I am working on a new look for this site. Until then I will be posting my Midweek Updates that are sent out to the congregation of Crossroads Basel. David
My oldest daughter and I went out to see a movie last week. We didn’t know what to see but were looking for something in English that was available at the right time for us. So we ended up watching ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. I had seen some previews of the movie but it wasn’t really what I had expected. It wasn’t a fantastic film but it was good and it leaves you thinking. I always like that challenge.
The theme of the movie is about free will versus determination (a kind of fatalism). Do we as individuals have free choice? Or, have all our choices been made for us, based on our previous actions. The New York Times has an interesting article out today on this very topic. It’s confusing and complex to say the least.
This kind of discussion is nothing new in Christian circles. We have been debating for centuries about the proper understanding of the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. Can both of these exist or does one make the other impossible? If God has pre-determined all our choices then do we have any free will? Or, it man has free will how can God be sovereign since he doesn’t control everything? The nitty-gritty work comes down to how we define those terms, “free will” and “sovereignty”. I have no intention here of trying to offer an answer. Sorry.
What the topic of the movie and the Times article raises is whether or not we, as humans, are morally responsible for our actions. If everything is predetermined then how can we be held accountable for our transgressions? If we are a product of determinism or God’s sovereignty then can we be personally guilty of sins? These are tough questions that we should think about.
However, the Bible does make a couple things clear. If you read through the book of Judges you will discover the most popular phrase to describe that era of time is, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” And this was not good. The people had departed from worshiping God and following his lead. But God has a standard for all people. We are not free to set our own standards of right and wrong. We can not pick and choose what things are sinful. We should not downplay the importance of understanding God’s standards and expectations of us.
God is sovereign but it doesn’t stop him from holding us accountable for our actions and our sins. We can’t blame our behaviour on our genes, bad childhood experiences, our ancestor Adam or God’s sovereignty. We have to accept that we are responsible for our actions. It is clear in the Bible that we personally will have to give an account of our actions. The good news is that God has provided a way out for us. Paul tells us in Romans that we are free from both condemnation and the power of sin when we come to Christ. (See Romans 3-6).
Don’t let the complex issues confuse you. What it comes down to is this - we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standards. We are responsible for our sins. God has provided a way to deal with those sins. Jesus died in our place and for our sins. If we accept the gift of God we are declared ‘not guilty’ and the power of sin is broken in our lives. Only then, when the power of sin is broken, can we truly begin making free choices. That’s the good news, no, the fantastic news of the Gospel.