Tag Archives: Garden of Eden

No Options

Grace 101

According to Baskin-Robbins’ website, the company has created over 1000 flavors of ice cream.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the company, it generally features 31 flavors at a time.  People, especially children, are intrigued by the variety and sometimes stymied.  They just can’t seem to choose.  They walk back and forth looking, reading the descriptions, thinking about what they might like, and then someone with them or behind them says, “Just choose already!”  That might explain the fact that the most popular flavor sold by Baskin-Robbins is (drumroll please) . . . vanilla.  That’s right!

Sometimes in our country and our culture, we simply have too many options.  We move more slowly because we have so much to decide and much of the “decision-making power” of our lives is spent choosing between options that really are not that much different.  An argument could be made that our affluence actually hinders our progress at a certain point.

But what if you didn’t have any options?  In many countries around the world, no one asks what will be for supper.  They are simply grateful to have rice or bread or potatoes again.  No one wonders what to wear because they only have one set of clothes.  The lack of options almost defines poverty in the minds and hearts of Americans.

Adam and Eve found themselves without options in dealing with the most important part of their lives.  How were they to restore a relationship with God?  How could they find their way back to Paradise?  There was no option.  They were stuck where they were, in the life they had chosen.  The way back was closed.  They were not only spiritually poor, they were spiritually hopeless.

Of course they had other problems also.  Creation itself had changed.  The communion they had with God allowed them to walk among the creatures of the world in peace and harmony.  Nature was tied to humanity, made for humanity, and it fell with humanity.  The ground no longer brought forth crops joyfully.  The animals no longer enjoyed fellowship with humans.  Now there would be work and fighting and death.  And pain.  There would be pain.

But there were no options.  Adam and Eve and their children had nowhere else to go.  Eventually, they turned their backs on Eden and began a new life.

Truly, when people seem to have no options, they become very creative.  In years past I remember many meals of macaroni and cheese from the box.  The box was enough to feed the two of us and cost only 15 cents.  When it got monotonous, we chopped up wieners to add to it or, if we had a little, some sliced ham (my wife drew the line at Spam, but I liked it).  God made us amazingly creative.  We will pretend to have options, even if it appears we have none.

And two paths began to develop.  Now that the hearts of God and man were separate, their ideas of how to handle this new life became very different.  God’s path and man’s path.  After the Fall and before the Cross.

 

Grace 101 is a simple attempt to explain what has happened to us and what God has done for us.  So much of what we have learned has been confused by sectarian doctrines and theological jargon.  It is sometimes difficult to see the message the Lord wants us to understand as we read the Bible or worship together.  The series of posts will be found in the category called Grace 101 and begins here.  Enjoy!

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Filed under Freedom, Grace 101, Theology and mystery

Free Will is not Free Ability


Grace 101

The other day I mentioned the Calvinist vs Arminian debate.  If there is any way to kill a blog like this, getting into that discussion would be it.  No, I am not going there.  I just want to clear up something that puzzles many people.  Yes, I have my perspective on the theological issues, but I am not planning to write about that.

When Adam and Eve sinned, it was a one way deal.  They could choose to sin, but they couldn’t come back.  Why?  Because they died!  That’s what God told them would happen.  If they ate of the fruit, in that very day, they would die.  And they did die.  Because they were dead, there was no way for them to return to the life God wanted for them.

This really isn’t hard for us to understand.  If you have ever stood on the edge of a cliff, you should understand this.  You have the freedom to throw  yourself off the cliff.  But once you do, you don’t have the freedom to fly back up to where you were standing.  That opportunity is gone once you “die” to the security of the cliff.  When you take that forbidden step and submit your life to gravity, you have to suffer the consequences.

Now, let’s push that illustration a little further.  Suppose, on the long way down, you change your mind.  Are you free to do that?  Of course!  You can change your mind.  You just can’t do anything about your circumstances.  You still have free will.  But you no longer have free ability.

In the “Fall” (pun more than intended) Adam and Eve chose to step into sin, but they had no ability to step out of sin.  No matter how much they regretted their choice and wanted to get back to the Garden, the Scripture says that the way was closed.  The choice was made.

Notice that God set up a system of sacrifice even then.  He told them that the life and blood of another would cover their sins.  He still loved them, but there was a distance between them and Him.  Somehow, and it is a mystery, that blood covered their sins and allowed them into the presence of God.  But not back to the Garden.  He would speak with them and care for them, but it would not be the same.  No matter how well they obeyed from that point on, it would never restore what they had lost.

And when the Law was given, with all its rituals and rules, it was not given to restore the people and give them life.  It was to cover their sins and point them to another day, when their sins would be gone forever.

So those who are lost in sin can still desire communion with God.  They can feel a sense of what has been lost.  They can live in awareness of their sin and fear of their future.  Apart from the Lord, people can still feel empty and alone and anxious.  Something is missing, but they don’t know where to find it.  And, no matter how much they might discern or how much they might desire, their will is not enough.  They simply do not have the ability to save themselves.

That’s why we needed a Savior.

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Filed under Freedom, Grace 101, Grace definition, Theology and mystery