Thursday, February 14, 2013

The granting of free will

The concept of free will and how it has caused us a human race to go so wrong is well documented.  For whatever reason He saw fit, God allowed Adam and Eve the ability to choose between Him and sin, knowing that it could go badly.  The natural question we ask, then, is "why would He do this?"  Wouldn't it have been better and achieved His objectives more to create us in such a way where we love Him and there is no capability to choose anything else?

The underlying focus of this statement is the risk involved with free will.  We know how the story turns out, and now in hindsight we suggest that God should have arranged the situation differently in order to produce a better outcome.  But what if we switched the focus of the question of why He gave us free will from the risk involved to the positive reasons why He might have given us the ability to choose?

First and foremost, it is important to recognize and state the absurdity in questioning anything God has done and has chosen to be right and good.  To question the Source of life that gave us the ability to think and formulate questions in the first place is lunacy.  God did it, and God is good.  The only conclusion to be drawn, therefore, is that granting us free will was right and good.

I continue to read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  He makes a short, simple statement that points out the positive reason why God had no choice but to give us free will.  It is a thought I have never heard before, although the simplicity of it makes me feel as if I should have heard it before.  The statement is part of his response to a question of why God gave us the ability to choose poorly, thus leading to a fallen world in which He had to make the most painful decision of all- sending His one and only Son into that fallen world to save it.  Had he created us differently, the whole process of redemption and salvation would have been unnecessary. 

But what free will allows us to do is what is at the core of God.  Lewis' statement is as follows:

"The process of being turned from a creature into a son would not have been difficult or painful if the human race had not turned away from God centuries ago.  They were able to do this because He gave them free will: He gave them free will because a world of mere automata could never love and therefore never know infinite happiness."

At His core, God is love.  He could not create anything in the likeness of Himself without giving it the capacity to love.  If we were created to be in relationship with God, who is the source of infinite happiness, we have to have the ability to love because God is love.  Granting us free will was not an unnecessary roll of the dice on His part, but an essential requirement for creating a being in His own likeness with the capacity to know and love Him.

What we have since chosen to do with free will is a different topic, and one that should cause us no small bit of shame.  But the question of why we were created with the ability to choose is rendered pointless when we step back and understand why we were created at all, and that free will is a necessary component of our basic makeup required to achieve that goal. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Pursuit of Happiness

The quest for happiness and the satisfaction of desires is a primary driver of people's choices and pursuits in life.  Some people achieve these goals, but rarely do they achieve it permanently.  Before long, the feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment have faded or new desires have replaced the old, and we are off again in search of the answer.  Some find this constant pursuit exhilarating and part of the challenge of life.  It truly is about the journey for them, and the fact that the journey has no ending destination does not bother them.  Others are mired in constant frustration and dissatisfaction because they truly want to reach their destination, the mythical land of permanent happiness.

C.S. Lewis describes the recognition of the origin of our desires and the alternatives for how to handle the pursuit of those desires.  He describes our true longings by saying, "Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world.  There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise."

I know that feeling.  How many things in this world send the false message, "If only you had _____, life would finally be all that you want it to be."  The most obvious thing is money.  Unfortunately, as Matt Chandler says, most of us will never be rich enough to realize it will never be enough to satisfy.  If that is true, we will continue to pursue it because the answer, in our minds, is not that money is not the answer, it's simply that we don't have enough of it to find the answer that it holds.

Lewis describes three responses to the fact that the things of this world fail to satisfy our deepest desires.  Two of the responses, as he says, are wrong, and one is right.

1. "The Fool's Way"- to put the blame on the things themselves.  The reason marriage didn't permanently satisfy that desire for you is because, in your mind, you chose the wrong spouse.  The result is a constant chasing for the right _________, because it holds the answer to your desires.  This person may feel momentary highs, but more often feels disappointment.

2. "The Way of the Disillusioned Sensible Man"- this is the person who has just given up.  They've decided that, after experiencing near-constant disappointment, that satisfaction and happiness simply do not exist.  "He settles down and learns not to expect too much" and represses part of himself.  He dismisses the pursuit as something only the young and stupid continue.  "Common sense" has led him to conclude that an answer doesn't exist.

3. "The Christian Way"- we would not have desires in us unless satisfaction for those desires exists.  This thought directly contradicts response #2.  Lewis says, "Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing."  Our desires and the true satisfaction of those desires relate to what world we were really made for.  True satisfaction and happiness are elusive to us when we look for those things in this world, rather than the eternal world for which we were created and the One who created it and us.  This thought directly contradicts response #1.

The takeaways are these- satisfaction and happiness do exist, but not in the form of earthly things.  We won't find our answer in this world because we weren't made for this world.

Why do we remain thirsty when we drink constantly and in mass quantity?  Maybe we are drinking from the wrong well.