Previously, I posted on the definition of freedom and took the position that freedom is the ability to act without any external controls. We looked at God’s self-revelation that the essence of “God-ness” is the expression of freedom in His underived, noncontingent, independent choice to “have mercy on whom [He] will have mercy.” (Ex. 33:18-20)
Are we free? Is there such a thing as free will for created beings? Was William Ernest Henley correct when he proclaimed, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul”?
What was the test of Genesis 3:1-6? “I want to be free as God is free! I want to determine what is right and wrong like God does!” Isn’t that ludicrous? The clay wanting to form itself. And so they traded God for the fruit, contentment in the joy of their Creator for the discontented grasping of fabled equality with the Divine. The result: death.
This grizzly cycle is portrayed again and again in Scripture. The more aggressively Man tries to be as God is, the more foreign Man becomes to resembling anything of the Divine Nature. Watch the cycle unfold in Genesis 5. “Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.” The sad refrain “and he died…” repeats again and again in Chapter 5. Lives of men reaching to be as God is, yet falling miserably short, and each one died.
Look at the assessment of God over the condition of Man’s quest for Divine equality in the very next chapter.
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen. 6:5)
Later, after God cleansed the earth with the Flood and started over with righteous Noah, God still assessed the heart of Man as intending evil from his youth. Even among those chosen by God – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, and many others – each one is recorded somewhere as failing to be free of the ambition to be as God is even while they recognized their inability to do so.
Where is our freedom if we can do what we most want to do and all
we want to do is evil continually?
Fish do not know they are wet. We think we are doing such good, but even in our best actions we fall so short. There are Buddhists who feed the poor. Atheists have helped hurricane victims. There are even Muslims who can be good citizens of a non-Muslim state and really seek peace without seeking to subvert the existing government. They are out there.
We do not always act as badly as we could. But, consider this:
For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Romans 14:23
John Piper gives an excellent analogy for this reality.
If a king teaches his subjects how to fight well and then those subjects rebel against their king and use the very skill he taught them to resist him, then even those skills become evil.
In other words, even building a school in an impoverished African nation is sin if the motive is anything less than out of a desire to honor God and show mercy as a means of reflecting the mercy and goodness of God Who gives the resources for the action in the first place.
The point is: we are derived, created, and have no power, in and of ourselves, even to do meaningful, eternally significant good. We can’t change the color of a single hair. We can’t add a single moment to our lives. We can’t even say with certainty that we have tomorrow. All of our efforts to reach up to be as God is or, even worse, try to remake Him according to our own imaginations, are a feeble attempt at freedom, but never attaining it.
Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true. – Demosthenes
How can we escape this bondage of our own wills?