On the Bondage of Freedom

On the Bondage of Freedom (simple notes on predestination)

Predestination is a tradition within Christianity that proposes, at its most basic form, that humans have no free will.  God has pre-ordained salvation.  Depending on who one talks to, this might be a passive form of universalism (in that creation, being good, will be sanctified en masse) or a disturbingly arbitrary ‘doctrine of the elect,’ in which God has, from the beginning of time, chosen those who will be saved and who will be damned.

The understandable premise for this system of theology is that God’s omniscience (knowing all) is incompatible with human free will – that we do not actually have choices, since God knows what choice we will make before we make them.   The heart of the issue, admirably, is the defense of God’s sovereignty before and above human claims of autonomy.  If we can choose freely, then it means part of the divine sovereignty is compromised in having shared it with creatures.

However, the danger of human self-determination should not be seen as a threat to God, but the dynamic interrelation of loving Creator and loved creature.  The divine offer of free will does not inhibit or obstruct God’s ultimate sovereignty – the Cause is not threatened by its effects, a fount is not affected by its springs, a lake does not suffer the damage done to its contingent streams.

  • God put the gift of free relationship on the table before us
    • God has chosen to choose; an unnecessary, fully elective act that unconditionally secures agency within creatures.
    • God is the ultimate agent, possessing first order agency
    • Divine sovereignty remains intact despite offering agency (free will) to creatures.
      • our course, therefore, is still determined by God, though it is determined to be free.
    • We can enter into a free relationship or not.  Nonresponse is an illusion – even ignoring the gift is an act
      • Humans have a limited choice; we cannot not choose, ours is an agency of the second order since we have not chosen to choose, and have no recourse but to respond as agents
      • God’s agency pre-exists our own at a level that transcends our comprehension (before and above); we cannot ultimately know why God chose choice, but we can know that such a choice was in fact made, evidenced by our own choice
    • We have offended God by pushing the gift back; our pride has made us poor recipients
      • Humans have chosen poorly, corrupting our entire being, including our ability to choose wisely (“total depravity”)
      • We still have a choice, but a corrupt intellect and interests makes it easier to choose poorly.  Reinforced by corrupted secular society in which the good is confused with the evil
        • Ex. ‘War is necessary’ rhetoric belabors the human intellect and confuses the will.
      • God keeps the gift on the table.  (This time it is wrapped nice and fancy)
        • God coaxes us toward choosing the good – relationship with Godself
        • To fail to respond, or refuse (or ignore), the choice is to acquiesce to what exists, which in our current state is corruption.
        • Human will is most reliable when it is reoriented away from the self and toward God, enemy, and neighbor in intentional relationship.

      Ours is still a fully free and agent-dependent choice to enter into relationship with God.  God’s 1st order agency enables our own 2nd order agency; it flows from it as a river does its source.  Predestination, and its various forms, however, serves to deny God the actual choice of making the free, unwarranted offer of agency.  This eschatological determinism denies God 1st order agency in its denial of creaturely agency by placing human finitude (i.e. the incomprehensibility of divine foreknowledge) ahead of the clear, Biblical offer of free relationship with God

      God did not have to “put it all out there” with agency, but God did.  It was a risk, since it allowed for God’s creatures to walk away from a relationship with their Creator.  But God DID “put it all out there.”  In creating a world with creaturely agency, God voluntarily suffered via self-moderation (experiencing loss before humans did so in their “fall”).  Such restraint is evident in the same way God did not HAVE to rest on the seventh day, but did nonetheless.

      Predestination, in (admirably but arrogantly) trying to defend the Giver, has denied the gift itself.  Perhaps one way to reconcile the Creator’s foreknowledge with a creature’s free will is that it is going to happen the way it is going to happen.  Where it will lead only God knows, but divine knowledge does not circumvent human agency.

      After all, without agents who have acted against God, there is no sin.  Without sin, there is no need for salvation.  Such a view says nothing about theodicy, in fact it precludes the finality of justice by denying its necessity entirely.   Predestination claims, therefore, to have the first word and the last.  However, Alpha and Omega is a place only the true Word may inhabit in Christian theology.

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