The Curse of Free Will

I find myself generally avoiding conversations about the wrath of God playing out in our world, particularly with people out of step with my theological confessions. Mostly, this is because (1) it is usually a pointless conversation to have with someone outside of the faith, and (2) with other Christians it usually devolves into a works righteousness argument, and there are better ways to tackle that particular issue if that’s my goal. Regardless, the wrath of God, often thought of as some negative reaction to a particular sin we have committed, is actually God allowing us to dictate the terms of our own lives. Weird, right? 

On this week’s episode of Ringside, Rev. Joel Hess, Rev. Ross Engel, and Rev. Paul Koch discuss this very topic. “[Saint] Paul talks about this at the beginning of Romans…the wrath of God is described as God allowing them to do exactly what they want to do. He binds them to do exactly what they want to do, and that’s his judgement on them,” says Paul. Sure enough, we tout free will as the ultimate goal in our culture. Our society tells us that we have so much power, that we can reform reality, bending nature itself to our will if we so choose. We think ourselves gods in that we expect our desires and opinions to be the epitome of good that everyone should strive for, and we call it enlightened freedom. “You think you’re free because your satisfying your immediate desires,” says Joel, “but you’re actually a slave to them.”

Being a slave to your passions may or may not appear to be destructive. It could look like violence, crime, and addiction, or it could look like countless hours in the office to get ahead at the expense of your family, soccer games every Sunday morning, or seven thousand selfies over the course of a week. “Your desires, your passions, that’s what you’re answering to, that is the realm of the flesh…the governing authority of your life flows from within yourself. Your passions, desires, and thoughts become the guiding principle by which you live,” says Paul. 

The wrath of God in this world, the just reaction to our sinfulness, looks like free will. “That’s what hardening your heart is,” reminds Ross. We not only place our own desires and passions above our God, but we can’t not do it. He binds us to our sins, and we cannot undo the ties. We need someone else to separate us from our sin, and offer us redemption. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”


This article is a brief examination of the “metaphorical and theological rugby match” that was this week’s episode of Ringside Preachers. Listen to Rev. Joel Hess, Rev. Paul Koch, Rev. Ross Engel, and Tyler the Intern as they duke it out over things you should not do at a funeral, what heaven is like, Dr. Seuss, speakeasies and more on the full Ringside Preachers episode, “What’s Heaven Like?”

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