Semester is over, and I’ve got this summer to catch up.
For good or bad, I’m back (for a while, anyway).
DaveB, what a stunning essay from William Ellery Channing! I’ve never read anything that so well sums up what I’ve come to believe. I’d not heard of him before, so I thank you much for sharing his name.
Way back in 2004 when, with much trepidation, I began writing from my heart on a public forum, I choose a moniker that I hoped might help to convey how what I was then only exploring led me to think, then feel.
I choose Eleutheros because what I was concluding was awakening my heart into an understanding of what Jesus meant when he said:
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”.
As I read Channing’s essay, my heart resonated with his words like a new harmony played over a familiar melody. That is, it enriched what was already there and made it more beautiful.
This essay now holds a permanent place on the bulletin board of good things in my heart.
I thank you again for sharing this.
Now, I address my heart, and thus my typing, to the topic question, “What does it mean to be free?”
It is believed in popular theology that we have free will, and that this is from God Himself.
But, I ask, “Do we really have free will?”
Or is this ability, “to choose what we want to do,” just an illusion, like the passage of time?
In the context of modern Christian theology - which I perceive as not much more than repeated attempts to reconcile Augustinianism with Arminianism - free will seems to be a term appropriated to get men and women off the hook for their sins through making a one-time-needed choice, while simultaneously giving the believer an ability to placate their conscience with theological conclusions. And, of course, give them the means to think that they are escaping damnation because of what they believe - and what they subsequently do to support The Church (The Institution and its buildings) and win converts to the cause by rescuing as many as possible from hell through preaching the Gospel.
Thus, in Arminianism, I perceive free will as a necessary concept to put the blame for the way the world is on Adam, not Jehovah, so that Arminianism has a means to resist the inevitable (and stunningly fatalistic) conclusion that by the very act of creation, Jehovah must have intended for the world to be the way it is. For doesn’t the Bible teach us that He foreknew the fall of Adam as a fact before He created him? And that He foreknew/chose which human beings were going to be damned for all eternity - and which weren’t - an election that no human being has a legitimate word to say against because the sovereign Jehovah elected all to their eternal destiny from before the foundation of the world was laid?
Of course, In Augustine of Hippo’s theology - which historically replaced the first understanding of scripture, Universal Salvation, in the fourth century to give the developing clergy/laity divide a stronger foothold - free will cannot truly exist if it is a truth that Jehovah knew, from before the foundation of the world, that Adam was going to fall, A biblical fact (in the Vulgate, Geneva & KJV translations) that lead me to logically conclude that the events in the garden were not much more than a Divine Sting Operation.
The understanding of scripture that is now my heart leads me to perceive that the only time we can truly engage an ability to choose good over evil is when we hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we respond with acceptance, with faith, believing that Jesus Christ came to offer Jehovah’s forgiveness (no small thing, that!) and set us free from sin, we are, “born anew,” and begin the process of growing to maturity in Christ; that is, of learning how to live for the kingdom of God by consistently choosing agape and forgiveness, and thus good over evil. Otherwise, we remain as we are, enslaved to sin, without the ability to please Jehovah in what we do and say (which isn’t a motive in the heart of those who consistently reject the Gospel, but is a motive in the heart of those who readily accept it).
I perceive from scripture that this new ability to subdue sin in our lives through love and forgiveness comes because we are born anew, because we are re-sired by Jehovah through Holy Spirit, Which is the Spirit of Jesus Who speaks to us through the cleansed conscience that He made possible by accomplishing the forgiveness of sins through being the Sacrificial Lamb crucified that he might become our succoring High Priest, giving us the room, through that very forgiveness, to mature in Him through this Thing He calls Grace.
“I call that mind free, which resists the bondage of habit, which does not mechanically repeat itself and copy the past, which does not live on old virtue, which does not enslave itself to precise rules, but forgets what is behind, listens for new and higher monitions of conscience, and rejoices to pour in fresh and higher exertions.”
My summation then of what it means to be free is to say that, by heeding it, our conscience is the thing wherein we’ll catch the heart of The King - because those who are set free by The King… are free, indeed!
Free to grasp and consistently practice the things Channing summed up so well in his eloquent essay on the free mind.