Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Free Will, Freedom and Personal Responsibility in God's Plan


"What T.O.A. believes about Free will, Freedom and Personal Responsibility in God’s Plan:
For this reason, please understand that the following calls upon a great and ancient storehouse of Christian wisdom, including, but not limited to the subset of writings that you deem authoritative. I’m afraid this is a gap we must live with if we are to communicate. God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. "God willed that man should be 'left in the hand of his own counsel,' so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him." (GS 17; Sir 15:14) “Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.” (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4,4,3:PG 7/1,983) According to our teaching (Catechism of the Church), freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God. As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes human acts. It is the basis of praise, blame, merit or reproach. I take it as a part of the economy of Heaven that the more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the willful service of what is good and just—and God alone is good and just. I believe that even among the redeemed, the willful choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom that leads back to the slavery of sin. (Rom 6:17) No doubt you read Romans 6 in a different light. This implies that God-given freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary. If this is so, then voluntary willful progress in virtue and knowledge of good enhance the mastery of the will over its acts. This is meritorious by definition (not to be confused with meriting salvation, but merely to understand that God deems some things “good” and others “bad” and that indeed we are commanded to do good and justly commended for it). (Catechism of the Church) The natural corollary then is that imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors. In short, except for Original Sin, we do not sin apart from an act of will. Regarding personal responsibility, I believe that every act directly willed is imputable to its author: This is why we see that the Lord asked Eve after the sin in the garden: "What is this that you have done?" He did not ask her what He had decreed. (Gen 3:13.) He asked Cain the same question.( Gen 4:10.) On the Lord’s behalf, the prophet Nathan questioned David in the same way after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah murdered.(2 Sam 12:7-15 ) Regarding freedom and sin, I believe that unregenerated man's freedom is greatly limited and fallible, and this is indeed where Original Sin comes into play. We know that man failed. Adam freely sinned. By refusing God's plan of love, he deceived himself and became a slave to sin. This first alienation engendered a multitude of others. From its outset, human history attests the wretchedness and oppression born of the human heart in consequence of the abuse of freedom. Yet, because I believe in this freedom, I also believe it is necessary that by his glorious cross, Jesus Christ has won salvation for all men. He redeemed them from the sin that held them in bondage. (Jn 3:16) Yet it is Jesus who says “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” that it is we who must choose life. (Rev 3:20) Thus by God’s plan we are free to choose or reject the greatest freedom, "For freedom Christ has set us free." (Gal 5:1) In Jesus we have communion with the "truth that makes us free." (Jn 8:32.) The Holy Spirit has been given to us and, as the Apostle teaches, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Cor 17) And we who are redeemed glory in the "liberty of the children of God." (Rom 8:21) I believe that the grace of Jesus Christ is not in the slightest way a rival of our freedom when this freedom accords with the sense of the true and the good that is God. Christian experience attests (especially in prayer) that the more open we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials. (Catechism of the Church) By the working of grace, the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world. Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness take away from us all that is harmful, so that, made ready both in mind and body, we may freely accomplish your will. (from the Missal, 32nd Sunday, Opening Prayer) I know that this is a lot of writing, and I understand if it is simply too much to tolerate in one sitting. If you actually read it all, I appreciate your patience and endurance. Please do know that I do not share these things lightly, nor offer them so much as an argument than as an explanation. But also know that I do not offer this in vain, as I deem this issue is an essential difference between us that if understood properly has a great effect on how we go about practicing our Christianity. So it is that we see that our free will and God’s decree are intertwined, and we therefore see why it is with “fear and trembling” that we are to “continue to work out our salvation.” (Phil 2:12)

To TOA: I don't know who you are but you thoughts deserved a blogpost all their own so here they are. God bless you .

3 Comments:

Anonymous toa said...

TJ:

Thanks for posting this here. I was a bit surprised and very much honored. I've been a fan of this site for a while.

FYI: Most of what I wrote is clearly stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. How lucky for me that the Catechism just so happens to describe my own beliefs, eh? It makes phrasing explanations so much easier.

T.O.A.

January 02, 2008 10:04 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

You are welcome TOA,
There are many times I attempted to articulate what you did here and I was unsuccessful. You should consider writing for a career if you don't already!
God bless

January 02, 2008 3:07 PM  
Blogger japhy said...

When it comes to free will and our salvation, I like to explain it this way.

Our salvation depends upon our free will. God does not choose it for us. That being said, God knows who chooses life and who chooses death: not because He has made the choice for us, but simply because He is God.

January 05, 2008 11:25 PM  

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