In several contexts, the notion of “Free Will” has come up — from TV shows to folks at a centering prayer circle I attend to an article I read on The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/theres-no-such-thing-as-free-will/480750/). So science shows that a belief in free will seems to help people chose to do good; and a belief that everything is just “nature/genetics/brain chemistry/etc.” seems to allow people the freedom to cheat, be less compassionate, etc. Yet science also seems to say that everything is just “nature/genetics/brain chemistry/etc.” and we are basically programmed, and we don’t have free will. It seems to better for people to think they have free will even if it doesn’t exist.
I want to suggest that this is really maybe a misunderstanding of the whole “free will” thing. Now there is no doubt that I’m not going to be able to really express perfectly what I mean especially because I’m not sure, I can’t be sure, about this sort of big fluffy idea stuff. So please don’t get in a huff. There might really be some nugget in my thoughts that is interesting or helpful …. and that part would be the part by God’s grace and not my muddle of thinking.
So here I go: We humans have only the free will to err. We can only make mistakes. We can only be confused. We can only see as through a mirror darkly. We get things wrong. We do the best we can and still leave undone the things we know we ought to do and do the things we know we shouldn’t. I rather think science has got this one right! I think it is pretty wild that science and Calvin (and Paul) would agree, I think.
What frees us from this cycle of good intentions and errors and problems and brokenness is Christ: he died for us, he freed us, thanks to Him the Holy Spirit can work in our hearts and change our hearts and heal us and help us do right. Help us help each other. Help us to want to help! The Holy Spirit can work in any of us, of any age or stage of faith or anything: we don’t control God. Yet God doesn’t control us like puppets; He fills us with love. We are not prisoners of our biological status or how we were raised: we can change.
My centering prayer group folks, whom I love, are really uncomfortable with the word “sin”. They just roll their eyes (as politely as possible); they collectively do not want to engage with this concept. But without knowing what God has saved us from, what is the point of His death on the cross? And I think I mean something far beyond our society’s (or any society’s) culture wars. I want to invite us to think about sin as brokenness, especially as failures of love, as our using our free will choices to help — and then it goes wrong.
John the Baptist, whom long-time readers of my blog know is a character that fascinates me, is angry about sin, and angry at people and shares that loud and clear. And folks were sad and sorry, convicted in their hearts, at least for a while. I think often it gets lost that Jesus too is angry about sin, sorrowful too, but expresses this in a different way for a more permanent outcome. I think he is saying “the kingdom of heaven is here” because He wants us to have hope, healing, forgiveness, love, and so on. Let’s take on his yoke, which is light, and follow him.
God’s “rule” or “yoke” (or grace or love…words, it’s all words….) will be what actually frees us to chose the good stuff — and to open our eyes, to awaken us, to help us be fully alive! (Maybe even if we don’t know it.)
And hopefully, for and thanks to the glory of god, I will get my blogging back on schedule!