Friday, May 16, 2008

God's Perfect Freedom

In Titus 1:2, we read that “God…cannot lie”.

Many people have supposed that there are certain restrictions upon God’s freedom, imposed by His own nature, and that this verse is an example of one such restriction. God, they suppose, is limited by His very nature as to what He can and cannot do. God is Truth; therefore, He cannot lie. God is love, therefore, He cannot do anything unloving, etc. God is just, therefore we imagine He conforms to our brutal and bloody notions of "justice".

But the idea that God’s freedom is restricted by His nature is very far from true Christian teaching. In fact, it is of huge importance to maintain that God’s freedom is absolute. There are no restrictions upon it, period. God is not dictated to by His nature. Whatever He does, He does strictly because He freely wills to do it.

Unlike created beings, God does not just “come with” a given nature. Nothing and nobody endows God with His nature or decides for Him what His Being is. We have to say either that He Himself determines His own Being, or else that His Being is indeterminate. I’m not sure which is correct (I currently lean toward the latter), but in either case, God remains radically free.

And it is precisely because this freedom is perfect, unrestricted by anything at all, that we can be assured He will never lie, never break His word, never do anything evil.

When we lie or do any other kind of evil, it is for self-protection or self-gain. But God needs no protection and He to Whom everything belongs has nothing to gain – or lose – in any case. He has no motive but love unalloyed.

Put another way, to do evil is to become, in some degree, a slave to that evil (John 8:34), a slave to self-interest. God has no self-interest. Moreover, because it is perfect, God's freedom does not descend, as our imperfect freedom sometimes does, to slavery or to compromise. God is never a slave at all, in any degree, to anything, not even to His own nature. “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13) – not because His freedom is limited, but precisely because it is not.

P.S.) God cannot endow human beings with true freedom, either, if He Himself doesn't have it.