Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to ensure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.
~Roger Zelazny, from his novel Creatures of Light and Darkness
The idea of free will is one often thought and debated about. But I think the concept of free will is often oversimplified. The argument is presented as though you either have 100% free will or you 100% don’t.
In reality your will is neither 100%-free nor 100%-not-free. Your will is subject to more powerful forces and, whether conscious of it or not, you will always make decisions, you will always do what you want to do, under the influence of these other forces. Your will is subject to your desires, and your desires are subject to your nature. You will always do what you want to do (your desires), and what you want to do is always driven by who you are at a fundamental level (your nature).
Some might argue: “I always do what I want? No. I do things I don’t want to do all the time. I don’t want to exercise in the morning, but I still do it.” But that argument assumes that one can only have one desire at a time. I assume you would never want to run into a burning building. No one wants to be burned alive and die from smoke inhalation. But what if your child was trapped in that building? Suddenly your desire to not die in the fire is outweighed by your desire to save your child. There are two desires, but one overpowers the other, and the overpowering desire determines your willful decision. Which desire is more powerful in your life? The desire to spend an extra hour in your comfy bed? Or the desire to be healthy?
One would have to be a pretty big scumbag to not want to save their child from a burning building in order to avoid getting burned themself. One’s nature would have to be seriously flawed to do that. And yet, there are parents who intentionally hurt their own children. Where does this flawed nature come from? Do we all have it?
Because of our fallen nature we are all subject to evil desires, which then lead us to do evil things. Only with a new nature is there any hope we can become good. Only when the old nature dies and a resurrection occurs can a new nature be born.
Some would argue: “I’m already good!” Okay, but compared to who? Compared to Hitler? Or compared to God? The standard matters. Your will is subject to your desires, your desires are subject to your nature. Who is your nature subject to?
Related reading: Predisposed to Rule; On Free Will
Probably the most influential biblical scholar who has shaped my understanding of the bible and of Christianity itself is James B. Jordan.
I always like to read Christian thinkers who try to define life as God wants us to. Jordan does this through his extremely detailed study of the Bible.
Below is a link to his book Through New Eyes. In this book Jordan explains the symbols of the Bible and how, through these symbols, we can understand who God is and what His plan is for this world. The book is originally available from Gary North’s website.
Here is the PDF book: through new eyes
The miracle of biblical tongues is that the word of God can now be translated into any language and the division of Babel is gone.
The miracle of Charismatic tongues is that anyone, even without prior experience, can instantly become talented scat singers.
Often atheists will try to refute Christianity by saying to the Christian: “You’re only a Christian because you were born into a Christian family in a predominantly Christian society. Had you been born in India, you would be a Hindu.”
The first part of that assertion is true — one of the main reasons I am a Christian is because I was born and raised in a Christian environment — more on that in a second. The second assertion is nonsense. Had I not been born to the parents I was born to, in the country I was born in, at the time I was born in, I would not exist, and so no logical assumptions can be made from that assertion. It is like saying, “If 2 + 2 = 5, then….” Well, two and two don’t equal five, and so no logical argument can result from that line of reasoning.
As to the first assertion: I am a Christian because my forebears were Christian — yes, that’s true — so… so what? That does nothing to refute the Christian faith; in fact, it supports it. We know from the bible that God is a God of covenant: “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:5b-6) God maintains relationship from generation to generation through covenantal relationships. That is the way He operates, and the concept of covenant is one of the essential ideas one must understand in order to understand Christianity.*
Perhaps I will write more on covenant at a later time. For now, if you’re interested, click here for further reading on the concept of covenant.
*The other essential idea one must understand is holiness.