Monday, November 25, 2013

Our Creativity is God's Freedom

Internet traffic being what it is during the holidays, posts may or may not appear the rest of the week. I'm thinking they probably will, because I don't want the traffic in my head to get backed up. At least until Thursday.

We've been having a leisurely dialogue with brother Berdyaev, now moving on to his thoughts on The Eternal Being, or the One who cannot not be. Of this subtle being, he makes the excellent point that

"The whole problem is that I must discover what God has concealed from me. God awaits an act of freedom on my part, free creativeness" (emphasis mine). Thus, "My freedom and my creativeness are my obedience to the mysterious will of God."

Remember, freedom and creativity are almost synonymous, for one is impossible in the absence of the other, and both are "ultimate." We might think of freedom as the last -- or first -- word in God, but freedom is meaningless without creativity, and God is obviously not meaningless. Rather, his freedom is his creativity and vice versa, and the two together generate a ceaseless flow of meaning: a trialectic of creator-created-meaning.

What about our freedom? Some people wonder why God didn't create human beings to automatically obey his will, but this would deny the possibility of both freedom and creativity in us. Rather, we must, as Berdyaev suggests, freely respond to God in our own creative way.

We are obviously co-creators of the creation, as we've already discussed. But I would suggest that God's love extends so far as to permit us to be "co-creators" of him as well. This may sound shocking when first heard, but it is precisely what is maintained in process theology, and one doesn't have to get all heretical to see that this is indeed what sets Christianity apart: in the oft-repeated formula of the early fathers, God becomes man so that man might become God.

Now obviously, we do not become God literally. Rather, you might say that God is inflected through the human person, like clear light through a prism. Human sanctity is none other than a free collaboration with God, permitting another instance of (lower case i) incarnation. Such an "imitation of Christ" is only possible because there was a Christ to imitate -- that is, a complete infusion of, and identity with, God and man.

I believe Berdyaev would say that the Incarnation fundamentally changes man, forever. Because of it, man has capacities that did not previously exist -- or existed only in potential -- one of which is this more intimate divine-human partnership.

Of this partnership, Berdyaev says that "God is the Lover, and he cannot and does not wish to exist without the loved one."

Some may object to the "cannot," but in my opinion, this is precisely the point of the Trinity: that to not love would violate God's very nature. And love obviously implies the other, who has his own freedom and creativity with which to respond to God's primordial love. Nothing in the Trinity can be "forced," or "compelled," or "automatic," or "determined." IMGO (in my grandiose opinion).

Berdyaev agrees that "love is realized in the mystery of the Three-in-one, which is equally above and below, in heaven and on earth."

And although Hartshorne came later, Berdayaev is in agreement with him that the notion of a static and absolutely unchanging God -- "pure act, without potential, self-satisfied, and needing nothing" -- is of Greek, not biblical origins.

At the very least, we must appreciate the orthoparadox that "absolute rest in God is joined in Him with absolute movement." You might say that his "need" for the other is perfect, whereas ours is clouded by self-interest and other middling relativities.

Think about it: in the Bible it is suggested that we should strive to be perfect, like our father in heaven. Now, if God were the static being described by Aristotle, this would mean that humans should likewise be "without potential, self-satisfied, and needing nothing." Does this sound like good advice to you? If so, you are more Buddhist than Raccoon Dude-ist.

An orthoparadox is not a contradiction but an irreducible complementarity. Thus, "God's longing for another, for a loved one and that loved one's free answer of love is an indication, not of incompleteness or impairment in the being of God, but rather of the plenteous fullness and perfection of His being."

We won't dwell on the question of suffering in God, because either you accept it or you don't. I do. Again, I think the doctrine of absolute immobility is a Greek import.

Longtime Raccoons will recall that I use the symbol (↑↓) to designate our creative partnership with God, or O. Let Berdyaev explain why:

"All the complexity of religious life, the meeting and communion of God and man, is linked with the fact that there are two movements and not one: from God toward man[↓], and from man toward God [↑]." Ultimately the two arrows are one open spiral, and this openness is the space of freedom, of love, of creativity.

I think people who believe in predestination essentially posit a metaphysic of pure (↓), which absolutely denies man's freedom, because everything is a monistic and deterministic (same thing) God. In such a view, our genuine freedom and creativity are denied, because God causes everything directly (as in Islam).

It is fair to say that scientism, or any other form of materialism, is a kind of pure (↑), with nothing there to meet it at the other end. Thus, it is an exercise in utter vanity, a vacuous striving with no possibility of meaning, let alone truth -- like trying to pull oneself up by one's own pathetic jokestrap.

Here again, Berdyaev agrees that a religion of pure (↓) -- based only on the "one movement from God toward man, only upon the will of God" -- "would be quite simple." That is, "life in the world would be easy, it would be easy to realize the Kingdom of God." Nor, with no freedom, would there be any tragedy.

In the face of a senseless tragedy or evil, one often hears some variant of "well, it's God's will, so it must be good." I don't know about you, but that is not a God I can accept. As Berdyaev expresses it, "Autocracy in heaven is quite unjust on earth" -- as is any top-down tyranny.

Just about out of time. We'll leave off with one more refreshing blast from Berdyaev:

God does not lord it over men.... He does not demand the slavish worship of a bond-servant. God is freedom; He is the liberator, not the master. God gives a sense of liberty, not of subjection. God is spirit, and spirit knows no such relationship as that of master and slave.


ted said...

Bob, I'm spending time with the relatives this week and feeling relatively disorientated. But I got Kreeft's Philosophica Summa keeping me grounded, and he makes an interesting remark that free-will and pre-destination are not contradictory: In using human free will, divine predestination makes it truly free, just as a good human author, in using one character to bring about the planned result in the life of a second character, does not change or remove either the personality or the free will of the first character but uses them. Whatdya think?

Leslie said...

I am with you, Ted, The Grace of God makes it possible for men to freely choose Him. Think of how enslaved those are who cannot love God.

julie said...

And love obviously implies the other, who has his own freedom and creativity with which to respond to God's primordial love. Nothing in the Trinity can be "forced," or "compelled," or "automatic," or "determined."

One of the grand adventures of parenthood is learning, again and again, just how true this is. By which I mean, there are many ways to parent, but things seem to work best when there is the least amount of force, compulsion, etc (though of course there's a time and a place for everything). It is better to be a shepherd than a dictator, no matter how much easier it would be to simply give orders and receive perfect obedience.

mushroom said...

You should put a warning on this one. Heads may explode like the "1812 Overture".

Rather, you might say that God is inflected through the human person, like clear light through a prism.

I have no doubt that sometimes God sees what we do and is grieved, but I am just as sure that sometimes He laughs and shouts, "Look at us!"

mushroom said...

No, we are not slaves, except when we offer ourselves as "willing bondservants" out of love.

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
(John 15:15, ESV)

Gagdad Bob said...

Ted, I would regard that as a needless and ultimately sophistic attempt to reconcile revelation and Aristotle. He's essentially turning a complementary orthoparadox into a mystagogic paradox.

ted said...

I wasn't agreeing with Kreeft, but letting in an opposing traditional view. I enjoy the metaphysical dissonance, so I can hold as much as possible without getting too irrational or insane (although insane people can be rational :).

I am still unpacking your response. The relatives are making me denser than usual.

Van Harvey said...

Ted, was that a conclusion of Krerft's? Or one of the posits to be considered?

I gotta go with Gagdad on that one, too cute by half... I mean, Aristotle is dear, but Truth is dearer.

ted said...

Van, that was a conclusion by Kreeft. Again, I am more inclined to take Berdyaev's position also, but I wanted to open this up for discourse only. Process theology also has cracks in its foundation if we take it far enough.