Find Me

Find new posts at!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's Here: "On Freedom and Destiny"

It’s official: my first book, On Freedom and Destiny: How God’s Will and Yours Intersect, is in print and able to be purchased online. I’m delighted that it is finally available to the reading public. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to hearing your comments.

What follows is the bulk of the introduction to On Freedom and Destiny, subtitled, “Why I Wrote This Book.”

Tell me if this has ever happened to you: you’re in a social gathering with some good friends and new acquaintances. Everybody is warm and open and relaxed, because they know that they are in the company of like-minded people. So everyone at the gathering, including you, is speaking candidly and unguardedly, without fear of offending anyone or putting their foot in their mouth.

At a brief lull in the conversation, you reach for the chips and salsa on the coffee table just as one of your newly-met fellows says, “Did you hear what [presidential candidate] said today? Is he a boob or what?” Your stomach and throat tighten, because you made a small campaign contribution to Candidate Boob last week, and you’re looking forward to your complimentary campaign bumper sticker arriving in the mail. Suddenly you’re grudgingly thankful that the sticker wasn’t already on your car when you pulled up to the house. To your consternation and disappointment, the others gathered around the coffee table take up the taunt against Candidate Boob. You’re the sole exception. And you wonder, how did this happen? Ten seconds ago I thought I was in the company of friends. I thought I was accepted. Now I find out that if they know who I’m voting for, they’ll think I’m an idiot or something worse.

Maybe you’ve never experienced this unsettling feeling around a political candidate, but you’ve probably felt it in some context. There’s nothing that feels quite like other people assuming they know what you think, because everybody thinks that, or because only morons or infidels would think the opposite. Or maybe they neither endorse nor deny your position but simply ignore it because they have never considered it before.

I felt something like this where-do-I-fit-in feeling when I read an essay by a friend a few years back. A portion of his essay read: “Underlying all of Judeo Christian [sic] theology is the concept of ‘free will,’ which essentially means that every person is free to choose right or wrong.” This statement and others like it make me rather uncomfortable, because though I am a Christian, I am not sure I can sign onto it. It all depends on how one defines “free will” and “choose.” I had a hunch that what I mean by those things aren’t what my friend had in mind. Apparently my beliefs on free will weren’t even on my friend’s radar screen, or if they were, he believed at the time that they are outside the bounds of Judeo-Christian theology. Now if this were one essay by one guy, this would not be a big deal. But I know dozens of Christians who would agree with the statement I quoted above without a second thought. It would not even cross their minds that there are concerns about it from within the historic Christian faith. Or if they do know there are concerns―well, the people who came up with them must be way out in left field.

This book contains what I think regarding freedom and destiny and why I think it. Admittedly, it is written to persuade, but it is also written to explain. I cannot count the number of times I have encountered an opportunity to express my beliefs on these issues and have totally failed―either by mixing up my words, or by starting in the middle instead of at the beginning, or by not having enough time to express myself, or by being easily offended, or by avoiding discussion altogether. This book is first of all my opportunity to explain myself thoroughly to all my friends and relations in a way that I cannot possibly do in conversation.

Yet I also write because I feel like I have some obligation to do so. See, I have changed my mind radically on these matters, and I think a radical change like that carries with it a special responsibility to explain the new thing in a way that’s comprehensible to people who know only the old thing.

So what are we talking about? The answers to a number of questions:
  • How does God relate to time (ch. 1)?
  • How does God get his way (ch. 2)? (A.k.a., what’s the deal with predestination?)
  • What does it mean to have free will, and how is it compatible with predestination (ch. 3)?
  • Is it possible for people to have a personal relationship with God if their lives are predestined by him (ch. 4)?
  • What does it mean for Christ to set us free and how does he do it (ch. 5)?
  • What is the nature of evil, and what is necessary for someone to be guilty of it (ch. 6)?
  • Does God’s plan force people into hell (ch. 7)?
  • If God wants everyone to be saved, why aren’t they (ch. 8)?
  • Why is there evil in the world (ch. 9)?
  • If God predestined everything, why would we do anything (ch. 10)?
  • Do the answers to these questions make any practical difference (ch. 11)?
  • What makes “Free Churches” free (ch. 12)?
Before we dive in, a couple of disclaimers. First, I’m a pastor. In my preaching and teaching and writing for my church I spend almost all of my time talking about non-negotiables, things that are clear from Scripture that are necessary for us to know and act on for our salvation, things that if someone disagrees with they are risking the state of their soul. This book is different. Don’t get me wrong―I think the issues contained in this book are important or I wouldn’t be writing about them. However, there are other things that are more important. A person can thoroughly disagree with a whole lot of what I write here and still be saved. I don’t believe that a person can thoroughly disagree with the Nicene Creed and still be saved. So let’s keep this stuff in perspective. But if the things in this book are important but not that important, why am I taking the trouble to write about them at all? Exactly because there is room for a diversity of opinion on these questions, and many American Christians don’t realize that. They think their answers are as non-negotiable and straight-ahead obvious as John 3:16, and I’m writing to demonstrate that that’s not so.

Second, I am an evangelical Protestant Christian assuming that most people reading this are something like me. Therefore my work carries certain unargued presuppositions (for instance, about the divine inspiration and reliability of the Bible) that I share with most of my audience. Christians from other branches of the faith (and even some from my own) may not share all of these assumptions with me; nevertheless, I expect them to be able to enjoy this book as well because of the common ground we do have. I even believe that non-Christians may enjoy this book, as long as they keep in mind that I have made little attempt to meet them where they are. In any case, if something here sets you thinking in a profitable direction on the road to knowledge and life, more power to you.

To purchase your copy of On Freedom and Destiny, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment