The Christian Self Series, Part III - The Will and Desire

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Information about The Christian Self Series, Part III - The Will and Desire

Published on March 18, 2014

Author: cumcsl



The mp3 of this lesson is available at If you want to hear the lessons in person, join us on Sundays at 9:45 am in Room 312 at Christ United Methodist Church in Sugar Land, Texas.


I. THE WILL ―There are few question upon which so much sagacity has been brought to bear.‖ -Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of Freedom

ONE LINE OF PHILOSOPHY Plato, Proclus, Plotinus, Meister Eckhart, Leibniz, Jakob Bohme, Jean- Jacques Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Rudolf Steiner

IDEALISM  Reality is primarily mental or spiritual.  The soul, as mental/spiritual faculty, has access to a higher reality than inanimate objects.  Idealism rejects pure materialism or any dualistic philosophy that does not give precedence to the mind.  Idealists assert that freedom and self-determination are real and have significant implications on the ontological ideas of soul, mind, and divinity.  Contrast with materialist philosophers (Epicureans, Stoics, Thomas Hobbes) and empiricists (David Hume).

DUALISTIC IDEALISM N.B. This is dualism within a philosophical idea , not theological dualism (which asserts a good divinity and an evil one, see Zoroastrianism or Gnosticism. Kant – dualism between ―freedom‖ and ―nature‖ Plato – dualism between the soul and bodily appetites Paul – dualism between flesh and spirit We see in scripture a sort of dualism between the world and the spiritual/holy. With Paul, this seems to be dualism between the material and the spiritual. Elsewhere in the Bible, it might be interpreted as the spiritual and the ―kosmos.‖



FREE WILL VERSUS DETERMINISM Pagan Ideas of Determinism – Fate, Destiny, Hubris Theological Determinism Arminianism varsus Calvinism Molinism Materialist Determinism

For the Christian, the question is this: Is God the only agent— the only being with an active will—or are we active participants in Creation? WHY DOES THE ISSUE OF FREE WILL MATTER? Consequences Ontology Teleology Epistemology Ethics/Morality

HOW FREE IS FREE? Compatibilism and Incompatibilism

FREE WILL AND DETERMINATION? If we believe that God has an active will in the universe and that He is omnipotent and able to accomplish His goals regardless of the will of man (as the scriptures tell us He can), then we must believe in some amount of determination in the world, because God sometimes makes certain things happen according to His plan. But, as Arminian Christians, we do not believe that God interferes in the process of salvation; we believe that God has given every person the freedom to choose whether he or she wants a relationship with God.

SCRIPTURES FOR FREE WILL Proverbs 16:9 Joshua 24:15 Galatians 5:16-17 Mark 8:34

SCRIPTURES FOR DETERMINISM Jeremiah 29:11 Romans 8:28 Jeremiah 1: 4-5 John 7:17 Proverbs 21:1

OTHER POSSIBLE DETERMINISMS Character/Personality  Greek Hubris  Instinctual or Pre-programmed Use of the Will?  ―Acting Out of Character‖ – Natural Inclination can be resisted.  ―Self-fashioning‖ and the recursive nature of the will.  ―character development‖  ―maturity‖  Sanctification Materialist (and Pragmatism)

THE SUBCONSCIOUS AND THE WILL I call a thing free which exists and acts from the pure necessity of its nature, and I call that unfree, of which the being and action are precisely and fixedly determined by something else. Thus, for example, God, though necessary, is free because he exists only through the necessity of his own nature. Similarly, God cognizes himself and all else freely, because it follows solely from the necessity of his nature that he cognizes all. You see, therefore, that for me freedom consists not in free decision, but in free necessity….But this is just the human freedom that everybody claims to possess and which consists in nothing but this, that men are conscious of their desires, but ignorant of the causes by which they are determined. -Baruch Spinoza, Letter of October or November of 1674, as cited by Rudolph Steiner in The Philosophy of Freedom.

IS THERE A PROBLEM WITH SOURCING DESIRE? Will is coupled with thought and reason—this allows us both to resist our desires and to understand them (and their origins). Literature (Iago, Jean Valjean) Psychology

THE TRULY FREE To be free is to be capable of thinking one‘s own thoughts—not the thoughts of the body, or of society, but thoughts generated by one‘s deepest, most original, most essential and spiritual self, one‘s individuality. -Robert A. McDermott, ―Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy,‖ in Faivre and Needleman, Modern Esoteric Spirituality.

But, Steiner‘s view is that self-discipline can allow cognitional understanding of the spiritual world. The Christian understands that sin binds the will and makes it unfree. She also understands that only God‘s grace can free us from the bondage to sin. The acceptance of Christ starts the journey of sanctification, which in part means a strengthening of the will to resist temptation. Christian Perfection, as Wesley thought of it, means having a will clean from the desire to sin, and thus truly free to be unique and individual.


DESIRE IS INHERENTLY GOOD Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life. -Proverbs 13:12

Desire is inherently good because it brings us into relationship with Creation, with God, and with other humans. However, as fallen creatures with free will, we have both the tendency to corrupt the good in Creation and to turn it into something sinful. We should not, in reaction to our tendency to abuse or misuse the gift of desire, declare it something to be entirely avoided or repressed. We must, however, understand that desire originates (at least partially) from the relational meanings we assign to things and people, so we must remember our responsibility as co-creators to attempt to align existential meaning with essential meaning.

THE ORIGIN(S) OF DESIRE Some desire is consciously chosen. For Herbert Spencer, the fundamental attribute of a will that is free is ―liberty to desire or not to desire.‖ -Principles of Psychology, 1855, German Edition 1882, Part IV, Chap. IX, par. 219. But other desire seems to be subconscious, or at least not volitional. Hence the term ―love at first sight, or most popular conceptions of love and romance. Even those desires born of the subconscious may be resisted, set aside, managed, or altered through the use of our will. Ultimately, we must use our will to temper our desire and shape it into something good, regardless of its origin.


C.S. LEWIS, THE FOUR LOVES 1.Storge (affection) – “fondness through familiarity” 2.Philia (friendship) – love between friends, the strong bond between people who are a common interest or activity. 3.Eros (Romance) – ―being in love‖, not simply raw sexuality 4.Agape (unconditional love) – ―Charity/Caritas‖

EROS AND DESIRE Once we remove any thought of a sexual component, the discussion of eros may function as a discussion of desire as a whole. For Lewis, eros is a neutral force—it can be used for either good or evil, depending upon how we frame it. The Four Loves, (1960), p. 124. For simplicity of discussion, we‘ll use the word ―passion‖ for eros.

PASSION Our passion for people, activities and the world draws us into participation with the world. This is why desire or passion is a good thing. In this way, desire is a motivator of the will. But again, this relationship is recursive. God created a world to be enjoyed, and he has allowed us to create things that we enjoy. ―Those timeless experiences we want to last forever whisper to us that they were meant to. We were made to live in a world of beauty and wonder, intimacy and adventure all of our days. Nathaniel Hawthorne insisted, ‗Our Creator would never have made such lovely days, and given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal.‘‖ John Eldridge, The Journey of Desire, p. 12.

ADAM & EVE In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had only one restriction—do not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. All other desires were permissible to them. In a similar way, the desires that are permissible to us, that align existential and essential meaning, are desires that can rightfully be eternal.

DESIRE CORRUPTED Limerence and obsession, terms for desire that overshadows all other things, represent (when willful) a corruption of the goodness of desire. Good desire pulls us into meaningful relationship; bad desire destroys our relationships and isolates us. This is desire corrupted as a matter of degree—when we put one thing (that is not God) above all others (especially if we put it above God). This, in the sense most applicable to us today, is idolatry—the desire for something because we‘ve attributed more meaning or power to it than it really has.

AN EXAMPLE An example of desire become idolatrous may be found in C.S. Lewis‘s work of literary criticism, The Allegory of Love, an analysis of the concept of Courtly Love in medieval romance. Lewis identifies as one of the aspects of Courtly Love the idea of the ―Religion of Love‖—that the paramour replaces God as the prime object of desire. This is not unique to Courtly Love, but can be a problem in any human relationship. See John Eldridge, The Journey of Desire, Chapter 5.

Some things are simply not to be desired because they are the consequences of a fallen world and have no beneficial use or purpose. This is corruption of desire as a matter of object. A MATTER OF OBJECT

Why we desire something is also important. In speaking with the people He meets, or in giving the parables, Christ is always concerned with the motivations of people, with why they did or said or wanted something as well as what they did or said or wanted. Because of the desired use of a desired object, desire is a layered thing—we may desire one thing because of how it helps us fulfill a different desire. This makes the analysis of desire difficult, but not impossible.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN If degree, object, and purpose are all facets of determining whether a desire is good or bad, we must look at all of these factors as a whole in analyzing the righteousness of our desires.

GOD: THE ULTIMATE DESIRE Properly viewed, all lesser desires should have within them a component of the ultimate desire: relationship with God. Every joy we take in the world around us carries with it the desire to know the One who created all of this. Our relationships with others, the more so the more beautiful the relationship, should rouse in us a desire for relationship with God.

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