Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"I will choose Free Will"

Today at our circuit confessions study we will be looking at the Formula of Concord, article II - which deals with Free Will. This is one of those biblical doctrines that people hate, hate, hate. Why? Well, the basic contention is this - apart from God, without God acting first, fallen, sinful man can do nothing - not a thing to impress God, earn His respect, please Him, or anything. Unless God grants faith and knowledge of Him, man cannot move towards God.

Now, there's plenty in Scripture to support this. I like Ephesians 2:1 - But you were dead in your tresspasses. Dead. Dead don't do jack. Or John 15:5 - I am the vine, you are the branches, whoever abides in me and I in Him will bear much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. And of course, John 14:6 - I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life - no man cometh to the Father but by Me (oooOOOooo, that's King James, I've had that one memorized a long time).

Well, if we are dead. . . and we cannot do anything apart from God - who has to act first, God or Me? Or think agriculturally - which comes first - the vine or the branch? Indeed, Jesus even tells us that unless we are united to Him (which He starts, cause we are dead and He is the vine which gives life), we aren't coming to the Father.

Scripture is clear - yet why do so many people today espouse decision theology? Why do so many people want to make faith a choice that they make? I had thought a lot of this was based upon our culture - that we are voting happy. We have "Democratic" elements - we are used to the people having power that they then grant to those above -- which is just what decision theology is. . . a man choosing to make God His god. This is why a lot of "outreach" strategies almost seem like political campaigns. "Vote Jesus by coming to our church."

(Terrifying thought of the morning - somebody has seen this, and come October there is going to be a Vote Jesus program. . . Lord have mercy!)

But it has to be more than just our modern political bent. This was a popular theology even 400 years ago when Europe was still in a sort-of Feudal system. No - I think it's just simply about power. People want power - they want to be the ones in control - and safely so.

Any pastor can tell you about power plays in the Church - which let me tell you, those tend to be ugly. Or think about your job, your family. Oh, man - things can get messy. Why? There's a conflict of wills - if you try to rule, someone else pushes back. Even if you don't try to control things, people probably will throw weight around with you.

But you know what - let's say you take a strong Decision Theology approach. You state, already ignoring Scripture, "I decide for Jesus!" What's going to happen? Now, someone tries to boss me around, I might do some bossing back (oh sinful wretch that I am). What's God going to do? He's not going to thunder from the heavens saying, "No Chuck, it is not that you chose Me, it is that I chose you!" Well, sort of He has - John 15:16 - it is not that you chose Me but I chose and appointed you - but if you ignore the Scripture. . . well, God doesn't yell back.

It seems safe to toss your weight around with God and His Word. And in fact, this has spilled on to other things. No women pastors - bah, who cares what the Scriptures say! Or hey, let's make up some new rules to prove how awesome we are - no drinking anyone! What, wine gladdens the heart and Timothy's supposed to have some for his stomach and nerves - bah, silly God.

Of course, going back to the Garden, this all makes sense. You will be like God - that was the promise. And ever since then, sinful man has been trying to argue his rights, his power, his authority over and against God -- even in the Church, even among those who claim that they believe (and often that they have decided to believe).

The band Rush had a song called free will - and it deals with how one might view life; and it's rhetoric is skewed toward. . . yep, free will. The final line of the chorus is, "I will choose the path that's clear/ I will choose free will." All about claiming power for yourself.

Great song musically - but lousy words. Always be wary when claiming power for yourself. This is why we Lutherans used to always end things SDG - Soli Deo Gloria - to God alone be the Glory. Maybe it would be good to start this again.

(To vote in favor of adding +SDG+ to the end of this post, press one. To vote against adding +SDG+ to the end of this post, press two)



Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Sorry if this rambled - yesterday was a 15 hour day -- the old mental engine is starting to turn very slowly (and just to cut it off, if anyone makes fun of me for my slow mental engine, my snap comeback will be, "Yeah, know I know what it feels like to be you every day." If any snide comments follow, just mentally insert my reply on your own).

Charles said...

Why so many people espouse decision theology?
One reason could be Reason itself. (As in I Cor 2:14.)
Dr. Just says (p.449 LUKE), “Torah is a book of God’s gracious election and constitution of His people despite their sin, not as a ‘how to‘ book about earning merit before God.”
There are two responses to what God does. Belief/obedience with the result that one keeps receiving what ‘God does’. The other response is Unbelief/disobedience with the result that, having thrown away what ‘God does’, one leads himself into the fruits of what ‘man does.’
In the midst of these fruits, Fallen Reason reason’s, “I’ve fallen away. The Bible says, ‘Return’ and ‘Turn from’. Reasonably, disobedience hasn’t worked out so well. Let’s try obedience. What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The problem is turning from one response to the other. (And urging others to do the same…decision.) The response ‘disobedience’ causes the trouble; having turned away. The response ‘obedience’ does not cause the receiving what ‘God does’; having remained.
The ‘turning’ and ‘returning’ is not toward a chosen response. The ‘returning’ is back to what ‘God does’: His gracious election and constitution of His people despite their sin. Fallen reason is stuck with the other alternative response: obey. The Holy Spirit brings us back to the cause. He tells about what God does: Christ crucified and risen from the dead - for you.

Charles said...


in situ said...

Yep. Good song. Bad worldview.

I love Rush. I went to their show a couple weeks ago in Kansas City. Man, do they put on a great show.


It's really too bad that a lot of their lyrics are Ayn Rand'ian.

It's clear that they are just like every other band that struggles with their "spirituality" despite their musical superiority.

Good post!