The Feudal Nature of Existence

Steven asked me, “How do you manage to reconcile Predestination with free will and the idea that God is NOT the cause of evil?

Short answer: I don’t have to. Long answer:

Predestination affects your eternal destiny, not your life here on the earth. Human free will encompasses a whole range of human choice throughout life; it’s the freedom to decide a lot of things, not just that one eternal choice. Nor do I imagine predestination as something cold and hard, reduced to that one single question of eternal destiny, but it’s a question of where God has placed us in His realm. I find the typical debate about free will versus predestination full of false assumptions in itself. The question itself presumes to know things that cannot be known until after we depart the flesh. The whole thing is impossible to grasp from this side of eternity, so it’s a bogus preoccupation. The question stands on Aristotelian epistemology, and I find such an epistemology is presumptuous at best — it asks all the wrong questions.

A mystical epistemology of the heart presumes that all questions are relational, not logical; they are first moral, and only secondarily analytical. The concept of objective truth is a myth. It’s a question of knowing the Person who Created all things. Human reason and logic is a chimera, a thing that doesn’t really exist. It’s a part of the fallen nature, wholly unable to grasp reality in fullness. It’s the wrong approach to every question that really matters, and is good only for the mechanics of how we might implement moral decisions. And both West and East have moved quite a ways from the Ancient Hebrew way of reasoning. Hebrew thinking first and foremost presumes a feudal existence with God up at the top of the chain. Existence itself is personal and relational, so it leaves no room for the great debates of theology; they all arose after the churches lost contact with the Hebrew roots of faith.

I’m fully aware of those historical debates, and I use the terminology that arose from them, but I find that almost the whole range of debate is bogus. I don’t have to reconcile free will and predestination, because the terms themselves carry baggage I don’t own.

Just as a reminder: The curriculum for my religion degree from Oklahoma Baptist University (BA 1978) included the Early Church Fathers and what they wrote in debating each other on theological questions, and it included classes in philosophy from multiple cultures and civilizations along with our own. Finally, that curriculum included a very heavy dose of literature and history of the Western Civilization itself. Not to set myself up as some expert, but to indicate that I am at least familiar with all the questions involved in this stuff. In proper academic terms, I am acquainted with the mythology of our Western heritage as a body of academic pursuit.

We can do a lot better than Western mythology and heritage. Here’s a very abbreviated narrative to institute what I believe is a more biblical approach.

We are born slaves, the property of God our Creator. What makes us slaves is our instinct to believe we are free. God has saddled Himself with a whole world of slaves who reject His lordship by instinct. He alone truly understands how things got that way, and in our slavish nature we cannot comprehend it, so He settles on simply trying to explain how it is now. We weren’t supposed to be slaves, but His children. We have to bridge that gap, though with an awful lot of help from Him. And His help is abundantly generous, because it’s in accordance with His intimate knowledge of what it should take to move us back into our proper place as children of His household. We cannot even want that without His help. True liberty begins by recognizing His ownership and mastery.

It’s all very personal. Indeed, the fundamental nature of all Creation is that feudal relationship. The fundamental question in all things is not, “What is real?” It’s “What is right?” “Right” is whatever God wants for you. Our slavish imagination wants to treat the question as objective, but it never was. There is no “truth” outside of God’s Person. You either begin to know Him or you are trying to avoid Him. Of course, He can read the most intimate thoughts of your mind, so there’s no privacy and nothing you can start with outside of God. You only imagine an objective truth; you posit this thing as a means of childish assertion that you are “free.” So God tolerates us for a while in that state of rebellion.

Some people manage to come to terms with a part of this feudal reality, and they become valued servants. They actually do useful stuff in His household. They still haven’t claimed their full rights as family, but they are tolerable and can gain some of His divine privileges. Some people go all the way, and reclaim their divine heritage here on this earth. They realize that their whole existence, as perceived with their own faculties, is one big lie. While they no doubt struggle with their human perceptions always getting in the way, some part of them perceives that it’s one big lie, and they know they can’t do things based on those lies. It’s all made worse by a whole world that still wallows in those lies, so that it creates an atmosphere that makes the lies all but inescapable.

We who know that we are family are caught in a very tough place. It’s tough because we have to live as His children and manifest His claims and His character in a world that makes no room for it. We have to break a lot of the rules by which everyone else tries to live, not so much in specific acts, but in the very basic assumptions about reality. It’s so bad that most of His children are deeply confused about it. But He is patient and kind; it’s a living and on-going thing, not a static relationship with locks and barriers. It’s all a question of love and moral restraints built into our very existence. It’s vivid and organic, dynamic the whole way through until we die. There is no clear line of departure between “your will” and “God’s will.” There is only the interaction between two persons.

Stop worrying about Heaven! Stop worrying about your “eternal salvation”! It’s all the wrong questions. Worry about your personal individual response to His call to reclaim your divine heritage as His child. Seek to restore all that privilege in the here and now. You are hard-wired already to understand this stuff, but it requires fighting off the persistent arrogance of our cursed human nature. Don’t trust your own mind to answer any important questions up front; it’s all a matter of pleasing the Father. When you deeply and fully embrace His ownership, all of the moral implications will settle themselves out. Your brain is not so mighty as to resist the Flaming Sword at the gate back into Eden; it will humble itself when it’s skewered on that blade. But it will attempt to flee that blade at every opportunity, so let your heart be the real “you” and keep chasing down the brain with that sword.

About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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4 Responses to The Feudal Nature of Existence

  1. Iain says:

    Another bullseye!

    Like

  2. Benjamin says:

    Definitely gives me some food for thought. Thanks, Brother.

    Like

  3. steven says:

    What you call “Predestination” would be more accurately called Monergism. I’m agnostic in the Monergism vs Synergism debate, so I’m willing to listen to you as much as I’m willing to listen to a Synergistic Mystic like Kalomiros. However, don’t expect me to accept Monergism as conditio sine qua non for Christian Mysticism. I see it as a non-essential doctrine.
    Actual Predestination is Fatalism, which implies denying free will and making God the Cause of Evil (ex. Islam, Calvinism). What do you think about the Divine Command Theory?

    Your Baptist degree relies on Carolingian historiography, so its biased. This bias is enough to make you unable to actually understand the Early Church Fathers (aside from Augustine, the only Church Father that the Carolingians actually understood), Byzantium, the Schism or Eastern Orthodoxy. Just see how I’m able to find gaps in your teaching, to outsmart you despite the fact that I’m a youth while you are an old man.
    Have you read The River of Fire, which I linked some time ago?

    Slavery: Sometimes, we use the same word to mean different things. There is any reason I shouldn’t interpret “God has saddled Himself with a whole world of slaves” as “God has saddled Himself with a gulag planet”? I hope so. Otherwise, I have to point out that Thomas Aquinas, who practically worshipped Aristotle, explicitly compares the relationship of man and God as that of slave and slaveholder. Aquinas took this idea not from the Bible, but from Plato’s Phaedo: “The gods are our guardians, and that we are a possession of theirs”.
    What do you believe God wants from us: Love or Submission?

    Off-topic: Can you give me any proof that ANE slaves were treated better than Greco-Roman slaves?

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  4. Ed Hurst says:

    As I read it, Divine Command Theory is essentially correct. God’s personal character defines morality; there can be no valid reference to any system of morality outside of God. However, the perception of God’s moral character is entirely individual. There is no objective reality, only experience and perception. Reality is whatever God says it is, and it’s fungible — one person’s perception is as good as another. We can share our perceptions; naturally we would tend to do so to some degree. But we are all under a divine obligation to turn to God and commune with Him personally, and it is inevitable that taking such a path would result in conflicts. A limited conflict is part of our fallen nature.

    Yes, I read the River of Fire. Whether you detect a Carolingian influence is of no great consequence. We all start somewhere; since there is no absolute truth such as can be quantified and described by the intellect, we take what we have and bring it to Christ’s feet. God takes responsibility for where we’ve been; He uses us as we are when we come and leads us where He wants. Some of us are useful to Him as products of Carolingian influences, some from other influences. None of the various influences are “right” for everyone. Reality itself is as variable to each of us as a real person would naturally be. What matters is our faithfulness to Christ within the limits of what we are now.

    The difference between love and submission is mere semantics to me. You cannot have one without the other. God portrays Himself as an ANE feudal sheik; He offers adoption into His family, but will accept hired servants. Everyone else is a slave. The last group is most of humanity at any given time; they reject Him and His will, but do serve His purpose much the same way as cattle are herded. Servants aren’t so personally committed but can become acquainted with Him and His ways. Family is lovingly committed to His wider agenda, though no one of us fully comprehends what that is.

    As for proving that ANE slaves were better off than Greco-Roman slaves, I can’t offer ready references. I’m not much on footnoting everything I read. My position on that is the result of reading tons of stuff over a lifetime. It’s a question of two entirely different civilizations, and the question of which is better is itself subjective. But that the two are different is simply obvious by just a little reading.

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