first theme of theological reflection is the existence
of God. Whether God exists is the query of 'natural
theology' or metaphysics; for theology God is a given.
More accurately, God is the giver; everything and
everyone else is given.
is the question that raises: if everything and everyone
is given, what scope is there for human freedom? May
one ignore, or even kill, someone or thing that is
inconvenient, bothersome, dangerous? Or must one accept
the given-ness of all?
Phrased in this way, this question presupposes that
God's intentions in giving are less than honorable;
that he is, at best, a benevolent tyrant and, at worst,
a cruel little boy building traps for bugs.
to the question, and to the challenge, begins with
a reminder that humans, too, are part of the given-ness
of all that is. Although we may want to think of ourselves
a somehow superior to every other form of life and
every other human, that proposal is just not true.
Amongst the givens that God bestows is human freedom
- free humanity. Human freedom is a gift from God
to the rest of the universe!
a thought that shows up in some branches of modern
physics as 'a strong anthropic principle'. In the
world of theology it would have to be classified as
a fairly new and pretty bold version of such classical
notions as 'image of God' and 'stewardship of creation',
'partnership' in ongoing creation. It also approaches
a theme in Orthodox theology called 'divinization'
of the human.
thought does not do is to give much comfort to those
who think that 'freedom' is a rough synonym for consumerism
or egotism or privacy or civil rights or political
pork. It is a thorough upending of an older understanding
of humanity as the entitled user/abuser of other life
forms and ecological resources for the enrichment
and delectation of the well-to-do.
of freedom lifts humanity out of the determinisms
of the crass materialists and the Darwinian biological
and sociological evolutionists. It actually locates
humanity on the side of the transcendent Giver of
All; on the other side of the divide between creation
takes the doctrine of original sin and explains why
human freedom was not taken away in punishment and
why OS results in a conflict between those who desire
and take without giving and those who still have the
freedom to accept with gratitude and share with generosity.
of humanity's place in the universe also clarifies
Jesus' teaching on the great commandments of love.
When freedom is a gift to the world, greed and lust
and rage and thoughtlessness can have no place in
our relationship with God or one another.
to me, this notion of freedom reveals the dignity
of the pardoner and the exact scope of forgiveness
which literally repairs what abuses of freedom have
destroyed. In the world of Judaism this is called
and truly and freely yours, tm
P.S. Are we having fun yet?