16 October, 2006

Predestination: Something I don't like

Let's try an experiment.

I have put out there things that I figured ya'll didn't like, and I was basically right. Now, let's try putting something out there that I don't like, and see whether any of you agrees with me? Let's just say that I will spare you any doubt about why I don't like these statements. ;-)

From, to be told: Know your Story - Shape your Future by Dan Allender (FWIW, so far I give this book 2 stars. It has lots of potential, but fails to deliver on most its promises.),

... Evil malignantly grows from the freedom we possess to love or not love. Love would be meaningless if we didn't also have the option to not love.

If love is coerced, it is at best obedience that fears reprisal and at worst insincere manipulation to gain what the object of our love can give us. But genuine love arises in the complex interplay of desire and gratitude. I want and God gives. He gives so far beyond what I need that I am caught in the swirl of mouth-open awe and stunned gratitude. We write best when, in loving God and being loved by Him, we are thrown into the space of awe and gratitude.

The bolded sentences make my skin crawl.

Dr. Allender here is attempting to protect any of his readers who might be tempted to wander off into predestination. He is talking about God, and how he relates to us, and in throwing out the baby, he manages to throw out most of her siblings, too. But, at least he wastes the bathwater.

Love would be meaningless if we didn't also have the option to not love.

Find me a verse in scripture that says this. It ain't there, because it ain't true. This gets thrown around like it's gospel, but it's just common sense, like, "everyone knows if you sail too far you'll fall off the edge of the world."

Do you know anyone who has been abused by their parents? If you do, then you know that one of the most terrible things about helping the abused is that they love the one who abused them. They are confused by their own feelings, because they want, need, and love their worst enemy.

Do you know anyone who was not abused by their parents? Do you think they deserve commendation for loving them?

You are born with a love for your parents that you almost cannot break. I've seen it broken a time or two, but that's it. It is a love that is compelled by the accident of birth, and forced upon an innocent child before it is ever able to choose to love or not love. This coerced love is surely not meaningless. And we won't even talk about the "choice" a mother makes to love her newborn babe.

The first occurance of the word "love" in the scripture refers to the love of a parent for a child.

This love is compelled by simple genetics and hormones. There's no "choice" to this love. And yet it is strong enough and meaningful enough for God to use it as one of the strongest metaphors in His repertoire to explain His love.

If ... IF ... my love for Him is without choice, how is that less just, less true, less meaningful than my love for my mother and father?

If love is coerced....

So, just how is a baby coerced into loving his mother? It must be the crassest form of manipulation.

That baby has to listen to her voice for long months as his only lullaby in the womb. He has to come to know her every habit and gesture and rhythm as she moves throughout her day. Then, when he is born (the first time) he is forced to find his only nourishment at her breasts. What a cold-hearted thing for a selfish woman to do to an innocent babe. He was never even given a chance at a fair choice!

Why do we have to assume that our spiritual birth must be any different from our physical one? Why does it have to be free-will or coercion? Why is it not the most natural thing on earth for us to love our heavenly Father from the first moment we feel His warmth?

... it is at best obedience that fears reprisal and at worst insincere manipulation to gain what the object of our love can give us

Exactly wrong.

Coerced love is neither of those things. The coerced love of an infant can only be a purely dependent love. Such love cannot rise to the level of manipulation.

The love of free will, on the other hand, must resist the urge to be manipulative. If we "choose" God, do we do so because we fear reprisal? Do we choose Him because want to gain heaven? I say not, but how often are we told to "sell" Him this way? How often are we encouraged to sell the benefits of giving our hearts to Jesus?

If love is not coerced, then it is almost certainly the result of an obedience that fears reprisal and is an exercise of manipulation that seeks to gain what God can give us.

Finally, Dr. Allender encourages us to find a space of awe and gratitude.

I find awe and that gratitude when I consider how powerfully He wooed me. I am amazed when I learn how irresistible His Love is, and thankful when I learn that He knows how irresistible He is.

Prov 30: 18 & 19
There be
three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.

Those are mere shadows of the way of our God with His people.

17 comments:

japhy said...

Jeremiah 21:8 says: And to this people you shall say: Thus says the LORD: See, I am giving you a choice between life and death. This is in reference to the Israelites during the reign of Zedekiah, who would be overthrown and under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar. The inhabitants could choose to stay in the city and end up dying (by sword or famine) or leave the city and live.

John 7:16-17 says: Jesus answered them and said, "My teaching is not my own but is from the one who sent me. Whoever chooses to do his will shall know whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own." Having a choice means there must be at least two possibilities. Having "one option" or "one choice" is an illogical proposition.

So then, what of love? Consider this situation. You are God and you have just created a human, Abe. You have created that human such that he loves you. That means the love the human has for you is merely a characteristic of the man, not an "ability"; that is, the man is not merely capable of loving you, he does love you, end of story. Therefore, the love he has for you is no different from the color of the hair you've given him, or the shape of his head, or the sound of his voice.

Now consider that you have made another human, Brian. Brian is a robot in the same sense that Abe is -- that is, his love for you is of your determining. Only with Brian, you have made him so that he does not love you. This is no fault of his own, merely a characteristic you have saddled him with.

Now you set up a rule for your humans: every human that loves you is "saved", and every human that does not love you is "unsaved". Abe is saved by no means of his own, and Brian is unsaved by no means of his own. Abe was made to love God and thus be saved, and Brian was made not to love God and thus not be saved. It's not in Abe's nature to not love God, so Abe will be saved. It's not in Brian's nature to love God, so nothing he does will result in him loving God and being saved.

Finally you create a third human, Charlie. To Charlie you bestow a gift of choice: to love you or not. Now Charlie's salvation is dependent upon you AND him: if he loves you, by your rule, he is saved. But his choice not to love you does not diminish you in any way. His choice to love you DOES glorify you in that a creature apart from you, with a choice, decided to love you. Now, I'm not saying Charlie spontaneously decides to love you. You give him reasons to love you, but still let him decide to believe that love is important.

It's late, so I don't think I'm going to end up finishing this thought the way I'd like to (so I might do it tomorrow) but I'll end with this. If God create humanity in His image, but some humans are "selected" to love Him and others are "rejected", just what is this image we were created in? I think the image of God includes desires to create, to love, and to be loved. It includes choice, because God must have choice or else He is obeying some other will.

DugALug said...

cP,

For starters I never saw this as an 'us versus them' discussion. Whether I like or dislike what you are saying, the point is still that I assumed you are trying to reconcile two contrary views.

Now about these statements. I can't say I completely agree with Allender, but he makes some very interesting points. Let's look at what he says here that has your skin crawling.

Love would be meaningless if we didn't also have the option to not love.

I beleive Dan is slightly off on this point. It comes down to perspective. Love is its own meaning. The choice to love or not is provided to all of us, but our decision has no 'teeth' unless we have something to 'bite into'. For instance if a young boy fell in love with some female tv-star. Whether he loves her or not is meaningless to her because she has no contact with him, but it is quite meaningful to him. His love for her is not grounded in the reality of who she really is, so, in the end, its overall meaning is diminished. But maybe, he will find a girl with the qualities he liked in the tv-star and is able to recognize them because of what he was already seen and now able to articulate on.

God's accessibility and tangible love, compells us to love Him. Which brings us to skin-crawler part deaux.

If love is coerced, it is at best obedience that fears reprisal and at worst insincere manipulation to gain what the object of our love can give us.

Again this is a perspective thing. Are we trying to coerce God? For instance, do we look at salvation as nothing more than a fire-insurance policy? If we do then we are trying to manipulate God and God's reply will be 'depart from me, you worker of iniquity. I never knew you.'

If God trying to coerce us? Again what would he gain from such an action?

If you consider the words compelling and coersion, you can see where I am going with this. I believe that the evidence of God's faith, and love in us is compelling. I don't feel coerced in any way because coersion infers malice or trickery.


Obedience is not love, no matter how much you stretch it. I can love, as an act of obedience, or I can obey out of my love but that's as close as the two get.

God's love is a given. Based on previous posts, I know you and Maeghan take issue with that statement, but God's love is absolute and unconditional.

When I was a kid, I didn't like crab, though I loved crab meat. My parents would buy or catch blue crab over at the beach, and bring it home and cook it up. I couldn't stand opening up the crabs to get the meat, because they looked like crabs. But if, there was a pile of crab laying around, I had no problem eating that like it was pure manna from heaven.

This, in a strange sort of way, is how I rectify how God can love us, and be repulsed with the sin that covers us. The sin takes on the likeness of us and surrounds us like a shell. God can't stand the sin. When we receive God, through Christ, our outer 'shell' is removed and God no longer sees the portion that was repulsive.

Maybe in context it is more obvious, but I think your conclusion about Allen protecting readers from straying off into predestination is pretty bold. At best he is concluding the no one is forcing us to love... a statement that I have no problem with.

There is an undlying theme with those who are anti-predestination (pretty much me). Predestination implies indifference, and God is anything but that. I have a problem with recifying scripture that would support the a God that loved me, arbitrarily picked the chosen few. God's love reached as far as Him becoming us to pay the 'price' for our transgressions: that doesn't sound too cold to me.

In the end, I wouldn't worry too much about some rhetoric in a book that you already rated at 2 stars.

To me all of this comes down to a simple point. I am free to love, because I was first loved. This is the burden and the glory of our humanity, and we were designed by a loving Creator with this exact thing in mind.

God Bless
Doug

codepoke said...

First, Doug's statement:

For starters I never saw this as an 'us versus them' discussion. Whether I like or dislike what you are saying, the point is still that I assumed you are trying to reconcile two contrary views.

I hope nothing I said changed that view. It has not changed in my mind. The exercise is still the same. Predestination does not bother me, and it bothers everyone else reading this blog. That's great news, because it means that I have a chance to hear new things.

No one has ever successfully reconciled these two views, and I cannot assume that I will succeed at it either. Still, I have to try. Gotta reach as high as my arms will allow.

codepoke said...

Japhy,

Thanks for the well thought out reply.

You never really say whether you believe that an infant has a choice in loving his mother or whether, if he doesn't, that matters.

That's really the question I meant to pose.

It includes choice, because God must have choice or else He is obeying some other will.

The very image of God requires that man have a choice. I will add this to my list of perspectives. Thank you!

codepoke said...

Doug,

God's love is a given. Based on previous posts, I know you and Maeghan take issue with that statement, but God's love is absolute and unconditional.

I cannot think of what Maeghan might have said to lump her in with me on this, but I take being lumped with her as a compliment!

God is Love. I will mark down as another conflict that predestinationists seem to devalue God's love, but I don't think any predestinationist would be happy to hear that. I'm not.

Predestination implies indifference, and God is anything but that.

Amen. Registered.

I am free to love, because I was first loved. This is the burden and the glory of our humanity, and we were designed by a loving Creator with this exact thing in mind.

Amen again!

japhy said...

codepoke: You never really say whether you believe that an infant has a choice in loving his mother or whether, if he doesn't, that matters. That's really the question I meant to pose.

Well, it's hard to answer. I don't remember being an infant (are you sure I ever was one?). We grow physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. My capacity for understanding language (and speaking) is greater now than when I was an infant. I would imagine my capacity for recognizing love (and loving) is greater now as well.

More often than not, if you smile at an infant, the infant will smile back. Probably not because it recognizes you, or knows that it loves you, but because it is imitating what it sees (assuming it knows what a "smile" looks like and has the muscular control to order a smile of itself). I would say that, at first, an infant is attached to its mother because of nursing and constant contact. A baby is most familiar with the faces of its mother and father because of the exposure the baby has to them, not because it recognizes them as "mother" and "father". It comes down to instinct.

Eventually, there is an age where the child realizes that his mother is his mother because she gave birth to him -- that is, he came from somewhere, namely his mother's womb. Then he has a reason for why he was exposed to her so often, and why she fed him and changed him and loved him. Ah! He knows why she loved him! Now that he knows why he is loved by her, he can a) recognize the feeling he has for her is also "love", and b) understand what "love" entails.

I think that's part of the puzzle. God loves us. We don't necessarily know why, though. We're sinners. We hate one another, we value material things, we abuse ourselves... but God loves us. We are infants until we come to realize why God loves us: He made us, we come from Him. Then we have the power to return that love. I think that's the author's point (however convoluted he made it): God wants us to love Him because we want to do so, not because He wants us to.

japhy said...

To continue that comment, when I become a parent, I don't want my child to love me because he "owes" it to me for all the love I've given him, I want him to love me of his own free will.

Weekend Fisher said...

I think the comparison to parent/child love is very apt. The parent does not coerce love in any sense. If the parent did have to coerce it (external force), it would truly be hideous and could never be "love". (And, ok, there are abusive parents who still hold their child's love; but I don't think the "abusive parent whose children love him despite it all" scenario applies to God.)

The picture Jesus used was this: a father who was a good father, whose kids should naturally love him. A prodigal kid who told his father to drop dead -- "Give me my share of the inheritance now" (can't wait for you to die before I'm outta here and outta your life and you're outta mine). Is there such a thing as a kid who doesn't love a parent who deserves it? You bet. Happens every day. That's how God portrays himself and the strays. I think the case is overstated about how hardwired children are to love their parents. Loving our parents is the most natural thing in the world, certainly up to an age. But somehow in reality that doesn't mean all children love their parents. I don't know about your family tree and your family history, but mine has back generations full of children who spent years estranged from their parents, sometimes even dying that way.

And, of course, your saying you're the only predestinationist around is at best an exaggeration. :)

So I'd say that the part I agree with most strongly is that our love is a natural response to God's love. But "natural" is not quite to the point of "hardwired", if parent/child relationships in this world are any analogy to what happens between God and us.

codepoke said...

Japhy,

are you sure I ever was one?

Codepoke resigns. ;-)

Anyway, it's unfair of me to ask that question of man who has not yet been a father.

I rescind.

(And allow me to assure you that an infant knows his mother.)

God wants us to love Him because we want to do so, not because He wants us to.

I could not agree more. I maintain that God woos us effectively, but that we are never compelled to choose Him. We choose Him because we want to. (Of course, this just rolls the question back to, "Why doesn't God woo everyone the same way? But we won't go there today.)

To continue that comment, when I become a parent, I don't want my child to love me because he "owes" it to me for all the love I've given him, I want him to love me of his own free will.

He will. The trick is not to squander that love. You only have the free pass for a dozen years or so. After that, you have to work harder every year for it. Love 'em like you mean it from day one.

codepoke said...

WF,

I don't think the "abusive parent whose children love him despite it all" scenario applies to God.

True.

But somehow in reality that doesn't mean all children love their parents. I don't know about your family tree and your family history, but mine has back generations full of children who spent years estranged from their parents, sometimes even dying that way.

True. Fallenness can break anything.

But "natural" is not quite to the point of "hardwired"

Conceded.

And, of course, your saying you're the only predestinationist around is at best an exaggeration. :)

When someone starts agreeing with me, I won't say things like that any more. :-)

So I'd say that the part I agree with most strongly is that our love is a natural response to God's love. But ....

And that doesn't count! :-P

japhy said...

codepoke: The trick is not to squander that love. You only have the free pass for a dozen years or so. After that, you have to work harder every year for it. Love 'em like you mean it from day one.

I think God knows that, which is why Jesus tells us we must be like children to enter the kingdom of God. As we grow older, the worries and weights of the world pull at us. The older we are, the harder it is for us to believe with the faith we had as children. God knows it; He's taught that to you certainly.

Milly said...

This one has been interesting to watch as I sit on my fence.

Thanks

Maeghan said...

Hi CP,
Just wanted to say hi. I haven't commented for awhile.
Just haven't the energy to gulp in long posts with the looong discussion comments. You all have it good going ;)

Maeghan said...

Your something I don't like automatically made me think that it would be something I would like! LOL ... however ... I am not so sure ...

Love would be meaningless if we didn't also have the option to not love ... Find me a verse in scripture that says this.

I agree. Through the bible, we are called and commanded to love God, period. No where it talks about love being of a greater value just because there is also to choice not to love. I do not think that is the focus of love in the bible. If I read you right, I think the choice of a baby as the analogy is not so applicable. A baby does not love but is loved. A better analogy may be a grown adult who would then have the option to love or not to love his/her parents. But then again, as I have mentioned about it not being the interest or focus of the bible to talk about the value of love, being a parent, we will also not value the love of our children just because they do have the option not to love. The fact that they do is enough.

Anyway, just my thoughts :) there will be no end until the as far as this topic is concerned.

There, I tried ... I commented ... yipee ;)

codepoke said...

Go Maeghan!

A better analogy may be a grown adult who would then have the option to love or not to love his/her parents. But then again, as I have mentioned about it not being the interest or focus of the bible to talk about the value of love, being a parent, we will also not value the love of our children just because they do have the option not to love. The fact that they do is enough.

Interesting. I was hoping that I would hear this line of reasoning, but is not so common as I had thought.

You and I seem to agree that love is love, whether or not a meaningful option to not love exists, though you don't buy my defense of the idea. That's cool. (And it doesn't make you a predestinationist :-)

karen said...

I must confess...I didn't get through all the comments. Man, you all are brainy folk!

"Love would be meaningless if we didn't also have the option to not love."
I agree with this statement. It's just like without pain we don't know what joy is.

"If love is coerced, it is at best obedience that fears reprisal and at worst insincere manipulation to gain what the object of our love can give us."
I agree with this as well. In the case of hostage holding, a weird, coerced relationship can occur...with the hostage loving their capter, but it comes from a fear of harm, or manipulation to get what the hostage needs...salvation. If we fear God's determination that we will go to hell if we don't "love" Him; is that love? Or is it a coerced love...He has something that we want.

I'm not sure that a baby "loves" their parents until they are able to with a reasoning mind...what occurs early in the relationship with a newborn and parents is a bonding, but I wouldn't call it love. Many parents feel a responsibility to their new child, but not a love...not just yet. It grows with the building of the relationship.
We can also love someone without liking them. We can say we love God, and we can mean it...but truly LIKING Him is an amazing thing and adds a dimension to our relationship. I almost always knew there was a God; when I started forming a relationship with Him, I started LIKING Him more and more...now I'm just silly-giddy over Him. I always had the choice of not loving Him. Did He not love me then? Had I never fallen in love with Him, would He condemn me, and not love me as a parent would? A parent who has love for their child would do anything for them; would stop at nothing to keep them from harm..even if that love isn't completely returned. God is so much greater than we are; would He condemn His children; would He bring forth children who would not love Him and damn them? Hmmm. I'll read on.

codepoke said...

Had I never fallen in love with Him, would He condemn me, and not love me as a parent would? A parent who has love for their child would do anything for them; would stop at nothing to keep them from harm..even if that love isn't completely returned. God is so much greater than we are; would He condemn His children; would He bring forth children who would not love Him and damn them? Hmmm. I'll read on.

You ask massive, huge questions here!

I really don't know you well enough to know how to answer them, either. I have gobs of respect for you, so I want to answer them well, but in the end, I will just have to take my best stab at an answer. Feel free to shoot more questions at me.

Matt 7:21-23
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.


This future history is about false teachers, the pharisees. I think it is also about all those who eventually are commanded to depart from the Lord. Jesus is not giving a "what if" scenario, as I understand it, but a sure prophecy. This will happen.

So, what are His feelings toward those He sends away?

I don't believe He loves them in the same way He loves those He calls to stay with Him for eternity. Yes, He loves them, but with a kind of love that allows Him to say, "I never knew you."