Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Free Will and Sin

One of the temptations over which we sinful humans frequently stumble is the temptation to argue that free will is the cause of sin. By this we are looking for an excuse for our sinfulness, while simultaneously seeking a way to put the blame for our sin upon God.

We like to argue that God must have in some way built into His creation the capacity for sin. We like to imagine that God did not really create all things truly good, but mostly good, with the potential for bad lying dormant within the substance of the creation. We like to imagine and argue that if God had created us as truly good and without any evil, that we, and our father, Adam, and the angels, including Satan, must have had some flaw deep within that God allowed to exist within us. We argue that sin could not have happened otherwise.

In line with this linear sense of logic is the notion that we have free will, and that this free will had the power to choose either good or evil. But this notion of free will is fallacious.

God did not create us with a free will according to this false notion of freedom. He created us with a will that was free. Adam was created with a will, but that will knew nothing of evil. His will was one with God’s will. Adam was created as a son of God. He was generated by God from the soil and made to be a living soul when God breathed into him the breath of life. Adam knew only the goodness of God. His will was not capable of choosing evil, for no evil existed in the world. No evil was known in the world. Adam was free to live the good life, free to live without choices. All that was good was already available. God had given all things to Adam and authorized Adam to enjoy all things.

Moreover, Adam was created in a relationship of trust. Adam knew nothing of doubting God and His goodness. Adam knew only good, and all good things are of God. Adam had been created with true faith, and faith does not question but simply says, “Amen.” Thus Adam was truly free. He had no worries. Why? He had no worries because he had no doubts. He simply heard what God said and walked in the confidence of God’s Word. Faith is not a choice, but a fact. Faith does not choose; it simply is. Faith, after all, is from God. Faith knows only to look to God and to believe Him.

This did not change until the serpent tempted the woman to doubt. She was tempted to doubt whether God was faithful. She was tempted to doubt that the Man whom God had placed over her had actually preached the Word faithfully. In this connection, she also was tempted to doubt the very Word of God. This temptation did not come from her, but from the devil.

So then, what about the devil? And what about the tree? First the tree. The tree was a good tree. It was lovely to behold. It provided opportunity to see the faithfulness of God. For not all things were to be eaten. This tree’s fruit was not for human consumption. There are many things in God’s creation that are not for human consumption, but are nevertheless very good. Likewise, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a good tree, but produced a fruit that was not for humans to eat.

What then, about the devil? If he was created good and perfect and holy and without sin, what happened? He looked for good beyond its source. He looked for good, but not from God. In doing so evil entered into the angel who had been named Lucifer, that is, Light-bringer or Light-bearer.

Evil, however, is terribly misunderstood. We tend to think of evil as a substance or an essence. But evil is actually the lack of something. It is like the darkness. Darkness is merely the absence of light. An angel is a messenger of God. An angel is one who brings the light of God’s Word. Thus, Lucifer was a light-bearer, a ministering spirit, full of good. But when Lucifer looked beyond God for good, his communion with God was broken, and he became emptied of the goodness of God. He became one who no longer saw and carried in him the light of God’s Word and love, but now was vacuous. As a vacuum is an emptiness that pulls away and damages that which is around it, so Lucifer became dark and void of goodness, grasping after and taking away from everything good. Yet no matter how much he steals from others, he can never be filled again because he will always look beyond God for his fulfillment. Since all good is from God, the devil will only grasp after brokenness; he will break and destroy and gather to himself only brokenness.

Yet we cannot answer why Lucifer looked beyond. We cannot answer why Lucifer stopped living the life of faith in which God had created him. Then we begin to look for ways again to put the blame on God.

God knows that this is beyond our ability to understand. Thus He simply tells us the truth that this is what happened. But since we are sinful rather than faithful, since we doubt rather than trust, God has stepped up on our behalf. He tells us that we don’t need to bother with trying to put the blame on Him, because He has already done it for us.

He says, “So, you do not want to carry the blame for your sin. Good! I don’t want you to carry it either! That is why I sent My Son to take it for you. You want to put the blame on Me. Don’t bother, for I have already done that. I have carried the blame for sin. I have taken the sin of the world into My own body and I suffered the guilt and the blame and the punishment and the death for you. Now you have absolutely no reason to concern yourself with the blame of sin and of evil. I have taken it all. Now you are free to receive the life of faith for which I created you. Now, through the Gospel and through the Sacraments of the Gospel I regenerate faith within you. This is My will for you. This is My will by which I set you free. Through these means I restore the freedom to live again in the communion of My goodness and love.”

Now there is no one left to blame. This is good news. This is really good news!

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