God and Free Will
And this calls into question the entire project of American Catholicism over the last centuries: the ongoing quest to convince the predominantly Calvinist culture that we Catholics are Christians too. I think that we have granted far too readily that Calvinists are Christians in the first place.
I found the above cartoon and quote in this post on the Lion and the Cardinal blog, and as usual it was a catalyst in articulating many things intersecting in my own mind. What I am formulating is not something original, nor is it something that I have not posted about on this blog before. Nevertheless, the lesson is an important one and worth repeating.
Man's role or lack of it in his own salvation is one of those theological issues that we will never fully comprehend, and errors regarding it, not matter how well and logically thought out, can bring about disaster in terms of relations between God and man through Christ. No theory of divine sovereignty, predestination, or total depravity can impune upon the fact that God has created us as children, not robots. He has made us so that we might freely choose to love Him and not merely carry out a rather bizarre cosmic morality play in which none of us can deviate from our part. This entails freedom: a real and complete freedom. Just because the human mind cannot reconcile these two poles of existential action does not mean that one does not exist or is superfluous.
An extended quote by John Clark Smith from his book, The Ancient Wisdom of Origen, can further shed light on what I am trying to say here:
...Freedom is fundamental to God's way and is spread throughout existence. Freedom for Origen is so encompassing and powerful that it can even oppose God and one's own nature. God does not create a divine creature to serve him mindlessly; he creates a creature who is truly free, who can become in his own way and his own realiziation divine and a friend of God or, if he wills, a slave to the devil. For Origen, the creation of a truly free will is an act only God could fufill. And regardless of how bad man becomes, how low he sinks in his sin, he is never beyond the freedom of God and man to act and change. Evil by definition is impermanent.
The second dimension is Origen's view of God... Origen's God is indeed the Father of the New Testament, the Supreme Perfect Parent whose every decision involves raising his sons and daughters to be complete and to love out of love and respect, and the Model through his Logos rather than only a judge, a tyrant or a source of misery. Such a God creates an existence that balances more on his hope in and love for his children, and on his infinite ability to create contexts in which his children will change, than on any form of coercion...
This, we can say, is a summary of the true Christian idea of who God is. In the disputes of the Calvinists and Jansenists, we see the human intellect becoming an Icarus trying to fly too close to the divine Sun of the mystery of how God acts, and thus they plunge into their own idolatry of the meaning of the cosmos. As we all know, heresy is the result of wanting to learn too much and not respect the various shades of mystery inherent in all the aspects of Christian doctrine. It is only when we respect these mysteries such as free will do we truly live the trinitarian life of the Church, in humility and self-awareness of our limited capabilities of understanding the things of God.