Adoption – a Change of Heart

I ran across an interesting article today and found myself nodding because I’ve heard several of the things she mentions myself. I am in complete agreement with her, so I thought it was time to write my first blog on why my wife and I have decided to adopt.

When we first got married over fourteen years ago, we decided not to have children. “They’re a drain,” we said. “They rob people of their lives,” we mumbled. In our view there was nothing sadder than a parent who had all the potential in the world but was reduced to living vicariously through his or her child. We always noticed how parents were never free to just go and do things.

So we made the conscious decision to not have kids and just enjoy our lives for many reasons. At the time I wanted to open my own business and Jamie wanted to be a professor and we knew we couldn’t do those things while having children. A few years into our marriage my wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis which put a ‘cease and desist order’ on any ambition, no matter how minute it may have been, to have children. But we never appreciated the other aspects of parenthood, only the detractors. Whenever I was out in public I would notice children running around everywhere – uncontrolled, screaming, pitching fits, and oblivious to the world around them. How can you punish children in this day and age for being unruly when our society has grown to shun the very idea of discipline? So even if you have kids you can’t punish them to keep them in line. They go to school and pick up all sorts of horrific behaviors, attitudes, and teachings. We thought even trying to raise a child was futile. The world was messed up enough and wasn’t showing any signs of getting any better. How could we legitimize bringing a new life into this this world in its current state? Time would tell.

After some years of being DINKs (double income, no kids) we’ve finally come around to the idea that kids aren’t all that bad. As a matter of fact they are quite the opposite of how we initially perceived them. But this isn’t a product of getting older and feeling lonely or empty as some might expect; it’s a product of growth in Christ.

A while back my wife, Jamie, authored an article titled “Pure and Undefiled Religion.” Do you see that beautiful family on the page? They are friends of ours and occupy a very special place in our hearts. Those two little girls have forever changed my mentality about children. They are the sweetest, most adorable duo and were too much for my hardened Grinch heart to ignore.

When we would interact with the mother, the children, at first, would be a side effect . Over time my impression changed. Now, whenever I see them, my heart is lightened with gladness. They always make me smile and give the best, most sincere hugs in the world. They are an absolute joy to be around.

I don’t know exactly how my heart changed or why other than God’s providence. He knew the hardened spot needed to be cracked up so I could deal with what He had in store for us. Call it another step in the process of sanctification.

As my wife notes in her piece, “we are charged with their care no fewer than 25 times in the Bible.” 25 times? That must mean it is very important. This piece involved months of Jamie’s work life and seeped into mine as well as God revealed His perfect plan to us: adopt. After all, the spirit of salvation is that of adoption! We are adopted into the family of God by faith through the blood of Christ and nothing else. God has prepared us adequately for the adventure He has planned. As believers we are called to give and not just to give money, but give of our selves. I cannot think of a better way to serve God than to care for a few of the more than 2.1 million orphans in this world.

To that end we’ve decided to open our home to the local foster care system through Bethany Christian Services. Their classes have been very enlightening and we have learned a great deal through them. Though I’m sure we’ll learn tons more through the process of raising the children God has already planned to be in our home.

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Did God Create Evil?

One of the most used arguments I run across when dealing with God’s sovereignty and hyper-Calvinism is over God’s “creation” of evil. You can use the Bible to point this out. John 1:3 says “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” and this would appear to be traumatic to the believer, but rest assured it isn’t. Here we need to look at a few more scriptures and get more information.

We can find a good description of the relationship good and evil have with one another in Isaiah 5:20:

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

There are more, but this one should suffice. In it we see that good and evil are diametrically opposed one another by their comparisons to sweet/bitter and light/darkness. One is definitely not the other.

Now let’s look at Genesis 1:31 which says “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good…” Now God has declared all of His creation “very good.”

If God created evil then that would mean that God would think evil is good, but that is an absurdity when we read Isaiah 5:20. When we look at John 1:3, which shows nothing was made without Jesus, Isaiah 5:20, which illustrates good and evil as polar opposites, and Genesis 1:31, wherein God declares His work “very good,” we can come to two separate conclusions:
(1) Evil is not a created thing, and (2)God did not create evil.

So where does evil come from? It is, as best I can tell, what happens in the absence of God’s glory and became known to man at the Fall, in accordance with God’s judgment. It is nothing more than the absence of God and His eternal goodness, much like darkness takes over in the absence of light and cold takes over in the absence of heat. It is not a thing that can be interacted with, but a quality which we ascribe to people and their actions according to the laws of objective morality. So, while I’m not arguing for hyper-Calvinism, I am arguing that God did not and could not create evil.

P. S. Don’t fall into the trap of the KJV in Isaiah 45:7. That is simply a transliteration issue and almost every other version says “create calamity” which is typically in concert with God pronouncing judgment on a nation.

On Taking Criticism from Other Believers

Observation – people resist change until change becomes irresistible.

Point A. – our job as Christians is to build one another in Christ so that we help one another.
Point B. – some Christians hold wrong beliefs. These are not always heretical, but can be demonstrably wrong and likely absorbed through the world instead of scripture.

Conclusion – it is quite often necessary to tear down one’s ideas (not the person himself, though it is very often taken this way) so that one can continue to grow.

Example A – Imagine the pear tree – It grows quickly and in a few years it bears fruit. If we do not trim the tree back at the top it will grow long and slender. It will produce fruit, but not near as much as it would if we simply snip the top once it reaches a desired height. The tree then grows outward, increasing its yield ten fold.

Example B – Imagine you are remodeling your home. You need more space or you need to make better use of what space you do have. Sheet rock has to be torn down. Flooring must be ripped up. Studs must be broken out. All these things must take place before newer and better walls, flooring, and sheetrock can be installed.

As we grow in Christ it is often necessary to get our ideas and stances torn down in order that new building and growing can occur. It hurts – we have to readjust our lenses. The initial outlook is bleak as we only see the destruction and confusion, but the end result is worth it if done correctly. When a fellow Christian calls out a belief he thinks is in error consider his heart and his maturity in the word. It might just be that God is using him to help you grow to be more like Christ even if you consider yourself to be mature.

Bill Nye on U.S. Denial of Evolution

Additionally Nye showed his philosophical inconsistency by stating God was not knowable (agnosticism) and that he was okay with that, but rejected that same philosophy when it came to pinpointing the age of the earth and stars. This is inconsistent – why is it okay to be agnostic in one and not the other? Nye went further and chided Ham for accepting God’s word about the age of the earth (calling Ham’s viewpoint “unsettling”), seeing that as an agnostic or ignorant viewpoint. It is never ignorant to take God at His word.

Biblical Apologetics

Bill Nye made some comments concerning evolutionthat have since gone viral.

There are a lot of questionable claims in Nye’s comments. He believes that the “denial of evolution” is a “world view” that not only will “harm young people” but “hamper scientific progress.”

The first problem is that Nye never defines for us what he means by “evolution.” He does note that, “Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology,” but again, he does not define what this idea is. He also lists a string of entities he apparently thinks evolution includes, pointing out that, “Here are these ancient dinosaur bones or fossils, here is radioactivity, here are distant stars.” Virtually no one rejects the existence of dinosaur bones or fossils, radioactivity, or distant stars. Perhaps Nye means to say that the “idea of deep time” or “billions of years” is the

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When God Brings Us Low

Recently I’ve had what I will refer to as a spiritual butt whooping. It sounds funny, but I certainly mean it in all seriousness. I’ve had a problem for a long time about which I would rather not divulge the details, but the experience is something that may prove helpful for someone else out there.

God has been steadily bringing me under conviction for a while, but the past several days have been more so than usual. It all finally came to a head and I realized I am guilty. Guilty of dishonoring the spirit which I was gifted. Guilty of all sorts of depravity. Guilty of repeating the same sins from which I had been freed long ago. I have fed the flesh instead of the spirit and while, thankfully, it hasn’t knowingly affected my earthly life it has had a devastating impact upon my spiritual life.

It all started with a little slackness. I skipped the morning’s time with God – I’m was late for work and/or I too busy. That goes on for a little while, seemingly with no consequences. Then another thing gets dropped, and then another, and then another, until one day I realized I was almost completely removed from God. He’s been handing me over little by little to my fleshly desires until they consumed me as they did before I accepted Him as Savior. Then I began to wonder if these verses applied to me:

“…for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”” – 2 Peter 2:19-22

Whew, that’s harsh! But it is true, and had I not been absolutely confirmed in my salvation I would have thought it was lost again, for once these verses sunk in I felt a heavier burden than ever before. I began to think “am I like Ananias? Have I so wronged God that He would kill me?”

I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” – 1 Corinthians 5:5 (note that this verse is not about Ananias, but another offending believer)

The verse is in the context of dealing with people in the church who have been admonished and refuse to repent. They should be kicked out, thereby separating them from God’s people and preventing their sin from permeating the rest of the body. The person may then realize his condition and come back to God begging for his mercy. And this is what has happened to me. I didn’t get kicked out of the church, for my sin was not perceivable except to God and perhaps the most discerning of the saints. But God had kicked me out of His fellowship and gave me a stark reminder of that “…Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

The term “destruction” in 1 Corinthians 5:5 is our translation of the Greek word “olethros”  meaning:

So this death is initially the metaphysical death of the flesh, but if left unattended to can become physical (see here for clarification and further explanation – http://www.gty.org/resources/bible-qna/BQ7811/handed-over-to-satan). Now, don’t take this lightly – this is incredibly serious! God rebuked me, as I’m sure He has done countless times for others, and to me it felt like I was going to die where I stood. I am not being hyperbolic, I sincerely felt that way; I wanted to throw up. I had a real, honest to goodness, ‘come to Jesus meeting’ and it was certainly no fun at all.

I know my salvation is secure, and so is yours if you have it. However, at times when we are not careful we can still fit the descriptions of those in the Bible who are heading for eternal damnation. And with this condemnation from my Lord I started wondering how I should be restored and here it is:

“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death…” – 1 John 5:16

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:1–2

Confess to a friend, one you trust, and have him make an intercession for you. I did just that, and I am so blessed to have a friend (even though I have never met him because of the digital age) whom I trust in his character and relationship with Christ. I gave him the verse I was guilty of and asked him to pray for me, which I am convinced he did almost immediately, for soon thereafter the weight was lifted as if Jesus was saying to me “I think you have learned your lesson today.” Afterwards I felt like a child who had just gotten a serious spanking. The panic and emotion were unreal and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

But just like my father told me as a child after it was all over, “son, I don’t do this to hurt you. I do it because I love you.” And here I am with God doing the same thing to me all because He loves me with an undying love. Had it not been for my dad I don’t know that I would understand this now. I praise God for my earthly father who set me straight time and time again when I was young and gave me the ability to process this emotion.

“…“MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,
        NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
  6FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
        AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”

7It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” – Hebrews 12:5-11

I can personally attest to the truth of this passage several times over. Now, to move forward, and remember what I have learned, and to keep the Lord’s commandments so that I may not fall into the devil’s traps. God bless.

 

Believe Like Spurgeon – Live Like Wesley

These two famous pastors taught the gospel with considerably different opinions on salvation. Yet while Spurgeon had no love for the Arminian viewpoint, he believed John Wesley to be one who lived his life according to the word of God.

What caused Spurgeon to admire Wesley in this manner? In Spurgeon’s autobiography he writes:

“I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley.  The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one ‘of whom the world was not worthy'” (Vol. I: The Early Years, p. 173).

Can you believe that? Pretty high praise for someone whose doctrine he detested. But Spurgeon was certainly no fool, and he saw in Wesley what he wished he saw in every Christian – the character of God. So we are at an impasse. On one hand, we have the head knowledge of proper and sound doctrine. On the other hand, we have the heart knowledge of the life to which it should lead. Hence, it seems to me that we should strive with all of our being to be like them both, not shun one or the other.

So believe the right doctrine of salvation—that it is a one-time deal and you have been forever redeemed by the Savior by whom you have eternal security. But live like the Arminian claims you must – always fighting to keep it as if you had stolen it and it is under constant threat of being taken away! Has your faith not been worked out in a while? Is God using you constantly or hardly ever? If you are, I have found a wonderful article that will get you back on track:

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/what-to-do-when-faith-dies

On Choosing Salvation

It is commonplace today to hear a Christian say “I chose the Jesus” when they talk about the day they became His child. But I find that most people, myself included until recently, have no real grasp on how it is that they came to make that so-called decision. You see, there is a prevailing idea in the world that has only come into dominance over the past couple hundred years or so, and that is the idea of free will. That idea, which is inherently false, gives way to another idea that one is free to accept or reject God.

First off, let’s deal with the idea of free will in the context of salvation. Merriam-Webster defines the term free will as this:

    1:  voluntary choice or decision <I do this of my own free will>
    2:  freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by     divine intervention (emphasis mine)

Now look at the second definition closely – the choice must be made without prior cause or divine intervention. As Christians we know this cannot be. There are two primary external forces influencing the mind – God and the devil. We know this through both our own personal experiences and through biblical scriptures. Who was it that tempted Judas to betray Jesus? Who tempted David to take a census? Who tempted Eve to take and eat the forbidden fruit? Add to that the prior cause,
which is sin resulting in a corrupt and depraved nature, and we now have a startling impossibility.

Every temptation Christians face is from the devil (see the book of Job) and these temptations oftentimes come into our minds in the form of a thought, which is why “…we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Do you not remember the struggle you had with salvation? What was warring within you was your own flesh teamed up with the devil, against the power of the Holy Spirit who prevailed, thankfully, for none can resist Him! You fought hard against that conversion, didn’t you? I know I did, which means the choice also wasn’t voluntary, at least not by the flesh – strike three! Months and months went by with God patiently knocking, until one glorious day He invited Himself in and my response at that instant was immediate – to bow down before Him, confess my sins, and repent of my ways! The Spirit had won, amen, and He will always win “… because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. “ (1 John 4:4)

Not enough? Consider the conversion of Paul:

Acts [9:3] As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; [4] and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” [5] And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, [6] but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” [7] The men who traveled with him stood speechless,  hearing the voice but seeing no one. [8] Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.

Did Saul pray the sinner’s prayer? No. Did Saul ask Jesus to come into his heart? No. God came in against Saul’s will, which was quite set against God as evidenced by the saints he had killed, and God prevailed. Saul did not decide – God did. And He did it long before Saul or anyone else was ever born.

Now you say “my conversion was not like Saul’s, so it wasn’t the same with me.” Was it not? How did you come to the Lord? You say “I heard the gospel and responded” and you most certainly did. But what about all the other times you heard the gospel and did not respond? Was it not God who opened your ears to hear and opened your eyes to see? Were you not led to Him or did you get there all by yourself with no help from Him whatsoever? What made the time you responded different from all the others?

Isaiah 35:5    Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.

So, you see, we are all influenced by external forces. God chose you and the devil warred against Him to spoil the prize. But God’s will cannot be subverted, amen. Had our salvation been left up to us we would be hopelessly lost for we would never choose God; we much prefer the darkness and naturally despise His authority on the basest level because of our sinful nature.

Before we “chose” God were we not brought so low in our lives that we had no other choice than Him? I remember my desperation. I felt alone, though I wasn’t. I felt a great weight upon my shoulders for God had made Himself known to me, but my rebellion was fashioned hard against Him. The conviction of the Holy Spirit grew and grew and I could bear it no more! I had no other choice than God! What other choice is there? Sin? Depravation? Hell? Those are not choices; they are condemnations in which we already exist!

We currently treat the gift of salvation like we do the choice between desserts or food from a menu. We think it a choice in order to please ourselves and our ill-conceived notion of having authority over our circumstances and lives. But you do not choose a gift. Think about the Christmas present. Some you like, some you don’t, but they are all yours because they were given regardless of whether or not you asked for it.

God is in control, not us. We are bound to sin by chains that were not forged by human hands. They are the sentence of God for our transgressions. There is only one Chain Breaker, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He freely gives the gift of salvation! He paid for it by the shedding of His innocent blood to satisfy God’s wrath against us for our transgressions of His law. Jesus broke the chains of sin and bought us as the slaves we are in order to spare us the most painful agony of hell.

We cannot choose against Him, for how can a slave choose against the master that owns him? He raised me from the dead – to choose against Him is to choose death.&nbsp;Before I was a slave to sin, but now, praise God, I am a slave to Him! I was never free, even though I fancied it so. I am
free from the bondage and penalty of sin, but not of the servitude of my Master, for “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.” I incorrectly refer to myself as a
slave -&nbsp;Jesus has something better:

“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is
doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. John 15:15-16

Sinner, be reconciled to God this day. Be done with the flesh – obey the Holy Spirit and bow down before Him, confess your sins to Him, repent, acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, and you, too, will be saved. Do not wait! There never was and never will be a saint who said “I’m glad I put it off as long as I did.” No, on the contrary their only regret is that they didn’t do it sooner!

***Note – I want to reiterate again that my arguments against free will and free choice in this context do not lead to hard determinism as some might say. In the overall argument there is just cause to think that some things are predetermined while others are not. However, in the area of salvation it is quite clear that our statuses as saints was predetermined long before we were ever born. Jesus’ death was ordained before the world was even formed. He knew each one of His children then just like He knows them now and there are no accidents or mistakes. God will accomplish what He set out to do from the beginning. Amen.

Duck, Duck, Duck, TRUTH!

I don’t blog very often, but when I do it’s usually because something is deeply troubling me or is just begging to be let out. This time, it’s the latest argument about Phil Robertson’s comments to GQ and his subsequent suspension from A&E. This isn’t a new thing. Television shows in the past have cancelled shows and hosts for voicing their personal beliefs, but that doesn’t make it okay.

Nor does it make it wrong.

A&E received some correspondence from the LGBT community, and it was enough to cause A&E to suspend Phil. Now, I’m not going to get into the details of what Phil said except for this – that he was not directly equivocating bestiality and homosexuality in any sense other than from a biblical world view that both are sins and are equal in that light. The non-Christian population does not understand this viewpoint. They want to claim that Phil is trying to make that point from a pop-culture perspective that largely adheres to moral relativism in which there is no absolute right or wrong and “whatever is right for you may not be right for me.”

While there are many logical problems with moral relativism, we must understand that this is not where Phil was coming from. In the Christian worldview, there is sin, and everyone is subjected to it, not just gays, racists, thieves, etc. With God, there is no graduated scale of punishment for sins. One transgression is equal to the next whether it’s a little white lie or murder. That’s hard to comprehend from a non-biblical worldview because, in our government, different punishments exist for different crimes. We base punishment upon how much harm is suffered by the victim. A white lie can be seen in a good light (it usually prevents someone’s feelings from being hurt) while a murder is seen as the ultimate crime since it robs someone else of life.

However, with God all sins require a verdict of guilty to be conveyed upon the offender. There is only one sentence – eternal suffering in hell. It’s a horrible place and it’s hard to fathom that if we mess up just once that’s all it takes. But the horrible truth is that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, “the wages of sin is death”, and “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (Rom. 3:23; Rom 6:23; James 2:10). But this death isn’t the physical death that we all experience; instead it is the spiritual death that God’s law requires as a result of our sin.

You may think that’s harsh. And it is—according to our world. But this isn’t our world we’re dealing with but God who is perfect in all His ways. However, the good news is that it is not His intention to abandon us to eternal suffering with no hope. Didn’t I say that God is perfect in all His ways? To illustrate His perfection He sent His son, Jesus Christ, who lived among us and bore God’s wrath on the behalf of those who would believe in Him. You see, not only are God’s mind and law perfect, but His heart and love are also faultless. He knew beforehand what Jesus would go through in order to bring about the salvation of man and fulfillment of His law, and He did it anyway because He loves us.

So you see, Phil isn’t uttering hate speech as many would see it. Instead, he is making us aware of our sins before God so that we would seek to be reconciled with Him and not suffer. And that is what real love is. Love isn’t turning a blind eye to your friend or neighbor when he is doing something you know will end badly for him. Rather, love is trying to help him see a better way so he would not suffer the consequences of his actions. And this is what the Bible teaches us that Jesus did – He spent years on this earth enlightening and giving us knowledge of a better way. Then He made the way possible by dying in our place so we wouldn’t have to suffer God’s wrath.

If you are gay, you need Jesus. If you are straight, you need Jesus. If you are involved in porn, you need Jesus. If you are a child, you need Jesus. If you are rich, poor, middle-class, homeless, black, white, or Hispanic, you need Jesus. Basically, if you are human you need Jesus! Some time ago, Christians made homosexuality out to be some super sin that is worse than all others. The truth is that all sins are equally deadly and all require forgiveness, which is what Jesus offers us.

If you would only be reconciled to Him today! Be done with all of the insecurity of wondering what will happen to you when you die. Accept Jesus as Lord of all creation, the son of God, and profess it with your tongue, begging Him today to forgive you for your transgressions against Him. He will be listening and waiting as He has all this time.

“Though we have sinned He has mercy and pardon, pardon for you, and for me.”

Free Will – Is It Actually Free?

For quite some time, I have been perplexed by the concept of free will. It started early in my walk with Christ, but I’m happy to report it is starting to clear up. My first thought on the matter was, If God is omniscient, He already knows what choices I am going to make. Does that make my fate determined? If God already knows the end it seems as though we’re living out the manuscript. Well, that blew the old canoodle, and it took me a while to recover. For a while, I settled for the de facto free will stance—that I made the choice to trust Jesus of my own free will and secured my salvation. This is a widely accepted view, but I have come to understand that it is incorrect.

Today, we tend to flippantly use terms and phrases, and many times we have only a vague concept of what the word means as a result. But if we bothered to examine its definition, we would realize just how we’ve misused it…or that it isn’t even a word at all! The phrase that comes to mind is “I could care less.” People misuse this one all the time to express how much they don’t care, but the correct phrase is actually “I couldn’t care less.” The former means “I care and it is possible I could care less than I do” while the latter properly expresses what a person is trying to say—“I couldn’t possibly care any less than I do right now.” Still confused? Consult the handy infographic below!

Image from wittyburg.com

Image from wittyburg.com

 

I have come to realize that the term “free will” is one of those terms. Some folks refer to it as their “chooser.” First of all, let’s deal with the primary argument used to naysay the non-existence of free will. Typically, Calvinists and Arminians clash on this subject, but the term itself is misunderstood, probably due to decades of improper use. People who argue for the existence of free will often say of the opposition, “If man doesn’t have free will, then man has no control over his own actions and cannot be held responsible by God for them since he never had the free will to do anything but what was pre-ordained.” I completely agree with the objection, but the problem is the misunderstanding of what the will actually is. This leads to a mischaracterization of the stance against free will, resulting in a straw man argument, a logical fallacy.

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Image from imdb.com

I was watching a documentary called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead the other day. When one of the men being featured in it spoke of dieting, he mentioned something that stuck in my mind. He said, “I don’t have the willpower.” Hmmm, let’s unpack that a bit. What is he actually saying here? Most of us have used that phrase, and I do believe it is at the core of our misunderstanding of free will. What we are expressing with this simple sentence is that we know in our minds that we need to diet but lack the desire to do so. Because our mind and desire are at odds with one another, we give in to the stronger of the two—in this case the desire to eat a yummy, clog-your-arteries cheeseburger draped in bacon and doused with barbeque sauce that’s paired with a huge helping of fries and a diet soda to wash it all down with. (The cola is pointless of course, but it makes us feel not so wretched about our dietary discretion…or lack thereof.)

Notice there are two other key players here: the desire and mind. (Granted, there are other underlying forces such as motive and nature, but for now let’s keep it simple.) Desire says one thing, the mind says another, and the result is a lack of willpower, or lack of will. When we say “will,” we actually mean “willpower” but leave off the “power” because it is understood. Think of it this way, when you see a child running around a playground screaming like a banshee, you tell your friend, “Wow, that kid is hyper.” You leave off the word “active” (hyperactive) because it is understood. The man in the dietary documentary could have just as easily said, “I don’t have the will to do it,” and his assertion would have meant the same thing.

Image from sodahead.com.

Image from sodahead.com

The will is a power, or faculty, of the mind. What if we change the circumstances? Imagine something you really desired and made up your mind to obtain. What was the result? Oftentimes, you succeeded because your will (power) was strong. The desire and mind were in concert with one another resulting in a strong will (power). What if the desire is strong, but the mind is tougher? Then the mind wins, but the will (power) is vastly weakened by the conflict and becomes susceptible to temptation.

So the will is the power of the mind to control actions and thoughts, hence the term “willpower” But we’ve grown accustomed to dropping the second part of the term due to assumptive language, and as a result, our understanding of the term has been altered.

Well, does that mean we are not free? Certainly we are. But the mind is free, not the will. Freedom can belong to an agent, but not a faculty. To use the term “free will” is like saying your hands and feet are free when we all know they are completely controlled by the brain. We can freely think both in concrete and abstract terms. We can imagine, dream, problem solve, plot, and scheme, but that is not done by the will. These acts, as well as the act of decision making, are all functions of the mind, not the will. Once the mind is made up, the will follows; the mind wields the will in order to fully realize the decision it has made.

For further in-depth study of this topic, I highly recommend the works of great thinkers like Sir Francis Bacon and John Locke, especially the latter’s masterpiece, “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.”

Evil – Dependent on Dualism

Many atheists use the existence of evil as a method to prove God does not exist. However,  since the knowledge of good and evil is self-evident, the atheist then must try to prove morality is a product of evolution. It is very clear that morality, in many cases, directly conflicts with survival of the fittest (SoF), a tenet of evolution. Survival of the fittest is the primary means of evolution and is the way supporters of evolution try to explain its process. The idea is that multiple sets of traits can evolve simultaneously and the ones contributing to survival remain. This revolves around another unseen quality of life – the desire to survive, which drives everything with life. This is the primary source of the most rudimentary of survival instincts, fight or flight. Living things are amazingly aware of their mortality, which also drives the need and desire for procreation.

Enter morality, which at times directly conflicts with SoF. How so, you ask? When faced with a fight in which a person’s life is threatened it is morally okay for the victim to take the life of the perpetrator. No one seems to question this need to preserve one’s own life. In a court of law it is called self-defense – the moral right to defend one’s own life by the taking of another when given no other choice but to kill or be killed. Yet, in almost any other situation, murder is morally wrong. The taking of a human life is considered to be one of the worst atrocities a person can commit, yet we are absolved in court in this one circumstance. It is morally right to act out of self-preservation.

However, why do we consider someone who sacrifices him/herself to protect others to be morally superior? Because of selflessness. So how do we come to the decision that selflessness is more important than the natural inclination of self-preservation? This is in direct conflict with SoF. A soldier dives on a grenade and sacrifices himself in order to save a helpless civilian or civilians. He goes against his natural instinct of self-preservation and survival, but what is his possible motive? He’s dead when the grenade explodes, and he benefits in no way from this act. It goes against nature, the very system through which we are made. This is contradictory to evolution! Self-preservation and survival are thrown out the window for the sake of moral superiority.

Enter the law of non-contradiction, which states that two things cannot be simultaneously true about the same circumstances. The circumstance here is about the nature of life and evolution. If self-preservation and SoF are true, then it cannot be morally superior to sacrifice one’s self for another unless something else is in play. Enter dualism – dualism is the idea that the mind and the body are not identical, that though they are part of the same entity, they are two different parts that make up the whole. Plato and Aristotle were two of the largest contributors to this philosophy. In the previous example, we see an obvious conflict between morality and survival in the same person. There is nature, which says that survival is our primary goal, and then there is a morality, which says that there is a greater good to be served. They both cannot be simultaneously true since this would violate the law of non-contradiction. They also cannot both be simultaneously true about morality for the same reason. Hence, nature cannot be responsible for producing morality or it would be self-contradictory. This does not defeat evolution (nor is it intended to) but it does prove that evolution and nature cannot give rise to morality. However, if we are products of material and immaterial alike (i.e. soul and flesh are separate pieces making up the person and they are two different natures) then our dilemma is satisfactorily explained. Dualism does the best job of explaining why we have morals and why we often times act against them. Dualism explains our simultaneous greed and admiration of altruism. It explains why we can be cold and recalcitrant and also be moved to tears by the plight of a homeless person. Simply put – man is simultaneously material (flesh) and immaterial (soul/mind).

So dualism makes morality a possibility and gives us the ability to know what evil is. If it were not for the immaterial mind that gives us the ability to know good and evil, there would be no morality – good, bad, or indifferent. Without morality, we have no method by which to judge something good or evil, and we have no foundation for law. Without law, there is no order, and without order, barbarism rules. Mankind would be like other members of the animal kingdom wherein each animal lives or dies by its own will and the will of others. This is the true definition of survival of the fittest – a world where survival is the only goal and morality does not exist.

Therefore, man has a soul and mind that is not a product of the natural world, so what is our responsibility now that we have that knowledge?