Of course that sound I hear, is that of paradigms shifting beneath me… Assumptions accepted from long ago; being reconsidered, and perhaps modified – or even rejected…
We cling to the notion of Freedom (this threads reason for being…) largely, I think, for the purpose of laying the “blame” for sin at our feet. (That is, we dare not “blame” God for sin…) In short, we were free because we must be free for our actions to be held against us! We did it (ie the act of A&E eating of the fruit) “freely” – so not God’s fault. Being “free” of course also confers humanity to us – personhood; we are not determined by any but ourselves.
But how free, really, is a “freedom” which so blatantly acts against itself? Thus other notions and aspects are recruited. Ignorance, and ambiguity. So we are born in ignorance – we just don’t know – and in ambiguity; the natural order of cause and effect is dimly seen, if at all. We may not even comprehend what’s at stake… We see that God cannot determine us (ie just “program” us to do well…) because that would negate freedom – the very thing which makes us persons. To just implant some degree of knowledge, and order, on the other hand, seems also itself a kind of determinism. Which we’ve said God cannot abide.
Backing up and restating then: God has given Himself a daunting task it seems… He seeks the free and sincere worship of His creation, yet is prevented – by the very laws of freedom themselves – from creating that. For, if the image of God in us means anything, it means this: we must be able to share the ability to create – that is, from within us ourselves, to generate the self determined act of reaching out to God, responding, and worshiping Him.
When you say Tom, that the very things necessary for this to happen are the very things which must be overcome, that in itself is a paradigm rattler! But I think maybe it’s worth considering that this simply underlines God’s extreme commitment to freedom! He simply refuses (He’s a purist this way I guess) to determine us, nor does He just implant experience and knowledge; for that would be determinism of a sort.
No, instead we enter this realm, as did Adam & Eve, (or whomever they represent…) innocent, naked, and ready to discover and learn.
Now of course it troubles me that the writer of Genesis strongly implies that A & E “should have known better”.
The horribly difficult and painful part of this (ie the implication that A & E “should have known better”) is the realization that, by this way of thinking, this path of pain and sin and suffering never need have been taken. I’ve grown up with this angst, and see no good reason to jettison it just now.
However… the thought that this departure of ours from God’s desire into… well, I’ve grown so comfortable calling it… “sin” was somehow necessary for God’s creation to become actualized, is, again, a paradigm rattler…
Freedom; utterly central and indispensable for the development of the only kind of person and worship God wants, itself needing to develop in the very cauldron of things which work against it!!
Its hard not to see A & E’s first departure from God’s will (did not God say you would DIE the day you ate of it??) as a full blown sin. And yet how could it be given their (extreme) immaturity? To be sure, they disobeyed orders; that much is clear. But it’s also clear that God’s (eventual) intent for us is not mere obedience (just do as you are told…) but the understanding attitude and actions of a friend. (eg John 15:15)
But how, oh how! to get us from here (immaturity, ignorance, ambiguity, indeterminism…) to there (full throated freedom! informed, unshackled by illusion and distortions, to that place where what we desire is the same as God desires; doing right because it is right…) ?? How does God simultaneously foster our growing freedom (which also enlarges and deepens our culpability in sin) knowledge (which lessens our ignorance and heightens our responsibility) and rationality (which takes objective stock of experience and measures cause and effect)???
Yet this is the task God has taken upon Himself!!
Little by little, slow and full of anguish as self awareness dawns, ignorance fades, ambiguity lessens, and freedom blossoms. And along the way, awareness of our separation from God grows; the desperation of our plight apart from Him deepens; our fault in sin solidifies even as we develop the powers to reject it!
So… we must be free in order that we might be persons, yet freedom entails knowledge (ie departure form ignorance) an understanding of order (departure from ambiguity) and rationality (departure from randomness; discerning cause and effect; grasping what is in our best interest…) Well, if we are to be free, we must (by definition) have these things (by which I mean knowledge/order/rationality)… Except if God just “gave us” these things we would be determined!
Besides, if God just “gave us” these necessary ingredients for freedom, yet that “freedom” was used in self destructive ways, one could always argue (correctly as I’m seeing this…) that God didn’t give “quite enough” knowledge; or order (I’m using order as ambiguities opposite here…); or rationality. Which, if true, would mean God is deeply culpable in our failures.
On the other hand however, if God gave the opposite of “not quite enough” of these things and instead gave “more than enough” so as to guarantee correct and proper use of freedom – every time – then He stands vulnerable to the charge of Determinism! Thereby negating the very “Freedom” He was trying to foster in the first place!!!
God is in a really tough place here isn’t He!!!
… I’m beginning to see that, philosophically at least, it is courageous and bold to resist the idea of God parceling out “just enough” knowledge/order/rationality so as to make freedom real, yet not “so much” as to render it all meaningless by the charge of Determinism, by simply saying we arrive with NOTHING. NO knowledge, NO order, NO rationality, NO freedom, and NO determinism. (That’s what I’m hearing you as saying Tom – so please correct me if I’m wrong!!)
I find that to be a very clean philosophical position Tom…
However, how to transfer this idea from the philosophers desk to the Theologians workbench…
…That’s tougher for me…
Am I at least in the ballpark Tom??
Not signing off, or making concluding remarks, or saying we’re through, but immense thanks Tom for guiding us on this journey… For myself, I am blessed to have you here! Chrisguy and everybody else too of course!!