Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Honor of Humanity Part 4 - Freedom

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on The Honor of Humanity Part 4 on 20th August 2006

Something that can be destroyed is not very valuable because it is limited to time and space. But the thing with eternal existence needs to be viewed from eternal angle. When a person does not understand his eternal nature, he will betray himself and live a haphazard life. But when a person discovers his eternal responsibility in this temporal life, he will have a solemn response to his existence and towards all that he does in his life. This is why we are honorable and glorious beings. From eternity we can see that our spirit can look forward and backward. In the present, I can think about the past and look to the future. This is a very pragmatic expression of the eternity in us. This understanding is absent from animals. So it is impossible for animals to study history or to look forward to the future.

We should not look only from reason, justice and morality but also from implicit teaching of the entire Scriptures. Because God is Spirit, we cannot understand His image and likeness from material aspect. Because God is eternal, the image of His eternity is within us. But our eternity is a created eternity, but God is the essence of eternity itself. We are like God so we are not God. Today we will look at the image and likeness of God from another angle.

The Scriptures say that God is a sovereign God, so when God made humans in His image and likeness, we also have the potential to decide for ourselves what we want to do with our lives. Freedom therefore, is another aspect of the image of God. Freedom is not present in animals, but only present in those made in the image of God.

There are many levels of freedom. Kant said we can use our limited reason to understand the phenomena in the world but we cannot use our reason to understand that which surpasses phenomena. Things we cannot know are in essence (neumonal world). It is the realm that is beyond human reasoning.

The word “Gnostics” itself means seekers of knowledge. Gnosticism influences theology deeply since the first century. Some people use its concept to explain the Scriptures and become cults. The alphabet “A” added to Gnosticism becomes “Agnosticism”, is another concept which started in England in 19th century. Thomas Henry Huxley and Sir Herbert Spencer said that the things we do not know we should humbly just acknowledge that we do not know. Everything becomes a probability and we do not quite care since we believe we cannot know. It is a great challenge to the pious people in the 19th century.

What about Christianity? Do we know? Yes, we know what we believe. How do we know? We know from God’s own Revelation. What do we believe? The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Church and life everlasting. But to the agnostics, they would say they do not know and they do not care.

Kant is a true pioneer of agnosticism. He segregated knowledge into two areas, phenomena and essence (neumonal world). We can understand phenomena but not essence. Kant stated that 3 things, that is, God, immortality and freedom belong to the neumonal world.

Freedom is not barbarianism. Kant said the true freedom is the power not to do what we do not want to do. This is a very deep understanding of freedom. For many people, what they think is their freedom is actually their bondage. For example, before you smoke, you have the power not to smoke. But once you smoke, you think you are free but actually you lose your power to stop smoking. So you have lost your freedom. In the world, many people do not realize that they are using false freedom thinking they are very free but actually they are in bondage.

Do you not know that you have used your freedom to throw away your own freedom? Certainly freedom is not doing what we like to do, but it is when we have the power not to do things we do not want to do. When we understand freedom in this manner, we will often discover we may have the will but not the power. About 1800 years before Kant, Jesus has said in John 8:38 that all who sin are slaves to sin. When you think you have freedom to sin, you are actually a slave to sin. Only when the Son of God sets you free, you are truly free. The Bible has taught us what is true freedom and what is false freedom.

Although Kant said we do not understand freedom, we can still discuss about it. We can refuse what Kant said about the inability to understand freedom because God does reveal to us about something about freedom.

God is the Absolute and Ultimate One who is the Supreme Judge of all free beings. How do we guarantee the freedom of God is always right? God is not only free but He is also compassionate, just, holy, immutable and perfect. It is the unity of all these attributes together. He has subjected His freedom under His truth, His holiness and His eternity. So He will never change and His freedom is forever righteous.

We are not like that. When He made us in His image with a created freedom, we are in paradox in a relative world, so our freedom is in a state of crisis. We have freedom, but this freedom will be judged. It must return to the ethics of God. It is not without constraint. It is a freedom in paradoxical relativity.

Where does the Scriptures teach that? God told Adam, “You can take of the fruits of all the trees in the garden (freedom), but of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you cannot eat of it (restraint of freedom), for in the day you eat of the fruit (the potential crisis embedded in the gift of freedom) you will surely die (judgment of misuse of freedom).

In this crisis is contained the best potential and gift of God. Therefore there is also a potential for a tragic end. On one hand we receive His grace but on the other hand we must remember that we have responsibility along with the grace we receive. We receive promise but they come together with His commandments. We cannot separate grace from responsibility, promises from commandments.

Because we have received both grace and promises, we are more honorable and dangerous than all animals. If we have freedom, it is possible for us to sin. This is the crisis. But there is also possibility not to sin. This is the blessing embedded in the freedom. When I obey, I submit to the highest grace of God. But when I disobey, I enter into God's judgment. These two areas are the things that animals do not have.

When we become conscious of our existence, we can only accept it and cannot run away from it. But we live very contradictory lives because as creatures, we try to argue with God our Creator.

Our freedom is part of God's image. When we receive His grace, we are in a state of crisis. Many people always want to receive grace but do not want to take responsibility. We want to take the freedom but we want to escape eternal responsibility and judgment that come with it. But the Bible teaches that this is impossible as we will definitely face God's judgment some day. We can do and see whatever we want now, but eventually we cannot escape Him.

Ecclesiastes says that freedom is very precious but is also very dangerous. This is the paradox that comes with the grace of God.

Many young people do all they want and get into all kinds of mess, then blame God for allowing them to live on earth. These are unrighteous people judging the righteousness of God using their unrighteousness. “If you have given me freedom, why restrain me?” So we blame God in very unjust manner. On one hand we want to enjoy the freedom God gives us, but we still want to blame God for giving us freedom when we misuse it and get into trouble.

We have the image of God, but ironically through the abuse of our God-given freedom in the end we are not like God at all. Each time we use our freedom to sin, we stain the image of God. So it is very important to listen to the Word of God and preserve our life since our youth by obeying His Word.

Freedom is related time and eternity. In the process of time on earth, we can betray our eternity within short moments in ways that can never be reversed. This is a very frightening reality.

When God gives us freedom, it is not for us to become haphazard, barbaric or to be our own sovereign lord. It is to be accounted before God. If we use our freedom wrongly within time-space, we will enter into eternal regret.
Wrong use of freedom is the common element in all the drama tragedies and stories we listen to.

Moses said, “May they all know the outcome of their doing.” It is a very profound statement that teaches us to think of the consequences before you start doing something.

How do we use our freedom? When we choose, what is the principle of our choice? God has given us our freedom, so we must fear Him in our attitude, and to think carefully that one day we will be judged before Him. With Jesus Christ as our example, the Holy Spirit as our guide and the teaching of the Scriptures, we can rise above the crisis of our freedom and find our greatest blessings embedded in it. We find them when we surrender our created freedom under the sovereignty of God.

Jesus said, “Follow Me.” What is there to follow? Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “Father, not My will, but Yours be done.”

For every moment we pass in this life, there is a progression that will move without return. When we understand this we will be very solemn before God. This is spirituality, submission and obedience. When we live this way, we will reflect the image of God and learn from the Son of God.


At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

C.S. Lewis:
There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way."

At 3:00 AM, Blogger The Hedonese said...

Ron Choong wrote something on Kant - enemy or fren? in the AGora blog :)

Check it out


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