The argument that God owns man is a metaphysical point; a theological idea meant to convince man that the sum of LOVE is a refusal to violate the life and property of other human beings, and this also–as a fully recognized creation of God, encapsulating physical and moral perfection of such a designation, through Christ–must include himself. This is why we as Christians are not permitted to use our pure righteousness in Christ as a license to “sin against our own bodies” by sleeping with prostitutes, for example, or consorting with demons. In other words, it is contradictory to the law of LOVE–which says that the greatest (and only objective moral good) is to esteem the whole person, be it another OR yourself–to whore yourself out to destruction and depravity in the name of freedom in Christ.
Okay. Good. So where do we take this idea from here? Where does the doctrine inexorably lead us from this point: freedom in Christ does not permit you to hate yourself by acting contrary to the ways of love in the name of “it’s MY body”? What does this mean beyond this point?
We are led absolutely nowhere and it means absolutely nothing besides.
God owns man in the spiritual sense, in the Creator/Redeemer hierarchy, which is meant to serve as a hedge against the false and irrational claim that sin against oneself is not actually sin. This of course, is false logic. But in the practical sense, man certainly DOES own himself…because culpability and judgment/blessing is impossible apart from man’s whole access to his own volition. And if man is the operator of his own will, which he is and must be in order for God to be just and to judge rightly, and for a moral dichotomy to exist, and man bears all responsibility accordingly, then it is impossible to declare that man is not the sole and complete owner of his LIFE. Thus, God may own the man, but man owns the sum and total of his own life. For man lives according to his own ability to BE which IS DOING, and this is of himself, not of God, because if it IS of God, God is a redundant hypocrite. For God’s ability can never be man’s ability to ACT as a human. And all of life, for all of Creation, is action.
It is also impossible to declare man merely a steward . Man is not FOR GOD, because this is an impossible metaphysical idea–God is perfect, man can offer Him nothing, and man can never conform himself to that which is his impeccable Creator. On the contrary, man must be for man. And this being the case, man must be not the steward of his life, but the owner of it. God has no use for man’s life…that is, He cannot BE man for man. Man must BE himself. And thus, stewardship is out of the question. God cannot own man’s life because God has no functional use for man’s life. Either man’s life is his own, or life does not exist. Man’s life can only be for man, never for God, is the point, and thus stewardship is a false metaphor.
Because man is not the product of himself, he cannot claim absolute ownership of himself. But this idea does not lead to the conclusion that man has no right to dictate the terms of his own will, which effectively grants him the responsibility and moral obligation to engage the world as HE sees fit, so long as this does not violate the very distinct and very specific terms of divine “ownership”. And that ownership can be summed up in this statement: You MUST love yourself. And in order to love yourself you have to have full and complete control of your own will and person. THIS is the functional distinction between “God’s ownership”, which is merely the breadth of the law of love, and man’s ownership of himself, which is the functional, practical, and metaphysically logical truth of man’s life.
This is literally as far as you can take that idea, practically and empirically speaking. There is no further argument one can make that isn’t immediately impossibly contradictory and mutually exclusive to the existential realities of both man and God. It is little wonder then that reformed Christians have used this idea for centuries to garner tremendous amounts of influence and power over the masses they pretend to shepherd. If we have learned nothing else from the Heidelberg Catechism, we’ve learned that you not owning your life is license for state sanctioned oppression in service to an ecclesiastical autocracy. They love to take a simple metaphysical point and use it as a hammer with which to bludgeon the totally depraved into “right moral action” (e.g. commit the sum of their life and property to the leadership). But make no mistake. Any attempt to take this idea of God’s ownership any further into the metaphysical hinterland will only and ever lead towards a path of human disaffection, denigration, and destruction.
The fact that God owns you by virtue of creating you and by virtue of your regained status of moral and physical perfection apart from the Law has absolutely nothing to do with the philosophy of actually being human. In other words, this does NOT mean that you are God’s slave…and as far as being “slaves to Christ”, the same premise is true: you cannot take this any further that to acknowledge that each human being is obligated to commit themselves to a life of refusing to violate other human beings, their life, mind and property, and this includes ONES SELF; for this is the ONLY objective definition of love. Any further “objectification” of Christian morality is ultimately subjective, and thus, should some tyrant decide that it should become the purview of the ecclesiastical brown shirts to enforce such, the compassionate truth of slavery to Christ in the metaphysical sense quickly becomes capricious judgment, and sinister injustice.
The idea that somehow man is responsible for the utterly intentional subversion of his will (which is a total contradiction in terms…you cannot willingly forfeit your will; that which is a function of the will cannot be, by definition, also a function of denying one’s will; the one controlling the will simply becomes the functional extension of he who “relinquished” his will). This constitutes a divine redundancy—for God needs nothing, by definition—and thus, such a notion is impossibly contradictory to the reality of God, Himself. To suggest that you can become the functional slave of God, by somehow relinquishing your will in service to a position of divine servitude is impossibly irrational. As I have already said, it is impossible to both have a will and not have a will. You cannot willfully forfeit your will. If you were, for example, able to choose to forfeit your own volition to God, God’s acting on your behalf through you would STILL perpetually be a FUNCTION of YOUR will by allowing Him to subvert your will in the first place. For example, if you gave your car to a friend, every action your friend took in the car would be directly the result of you giving your car to him or her. Thus, though you would bear no legal culpability for his actions according to his own choices, the fact still remains that every action by your friend through the car you gave him is perpetually and directly related to YOU; to you giving the car to your friend. You, and YOUR choice, is perpetually related to the car, no matter who has it. Thus, though you may not directly possess the car, you are constantly and perpetually an integral component of that car. In a sense, as long as you and the car exist, you “have” that car. It is impossible for you to divorce yourself entirely from the reality of that car. You bought it, and you gave it away. Your choice to give it away is always a function of what happens to the car from then on out.
This is what I mean, in this example, of “you cannot have a will and not have one”. If everything God does on your behalf is done through a will you gave him, then YOU are always and perpetually a function of whatever God does. His doing is always a function of your will to give up your will. Thus, it is impossible to divorce yourself from your will entirely for as long as you live. But, alas…this is not even a great example, because, as we shall see, the very idea of you gifting your will for God’s utter use is fraught with impossible, insane, inane, and laughable contradictions.
You see, God doesn’t need your car. God has a bad ass car all his own. And really, if God used your car, it would be at the expense of His own perfect ability to do and act apart from Creation, and thus, He would not be God; for He cannot contradict Himself. And anyway, why street race with an ’87 Civic when you can street race with, er…God? Giving your will to God, from any perspective but especially God’s, is just silly and naive.
In other words, it isn’t like if you give your will to God, God could actually USE your will. This is clearly unnecessary and redundant, of course, because God has His own perfect Will, and does not need yours. God would have to destroy your will and then exercise His will through your person…which, again, constitutes an impossibly contradictory and redundant existential position for God because, God, being God, doesn’t NEED you at all to do anything, by definition. Thus, if God becomes YOUR will, then YOUR will is still in effect, and you are still culpable. Of course, it is impossible for you to have a will and yet not have a will, because volition is control. You cannot, by definition, have a will and yet not control it. You cannot set aside your will, so that God may be your will, because again, we have the logical contradiction to contend with, namely, God cannot be YOUR will, and you cannot set aside your will, because, again, there is no such thing as a will that is beyond control. You can OBEY God…but this is decidedly a direct function of your will, not a denial of it, but a purposeful embracing of it.
Thus, the only solution to truly denying your will, by neo-Reformed standards—that is, denying your will and perpetually letting “God’s will be done”—is to suggest that God steals your will and then replaces it with his own. This is, of course, larceny of the divine sort, and metaphysically impossible for One who is divine Perfection, and thus, is a laughably ridiculous doctrine to hold. Nevertheless…there it is, right there in black and white, in my copy of the Heidelberg Catechism.
You either have a will or you do not. There IS no middle ground. Any argument that runs some kind of middle-of-the-road plumb line between your will and God’s will as a functional aspect of your existential reality is merely an abstraction; an idea based on a presupposition; that is, an opinion by some dark ages European about what the Bible says. And that interpretive assumption simply does not compute with the nature of not only man’s reality, but G0d’s as well.
In this day and age, we’ve had time to learn things…to know things. We operate at a distinct advantage over the 16th century Dutch and German oligarchs. We have an educated populace that they never could have dreamed of (and would have declared “the cauldron of Satan” anyway…oh wait, some fundamentalists still do); we have access to countless resources literally at our fingertips…via our phones for crying out loud. Most if not all of the peeps in “my circle” have a college degree…and many of them hold advanced degrees. And it isn’t like a degree is even a prerequisite to having an educated idea. We ALL have access to public libraries, within which are practically all the resources one needs to acquire a functional grasp of almost any subject.
My point in saying this is: it’s GOOD to have ideas that aren’t “orthodox”. We SHOULD have learned a few things about a few things since Luther, Calvin, Edwards and Knox. The fact that most if not all neo-Reformed “leaders” have not learned anything beyond that of those who had no access to indoor plumbing, antibiotics, or regular bathing should be a poignant cause for concern among those who are supposed to have the monopoly on TRUE love.
We as a human race have had a common history since the dark ages of Calvin’s reign of terror which has included, among other things, two world wars, the rise communism, socialism, fascism and all of their fallout, as well as literally hundreds of examples of mass murders…all in the name of the “will of the “people”, the “will of God”, or the “will of (fill in the blank)”; all in service to this idea that mass consciousness is and can be ONE singular literal object. We have had the horrors of black chattel slavery, child slave labor, child sex slave harems, over and over and over again in the world since the time of Calvin. ALL of these abominations can be traced, if not directly, at the very least tangentially, back to the false mystic idea that man’s will can be possessed and abdicated by and to another consciousness; either willingly or by force.
It never, ever works.
At some point, we as Christians are simply going to HAVE to see the line between what is functionally REAL, and what is merely subjective abstraction. And we either learn to conform our doctrines to the reality of the universe we live in and the flesh and blood that we both occupy and spend our lives touching, seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, and BEING, or we consign ourselves to the idea that humans cannot be both Christian and engaged mercifully. We either learn to conform our theology to the logic that is the only thing that can be called objective truth, or we resign ourselves to the fact that, as I have agonizingly declared, degrees of “truth” can only be directly measured by degrees of pain and misery.
And if this is the case, then we as Christians will have resolved to accept the greatest contradiction of all as the root of our faith:
That the good news of Christ is anything but.