Saturday, March 11, 2006

The will, it should be noted, is understood in a different manner in John Chapter 5 than it is understood today. The issue of will is understood today as "free will", or the capacity to choose an action amongst an infinite multitude of actions. Of course, not every course of action is available to us, as we do not have the resources to act in every manner that we concieve in a given situation. Free will is then concieved as being the reward of our actions. By doing what we do not freely will, we gain resources to allow a freer will. This brings us to the distinction between free will and desire. It should be articulated that in the case of not doing what we freely will to gain resources, it is more accurate to say that we are doing what we do not desire. The object of desire may not be present in the current condition of gaining resources to a freer will.

In John Chapter 5, the most important key to understanding the text is the miracle. The sixth and eigth verses become the core as they are the most striking. On a literal level, the act of curing a man of a disease that has aflicted him for thirty eight years is quite a feat. The question, "wilt thou be made whole?", and "rise, take up thy bed, and walk", both point to this issue of will and the presence of God.

What is the relation of will to God?

The lame man at the pool at Bethesda had a desire to be made whole. He freely willed to lie next to the pool for thirty eight years in the hopes that some day his desire of being healed would be met. The issue for the man is a lack of wholeness. His goals and his free will were disconnected.

The difference between free will and will is very important. The understanding of today is different than the understanding of John. Verse thirty gives us a clue: "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. " The lame man cannot do anything because his judgment is impaired. His lack of will and presence of free will prevents him from fruitful action.

What did the lame man do to acquire just judgment? He aligned his will with the will of the Father.

What is the relation of will to judgement?

Judgement or reason which determines what is good holds a special relationship to will. When something is reasoned to be good, the will must of necessity follow the reasoning. Desire and will become one, and the question of free will becomes null as freedom is only possible through just judgment.

The end of the sixth verse could be re-written: "Just Judge thou be made whole?", for it is in just judgement that the endless conversation with God occurs.