The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

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.


At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Calvin is a worshipper of the Demon god Moloch.

At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well it is good to know that Catholics are as ill-informed on Calvin as Calvinists are ill-informed on Rome.

I suppose it won't surprise you when I say that I agree with the point you're making while totally rejecting the charge that it applies to Calvin.

I'm also not sure what you'll find in Calvin on this topic that differs from that archfiend of old, St. Augustine:

'To solve the question, I had previously tried hard to uphold the freedom of the choice of the human will; but the grace of God had the upper hand. There was no way out but to conclude that the Apostle must be understood to have said the most obvious truth, when he said: "Who has mad you different? What have you got that you did not first receive? If you have received all this, why glory in it as if you had not been given it?".'

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

St. Augustine is the poster boy for the truth that "sanctity does not confer infallibility". While it might be true that Western theology has become but "a series of footnotes on Augustine", he is but one Church Father and even in the West, it cannot be said that theology and Augustinian thought are simply two different labels for the same thing.

In the case of Calvin, he simply took Anselmian Augustinianism and pushed it to the point of being heretical, not only in terms of human freedom, but also with regard to Divine freedom, a subject OCA priest Fr. Stephen Freeman has recently addressed:

How do we know God?

I have repeatedly posted a link to the following in various places, but I am going to do so again, because it gives a great sketch of the damage that hyper- Anselmian Augustinianism, and especially Calvinism, has done to the knowledge of God in the West, again with regard to both Divine and human freedom:

The River of Fire

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Levi said...

I seriously don't fathom how people portray S. Augustine as the "proto-calvinist". He may have led theology in that direction in the west, but he certainly did not hold to the calvinistic tenets.

If that were so, I think he would have made better company with his old friends the Manicheans, not the Catholic church.

The "archfiend of old" is no testament to the heretical doctrines of Calvinism by any means.

At 3:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I kind of like "for the West" (or maybe the East)
St. Jerome
St. Justin Martyr
St. John the Damascene
even the quasi heretical Origen

Confessions was good--but all these so called interpretations of anti-body, anti-sex, anti-women--that Augustine and St. Paul supposedly have I never read. Perhaps I just don't get it.

Calvin is evil. To create souls, that no matter what they do, are predestined to hell. No real free choice or freedom or choice or will or free will or any permutation or combination of free, freedom, will, choice, etc.
It is sort of a Hinduism--class based--the Calvinisitic sign of Predestination and Salvation is material success (I even have some friends with some of the big names in the Illinois Waste business and the Michigan multi level cosmetics business who tell me the same as from their friends when there is business failure--that it is a sign of God's displeasure or something wrong in their lives--not necessarily a Blessing--which is not what I want either--but whether it is the Book of JOB or the Catholic Encyclicals on Suffering I never wanted to read including by the last Pope--business failure, tragedy, health problems--may be the Cross that God gives us (or at least allows depending on the theology that nothing bad comes from God) the Catholic Church does NOT (sometimes I wish it did) the book the Secret, or even (I think it is generally good) Rev. Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking, or Oral Roberts--or Name it Claim it, or Health and Wealth in the Name of Jesus Protestants proto Calvinisists--the Catholic Church teaches that we should mortify ourselves and offer up sacrifices and that Suffering has meaning.

In terms of Salvation--Protestants (perhaps with the neo-Traditionalists and the Feeneyites) always put more people in Hell than did Catholics.
Read St. Jerome--he is of the Hans Urs von Baltasar school of thought. I could be wrong but I think St. Justin Martyr puts Plato and Socrates in Heaven. Where does Aquinas put Aristotles?
Read Dante's Inferno--and who is where?
Also in the ancient world, as in Catholic thought and Eastern Catholic and Orthodox thought there were levels of Hell, Heaven, Purgatory, Hades as differentiated from Hell, Limbo, Bosom of Abraham, being asleep, Jesus descending into various translations of the dead, hell and hades--all with different meanings.

Calvin put a lot of people in Hell.
Predestination means that a lot of people are in Hell.

The Catholic Church always, and not the Karl Rahner liberalism of the (It is late is it anonymous Christian, or unkown Christian?) but the teachings of the Gospel, the Old Testament, the Catholic Church, St. Jerome, St. Justin Martyr, Pius X--of knowledge and light and being part of the Church even if you didn't know you were a part of it, and all things being possible through God--doctrines like Baptism of Desire, Baptism and salvation through Martyrdom, and God doing what God wills (not in an Ockham or Scotus or Kisme Muslim sense)

Calvinists are also like Muslims with the philosophical flaws of Scotus and Ockham that was the real point of the much maligned Regensberg speech of the Pope--but it is to early or too late for that.

But Switzerland is amazing and orderly. The German Swiss are amazing craftsman, businessmen, and run amazing businesses. There is a lot of order and natural good. So Calvinism can't be all that bad--but they were Catholics at one time--the Scandanavians were barely Catholic almost went from Viking pagan to Lutherans overnight--but some good things about them too.
I try to see the good in all things. God by becoming man sanctified creation. When God created everything (albeit before the fall) He (or was it We) (Elohoim) said It is (or is it was) GOOD!!!! Judaism does not have such a negative view on human nature nor creation (albeit still iconoclastic despite some art in Hassidism and the angels on the Ark). Calvinism becomes a Gnostisicm where they worship their real god and us Catholics worship demiurge--or is demiurge the good guy I forget(too much drinking, not enough sleep)
Calvinism and many Protestants become Eastern non Christian religions who hate matter (like Christian scientistists) perhaps at least in theology if not practically.

Everyone but some Swiss Germans and Dutch are going the HELL.
Those Swiss Germans, some French, Dutch, and don't forget some English and Scotts are saved.
But EVERYONE ELSE is burning baby burn. Wealth is a sign they are saved--and many are damn good businesman--killing some Catholics in Japan is no big deal--cutting deals with Muslim Turks is no big deal.

I cannot find the good in Calvin and his theology. I do have some nice Dutch Reformed friends who are good people.

At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should probably just leave it at "wow."

At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did the Lion and the Cardinal get the Cartoon?

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