19 Nov 2016
Our society is a mixed bag when it comes to destiny and fate. We are really unsure what is ahead for us, even though many confidently predict near future economic and political conditions. Our post-modern society has tended to migrate towards a cynical and negative view of our world, people, themselves, and God (or the idea thereof). Ironically though, these ideas are the very sources that spur us to actions (whether we acknowledge it or not). Our actions begin at the level of belief. As we accept and adopt ideas, beliefs, and philosophies, we live them out, either directly or indirectly. Whether these ideas and philosophies are genuinely ours or not does not change the fact that we act on them.
Ideas of a darkened world, of an influence of rebellion and defiance, though the ideas of those that have come before us, have simply been assimilated into the subsequent generations, perhaps because the ideas came packaged with the intellectual advancement that helped technological and scientific discovery. But these ideas were not necessary ours, it is the choice of individuals to determine what they believe and how they will live. It is tragic that those defiant ideas have come to define much of our political policies, economic strategies, and legislation passed today. Furthermore, it has shaped the more local mentalities present in our neighborhoods and homes.
It has, for numerous centuries now, been common to perceive of humankind has the beneficiary of a “sin nature”, genetically passed down from the Biblically-defined first man and women. This “hereditary component” has been a pervading influence in our world and society ever since. Though some have rejected this belief system, and many have held hope despite this dark state we are perceived to live in – it doesn’t change one thing: how we choose to live on a daily basis. In fact, John Wesley (1703-1791), who was an English Protestant, grew up under an Anglican Protestant theology (of which he long maintained association with). However, his ministry was highly evangelistic, and found it prudent to create, with his brother Charles, what were called “Societies”, which was the beginning of Methodism. He is was noticeably Arminian in his theology, and had clearly disagreement with his evangelical ministry equal George Whitfield, a professed Calvinist. They both shared a love for spreading the gospel message, and tried to reconcile despite their differences several times. Wesley said once that he “believed Christians could die to sin completely”. Of course, this was to come from the power of the Holy Spirit, and pre-activated divine power of God through prevenient grace.
Other Englishmen sought to articulate the idea of a “neutral state” of personality at birth, such as John Locke, who in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) presented the Aristotelian concept of “Tabula Rasa”, or Blank State of the soul. It was his perspective that man is born neutral, and that the influence of evil in the world is impressed onto a personals experience-developed personality. It was his impression that we are born without a pre-set personality, but rather an unformatted one (my paraphrasing). And prior to a Calvinistic view of an inherited original sin nature (passed on from Augustine of Hippo in the 5th Century), there was Pelagius (354-420) who believed we are *capable* of living out a righteous life without the need of divine aid. Beyond this, there were acknowledgements of the church during the time of Protestants and Catholic disagreement of an “Age of Works” (before the fall), and an “Age of Grace” (when God began preparing for the Messiah to come into the world).
If nothing else, it is important to remember that we have a free choice in what we do, say, think, and believe. Neuroscience as confirmed that we are capable of changing our brain (check out “neuroplasticity”). I think it is profoundly important that we don’t assume that we are doomed to life of gloom, and live in a “sin-sick” world. This kind of thinking is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and if 7 billion people (or even a quarter of that) believe this way, that makes it true. It is my opinion that without hope a person dies, and stress suppresses hope. The old adage “to be human is to err” is a blindly-accepted belief that individuals have to consider critically before that adopt it into their worldview. Never lose your hope, if you chose to have a bright future, then you get to try and make that happen, whether you ask for help from God or not.