Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Gerhard Forde quote:

"...The bondage of the will in question is not, for Luther, a matter of force or determinism. No one is forced. It is something more like an addiction. We all do what we want to do! That is precisely our bondage."


mattie said...

JZ -

Great quotation. I think Forde is right in one way - I think we all "do what we want to do." In the past I have seen this, like Forde, as highlighting a bondage to sin. Now, however, I see it a bit differently. I think the point of this is that if I am always going to do "what I want to do" then, for me to be "saved" from sin means allowing the Holy Spirit to change and transform what it is "I want to do." This reflects both the intimate relationship between character and action as well as the one between justification and sanctification.

But the quotation poses perhaps a more interesting question - what does it mean to be addicted? What do we mean when we say that we are addicted, be it to sin, to alcohol, to sex, to food? Anyone know much about the current state of psychological and biological research on addiction? I'd like to read some stuff about it...


bpzahl said...


Off the top of my head, I know yours is a hard question to answer even from the field. Some people define addiction only in relation to psychoactive substances (i.e. drug addictions) whilst others have started to see behavioural and psychological problems (like eating disorders, gambling, stealing, etc.) also as addictions. It seems to me that despite the differences between what constitutes as addiction and what does not (i.e. does procrastination, even when you really shouldn't be procrastinating, constitute as an addiction?), it does seem that addiction is generally defined along the lines of:

- impaired control over the consumption of whatever thing one is addicted to (i.e. drug, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, etc.)
- preoccupation with that substance/ behaviour
- increased desensitization to the substance/ behaviour
- continuing to consume the substance (or behave in that way) despite adverse consequences
- denial of the problem and distortions in thinking

The DSM-IV calls it "dependency" rather than addiction. I don't have my manual here but can check it tomorrow and email it to you!

There are all kinds of theories out there about what causes and sustains addictions, and I think wikipedia probably has a pretty good summary of what the current theories are (i.e. disease model, moral model, genetic model, etc.)

I find Forde's point a good one; insofar as "I want" and "I need" is in the equation, it's about me. Even when it is "I want God" or "I need God". When we say that, what we really mean is "I want God to do what I want" or "I need God to do what I want". God says "I want you to suffer", and I say "I don't want to suffer your way, but I would suffer if it's not _that_ uncomfortable and makes me feel like I'm suffering enough to pass as a Christian who suffers for Christ!"

At a deeper level, I don't even think it is that I don't want what God wants. The problem (sounds abstract) is that we are conscious of me having wants that can even be distinguished from God's. As in, the fact that I say "I want what God wants" has two subjects, I and God, and the presence of that distinction is enough to generate the rest of our addiction to ourselves.

bpzahl said...

P.S. I forgot to add that addiction always has withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the substance/ behaviour.

Joshua Corrigan said...

Forde's quote is really at the center of my thesis research regarding the relationship of the will to human reason. It turns out that there is a good bit of historical difficulty in the discussion of human freedom in terms of accuracy in terminology. For example, if I choose the thing I desire, am I necessarily choosing it freely? I can stomp my feet all day long about my freedom of choice but it makes no difference to say that I am "freely" choosing what my heart desires, or to say that I am "bound" to choose what my heart desires. In fact, isn't it more accurate to say that what the action looks like from an objective position, is nothing less that bondage of one sort or another? I think that the philosopher of mind Daniel Dennett is on to something when he insists that we have fooled ourselves into believing that there is a "little man" in our head that makes decisions(we could trace this back at least to Descartes). We all perceive freedom in our choices but our flawed, heteronomous, sneaky, anthropocentric, and quite fallen reason is hardly sound footing upon which we ought to assert freedom of the will. One glance at human history tells a quite different story. How foolish of us as philosophers to insist on basing everything we say about the world on the contrivances of reason. This is why philosophy will never trump a "from-the-ground-up" theology.

To me, the interesting question (that I think Mattie hints at) is what does it mean for God to change our hearts but to do so apart from an infusion of grace? I believe that it is Gods work in my life to "change my heart", but how do I reconcile this with a purely imputational framework? I believe in both of these but I am not completely clear on how they are not mutually exclusive. If I am not "ontologically" changed but yet my heart IS changed what, at long last, is going on? Any ideas? Thanks,