Friday 8 March 2024

Man's creative freedom is part-of God's "plan of creation" - not an impediment

If we consider God's Plan of Creation; the usual descriptions are extremely "top-down" - and have the form of a plan of God's, with each Individual Man's proper role being to choose-to-follow that plan.

This kind of description implies a negative view of Man's free agency, or at most an ultra-restricted understanding; because (at root) there is only one predetermined answer to the question of "what should I do?" to fulfill God's hopes; and therefore Man's freedom becomes little more than the ability to choose wrongly! 

Thus if we take a top-down view of God's creation; with Goodness and truth coming from above; Man is assumed to have an essentially negative potential. Men can fail to do what is needed, what they ought to do; but Men cannot succeed creatively. 

(Because God is omnipotent and created everything-from-nothing; Men can add nothing that could could not otherwise be provided by God.) 

Therefore, by traditional Christian theology; Men are not supposed to have the potential to participate positively in creation. 

Furthermore - because of the idea of Original Sin - Men will have at least a very strong tendency to do evil; which understanding points either towards each Man's withdrawal and contemplation; or else points towards an attitude of self-negation and obedience. 

Obedience to... well, whatever is generally supposed to constitute religious authority (e.g. church leadership, scripture, tradition etc). 

If God is regarded as analogous to an absolute monarch, with a complex and detailed "blueprint" for our betterment, we are at-best God's servants - and each Man's job is to choose to obey God's comprehensive instructions, follow the plan in all respects (even though we do not and cannot comprehend it) - and then (so the theory goes) things will work-out in accordance with divine intentions. 

Such views may have been normal in the past, and were very-probably correct for Mankind, as Mankind was constituted in the past - when individuals regarded themselves as only semi-differentiated from their social group: their clan, people, nation etc. 

Yet ultimately, and now that we primarily self-experience as individuals; I would say that this traditional understanding has become a profoundly anti-Christian understanding. 

(That is: What was right and inevitable then, has become wrong and avoidable now.)

Indeed; a religion based-on obedience and the self-image of a servant (in its effect) leaves-out the work of Jesus Christ; consequently it seems much closer to a purely-monotheistic (e.g. Jewish or Islamic) understanding of Man's role and destiny. 

(To me, that is almost-exactly what A Lot of "modern but trad." Christians seem to be yearning for: I mean, their religion is a version of ancient Judaism, or Islam, in deep essentials - with a superficial top-dressing of Christianized language, and a Jesus that does nothing essential.) 

A Christian understanding should instead (surely?) take into account that this is a universe where Jesus is also divine, and Men are each - like Jesus - sons or daughters of God; and therefore one in which Men can follow Jesus to divine status. 

My understanding of God's creation is much more participatory - a "joint-project" of God and Men - and has a necessary and positive creative role for all Men who are capable of conceptualizing it. Here's how I see things: 

Creation relies-upon Man's freedom for its success. Our creative contributions are vital elements to The Plan; although none are indispensable. 

The set-up is such that we are intended to participate and add-to creation; and every-thing we do in that line is a plus. 

(Despite that the plan continues even if we do nothing to help it.) 

This is because the Plan of Creation is not really a "plan" as such, it is not like a blueprint aiming at a fixed and specific outcome; but creation is instead something that God sets-up and sustains; and this creation is inhabited by Beings (such as Men) each with agency. 

Not by accident do Men have agency!

Ongoing creation is continually being re-shaped - taking into account the creative activates of Beings. 

God's creative intentions are quite simple in their general direction: God desires as many as possible Men (an other beings) to choose salvation - that is, to choose resurrection into Heaven after death. That means, ultimately, to choose and commit to live By Love - wholly and eternally.  

And also, as a consequence of this attitude, during this mortal life; God desires that as many Men (and other Beings) as possible, should join-with the work of creation, participate in creation, whenever possible - which is done by thinking and acting from our deepest, real, potentially-eternal "selves" in harmony with divine creation.

If it is to be genuinely creative, then all thinking and acting from our eternal selves will be in harmony with divine creation - if it is not in harmony with God's creation then real-self-thinking is something that is either without effect, happening only "inside" us; or it acts against divine creation - is evil

That possibility is, presumably, where the fear of creativity, and the mistaken attempt to avoid it, comes-from. But avoiding creativity is not a "safe option": there are no safe options. 

Here-and-now, with Man as He is; we must be creative and participatory with divine creation, if we are to avoid assimilation to the world-dominating Agenda of Evil.  

In this mortal life; such creative participation is something we can only do relatively-briefly, and in a modest fashion; but it is-happening whenever we are living from our True Selves (not our superficial personalities) in a state of conscious commitment to Love of God and Fellow Men. 

(i.e. The two Great Commandments.) 

Every time this happens, creation is enriched (and permanently); and we also learn from such experiences what it is to live in Heaven - which experience can be a strong (perhaps decisive) encouragement to choose salvation: Because; only to those who follow Jesus Christ to resurrection can such loving, creative participation become full and everlasting. 


Francis Berger said...

Your points about the predetermined nature of free will versus creative freedom cannot be stressed enough. Some of my previous thoughts on the matter:

I've never accepted the doctrine of free will. In simplest terms, the free will doctrine is God adopting a “my way or the highway” framework of freedom. Use the free will I provided to do what I command, and all will be well. Use the free will I provided to reject My commands, and all will be lost... for you, at least.

Seen this way, the free will choice to obey God’s law and command becomes a matter of necessity. Man needs to choose the good option God has provided or else face the consequences. This need to choose the Good – this necessity inherent within the free will choice – does not emanate from within man but is externally imposed by God. As such, it does little more than ask a man to adhere to or fulfill a given law or command, leaving no space for creativity or a creative act.

The free will doctrine reduces man to a mere instrument in the fulfillment of God’s law. It lacks all spiritual dynamism and ultimately relegates freedom to the level of submission.

True spiritual freedom does not reside within the framework of the free will doctrine. True spiritual freedom is not only about choosing between good and evil but knowing what constitutes authentic creative alignment and harmony with God and Creation.

True spiritual freedom liberates from the necessity of having to choose. Spiritual freedom is not about agonizing over externally imposed, given good and evil choices; it is about internally knowing what good is and doing/thinking that. The need to choose never enters the picture. I think this is where the significance of the true/primal self comes in.

Freedom is not and cannot be reduced to the free will doctrine of merely choosing between external, given choices. If it is, it becomes a burden that diminishes man to alevel of “submitting to Good” rather than actively co-creating Good.

Man is free when he doesn’t have to choose; when he knows that what he is thinking and doing is aligned with God and Creation. How does he know that what he is thinking and doing is good? When he applies his freedom to loving God, and it brings forth creativity.

Concerning creativity, I think it was Wm Jas who once noted that joining the work of creation is all about working with God to add something to Creation that God could not have added on his own. That can only happen through love -- another "thing" that no one can impose upon another Being.

William Wildblood said...

You might say that God sends human beings into the world of creation to add to it from within. He has moulded the general shape and form but left us freedom to contribute to the eventual outcome. In this way we can perhaps even surprise and delight God sometimes.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank and William. Thanks for the comments.

BTW: I have just edited and slightly expanded the post.

@Frank - I don't think I am saying anything qualitatively new here - for you or WM especially, just trying to clarify and explore some of the implications.

@William - Absolutely. Except that I don't believe that in creating Men, God "left" freedom in a negative way. Instead I believe (which I don't think you do) that the freedom and agency are consequences of our eternal selves each of which existed (in a sort-of embryonic way) before God's creation began.

(i.e. Before creation there were all the beings in existence, disconnected, each in its own world.)

For me: God's creation is essentially a colossal enrichment and "coordination" or "organization; about the bringing together of pre-existent Beings that were originally isolated and "selfish", barely aware of other Beings or themselves, towards ever increasing consciousness and loving harmony.