The Power of Contrary Choice.

Do we have it?

This is the question that has pitted the Arminians and the Calvinists/Libertarians and the Determinists against each other for far too long. This blog post will not erase that divide. This blog post is my way to process the opinions of two devout groups represented in great number (for both "sides") that happen to be personal friends of mine.

So, we have the Calvinists. They want to "protect" (in a sense) the sovereignty of God. He is all powerful, knowing, good, et cetera. Thus, nothing happens unless it has been directly ordained and predestined by Him. Those who are Christians are chosen, they have to be, because they cannot, in their fallen state, ever really choose God. His grace is irresistible to them because He has opened their hearts and minds to receive Him.

Also, we have the Arminians. They want to "protect" (in a sense) free will. After all, they say, worship means nothing if it is compelled, if the world is just a mechanism and we are puppets on a string. Those who are Christians have seen the light and are living with the mission to help others find the Lord, because that is their job. No one is chosen, or denied salvation, they just need to be told. And, when they are, they have the ability to choose whether or not this is something they will believe.

[these may not be entirely accurate representations of what some adherents of these views believe. That is ok, the point is that I don't end solidly in their camp anyway.]

There are many, myself included, who just find the situation to be a little more intricate, mysterious, nuanced, et cetera than either of these views afford. Now, it will remain those things, even if I choose to formulate my beliefs in a different way. We have to put our beliefs into some sort of system in order to think of them. So, I will use John Donne's Holy Sonnet #14 (which has undoubtedly been cited before on my blog) to elucidate this problem, this pull that we feel between choice and compulsion, and then proceed to analytically process an "answer" to such a problem.

Here is is:

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captivated, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

This poem, it seems, is a choice. The key moment is when Donne says, "Take me to you, imprison me." He wrestles with his inability to participate in the good, while, in fact, participating in the good decision to give over his reason, his morality, his life, to this "three person'd God." It is as if that is the only good choice he can make. He can make the opposite choice, it seems, but this is the only one that is truly life-giving. This decision, however, insinuates that he desire is to be compelled in a sort of "irresistible grace" sort of way. He is asking to be compelled to the point of imprisonment for the good, to God.

And so he lives in this tension, as I think we all do. We, on my view, by the grace of God, are free to choose Him (and we have this choice to bring Him glory), but when we are choosing Him, we are asking that he take away this freedom of contrary choice so that we no longer have freedom from external compulsion, but instead, are free to do his will. (Though this power of contrary choice hasn't really left us...but maybe it will in Heaven?!) But, all the while, this is a choice we have made to give over this power, but its also a choice he has given us. So, its not really up to us, but it is because He let it be so that our worship might be genuine, but then we give it back to Him because we, tainted by sin cannot genuinely worship, in which case, by His guidance, we must act.

Oh my. Enough for today.

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