TheologyMichael Hansen

Theology Thursdays: What is True Freedom?

TheologyMichael Hansen

As you can see from this title I am attempting to have some sort of pattern to my posts. I am going to attempt to have a post on most Thursdays that will be on the topic of theology.

Todays post is in large part inspired by John Piper's incredible talk that he gave last night at the Passion 2012 conference in Atlanta Georgia. If you are unfamiliar with the Passion movement I would strongly suggest that you check out their site here, also if you would like to listen to Dr. Piper's talk it should be available through Passion's website through tonight. (The sermon begins at around 50 min. but the worship leading up to it is amazing too.)

The main point or phrase of the message was "The supremacy of Christ frees us from sin for the sacrificial work of love" another way to put it is "being satisfied for all that God is for us in Jesus brings freedom from from the bondage of sin for the suffering of love". In other words Dr. Piper is saying that in order for us to love (as we are commanded to do) we must be set free from the bondage of slavery (which we are in). Furthermore, in order to be set free from sin we must be satisfied in Jesus.

What Dr. Piper put the most emphasis on in his message is the idea of freedom. "What is freedom?" that is the question that he wanted to ask. Dr. Piper emphasized what salvation truly is: it is a new birth, a resurrection from the dead. The point of this emphasis is that many people associate their salvation to a choice that they make or a prayer they pray.

What Dr. Piper emphasizes is that your salvation is not based on a choice or a prayer that is made. Instead it is contingent upon coming to God for satisfaction. Many will see a verse like John 6:35 which Dr. Piper uses to show this point and see that the salvation that Jesus is talking about here is one that involves coming to Jesus for satisfaction (Piper's point) but that the person coming to Jesus has the choice to choose whether they do or not. But this view avoids the motive behind the coming. The bible teaches that no one comes to God and that everyone is enslaved to the desires of their flesh. In other words we choose to do what we want to do but we do not have the ability in ourselves to change that which we want. Ultimately whenever we do chose something, behind the choice is a desire that the individual cannot account for. This understanding shifts the reality of human freedom.

As stated, human freedom is inexorably tied to desire. The will is ultimately free to choose, however it will only choose that which it desires. Therefore the will is governed by desires and desires are completely governed by God. In Piper's book God's Passion For His Glory he states that "The will is free to move toward whatever it delights in most fully, but it is not within the power of our will to determine what that...will be." (87)

If this is the case what then becomes of human responsibility for their actions? If humans are enslaved to the desires of their flesh and only a supernatural change of affections, called the new birth, can give them a new heart with new desires how can they be held responsible for their rebellion against God? The answer is that the inability is a moral inability not a physical one. Again Piper states, "It is not an inability that prevents a man from believing when he would like to believe: rather, it is a moral corruption of the heart that renders motives to believe ineffectual. The person thus enslaved to sin cannot believe without the miracle of regeneration, but is nevertheless accountable because of the evil of his heart, which disposes him to be unmoved by reasonable motives in the gospel." (88)

In conclusion we see that freedom in the sense that humans have the sovereign ability to look objectively at what is truly right or wrong and choose accordingly is biblically incoherent. The bible teaches that every human is a slave to one of two things: Sin, or Righteousness. (Romans 6:16-23) Biblical freedom can be defined as "doing exactly what you want to do and that happens to be the will of God." In the bible freedom happens when one becomes set free, by God, through the new birth, from enslavement to sin, to desire God more than anything else and thus choose him as a result of their new heart.

Hope this is Insightfull

Michael

Michael lives with his wife (Caroline) and dog (Beau) in Athens, GA where he teaches history and economics to high schoolers. Michael enjoys reading, watching soccer, drinking bourbon, and taking walks with his wife and dog.