[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Importance of Free-Will in a Truly Cosmic Soteriology: Does free-will deify man?

by Matthew

The Calvinists charge that belief in the freedom of the will deifies man. I would plead guilty to this charge. Indeed, the fact that man's will is free serves only to affirm the truth of Scripture that the deification of man is within God's purposes. Furthermore, in a real sense, the Bible affirms the sovereignty of man, both in his determination of his destiny and in God's delegation of sovereignty to redeemed and glorified humanity, who in the kingdom will constiture a class of gods or divine beings; a celestial aristocracy who will exercise rule over the universe.

Firstly, man has been created in the image and likeness of God.
Genesis 1
26 ¶ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
The Eastern Orthodox distinguish between image and likeness. While this distinction has no certain exegetical basis, it does make sense in practical and experimental terms. Image is static, but likeness is dynamic. Image constitutes that part of every human being that reflects God. A strong case can be made that this is free-will or at least that free-will has a part in it. Likeness, however, is dynamic. The extent ot which we are in God's likeness varies. As we draw close to God and yield ourselves to Him, we begin to think His thoughts and act in accordance with His will and thus realise to a greater extent our likeness to Him.

And God gave man dominion over the earth. He gave him the responsiblity to exercise ruleship over the planet. This was a delegation of sovereingty. God stepped back from exercising complete sovereignty over the planet and allowed man to reign over it, determining its direction. That man allowed the world to fall into Satan's grip is the greatest tragedy in history.

Although Adam and Eve were godlike, both in their created capacity and in their responsibility, they wanted to be more like God, or at least Eve did. They wanted a quick and easy route to full deification.

Thus, Eve fell to Satan's promise 'Ye shall be as gods.' There is a true deification which is by God's grace and there is a false deification, the promise of many false religions. The idea is that man can become divine by his efforts, not by grace. Thus, the use of rituals and magic principles in the Occult. Such ideas have been secularised by the evolutionists and humanists.

It is possible that Adam and Eve might have been permitted to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had they been faithful in the responsiblity that God had apportioned them. There dominion might well have been extended to the rest of the cosmos, as it will be for the faithful Christian who inherits the kingdom in the eschaton. But no, they desired progress at a faster speed than that which God intended.

The result of Adam and Eve's fall was the fracture of creation and the turmoil of all human society. Thus, it was necessary for God to introduce another principle and delegation of His sovereignty after the terrible judgment of the Flood.

This was the principle of human government:
Genesis 9
3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require: at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.

6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
God delegated authority to men to form governments and to wield judicial power. Because man is made in God's likeness he is able to exercise God's judgment on the evildoer, even to the point of taking life. Hence it says in Psalm 86, of the judgees of Israel 'ye are gods':

6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High.
The authority of king is a reflection of God's own power. Hence it says in Ecclesiastes 8:
4 Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?
It is God's purpose for His heavenly people; the Church of this dispensation, and the resurrected saints of the Old Testament, to have power over the whole of creation. To share in God's sovereign rule beyond this sphere. Thus, the redeemed man is created to be a god or at least a divine being; one who can have dominion over all.

This relationship is formed through union with Christ. The Christian is first and foremost deified in Christ. He is indentified with Him and shares in Christ's vital union with the godhead. Just as Christ's flesh becomes God through its union with His deity, our flesh becomes God in its union with the risen Christ, first spiritually and then physically in our resurrection and glorification. In a sense that will be our Transfiguration.

The Christian is identified in His regeneration with the sphere of heaven:

Ephesians 1
3 ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Ephesians 2
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

5 even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

6 and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

The Christian is identified with the sphere of heaven, the sphere of divine glory. This is the sphere of government over the universe. He is also identified with Christ, who is the heir of all things, appointed to be the head of the universe. Thus, the Christian has a title to the government of the universe.

However, God has His tests, His probationary period. Before a Christian is granted that incredible privilege of ruling creation, she must show herself to be a faithful servant. She must overcome the world and live for her Lord in this world:

Revelation 3
21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
To inherit the kingdom one must live as God would have us live.

Even in this we have the responsiblity to use the free-will that God has given us. A lot of Christians fall into error in this area. They think that God has a specific calling for every Christian to a very specific area of ministry. Often Christians never use the gifts that the Holy Spirit has entrusted them with because they believe that they must be certain that they have a 'calling.' However, there is little indication in Scripture of this doctrine of a 'calling.' God has given us gifts and He expects us to make decisions as to how we use them. We see this in the parable of the talents. The lord does not tell his servants what they are to do; rather he expects them to make decisions as to how they will make use of their talent. Likewise in 1 Corinthians 3:

10 ¶ According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

13 every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Every Christian must take care how she builds. She needs to make decisions about how she will use the gifts that God has given her.

It is most awesome indeed to trace the history of God's dealings with man and how the free-will of man is placed under responsibility to divine service. That we are lifted up to the heights of divinity in our relationship to God should not be an embarassment to us; but it should be an incentive to worship, an incentive to seek more of God's presence and the proportionate deification in which that leads and an incentive to seek the wonderful privileges that the Lord will grant to those who occupy until He comes. Let us labour for the master from dawn until setting sun!

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