inside for it either although with prayer and scripture, often things become clear or clearer. Additional research does not hurt in making a sensible decision. In fact, not using your brain, good counsel, and all good gifts, would be, as people put it, a denial of first article gifts. This is important.

So, if it's not prohibited or unloving, just do what you think is best. Ask the Lord to bless it and make and end to ruminating.

One way I struggled through this, had to do with infertility in the marriage. I mention it because this may apply to others and to pastoral care.

Is one to wonder and wait forever to conceive to receive this gift of children or do you take matters into your own hands?????? We were NOT Sarah and Abraham, who had a promise and were supposed to wait for that. We had no such promise.

Some friends pushed us in the right direction and we ended up with open adoptions, waiting for each child for precisely 3 weeks each.

The Lord gave that way. We made the choice, it seemed. In any case, what mattered, it was not against any word and did not discount any promise. So it was all good.

I would not have been able to deal with in-vitro and destroyed zygotes. After trying to get pregnant you treasure every potential zygote.