Free Will and Creation

My recent trip to the Bible Belt has me thinking a bit about original sin.  I know there are a number of Reformed denominations that reject the idea of original sin and cling to idea that man has power over his own destiny.

It’s a powerful concept.  We are in control.  We can decide our future.  If I am evil, it is because I chose to be.  If I am righteous, it’s because I chose to be.

I can certainly understand the draw of this sort of idea.  But, I don’t think it follows from the Biblical description of mankind. 

When St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians ,” Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,” he is indicating a radical change takes place when someone is “in Christ.”. Now, you could argue faith alone does this.  That simply trusting in Christ and receiving God’s grace brings this about, and you’d be right, to an extent.

In reality, this sort of transformative language is very baptismal.  St. Paul says similar things in Galatians 3, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Here St. Paul starts by talking about faith, as we might expect, but he concludes by talking about baptism. 

His statement about being a new creation is pretty fundamental and isn’t added by accident.  Being “in Christ,” or “putting on Christ,” indicates more than just being pointed in the right direction or even a fixing what is broken in us.  “New creation,” calls to minds God’s declaration in Revelation 21, ” Behold, I make all things new.”. This is not fixing, this is remaking something as if it had never been broken in the first place.

This might sound like a minor point, but now we circle back around to the “original” point: original sin.  The sin that entered into the world through Adam and has been infecting mankind ever since.  Mankind is broken such that repair is impossible.  The only answer is to “be made new.”

This becomes the domain of baptism.  Baptism is what restores us to our created state through Christ.  Baptism is where the Spirit takes up residence, making us new within and without.  It is the Spirit who brings us to Christ where we can be remade through water and the Word. There is nothing we have to contribute here but to give thanks for this gracious gift.

This Christmas season, St. John reminds us, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”. Our will did not bring Christ into the world. Our will does not bring Christ to us. We, as bearers of original sin, do not even know who our Creator is. No, God makes His children through His mercy and grace. He makes a new creation through our baptism into Christ. His will rules us and we ask that continue every time we pray, “Thy will be done…”

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