|Maximus the Confessor: Are you not entertained?|
Of Chapter 3’s forty-eight pages, only four pages, give or take a line or two, are allocated to Jensen’s own position. (In many respects, this is a commendable example of how to do theology: listen extensively to other voices before making one’s own contribution.) First, Jensen argues for a strong understanding of God’s transcendence, meaning that God is the source of created time and space. Secondly, following Bultmann and Pannenberg, Jensen contends that the regenerated human will is directed towards God, while the fallen and sinful human will remains directed towards worldly things and self-love. This means, thirdly, that the human will is truly free when aligned with God’s will; the fallen will can only choose arbitrarily between options. Jensen’s worth quoting here:
Ironically, the very feature which is most important in the modern self-understanding [of the will], namely that the will determines that which is previously undetermined, is the result and sign of human alienation from God.Alexander S. Jensen, Divine Providence and Human Agency: Trinity, Creation and Freedom (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), p. 111
It’s an interesting point, methinks.
Finally, Jensen’s fourth observation is that because salvation is of the whole person, including the (enslaved) human will, salvation has to come from the Holy Spirit.
So how does Jensen hold together the concepts of divine providence and human free will? He is quite sure that the matter cannot be resolved simply by pointing to its ostensibly paradoxical nature. Instead, he proposes that any account of human freedom must draw from ‘the foundational Christian experience of the saving presence of Christ.’ (p. 113). And because all things come from God, the source of creaturely being and existence, free human agency, too, must stem from participation in God, and so from God’s own freedom. True human freedom, Jensen argues, is the freedom to respond to God. He concludes:
A completely free will would regard every given situation as a gift from God and act in a way that responds to God’s love and discerns God’s will. This is expressed in the life of Jesus Christ as it is described in the gospels, which represents true humanity, including human freedom, at its fullest. (p. 113).