Thursday, July 1, 2010

Step 3: The abandonment of will (continued)

OK, let's just go with Wikipedia's version, because I want to talk about the Step.  Please, dear theologians and philosophers, be kind; to me it doesn't much matter if the following is inaccurate (although I do encourage correction - oh, indeed by golly, yes), because I can still talk about the ideas, can't I?  I mean, Yoga as it's done all over the United States today doesn't seem to have much to do with Hinduism, does it?  (Weird analogy, I know, but I've been thinking about this recently, because I've gotten interested in - of all things! - "speaking in tongues."  I discussed this topic with a friend a few weeks ago, and then picked up a book about it; the writer's argument so far - I'm only halfway through - is that glossolalia in the New Testament clearly refers to the speaking of a foreign language one has never learned, and not - as American Pentecostalism has it - to "a tongue of one's own," or to an ecstatic language put into one's mouth by God.  The writer makes a good case, but then I recently talked with this friend - somebody who does practice the Pentecostal version in private prayer - and she made a good case for that, too.  I'll tell you about it sometime - maybe during Step 11!)

So, like I say:  things give rise to other things, even when the new things don't seem to have much to do with the original.  There's nothing illegal about it - and in fact there's something really intriguing about it, I think.  Anyway, Wikipedia on Luther's "Bondage of the Will":
On the Bondage of the Will (Latin: 'De Servo Arbitrio', literally, "Concerning Bound Choice"), by Martin Luther, was published in December 1525. It was his reply to Desiderius Erasmus's De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio or On Free Will, which had appeared in September 1524 as Erasmus's first public attack on Luther, after being wary about the methods of the reformer for many years. At issue was whether human beings, after the Fall of Man, are free to choose good or evil. The debate between Luther and Erasmus is one of the earliest of the Reformation over the issue of free will and predestination.

Luther maintained that sin incapacitates human beings from working out their own salvation, that they are completely unable to bring themselves to God. In this treatise, he begins by examining Erasmus's argument. He then discusses the power and complete sovereignty of God and lays out his own argument. His conclusions are that unredeemed human beings are dominated by Satan: Satan as the prince of this world never lets go of what he considers his own unless he is overpowered by a stronger power, i.e. God. When God redeems a person, he redeems the entire person, including the will, which then is liberated to serve God.

So I guess Erasmus fired the first shot, then, eh? Well, maybe I'll read that someday, too - but Luther got way too caught up in the personal stuff and just irritated the heck out of me. Hopefully I'll finish his thing sometime.

Well, the thinking here above, at least, is concerned not merely with "free will" or not, but "free will" as it relates to the life of faith.  It presumes that the human being wants to "work out his salvation," in the first place.   And that is definitely a question these days, because "Salvation" is not a clearly-defined concept in the modern church and in the modern world; it's just not.  Nobody much thinks about burning in hell (or not) anymore, do they?  I don't know many who do, anyway - and I don't think many people really know how to define "salvation" if not in these terms.  I think this is something we do need to work on today.

And I'm seeing now that this little snippet is really not enough after all; I don't know enough about the concepts being referred to here to even try to relate them to what's in the air (or not) today.  I think I'm going to have to abandon this tack and try another. 

How about this:  "Is everything foreordained?  Or can a person actually choose freely?"  Do these make more sense as simple questions?  In the case being discussed here:  can a person choose to get sober?  Does a person "choose" to get sober, or is it God's will and grace that accomplishes this?  Maybe these questions will get me someplace.

Here's my experience, for what it's worth.  One night 26 years ago, I had a little epiphany:  I understood in a flash and for the first time that my addiction problem was serious - that that was the problem - and that I couldn't do anything about it on my own, and that I was going to die if I didn't stop.  I'd had some previous experience with A.A. - attending meetings "for somebody else," long story but that's the gist - and somehow knew what to do at that moment, even though it was something I'd literally never done before.  I got on my knees and prayed to God for help - and that was the last time I ever had a drink or took a drug (without it being prescribed for something real, I must add).

The next day I found a meeting to go to and I went, and then I went the next day, and then the next - and that turned into months and years and a way of life.

Did I "choose" this?  Well, I chose to stay alive.  I chose to be involved with the person I attended A.A. meetings with, years before this moment - and I guess I even chose to listen at some of them.  I chose to go to a meeting (two, for quite a while, actually) every day for years.  I chose "not to pick up a drink" - but it was because I was afraid, at least at first.  (Later, when you start to get better and - as people describe it, a real experience! - "fall in love with your first streetlight," which means you're coming back to the world and finding this incredible beauty in the simple fact of being alive again - well, then, later you really start to see the life as something to be desired.  But fear is the first motivator; at least, it was for me.)

I want to ask:  does a person have a "destiny"?  And can she break out of it by choice?  My answers are, somehow:  No - and Yes!

I'm not sure I'm on any kind of real thread here.  "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him," though, really does seem to involve choice.   Doesn't it?

I'm just working out my salvation here, folks; feeling my way inch by inch.  I'm not sure where I am right now, but I'm going to post again later on this Step, I think.  I'm not done yet.

P.S.  The cake is chocolate, and the frosting - this mocha one - is delicious!

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