Support Your Volunteer Spiritual Fire Department
Can't tell you how much I love Little League. I've met so many good people and cool dads. I think you can measure the deterioration of culture based upon the eclipse of baseball and the ascendence of football and basketball as national pastimes. And let's not even talk about soccer. But let us never again elect a man president who prefers basketball to baseball.
There are two seasons a year, spring and fall (for spring we start practicing in early February). This will be our seventh. I always assistant coach. Why not head coach? Because not all the parents are cool, and -- hate to say it, but I really dislike some of the kids. There are always at least a couple of kids that are not just devoid of positive qualities, but really annoying, and every once in awhile I can't help letting slip a snarky comment, especially to the ones who don't even try.
I get the sense that some of these kids have never heard honest criticism in their lives, which is not a recipe for self-esteem, but for Obama-level cluelessness -- for confusing legislative strikeouts with signature achievement grand slams. They are in urgent need of more snark, but I really don't want to be investigated by Child Protective Services.
A lot of the dads help out, and you can go a whole season without ever knowing what another dad does for a living. That's good: between the lines, all men are equal. But sometimes it comes out that I'm a "psychologist," which never generates a neutral response. Often the reaction is a quick widening of the eyes accompanied by a slightly higher pitched "oh!" -- like you're special, but in a way that isn't necessarily good or bad, just... different. I'm trying to think of other professions that might generate this ambivalent reaction... mortician?
I would prefer to say I'm a writer, but then they'll ask what you've published, and you have to specify that you're not the kind of writer who gets "paid" for it. Then they might ask what you write about, and then they put two and two together and start thinking you're crazy. Not sure if I want this guy around my kid. Tell me again what you write about?
I guess what I really want to say is that I'm just a humble philosopher, a lover of wisdom and seeker after truth. That's it: I'm a member of the local volunteer philosophy department. Like the volunteer fire department, except we try to start fires.
So, what sort of fire shall we set this morning? Well, let's see. We've been talking about freedom and necessity, each of which has a positive and negative side. With regard to freedom, there is the existential nothingness we have in the absence of God, alongside the fullness we assimilate in pursuit of transcendent truth.
For Berdyaev, this is "a world-problem which finds a solution only in the coming of Christ." For only Christ "finds a way out of the tragedy of freedom," and "eliminates the conflict between freedom and necessity." How? By descending "into 'nothingness,' that is, into primordial freedom." In so doing, he "extracts the poison from freedom, without destroying freedom itself.... In Christ is a third freedom revealed, which comprehends the other two."
Contrast this with, say, Islam, which attempts, through sharia, to extract the poison from freedom by eliminating it altogether; or Buddhism, which attempts to solve the problem of freedom by extinguishing the desire through which it manifests. And the dominant religion of contemporary liberalism attempts to solve the problem by pretending it isn't one, which quickly devolves to nihilism and even soccer.
Okay, "The truth of Christ, which makes us free, does not force or compel anyone; it is not like the truths of this world which forcibly organize spirit and deprive it of freedom." For example, there is no freedom, no wiggle room, in math. Rather, a mathematical answer is necessarily entailed in the terms of its equation.
But if religious truth is not necessary, this must mean that faith is a mode of freedom. Again, if we are compelled to believe in God, then that is necessity, not freedom. How to preserve our freedom and yet still accept God? It seems that the only way is via the free exercise of faith, for anything less situates us in the kingdom of necessity.
So, "the light of Christ enlightens the irrational darkness of freedom, without limiting it from without." In my opinion, one could invert the terms of this statement and affirm that the sophsame Light that enlightens our freedom is simply Christ by another name. But in any event, "Redemption is the deliverance of man's freedom from the evil which destroys it, deliverance not by means of necessity or compulsion, but by grace."
There is another subtle point: that grace cannot be necessity. Rather, it must always be mingled with freedom: "Man freely accepts or refuses grace, but grace does not force him." It acts "within human freedom itself." So grace and faith are complementary modes of freedom.
And it isn't just liberals who deny real freedom, for "if grace acts upon man without any participation of man's freedom, we get to the doctrine of predestination." So there is slacklessness at either extreme.
But through Christ, freedom is "inwardly joined with grace." For obvious reasons, I like to symbolize this double movement (↓↑). Less obvious is the fact that this is a unity of two freedoms -- like a marriage of love.
"Grace acts as a third freedom, the freedom of a heavenly, spiritual humanness." And "He truly loves freedom who affirms it for his fellows" -- which automatically excludes the punitarian liberals with which my surreality-based community is crawling. For "there is always the danger that in the name of freedom, men will begin to deny it" (Berdyaev).
Saaaay, just what kind of philosophy do you profess, coach?
Er, the philosophy the Almighty and me works out betwixt us.