Tag Archives: free will

Freedom, human weakness, and why I suppose I better don’t leave the internet


Foto0067Humans might have free will (yes, I believe that, I’m neither a calvinist nor a neuro-determinist), still they are quite weak too… We sometimes act on random impulses and are easily conditioned in doing stuff we shouldn’t do or not doing stuff we should do.

I’m not talking about big spectacular dangerous sins or serious addictions here. My biggest temptations lies more in things that come close to being nothing at all than in big evil sins… Sometimes I find myself irritatingly weak for example against all kind of ‘nothing-addictions’ when hanging around a computer that has an internet-connection (and facebook). Just wasting time is a big problem that I can’t afford, but it can be so compulsive, when I miss the energy to start what I should do, or miss the overview of the stuff I have to do, or just don’t have the attention to do anything not mindless… And then the meaningless click-an-surf-mode goes on, my time, energy and everything goes down the drain…

How can I solve this?

The problem here is discerning what the underlying problem is, and what just the symptom. I sometimes wish I could disconnect completely from the internet and facebook to free myself from these ‘nothing-addictions’, which is an impossibility for both my work and my social life. But still the idea lingers that everything would be different and that I would be doing more if I would be able to disconnect completely.

Which probably is mostly nonsense: at the moments that I’m productive I don’t fall into these kind of addictions at all, with internet on and facebook open… It’s only when I’m already distracted that they are out to get me… Moreover, I don’t think the internet is the main problem here, in an internetless life I would find other ‘nothing-addictions’… A very interesting article by Paul Miller, who did what I sometimes dream of and lived a year without the internet confirms what I already suspected… The problem lies not in the internet or facebook, and will never be solved by just disconnecting..

So I guess my real problem is battling my ADD and my overall lack of discipline, not the internet… I need to battle deeply ingrained patterns and to fight the false ideas of freedom that ‘not having to do anything’ is a form of freedom. There is no freedom in having to follow every stupid impulse, or in having to follow whatever comes your way. If that is freedom there can be no free will indeed. (And any form of humanism is impossible, since it’s nature that has by default won from the human being, just as Christianity is impossible, the flesh will always win.)

I do not believe in this determinism. Man may be a weak creature, but we do have free will! Even though it’s sometimes not strong enough against the other things that want to control us…

So here we come to the paradox: Only in self-control can freedom be found, otherwise you’re a slave to whatever impulse from inside or outside that comes your way.

Now that I realise this I know that I’ve been lazy all my life, and that I have to unlearn and relearn a lot of things. May God help me with this, I cannot do this alone… Wasn’t self-control one of the fruits of the Spirit? Where are those fruits [love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, see Galations 5:22] in contemporary Christianity anyway? Or are they not manly enough?

peace

Bram

please don’t call me ‘arminian’!


warning: this post is for all those christians who identify themselves with the ‘calvins-ist’ or ‘reformed’ tradition and who feel the need to dub me or others ‘arminian’ because I’m not one of them…

All my life I’ve been a Christian, and I’ve encountered a lot of traditions in those 30 years (wow, am I that old?). I must say I’ve learned a lot from all different streams of Christianity. I’ve been a pentecostel kid, and now I’m a part of the vineyard movement with it’s centered ‘radical middle’ approach. I’ve been learning from a lot of traditions over the years. My charismatic background and the wesleyan evangelicalism underneath it were enriched by the human solidarity, charity and ‘creation care’ -as I’d call it now- that I picked up from the (otherwise mostly dead liberal-on-slippery-slope-to-atheism) catholicism of my catholic school. (did I tell you that I grew up in a dechristianising post-catholic countrty?)

I think that I’ve picked up what I would call now ‘a generous orthodoxy’ from C.S. Lewis, and I learned to find things of value in most Christian streams, and I read books, articles and websites from all kinds of traditions over the years since my teenage years, which enriched me a lot.

There were at least three streams of thought that never resonated with me within the broad range of Christian thought, without beginning about the pope and the magisterium that is… The first one is the so-called ‘liberal’ impulse to explain everything away that doesn’t fit with modern science, which is just unrealistic to a charismatic like me. The second one is the ‘I am right on all details or you can just throw your bible and faith in the trash’ approach of fundamentalism. and the third one is the weird doctrine of double predestination, which I find a blasphemous idea, even if it’s supposed to give God the most glory according to their philosophical framework.

I must say that honestly I’ve never encountered much calvinism before I got into some debates on the internet. And it never interested me, I didn’t recognise God, Christ and the bible like I knew them in their way of thinking. But one of the things I noticed when in debate on some websites was the label ‘arminian’ that some used to describe me or any other person brave enough to admit not to believe in the ‘TULIP’-doctrines. I soon learned that it was a derogatory term used by some calvinists to label anyone they disagree with, so they didn’t have to take them seriously. I later found out it had something to do with some Arminius guy, but reading about the guy he didn’t stir much interest I’m affraid.

(I’m fully aware that not all calvinists and reformed Christians are like this, but this is part of my experience that I can’t deny. My excuses to all good christians in the reformed tradition who don’t use the word ‘arminian’ as a synonym for ‘bad christian’ or even ‘heretic’. It’s the loudest ones that get heard and that spoil the reputation of the group for all of the rest…)

I’m sorry, but I reject the label ‘arminian’. I don’t follow the guy named Arminius. In fact the guy was, unlike me, a calvinist. He might even have been a better calvinist than the guys of the synod of Dordt, who made up the 5 points of calvinism (TULIP) but history is always written by winners, and he and his followers were the losers… But that’s an in-house discussion for calvinists and those inside the ‘reformed’ tradition, and none of my business. It’s as relevant for me as what’s going on in the vatican…

Calling all evangelicals, or more or less protestant Christians who believe in free will over predestination ‘Arminians’ is just plain nonsense from a calvinistocentric worldview, creating non-extisting dichotomies where there’s a whole lot of traditions of which the ‘reformed’ is only one. It would be the same if I as a Charismatic would call all non-charismatics ‘darbyists’ and trace all forms of cessionism or otherwise non-charismatic christianity back to Darby. The guy has nothing to do with most of non-charismatic christianity, and it’s the same with Arminius and non-calvinists…

So, I’m a Christian, and I believe in free will, or more exaxtly the synergy of Gods grace and free wil, it’s not that we do everything alone. I reject the ideas of irresistible grace and limited atonement. If you use small letters I won’t be offended with labels as evangelical, charismatic, or even (neo)anabaptist or wesleyan.  All these traditions are part of my roots I guess, and I’m even inpired by the eastern orthodox and greek church fathers lately.

But I’ve never cared about that rebelious and rejected calvinist called Arminius. And I don’t need to be named after the guy… There are followers of him who still identify with him, so keep the name for them!

shalom

Bram

Prophecy, free will and the openness of the future…


This older post from Richard Becks Experimental Theology site has been popping up in the dutch blog- and twitterverse a few times lately:Why the anti-christ is an idiot. It’s kinda funny, but it also reminds me of old King Herod. I’ve always wondered what was going on in the guys head: he hears from the magi about a newborn king, and supposes it is the messiah of which the prophecies speak. So what does he do: he tries to kill the newborn messiah…

Isn’t this very strange? How can anyone in their right mind believe in the prophecy that tells about the birth of the messiah, and then still think that they can stop the rest of the prophecy by killing the baby? It’s a strange way of taking prophecy serious: believing in it and still believing you can change the end of the story in a way that workes out better for you…

It’s a strange subject: prophecy and the openness of the future. I as a Christian do believe in prophecy, including foretelling prophecy. (I even believe as a charismatic that it still happens today, even though I’m very sceptical about the wacko prophecies that arise out of some corners of the hypercharismatic world that never seem to be fulfilled) For example I believe that Jesus was the fulfilling of a lot of prophecies in the Old Testament, like the gospels tell us, and like Jesus told the guys on the way to Emmaus. So I believe God can, and does, show us the future. (And sometimes hide it in weird cryptical pictures that only are clears afterward…but that’s another story)

But yet I don’t believe in a God that micro-manages everything, but in free will. So even if God is above time the future is in a way ‘open’. We do what we do in free will. We might be influenced by our instincts, our DNA, our trauma, the Holy Spirit or even more evil spirits, whatever,… But our deeds are ours, and we more or less choose them. Otherwise justice cannot even exist. If God micromanages every very deed we do, He is the cause of our sin, not we. Then He is behind everything He says He hates in the bibles, which does not make much sense at all… (I don’t say that God should always follow our human logic, but this is evil nonsense and even blasphemy[1])

So I wouldn’t use the modern concept of the universe as a watch and God as a watchmaker (an idea which did much harm to christianity defending itself in modernity, sorry mr. Paley) The universe is not a machine (and neither is the human being, or any living organism) But more as God sheperding both this world and the lives of believers -and non-believers-. Leading it, and where needed influencing it, probably correcting it here and there, but letting the world mostly unfold in it’s onw free will. Except of course that when God wants to do someting, it will happen. God will maken it happen. After all, He is the Almighty…

I was thinking about the same concept when I was re-reading the silver chair, one of the narnia stories by C.S. Lewis, who in his non-fiction also speaks of God above time and seeing all time at once (I think it was in mere christianity) and who says to defend a traditional view there. In the beginning Aslan sends Jill on a quest to find the lost prince, and he also gives her some signs that she and Eustace should follow, which they mostly don’t. They pretty much screw op most of the time! But in spite of that, they manage to find the prince, and save Narnia from an evil witch who wants to enslave it once more… So Aslan is working towards something with the 2 children, and probably cleaning up the mess behind the scenes, but in the end he gets to the goal. It could’ve happened more easily is they had talked the old King, or not had gone to the city of giants, but still the outcome is there: the prince is found, and Narnia is saved!

God has an outcome, but that does not mean that the ways are fixed. So that means that foretelling prophecy might just be God telling what His plans are, not revealing a fixed future… Like Jonah foretelling the destruction of Nineveh, which doesn’t happen because the people change their mind…

So, is this ‘open theism’? I honestly don’t know. I guess I should read some Greg Boyd on the subject. I don’t know if we as humans can even understand how the relation is between eternity where God lives and our time… We probably are flatlanders explaining a goldfish in the terms of our 2D worldview. I believe that God created time as we know it together with our universe -so I reject process theology- and I also know that God the son entered time in the incarnation. Maybe it is a mystery. God does probably influence a lot more than we realise, and the paradox between free will and predestination might be solved from a view outside of this time…

But the future is calling us. The Kingdom of God is already breaking is into our world here and now sometimes. That which started with the resurrection will once be a whole new earth and a whole new heaven, and it’s inviting us to join in already. God is calling us, and will do all he can, and fulfill His promises. But that does not mean we have to sit back and wait…

shalom

Bram

[1] I am aware that some in the reformed tradition try to make sense of this kind of ideas, in order to protect their faith from problems that I don’t see, but that’s not my problem… It’s not my tradition and I don’t care any more about supposed calvinist theology and philosophy(of which some wouldn’t even be recoginised by old John Calvin) than I do about the infallibility of the pope. It only would distract me from the Christ and the bible to engage in such discussions, even when I see both reformed and catholics as my brothers and sisters in Christ.