I heard it again this morning. “God did not create us as robots.” He also, for that matter, did not create us as bunnies or rocks or pickled pigs feet. The person I read saying this was, of course, referring to the idea of “free will” which, by the way, is not a biblical term. If someone could point me to the passage that says we are all created with free will, I’m all ears.
What I see the Bible saying is that we are born with minds hostile to God that cannot submit to God’s Law (Romans 8:7) and that we are born with the spiritual abilities of a corpse that needs someone to come raise it from the dead. (Colossians 2:13)
I’ve addressed this subject before in my “Do Sheep Have Free Will” post. But my recent reading on modern fascism have added to refine my understanding of both the Biblical point of view and of why those who are unregenerate would take the stance that they do.
The existential philosophers had one thing right, even if they were deluded in their idea that it could be achieved, true freedom comes through what they call “authenticity”. They are in agreement with Paul that it is not freedom to do in your actions what is against your nature. If you are at war within yourself, then how is that freedom? This reminds one of Paul’s discussion of how we do what we do not want to do, that Paul agreed in his mind that the Law of God is God, but his Flesh was at war with God and bound to disobey the law. (Romans 7)
Also consider this quote from Camus:
The absurd is born out of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world. – Albert Camus
This is from the point of view of an atheist who also disagreed with those who imagine being harmonized with nature brings fulfillment. Ultimately, we are alone in our quest for fulfillment, with no help from the universe. I thing the Christian view of the “absurd” would be much different. And God must look down on sinners who live with the delusion of their own righteousness, and it must really seem absurd, such as the Scribes and Pharisees and so many who think they are not like the Scribes and Pharisees — those tombs full of dead men’s bones putting on their whitewash, pretending they are clean when filled with all uncleanness, washing their fingers in ceremonial bowls while venom lay under their tongues in every word.
We do not need the universe against us! We are against ourselves from the time we are born, unable to escape the desire to sin in thought, word and deed. And even if we lock ourselves in a room to do nothing, we sin in what we leave undone. To be convinced of our own righteousness… absurd.
Consider the existential playwright Jean-Paul Sartre and the character he created, Saint Genet. Genet did “evil things” but they were not evil to the existential atheist because Genet chose his values and then lived them, thereby becoming authentic and acting in “good faith”. Perhaps Sartre thought Jesus would agree with him, that Saint Genet would be closer to being righteous than the Pharisees. Jesus did say in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:17-30) that those who avoid the physical acts of murder and adultery are still murderers and adulterers if their heart hates and lusts.
But this is faulty reasoning because there actually is a transcendent God against whom you are sinning and no matter how much Sartre wishes that the only standard we need to meet is our own, he certainly find on Judgment Day, that he was wrong. Though I am not sure of this because I imagine there will be those in Hell who still shake their fists at God. There is no biblical basis for believing that those who go to Hell will stop sinning and rebelling.
Another fault in Genet’s reasoning is that he’s assuming that you can become free of the conscience God has put within us. Our heart conflicts with itself. Our corrupt conscience sometimes defending our actions and sometimes accusing us because of our actions. (Romans 2:15) So this man of Sartre’s creation is only that, a product of fiction. This is the existential ideal but does not exist in real life.
The reformers defended that we are saved by grace through faith and if were to be dependent on our actions and our choices, we’re in trouble. The contended for the truth, that salvation is an act of God and not of man. The idea that man can choose God of his own accord is an idea Martin Luther wrote many pages in what he considered one of his most important works, The Bondage of the Will. It is not a coincidence that Nazi party’s propaganda film The Triumph of the Will, was titled as if it were a refutation of Luther’s work. The Nazi fascist philosophy draws heavily from the existential philosophers of the time.
To an existentialist, it is all about choice and we are a product of our choices. We don’t even exist or have significance until we have made our first choice. I am concerned when Christian brothers and sisters make much of “the will” and “we have a choice” and speak ill of those who submit to the will of others as if they are robots and automatons. Should it not disturb us that this description of Sartre’s beliefs as described by Gene Veith in his book Modern Fascism sounds like something many Christians might agree with, and yet the language and idea of what’s being praised and what’s being denigrated is not biblical. I will let Gene Edward Veith make my final point for me:
Sartre believed that most people do not want “the burden of freedom.” Instead of choosing their own destiny, the masses are content to have someone else—the church, the state, their neighbors—make their decisions for them. The inauthentic masses do follow blindly, purposefully rejecting their freedom. They succumb to the determinisms of the external world.
the contrast between The Triumph of the Will and The Bondage of the Will is absolute.47 According to Luther, the will is in bondage to sin. The fallen will is enslaved to Satan and, if left to itself, will choose what is evil. The human will is perversely set against the righteous will of God. For sinful human beings, the will is not in a state of liberty but is in bondage to its worst impulses. “When our liberty is lost we are compelled to serve sin: that is, we will sin and evil, we speak sin and evil, we do sin and evil.”48 Whereas medieval Catholicism taught that human beings can come to God by the exercise of their wills, Luther taught that the human will of itself can only reject God. This primal alienation from God is a willful and the source of all subsequent evil:
Veith, Gene Edward (1993-02-01). Modern Fascism (Kindle Locations 1642-1649). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.