I love the topic of free will. I love it so much because everyone thinks they know all about it, yet few really do. It is a difficult topic about which to be confident because it is so complicated. But since most tend to embrace a libertarian notion of the will (the will is as free as can be), I have found an odd enjoyment in arguing for a more constrained version of the will. "Love Shackled" explores some of the main constraints of the human will, though it doesn't even begin scratch the surface - and it's a very early rendition of the arguments I was just beginning to encounter. As I studied more, I ended up writing a 100+ page compilation of arguments against libertarian free will - for fun. I have come to understand that the whole argument largely centers around a definition of the term “freedom”. As one friend explained to me, some of the Church Fathers viewed the freedom of the will not as the ability to choose anything. Rather, the will was free in proportion to the ability to choose the best things - to order one’s preferences where they should be. That makes sense to me. I'm not free simply because I have a choice present – a notion to which the addict can attest. The addict is most free when the choice to do drugs isn't even on the table either because of its absence or because they have an absolute aversion to them. Freedom doesn't come from the ability to choose apart from our preferences, but rather from appropriate ordering of our preferences. We are most free when we can only desire to choose the good - that for which we were made. We are most free when we can no longer say, as the Apostle Paul did, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” The day we will be most free is the day most libertarians would have to say we are most constrained - when we are with God and can no longer choose sin because our natures are as such that we want nothing to do with it.
I love Hebrews 6. It is a passage that keeps the best theologians humble, and the best Christians working out their salvation with fear and trembling - looking for the fruit that should be in their lives. I don't think my version of the passage really expounds on anything or clarifies the issue of the preservation of the saints, but I like the way it worked out and think it's a good synopsis of one of the most interesting passages in the New Testament.
A number of years back I decided to go through Hebrews and write a sonnet for each segment of the book. I thought it would be a good way to process what I was reading. I really enjoyed it. "Hebrews 4" is one of my favorites because I got to use my chemistry material at the time. There are many mysteries of God that are difficult/impossible to explain. One is that God is a God at rest, yet God is also a God who is at work.The concept I used to embody this mystery is that God is like an "allotrope." Now I am sure if you broke this down it would lead to some sort of accusation of trinitarian modalism or something, though I'm not using it here to explain the trinity. I'm just saying that like a diamond and charcoal are both carbon - just rearranged a little differently, so it is with a God at rest who is at work. He is both. There is more content in this short sonnet, but that's my favorite part.
After college, the reality of the world began to hit me more and more. As you hear about ministries going on around the world, become more interested in world news, and see the horrendous evil that goes on around the world, it makes you feel helpless. In fact, going to do missions in Romania has just exaggerated this feeling in me. When we go to a mission's conference, we hear about what all of the other missionaries are doing in that church. I always end up thinking, "we should go there, and there, and there." Every work needs more people and more money. I want to do everything. That's why I wrote, "the Body." It expresses my frustration with being so limited, but also defers to the wisdom of God in his decision to use the church as a whole rather than just you or just me.
Today is Easter, so I thought "Deathblow" would be as appropriate a poem as any to share. The poem compares two types of individuals - the recluse and the eccentric - and shows how they're really not much different. The recluse fears so much, they avoid contact with the world. They pull into their own life and don't allow anyone to touch it. Their fear manifests itself in a life of defense that attempts to ward off death, disappointment, and pain. The eccentric is fearful just like the hermit, though she expresses fear differently. The eccentric attempts to drown out fear. By surrounding herself with noise, the eccentric is able to ignore death, disappointment, and pain. There is always another friend, another party, or another excitement to fill the hole. Both the eccentric and the recluse are motivated by self-interest, live in fear, and repel true life. While they both attempt to keep death at bay and live life to their definition of the fullest, they both end up living lives devoid of life. They, like all men and women, are in need of a quickening by God which allows them to push out into the world in love, and fear not even death, for it has been conquered.
I had a friend in college who received an unexpected message that her best friend had died. It was devestating news, and though I didn't know the individual who died, it was one of my first personal experiences with the problem of God''s omnibenevolence and the fact that evil and death continued. "Dialogue: Betrayed" was me placing my feet in the shoes of those who experienced the greatest evil - death - and asked God where he was in it all. I am leaving out the reading of God's part here, as since I wrote the piece awhile back, I'm not sure how I feel about attributing words to him. I think the response in the dialogue is biblical, but I wouldn't attribute it to God in the future - not even loosely.
I always want to be careful about helping others. My normal response to problems is an attempt to fix them. When Catalina began struggling with depression, I wanted to first make sure I listened and empathized. However, as time progressed, I felt the urge to write a response to "Moonstruck." i didn't want to leave depression and despair in the driver's seat. At the same time, I didn't want to simply try to fix a problem - especially since such a thing would be extremely arrogant. Who am I to think that I am the one person with the insight to fix depression. "Sunstruck," then, acknowledged that there was hope even in the midst of the problem, even if the problem always persisted. It is not an attempt at a resolution or a fix, but rather a call to perspective that is meant to soften the blow.
"Angel of Light" was written a few years into my teaching career. I was always so amazed that some parents could be so blind to their child's faults. This particular year I had a student who all of the teachers had issues with, but the parents were completely unsupportive. The parent thought their child was an angel. I wrote this poem where each stanza hides "Lucifer" in it, and points out that being an angel isn't necessarily a good thing. The father of lies was himself an angel.