The Four Dimensions of Freedom
For example, it is not just certain religious believers who affirm predetermination, but certain scientistic materialists as well. Since free will is incomprehensible in any materialistic scheme, materialists will go to absurd lengths to try to convince themselves it doesn't exist. For example, a while back -- can't find the link -- we highlighted a physicist who argues that everything was preprogrammed into the big bang. Why not? If one is going to embrace an absurdity, might as well go all in.
At the other end we have the religious and secular believers in freedom as an ultimate category. The latter are generally known as existentialists, in that they believe our existence is entirely shaped by our freedom. There is no word for religious believers in freedom. I want to say "Christians," but let's not be snarky. If I am not mistaken, Kierkegaard might be regarded as the first self-conscious Christian existentialist; in fact, wikipedia says he was the first existentialist, full stop.
That would be ironic, if anti-religious assouls such as Sartre could trace their grubby lineage right back to Christianity! For again, what other religion (or let us say "religious stream," so as to include Judaism) posits freedom as an absolute value?
I think, however, that one could argue for Pascal as the first. For example, this has a very existential ring to it:
"For after all what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed."
And why did Pascal appear when he did, in the 17th century? Because this is precisely when man was becoming increasingly aware of the problem of freedom -- since he didn't have much of it prior to modernity -- and how it seemed to create a "distance" or space between man and God.
As it so happens, I've had this battered copy of Christian Existentialism for so long, that I purchased it back when I more or less considered myself an atheist/existentialist. So, how did I find out about Berdyaev? No doubt via Ken Wilber. What does Wilber say about him? I don't know. Let's find out.
In Up From Eden (1981), he has a quote from Berdyaev on the nature of freedom vis-a-vis paradise:
"Not everything was revealed to man in paradise, and ignorance was the condition of life in it. It was the realm of the unconscious."
How does this line up with tradition? Unfortunately, most of my books are stored away again while the remodel
marches limps on, so I can't access most of my Jewish sources. However, there is this, from Rabbi Telushkin, which is very mainstream, with no added esoterism:
"Yet, as good as it was, creation was still unfinished. The Rabbis of the Talmud deduced from God's ceasing to create that it is humankind's mission to serve as God's partner in finishing His creation and perfecting the world." And "The prevailing attitude among Jewish scholars is that people sin as Adam and Eve sinned, not because they sinned." In other words, freedom -- in particular, to distinguish good from evil -- is preserved.
I'm also looking at John Paul II's Man and Woman He Created Them, but there is waaaaay too much to summarize. Well, this: with the injunction about the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Genesis introduces the subject of free will and self-determination, whereby man becomes a "partner of the Absolute."
Back to Wilber, who further quotes Berdyaev: "Man's freedom was not as yet unfolded, it had not expressed itself... Man rejected the bliss... of Eden and chose the pain and tragedy of cosmic life in order to explore his destiny to its inmost depths. This was the birth of consciousness with its painful dividedness" (ellipses his).
So, the Fall cuts both ways, with a loss and gain. But there is no way to regain what was lost by going backward -- which again distinguishes the Judeo-Christian stream from all other religions and philosophies of antiquity. There's no putting the truthpaste back in the rube.
Now back to Christian Existentialism. Here again is where things get controversial, for Berdyaev writes that "At the end of the Christian path there dawns the consciousness that God expects from man such a revelation of freedom as will contain even what God Himself has not foreseen.
"God justifies the mystery of freedom, having by His might and power set a limit to his own foreseeing," since "such foreknowledge would have done violence to and limited man's freedom in creation. The Creator does not wish to know what the anthropological revelation will be."
Now seriously folks, who in his right mind would?
Me, I like this angle because it gets God off the hook for foreseeing the unspeakable evil in his creation and going with it anyway. For one thing, what if evil is a kind of "non-being?" If so, how can being know non-being? How also can the absolute good know absolute evil, for this implies the presence of evil in God (for only like can know like)?
In any event, "a determined freedom is no freedom at all." And a determined evil is absolute and eternal evil.
The Creator's idea of man is sublime and beautiful. So sublime and so beautiful is the divine idea of man that creative freedom, the free power to reveal himself in creative action, is placed within man as a seal and sign of his likeness to God, as a mark of the Creator's image....
Christ would not have been God-man if human nature is merely passive, unfree, and reveals nothing from within itself.... Man's likeness to God in His Only Son is already the everlasting basis for man's independent and free nature, capable of creative revelation...