Thursday, November 10, 2011

3. Whose Choice?

I started on this series as a result of thinking about the sermon for Sunday, which contains this verse: 'For God has destined us not for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ ...' (1 Thessalonians 5:9)

We have seen how verses in the Bible such as this, and there are many more, raise the question of free-will and predestination. I have suggested that although it is an idea beloved by many, if not most Christians, free-will in any meaningful sense simply does not and cannot exist in this world. Our life in this world is under too many external and internal constraints.

This doesn't necessarily mean we have no choice, although often it does mean that, but that our freedom to choose is severely limited. Indeed, when we think we are freely making a decision that is truly ours and ours alone, in fact, we are acting exactly as outside forces have determined we would act. That, after all, is the whole point of advertising.

The obvious question then for us as Christians is how much choice we have in whether we become Christians. Looking at it from a purely human point of view and leaving God out of it for a moment, it would seem that we do not have a lot of choice:

1. In the first place, to become a Christian we have to hear about Christ. And clearly you are more likely to hear about Christ in some parts of our world than in others.

2. Then, secondly, even in those parts of the world that Christ is spoken of openly, you still have to hear someone speaking. Even in the UK, where there is an established church many people haven't got the first idea of Christ and who he is.

3. And then, thirdly, even if you hear about Christ, you have to understand what it is the preacher is saying. Given that often the Gospel is expressed either in very difficult to understand terms or simply in such a boring manner that you have lost interest before the first sentence is finished, your chances of being in a position to make a meaningful choice have been reduced considerably.

From a human point of view then, while I may theoretically have a choice on whether or not to be a Christian, my opportunities for being able to exercise that choice are very limited indeed.

Now the obvious criticism of this is that it is from a human point of view and you may say, what about God? Can't God guide and over-rule human weakness? Well, yes, of course he can, but as soon as you involve God in the choice, you limit human choice even more. And once you involve God, you have to ask why he seems to help some to choose and not others.

Either becoming a Christian is a hit and miss affair, in which case it is hard to see how God can be just, or you are faced with the fact that God chooses some and not others, even it is simply to help them with their choice. And so we are back to the question with which we closed a previous post:

Is this how the Gospel comes to us: as an apple tossed randomly into a crowd?

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