Roman Catholic Parish


June 16, 2019

Dear All,

The 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.

But here 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?

Pay attention! 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.

The answer 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!

This is 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.

What this 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.

This notion 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 and Creator.

It also 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.

This understanding 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.

Most importantly 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 tikkun olam.

Really and truly and freely yours, tm

P.S. Are we having fun yet?



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