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Thursday, May 17, 2007


When I'm not pondering (and whining about) why God lets evil exist in the world, I'm wondering about myself - why do I do evil?

Ignatius speaks of freedom in the Spiritual Exercises .... a freedom that let's God's desire for us order our attachments, a freedom that leads to joy because God's desire for us is what will ultimately make us happy. Worried about the ability to choose for myself, and being low on trust, I've resisted this idea of freedom. Today, though, I was rereading a book by David Bentley Hart (The Doors of the Sea), and something I saw gave me pause, because if I understood correctly, he agrees with Ignatius. Here's a little of what Hart wrote .....


Of course, we are inclined (especially today) to think of freedom wholly in terms of arbitrary or pathetic volition, a potency made actual every time one chooses a particular course of action out from a variety of other possibilities. And obviously, for finite intellects and wills, this is the minimal form that liberty must assume; but it is also, just as obviously, a form of subordination and confinement. All possible choices are external to the will that chooses; they shape it from without, defining it even before it has chosen. Moreover, these possibilities are exclusive of one another: one makes a possible course of action real by rendering other courses of action impossible. And, as we all know, one can choose foolishly, or maliciously, or with a divided will. Freedom, so understood, would consist in no more than a certain kind of largely vacuous and limited potentiality dependent on other limited and limiting potentialities.

A higher understanding of human freedom, however, is inseparable from a definition of human nature. To be free is to be able to flourish as the kind of being one is, and so to attain the ontological good toward which one's nature is oriented; freedom is the unhindered realization of a complex nature in its proper end (natural and supernatural), and this is consumate liberty and happiness. The will that chooses poorly, then - through ignorance, maleficence, or corrupt desire - has not thereby become freer, but has further enslaved itself to forces that prevent it from achieving its full expression .....



Anonymous Mike L said...

Hi Crystal,

I have often heard the statement that the only true freedom is the freedom to worship God. I think for the first time I see what that might really mean. As I use my "freedom" to act or think in certain ways, I can end up limiting my choices. Freedom to use drugs may well end up in addiction and possible legal problems which can certainly result in the loss of freedom to chose, or even freedom of movement.

But by making good and right decisions we leave a lot of possibilities open, including the choice to try drugs.

This also works in the spiritual world, where we can use our "freedom" to move away from God, which makes it harder to return to him. A real simple case for me is the decision to not go to confession on a regular basis. As time goes on it gets harder and harder to finally make the decision to do so.

Thanks for bring this up, it really does make a lot of sense, and maybe I understand things a bit clearer.

Hugs, Mike L

6:12 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Mike,

I don't understand it very well myself. In that online retreat I took, and in the Spiritual Exercises, freedom is really important, but it isn't the kind of freedom we normally think of - doing whatever you want - but more a kind of freedom to be your best self? Argh - I still don't really get it :-)

7:52 PM  
Anonymous m said...

I have an idea or two kicking around in my head, so let's try some things. I see a person trying to commit suicide and I stop them. Have I limited their freedom, or have I opened up possibilities of even greater freedom? Which is the greater freedom, to be able to commit suicide or to be free to make future choices?

Is there a value in being free to act without responsibility? Yesterday I passed a store that is being built and noticed that all the plate glass windows had been smashed. Is the freedom to be antisocial of any real value to either the people that did it or the rest of society?

Does it make any sense to say that the value of being free to act in some ways is of value only if we chose not to chose that act, and a liability if we do chose it?

Think I will go get another cup of coffee and contemplate this a bit more. I am glad I have the freedom to make that choice.


Mike L

9:53 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi M,

thanks for coming by :-)

10:40 AM  
Blogger forrest said...

1) Are you ever coming back to

2) A good book I discovered recently was _One God Clapping_, perhaps the best of many fine Jewish Buddhist books...

and while he's agonizing over some major life decision, his teacher explains that "It doesn't matter what you decide."

He isn't denying the free will thing, by the way. What he was saying, as it develops, was that the author was not going to stay with some choice incompatible with his nature. He could decide to stay with the woman--and find that environment unlivable in the long run; he might decide to leave her--and find that he couldn't bear being without her. Something deeper than his conscious reason was going to settle what actually happened; that more-himself-than-his-self self would be making that decision just fine whether he agonized over it or not. (Like the decision-making software in _Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency_ that would take all the factors into account and use them to justify whatever you actually wanted to do?)

4:47 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Forrest,

Like the decision-making software in _Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency_ that would take all the factors into account and use them to justify whatever you actually wanted to do? :-)

I would like to visit and comment at the skripture study blog, but I don't seem to have to energy to post anything there anymore.

10:27 AM  

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