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.