Love and Free Will

One of the truisms I use every now and then is that love only means something when it is freely given.

If I were talking about how a man won his wife’s heart you would be relatively easy to convince. It might be true that a young man wants to believe he won his wife, that he found a way to make her love him. But as a man ages he will quickly admit, happily admit, that it is more important that she chooses to love him. In fact, a man who wants to force his wife to love him, regardless of her will, would be considered manipulative at best or more likely downright dangerous.

But since I am talking theology instead of romance I expect a little more resistance, especially from those who embrace Calvinism or reformed theology. This perspective believes that men can play no role in their own salvation, that men cannot make any choice whether they will love God.

For these individuals, God’s sovereignty answers every question. He has absolute authority and therefore he can choose in advance who will be saved apart from their personal choices or activities. His Sovereignty allows Him to have it all: He can choose for men to sin, He can condemn them for this same sin, and He can choose to redeem others. Under this system He would have it all, except He would not have anyone who willingly, freely chose to love Him. Love only means something when it is freely given.

This choice is what I believe we were made for. We were created to give us the opportunity to freely choose a relationship with God. In order to allow this possibility, to allow for this greatest good to be a potentiality, He gave us free will. He knew we would uniformly choose sin, but He allowed the rebellion of sin because it became the path to the greater good. This greater good, or even greatest good, I speak of is the freely given love of those who would also choose His gift of redemption from sin.

 

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The Devil

There are some things that Christians believe about the devil. The Bible teaches that the devil was an angel, that led a rebellion, and with him one third of the angels became fallen.

The question that naturally arises is, how do you stage a rebellion attempting to overthrow an all-powerful and all-knowing God? God will know what you are up to, and absolutely nothing you do can harm Him. So how is rebellion even possible? Why didn’t God stop it before it ever got started?

As how rebellion is possible, the devil convinced himself that he could successfully rebel, being blinded by his own arrogance and vanity. He lied to himself to believe he could succeed.

But answering why God allowed it, has to come down to one reason. The devil’s rebellion served God’s purposes. Now for some people this is a hard pill to swallow. For them, thinking God allowed sin, for any reason, is reprehensible. I prefer to look at it that God is powerful enough, that every sin, is used by God to bring about positive results.

I believe God’s purpose, His positive result, is to create humanity as truly and completely free moral agents. We have been given the power of choice. However, the power to choose is meaningless without choices to choose from. Similarly, if all of the choices are right choices, then we are not truly free.

The devil creates for humanity the alternative to choosing right. Without this choice we would not be truly free, and therefore not truly human. The purpose of our humanity is the ability to choose God, choosing to love and serve Him instead of self. This human free will is what makes us the crown of creation, and without it we would be nothing more than fancy automaton.

The next question that arises is, does that mean God is responsible for sin? The answer is no. God creates angels and humans with a true power of choice, and with this power comes the responsibility for one’s own choices. God knew the wrong choices that would be made, but that does not make Him responsible for our sins. We choose them and we are responsible for them.

To help illustrate this point, think about a couple bringing a new baby home to a two year old. They can reasonably assume the older child will at some point mistreat the younger. So does that mean they forcibly separate the two and never let them meet? Of course not, to do so would be an unspeakable cruelty. These two are born to be siblings and to love each other. So over their growing up years the parents know there will be errors, but seek to teach them to love and grow together into healthy, non-murderous, siblings.

Similarly God is not responsible for our sins. He is simply allowing the situation which gives us the possibility of becoming fully what God has created us to be. He made us to be the crowning jewel of His creation, the ones who choose to love Him.

The Builder

Before the post, let me say that I have been very busy in my ministry and therefore have done a lot less writing. I do plan to get back to Jamison’s Battlefields soon and also expect to begin blogging again more regularly.  For today I am putting in a post I submitted for Flash!Friday. This weekly challenge allows 150 words based on a picture prompt.

StKilda

St Kilda, Scotland. CC photo by Neil Wilkie.

The Builder

The cairn is our home.

For untold generations, we have been safe in the rocks.

It’s the perfect home—nutritious grass, water from the sky and others of my kind.

It’s true, the sky occasionally has a kite, but, if we are vigilant, we will be safe in the Cairn before they get close.

In the past we always believed someone gathered the pieces into a pile. The rocks are stacked so carefully. It is all so well planned for our purposes.

We decided we owed the builder a debt of thanks.

Now our leaders are teaching our young that the rocks got here by some natural process. They believe our adoration of a builder is silly. They make us feel stupid.

Soon my babies will be born. I worry about them, growing up in a world without appreciation for the builder. I fear they will grow up believing the rocks fell into these stacks.