Nature and Free Will
You can choose a ready guide from some
You can choose not to decideyou still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears, and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that's clear: I will choose free will
-Neil Peart Free Will, from Permanent Waves
"In conservative Christianity you are told you are unacceptable. You
are judged with regard to your relationship to God. Thus, you can only
be loved positionally, not essentially. And, contrary to any assumed ideal
of Christian love, you cannot love others for their essence either. This
is the horrible cost of the doctrine of original sin."
-Marlene Winell, from Leaving the Fold
Next time your Sunday school lesson is about original sin, ask your
teacher this: why did Adam and Eve sin? The answer you'll probably get
is, "because they were tempted." If you ask, "why did they give in to
the temptation," the answer will most likely be, "because God gave them
the free will to do so, since He didnt want to create robots." And
that is usually where the discussion ends. At least that's where it did
whenever I brought it up. But the next question is actually the most important
one: why did they choose to give in to the temptation?
The interesting thing here is not that Adam and Eve could choose
to to disobey God, but that they did. Why did they do this? Why
did their free will lead them to choose something contrary to God's will,
which they were later to find out is called sin? And furthermore, how
could they choose to sin when they were perfect? The reason Christians
believe that all humans are sinners in need of the redemption of Christ,
is because of Adam and Eve's original sin, and the "sin nature" it imparted
on humanity. We sin, they say, because we cannot help it, because we've
acquired a nature that causes us to do so. It's as if we were infected
with a spiritual illness that makes it impossible for us not to sin. That
is why God sent Jesus to die, to pay for the sins that He knew we would
inevitably commit. But when we examine the story of the first human sin,
we see that this is not really the case. For even without a sin nature,
Adam and Eve sinned anyway. So the next question is this: how are we different
from Adam and Eve? What's the point of this whole sin nature thing, when
whether or not you have it, you can sin anyway?
Looking at this from within the Christian perspective can make it
quite complicated. This whole issue has perplexed my mom for years. But
if we allow ourselves to step away from the Christian model, it becomes
very straightforward. We sin, you see, because we can. We can because
we have free will. And so long as we have free will, we will always sin.
There is no such thing as "sin nature." It is merely free will. And the
only way to eradicate sin is to eradicate our free will.
Now as a Christian, I would have had to vehemently disagree. Yes,
free will allows you to choose to sin. But it also allows you to choose
not to. And that is the whole point of perfection. You do not sin, even
though you can. But there are two problems with this idea. First, as we
already saw in the Eden account, perfection does not preclude your choosing
to sin. Adam and Eve demonstrated that quite conclusively. And second,
what will prevent us from committing a sin in Heaven? Supposedly, once
we make it to heaven, we return to that sinless state that Adam and Eve
were originally in. But now instead of one forbidden fruit we will have
hundreds, thanks to the laws God laid down in the Old Testament, which He said would forever remain in effect.
will keep us from getting tripped up by all these "forbidden fruits" in heaven? It only took one to take Adam and Eve down, and humankind has fared no better since God gave us his laws in the Bible. There is only one thing that will keep us sin free: a complete abdication of our power to choose. In other words, we will
no longer have free will. The only way the Heaven experiment can proceed
without suffering the same fate as Eden or Earth, is if its members no longer have
the option of choosing to sin.
To be free from sin, we can only choose to do what God wants us to do. But only
being able to choose what someone else wants you to isn't free will. It's
like an election in a communist country, where the polls are supposed
to be free. How much freedom is there when the only names on the ballot
are those approved by the state? But isn't it possible that what we want
will correspond with what God wants? Yes, I suppose it is, but not all
the time. A finite being, with limited knowledge and experience, will
not always make the same perfect decisions an infinite being, with all
knowledge and wisdom, would make. In other words, for our will to be perfect,
we would have to become as wise and all-knowing as God. In which case,
our individuality would be eradicated. In the Christian world, the only
will left standing is God's. For all you Trekkies out there, this may
start to sound familiar. Christianity makes God's purpose that of creating
one big Borg collective, where its members no longer have to think for
themselves. Which calls into question why God created us in the first
place. After all, whats the point of creating autonomous creatures,
when what you really want are just beings who think like you, and do exactly
what you would do? And who do you think most likely to have created the
sin nature/redemption cyclean eternal God who wanted something new
and different to occupy the universe with Him, or angst-ridden humans
desperately trying to find a way to justify their lack of self control?
Nothing makes me think we created God more than when I look at religion.
As Voltaire pointed out, "If God created us in his own image, we
have more than reciprocated."