Sunday, August 25, 2013

Freedom Reigns under a Sovereign Sky

Solving the often debated, misunderstood, and controversial dilemma posed by the existence of the seemingly contradictory concepts of God’s Sovereignty and Mankind’s Free Will. 
One of the greatest mathematicians of the past was a man named Pierre-Simon Laplace, often called the French Newton because of his near equal mathematical prowess to Isaac Newton, and the application of his genius to planetary motion and gravitational fields and other things Newtonian.  He had a firm belief in Causal Determinism which basically means that everything done today was caused by everything done yesterday, or in more exacting and elaborate terms, it is “The philosophical doctrine that every state of affairs, including every human event, act, and decision is the inevitable consequence of antecedent states of affairs” (retrieved on July 28, 2013 from the website: ( ). 
With this information in mind let us look at a scenario designed to help us see the true nature of our determined and/or freed condition; that scenario, to “Explain the analogy of someone stranded in a deep well with two ropes dangling down” was made by Myers and Jeeves, authors of the book Psychology: Through the eyes of faith.  By painting a picture of someone looking upward from the confining depths of a well, they hoped to illustrate how perspective is everything, and how one’s viewpoint from the bottom of a well tended to distort the actual facts.

The two ropes that someone thought they saw was in reality the two ends of one single rope.  If they had pulled on either end of it long enough, till the entire rope lay at their feet at the bottom of that well, they would have been in serious trouble.  They must give mutual credence to both ends of the same rope, placing simultaneous tension upon each overhanging strand until they lift themselves out of that well.  By analogy, we must give mutual credence to the seemingly diametrically opposed truths of determinism and freedom, placing simultaneous tension upon each concept to extract ourselves from our narrowness of vision or perspective. 

As G. K. Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy so eloquently put it (referring specifically to the Christian): “He has always cared more for truth than for consistency.  If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them.  His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.  Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also.” Chesterton would later say that the symbol of Christianity has a “collision and a contradiction” at the center of it (the cross) and because of its center being a paradox it could grow without changing by opening its arms forever to the four winds. 
Because man is made in God’s image and God is sovereign, man must somehow reflect that in limitation; thus, man mirrors God’s sovereignty by exercising his limited version of what sovereignty looks like in him: free will.  Just as a mirror image does not have the dimensionality of the substance mirrored, so man cannot produce true sovereignty like an inscrutable Being.  Nevertheless, we are as free as the scope of our influence or the size of the space we displace by our body and mind.

The bondage of our will that Protestant Reformation pioneer Martin Luther spoke of was the result of the Fall; but it has been modified, even repaired by the work of redemption.  God, indeed, determines our fate; likewise, we are free within the confines of that fate to do as we please, but never outside the boundaries of the scope of that fate.  This only confuses us because of the small size of our impact on the whole of what God is doing compared to the large size of the stage of history upon which we practice our impacting.  We just never seem to realize how impotent we really are: we live and die on that stage thinking ourselves free to pursue our dreams unmolested.  And make no mistake about it: we are free, but not even as free as our imagination [which is often abstract] is divorced from our totality of entity; we are only free within the concrete limitations of our indigenous makeup.  We really do live and die under God’s sovereign sky and not under oppressive manmade artificial lights (which, interestingly enough, are common to stages). 
So, in other words, our free will has free reign within an illimited sky, but owing to extreme size disparity, that fact is lost to us and is therefore essentially meaningless from our narrow and dim perspective.  All definitions are limits, but God and spiritual man cannot be defined.  Additionally, anything known can only be known in relationship to Him and His inexhaustible nature.  Therefore, we do well to exercise freedom only within the prescribed lines of our new nature in Christ.  God’s will for us, though predestined and determinate from His perspective, is unscripted and indeterminate from our perspective.  Ultimately God’s sovereignty is just too large to compare to our freedom; the disparity of scope between God’s freedom and ours is so vast that it is cannot be reconciled in the human mind.