Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Getting What We Want

I believe that God’s second greatest gift was his gift of free will to humans. Obviously, if we didn’t have free will, we wouldn’t need God’s first greatest gift, forgiveness through his son, but without choices, life would not be worth living. I also believe that a big part of the sinfulness of mankind is the desire to restrict the free will of others for mostly selfish purposes and sometimes even noble purposes. In its most extreme form, leaders like Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, will murder anyone and everyone who does not submit to their authority. In a less extreme form of free will manipulation, second grade girls will outcast their peers who do not wear the right clothes.

It is not always sinful to restrict the free will of others. Convicted murderers have forfeited the right to live freely. The risk to society would be too great if murders were allowed to run free. Children need to have their free will restrained in order to protect them and also prepare them to exercise their free will responsibly. However, when a person or a policy crosses the line from protecting and preparing to manipulating and controlling, the line into sinfulness has also been crossed.

Muslims mostly believe in a moral system of right and wrong that needs to be enforced using very strict controls. They believe power is the correct and most effective way to influence society. Christians mostly believe in a moral system of right and wrong that needs to sometimes be encouraged using the legal system. They believe persuasion is the best way to influence society, but when others aren’t persuaded, legal control is sometimes necessary. Atheists mostly believe in a moral system of right and wrong using whatever control is necessary. They would love to have agreement and compliance, but they are method-neutral when it comes to getting what they want. The end will always justify the means for them.

Muslims and atheists do not have a moral dilemma in order to get what they want if what they want is good in their own eyes. However, Christians should have a moral dilemma each and every time they determine the behavior of someone else needs to change. The Christian spouse, the Christian friend, the Christian pastor, the Christian boss, the Christian counselor, and the Christian government official all need to fight their own internal desire and sinfulness to manipulate and control others. Way too often Christians behave like atheists in getting what they want from government. Way too often Christians behave like Muslims in spreading the gospel through techniques not grounded in pure persuasion. Way too often, Christians are no different than anyone else in getting what we want.


pete porter said...

I would have to admit your right more than we might think. This accounts in a large measure for the fractured body of believers. We all hold our positions to be the right ones, and manipulation and control will be used over any thing that would threaten, even if it's the truth. We have a frail faith it seems. What we need is the Lord to manifest himself, but will we in our frail faith allow or believe this is possible? And will we then be able to change our tactics to the purity of the love of God? Seeking the benifit of others, and not just our own.
Be Blessed,

Mark said...

This is an interesting post because you both show your bias and see through it all at the same time. You say Christians prefer persuasion over control, but sometimes use control, and need to be careful. You claim non-Christians only use control.

The fact is all sides need to use persuasion more and control less. I doubt very seriously that Christians prefer one method over the other in any greater numbers than any other group and I think you know that, which was the point of the article in the first place.

We are all humans here, and we all have the same basic instincts.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Mark,

Good comments.

I do believe that something changes inside a person when they accept Christ as their savior. I’ve seen the change in hundreds of people. It is definitely a change for the better.

However, I also see many of the areas where I think Christians should be different, but they are not. I agree with you that persuasion is morally superior to manipulation. However, I can’t make the case for why an atheist would not use control when control will accomplish a goal. I can make the case for why the method is just as important as the result for the professing Christian.

Mark said...

An atheist should act morally for the same reason a Christian should, because it is the right thing to do. Religions are great because they remind us that we need to act in morally responsible ways. But ultimately religions give us two reasons for this moral action, the first as given above, is perfectly understandable to atheists, the second boils down to "because God told you so," which really isn't a reason, anyway.