Tuesday, July 25, 2006

a quick meditation on free will

The pervasiveness of "freedom of choice"--who can see its many influences and arrangements? Who can follow it as far down as it goes and sketch its fundamentum? It is the manure which multiplies our every assumption. It flows under the bark of our very selves; tear at us, and we bleed it like resin. And yet, which of us is his own creator? Who of us willed themselves into being? Who chose her native language, or the history, the morays and folkways, of his fatherland? We believe we have chosen, only to look back later in life and see that our choices were largely dictated by the demands of history, culture, and family expectation. This panic to be original, the moral demand of the authentic--what of it? We don't realize that underneath any free choice (according to our usual definition) there must be a universe of pure chance. All is meaningless in such a world, but we at least know how to be meaningless (and how to lie about it.) Theology disagrees. It suggests a different trope: God first. First God and then us. God's action, our reaction. God's promise, our faithful response. And don't think that in our response we actually see and quantify every edge of God's action. Chances are, we'll spend our whole lives sorting it out, only to come to an admission of happy futility, of resignation, and the freedom that comes with childlike trust at the very end.

On the other hand, we can't very well abandon all effort and become bubbles, floating along on the surface of the warm back of pure providence. Whereas unsupported action, the pursuit of the authentic and original self, most popularly manifested by existentialism, is in error, so is its opposite: limp passivity that goes by the name of "the surrendered life", "abiding", and that rude colloquiallism: Let Go and Let God. Where the one, like the atheist, shuts God from history, the other, like the platonist, denies history of God. All the natural and, indeed, supernatural gifts God has given to human beings for the purpose of getting on with things go unused "until God tells me." But don't you already have it, then? Now get on with it! Creation is affirmed by God, even as God supports creation; neither should be forgotten by the other, and especially by human beings, whose second Adam himself was born of flesh, born of a woman and, with the creed, "crucified under Pontius Pilate."