Tuesday, January 16, 2007

In my studies on Knowledge…

In my studies on Knowledge…

I have been studying knowledge both the different forms of it and the relationship to Scripture. This morning I began contemplating about the Tree of Knowledge. It has intrigued me for years that God told man to not eat of that tree and that we often associate the story as the introduction of “evil”. In a sense we are introduced to the character of the “serpent” and man interacts with the serpent in all innocence. Only later do we realize this serpent is the Great Dragon of the book of Revelation and is Satan himself.

Yet, within the story itself we do not see the Tree as the introduction of evil in the way that “man became evil” we see man falls from Grace and is cursed to toil the land and women to have increased pain at birth… and both are not equal in standing with one another…

Yet, to read that the Tree of Knowledge is evil… or that evil resulted from it fruit seems to be a bit amiss.

Jewish thought brings some interesting ideas about this as they do not view the tree as the source of evil… in fact if you really look and as Jesus teaches “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. (Matt 6:21) Interestingly Jesus points out that it is through the eyes that one will be filled with “light” or “darkness”. James states it this way “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”(James 1:15) Yet, it seems this was a condition before the fall of man… as Eve desired the fruit because of the words of the serpent and that it looked good for food and a way to gain godliness. And that was the true failing… that man could find godliness outside of God Himself. (Notice this is before the fall… or at least during it!)

The knowledge itself was a bit ambiguous. It seems that there is a mixture of good and evil that is attained. Yet, without God, man has no tools to work with either for without God, godliness is impossible. Man entered into conflict of heart. He was given over to the “desires” and forfeited his vocation and role as the Image Bearer of God in all creation.

Ambiguous knowledge is the tossing back and forth of knowing good and yet being unable to do it because our desires drive us to do otherwise. Likewise knowing the evil we do is something we can choose to not do, yet because we are driven by our desires, we choose to do evil instead of good.

It is said that some are born Elect and some are born otherwise. Calvinism teaches that some are born to be saved and some are born to be lost. This is so contrary to scripture it is sad. Yes, man is born and some are saved and some are lost, yet to say God made man to love him then creates man to lose him seems a most precocious God…

Within the System of Calvinism there is no free will so no choice as you are either elect of not… saved or not… and it is all predetermined. Interestingly this cuts across the teachings of the early church fathers like Irenaeus who indeed did teach man has a free will. Also, scripture teaches that a man has a will… (1 Corinthians 7:37 Creation has a choice also. Romans 8:20, ) which implies that to have a will it should and most probably be free… as if it is not then how can it be a will? Rebellion requires the act of will to truly be… rebellious. To even say some are “apostate” meaning that they have “turned from the truth” one must know truth, and yet still make a willful choice to turn away. Choice is based on free will. To quote Irenaeus in his writings on Free will,

Chapter XXXVII.-“Men are Possessed of Free Will, and Endowed with the Faculty of Making a Choice. It is Not True, Therefore, that Some are by Nature Good, and Others Bad.
1. This expression [of our Lord], "How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not,"597 set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests (ad utendum sententia) of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will [towards us] is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man, as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves. On the other hand, they who have not obeyed shall, with justice, be not found in possession of the good, and shall receive condign punishment: for God did kindly bestow on them what was good; but they themselves did not diligently keep it, nor deem it something precious, but poured contempt upon His super-eminent goodness. Rejecting therefore the good, and as it were spuing it out, they shall all deservedly incur the just judgment of God, which also the Apostle Paul testifies in his Epistle to the Romans, where he says, "But dost thou despise the riches of His goodness, and patience, and long-suffering, being ignorant that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest to thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God." "But glory and honour," he says, "to every one that doeth good."598 God therefore has given that which is good, as the apostle tells us in this Epistle, and they who work it shall receive glory and honour, because they have done that which is good when they had it in their power not to do it; but those who do it not shall receive the just judgment of God, because they did not work good when they had it in their power so to do.

Irenaeus goes on in the very next part to say,
“But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for such were they created; nor would the former be reprehensible, for thus they were made [originally].”

For is we did not have a choice we could not receive praise for being good. It seems pretty clear. Again, to say we even have a choice is to say we have a free will to choose… otherwise we have no real choice.

Man is a moral agent, though without being connected to He Who is Morality itself, and cannot act upon being godly by sheer will alone. It is the reason Jesus came. To reconcile us to God. To forgive us of our “turning away” toward our own desires for godliness and not walking with Him. That is what repentance truly is. It is not emotionalism as many teach, that one must with a broken heart (though that is what often happens) turn and confess all sins before God. God knows our sins… it is He Who forgave them so He is and was well aware of them… we must acknowledge our sin, yes, yet repentance is the act of turning to God for Godliness and not to our own knowledge. Once turned to God, we no longer need to “repent” but walk in confession of God ways and acknowledgment of His way. Confession is agreement with God. If I do wrong I confess to the person I harmed and I confess to God I did wrong. That is truly owning up to our sin. So often people just ask God to forgive them yet never do anything else. Forgiveness was at the Cross… so it was dealt with. But as we work out our salvation, we must confess our failings to one another, and encourage each other in the Good works God has for us. I understand some will not agree with me or will not grasp what I have just said… I already know that some will argue that we must repent when we sin… yet I appeal to scripture that we are no longer walking in the sinful desires of our flesh and are now walking in the Spirit. With that we may still fail, yet we are “still in the Light”. As a true believer in Christ, we are in the Light always. For that is repentance… a turning from darkness to walk in the Light. As we are in the Light if we sin… it is in fullness of that Light and all is seen. We must confess, but to repent in the sense of turning makes not sense if we are already in the Light. I hope that makes some sense.


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