Sunday 10 March 2013
Implications of the reality of Man's free agency
The following is adapted from a comment I made on the blog of WmJas
Once the decision has been made that free agency is necessary and real, then various consequences are implied which I think do not usually tend to be followed up.
In fact, one of the things I find most impressive about Joseph Smith's Restored Christianity, is the way in which he - step by step, and not without faltering, but with great determination and completeness - follows up the implications of human free agency for our fundamental status in the Christian world.
(In what follows I use God to refer to the one God the Father, creator of Heaven and Earth; and lower case god to refer to the many Sons of God' of the same 'kind' as Jesus Christ - to which status Christians believe humans will be resurrected. This use of lower case god is mainstream Christian and occurs frequently in the Bible - perhaps sometimes also referring to the angels, whose status in relation to God and Man is scripturally ambiguous.)
It is hard to make sense of free agency without also acknowledging that humans are of the same 'kind' as God - are minor or flawed/ corrupted gods, but of the same general kind.
Free agency is such an astonishing thing, implying such qualitatively superior powers on the part of humans, that something of this sort seems to be implied (I'm not saying it is entailed, but it is at least potentially implied).
Because free agency cannot work in a void - but also goes with knowledge/ intelligence and reason - which both enable learning from experience, and provide or supply the basis for free agency.
And for the 'triad' of free agency, intelligence and reason to be able to operate under widely varied and often hostile mortal conditions, and for learning to occur; seems to imply an autonomy from these mortal conditions.
It seems to imply the autonomy of the soul (or unique personal spirit).
And, in turn, such autonomy seems to imply 'eternal' existence - in the sense of pre-existence of the soul (before mortal life) and well as its persistence after death - otherwise (it seems!) the free agent soul would be subject-to the conditions of mortal life, and therefore unfree.
But while mainstream Christian thought has tended, often, to regard incarnation of the soul and the added factor of the body as yet another disadvantage which limits agency (the body's needs and weaknesses are seen as a constraint on agency) - JS saw the body as an enhancement of agency, by (as it were) concentrating the diffuse matter of the soul/ spirit into a form that is capable of controlling matter in a proto-god-like manner (en route to full godhood).
I have extrapolated, but the main point was the first - that the reality of free agency is not just god-like, but evidence of god-status - and not just potentially, but here and now, actually, in mortal life.
Which implies that we are already Sons of God here and now on earth, that is our status - but at a developmental stage which is yet incomplete and un-perfected, at least partially-corrupted, and indeed preliminary.
(And, because of free agency: capable of rejecting further development or indeed denying our Son of God status; we can freely chose to sell ourselves into slavery, and thereby to ally with the other spirits, the fallen Sons of God, who have already done so.)
A full recognition of the reality/ necessity of free agency at the core of Man, therefore leads onto many other plausible inferences - not compelling entailments, since they can be and are usually denied; but inferences which seem to flow naturally-enough from the structure and inclinations of the human mind.
And if the human mind is regarded as capable of free agency (and has knowledge and reason, thus can learn) then what results is a higher estimate of Man's capability and autonomy, hence mortal Man's status, role and evaluative ability - than in most versions of mainstream Christianity.