Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Assumption of Bondage

“If you begin with the assumption of freedom, the preoccupation is always how to keep freedom in check, how to bind; But if you begin with the assumption of bondage, the preoccupation is always how to set out the word that frees.”
- Gerhard Forde. The Captivation of the Will. p.21

This statement reflects one of the non-apparent truths that Luther argued in The Bondage of the Will. If it were more universally understood and accepted, it might transform the predominant religious worldview.

The error begins when we assume humanity’s basic problem (and its only hope) lies in its own innate freedom. We see the problem as this - that people are way too free to do evil, free to indulge themselves in worldly pleasures, free of God and free of God’s righteous will. In other words, people seem to be having way too much fun without God. So the primary business of religion is preoccupied with reigning in that freedom, bringing it back into check, redirecting it, spoiling the fun, getting all of us back under God’s law (and his thumb) where we belong. In doing this, we seem to think people will become more moral and the world a more fit and happy place to live. We wonder why things seem to get worse, and why religion makes us so unhappy.

If, on the other hand, we begin with the assumption that humanity is actually in captivity, not really having any fun, bound to do evil and suffering its consequences, under the curse of a world gone sour, already under God’s law, and thereby also under his thumb, and also the thumb of an unmerciful self (as well as an ever-accusing unmerciful and real Satan) - then the message of the church is radically different. It does not try to fix such a mess with additional formulas of moral improvement based on some legal code - God’s or any other. The business of the church is now this - to get out the word of the cross - that we are all no longer captive to such religious requirements. We have been set free - free of the law and its curse, and thereby also free from the necessity to do evil, the punishment for evil, Satan and the tyranny of self. We become preoccupied with freedom, the kind of freedom that actually could make the world a truly happy place for us to live.

1 comment:

Adam T. Arn said...

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me ... He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, the blind will see, the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors and that the time of the Lord's favor has come." - Jesus

Jesus never assumed we had too much freedom. He started with the assumption of bondage. He came so that we may have freedom.

Good post!