Sunday, July 3, 2011

CFA: the Hegemony of the Human Will

There is nothing greater than the grace of God, brought forth through the cross event. Nevertheless, even in the grace of Christ’s redeeming work, we can become control freaks. “Hello, my name is Tim, and I’m a control freak.” Preachers have given sermons, Theologians have written discourses, and Apostles have proclaimed the truth; humanity is infected with a chronic illness called sin and it deceives us.

In turn, this condition of sin is nothing new. The Apostle Paul said, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15, NRSV). Thus, I welcome you to CFA (Control Freaks Anonymous). As a professional grace pusher, I know that the grace of God trumps the effects of sin. As a human, I know that we live with this tension of sin and grace. The human will is “mutable” – forever changing and fickle – and cannot willingly cling to this divine promise of grace that is beyond its comprehension.

As a result, we are addicts of the sin that ails us, and the only cure is the unmerited grace of God. Translation, we are not in control, but we’re fixated on the illusion of control. Certainly, we could blame an American workaholic attitude for our false conceptions of control and perfection, but this is a symptom of a greater condition. Still, if grace is the cure, why are people, like me, control freaks? Our human will is in a state of hegemony – it perceives that it is free to do all things, through its own determination; yet, it is a slave to addiction, blind to illusions of its own creation – and this is the result of our sin condition.

However, there is hope because this hegemony is not the work of God. “Wherefore, the work of Satan is, so to hold men, that they come not to know their misery, but that they presume that they can do all things which are enjoined” (Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will). Therefore, I confess that I am a control freak (insistent that my determination will endure the hardships of life) and only the grace of God, illuminated in the cross event, can cure my condition and heal my addiction.

This post was inspired, influenced, and "standing on the shoulders" of the words and story of a "Sarcastic Lutheran".  


  1. Nice post Tim! A question: could you elaborate a little on what you would say the "effects of sin" are?

  2. Brandon, for such a basic question, I feel like you broke out Calculus on a Fifth Grader lol. First, I’d want to know how we’re defining the “effects of sin” here: is it, what happens to humans because of sin or how does sin affect us? In the first case, sin is a death sentence and God’s grace is the pardon. In the second, sin makes us blind to sin, causing us to mistake bondage for freedom. Sin affects human existence and has an effect on our entire life (thanks, Lance, lol). The effect of sin is the illusion of control, it is the deception that lures us into a Theology of Glory, and it is the hegemony that allows us to perceive that control and pietistic-holiness are the solution. In fact, the affect of sin is so great that the effect of sin has to be the, externally-given, grace of God.

  3. Sounds like you are not so into the "New Pauline" perspective?

  4. I’ve only read bits and pieces of N. T. Wright on the “New Pauline Perspective” (in Paul in Fresh Perspective) and I like some of it. In the skimming I did to refresh myself with the perspective, I’d say I probably fall under the “Old Perspective” theologically, but find N. T. Wright’s idea of “Fulfilled Jewish Monotheism” to be an important development. I think where I have a problem is in the, seeming, blending of Justification and Sanctification. Otherwise, I have no doubt that Paul was very Jewish in his thinking and writing. Honestly, I’d have to spend more time researching either perspective’s Biblical Scholarship before I’d take a side outright.

  5. Okay, I’ve been buried in books today (I’m preparing my response to The God Who Wasn’t There, which will be my next post, even though Lance beat me to it lol. And, I’ve done a lot of reading on the “New Perspective;” specifically, N. T. Wright’s Paul in Fresh Perspective). At this point, I am with Wright historically and possibly exegetically (still sifting through the exegesis, but I love his emphasis on context). I totally agree that Paul was a Hellenistic-Roman-Jew, proclaiming Jesus as Messiah. On the other hand, I may still be with the “Old Perspective” theologically, but there is much to read. In contrast, I may stand apart from both camps on the cultural relevancy because I have a love-hate relationship with the Apostle Paul.

  6. Love it! I think most who have an honest hermeneutic have a love-hate relationship with the Rabbi Paul!!! :) Look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on the issue.