Freedom as creative liberty among loving options

A recent Tweet by Fr Aidan Kimel prompted my return to this previous post. Comparing God’s creation of the universe to Picasso’s statement “To know what you’re going to draw you have to begin drawing,” Fr Aidan writes: “I wonder if the same applies to God’s creation of the universe. No premeditation. No deliberation. Just the spontaneous let it be.”

I totally agree. David Hart, however, doesn’t like talk of “spontaneity” because he believes it an “irrational” mode of willing, something we cannot attribute to God. But I’ve disagreed. Spontaneity can indeed be a rational mode of acting where the scope of acting is bound within and expressive of the same unfailing love as its rationale. We have to say something like this applies to God’s determination to create if we say God creates freely and unnecessarily, for not creating is, presumably, as consistent with and expressive of who and what God is as creating.



I want to try to express something I’m unable to make sense of in David Bentley Hart’s view of choice and freedom. I’ll start with very briefly stating his view of human “freedom” as the flourishing of created nature in its telos or end in God as the Good (with which I agree). Then I’ll summarize his qualified view of “libertarian” choice as the “possibility of freedom, not its realization” (with which I also agree). Thirdly, I’ll re-introduce (having done so previously) his response to my question regarding the nature of human choice once the will is perfected in the Good. This is where my difficulty gets introduced. Lastly, I’ll try to express what I think is an inconsistency or at least an unresolved issue (or perhaps my own stupidity) at the heart of his objection to a certain understanding of creative liberty as spontaneous.

First, what is true…

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To he or not to he, that is the question

Classical Theism

Ran across this illustration today. Notice the top left explanation:

God is referred to as He to metaphorically illustrate metaphysical ultimacy, since “She” would metaphorically signify motherhood, which would indicate the world as pantheistically emanating from God as a child “emanates” from the womb which is not Classical Theism.

I have friends on both sides of the gender language debate as it relates to pronouns for God. I find the above defense of “he” (an capitalized to boot) unconvincing. Using “she/her” does not carry the pantheistic implications proposed. That’s ridiculous. I have on occasion used “it” (following Eckhart), and often “Godself.”

The Cross: Substitution & Participation

Al Kimel over at Eclectic Orthodoxy was good enough to publish some of my reflections on the Cross.

Eclectic Orthodoxy

by Thomas Belt

Fr Aidan has been a friend and sparring partner for several years now, during which time Eclectic Orthodox (EO) has become one of the best theological blogs around, so it’s a special joy to be invited to contribute a post in celebration of EO’s sixth birthday – and such mature conversations for a six-year old!

I’m Evangelical, though perhaps barely so, and am thus the odd man out around Orthodox campfires, but I’m steadily learning to appreciate the warmth of the theological vision of the Fathers. Lord knows my Evangelical upbringing bequeathed me no real sense of transcendence. To make up for that loss I had to venture beyond the resources of my denominational identity and step into the deeper streams of tradition. If I were asked to name an issue upon which Orthodoxy has exercised a particular influence, no one here will be surprised to hear me…

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Determinism = Pantheism

handsI remember first running across Charles Hartshorne’s argument that to the extent X determines Y, Y just is X, i.e., theological determinism reduces to pantheism. I also enjoy points of agreement between Hartshorne and David Bentley Hart, shorn of the former’s Process theology! (Had to say it.) Hart writes (Doors of the Sea):

…conclusions as foolish as Calvin’s…that God predestined the fall of man so as to show forth his greatness in both the salvation and the damnation of those he has eternally preordained to their several fates. Were this so, God would be the author of and so entirely beyond both good and evil, or at once both and neither, or indeed merely evil (which power without justice always is). The curious absurdity of all such doctrines is that, out of a pious anxiety to defend God’s transcendence against any scintilla of genuine creaturely freedom, they threaten effectively to collapse that transcendence into absolute identity – with the world, with us, with the devil, etc. For, unless the world is truly set apart from God and possesses a dependent but real liberty of its own analogous to the freedom of God, everything is merely a fragment of the divine volition, and God is simply the totality of all that is and all that happens; there is no creation, but only an oddly pantheistic expression of God’s unadulterated power.