Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Providence and Eschatological Freedom

I’ve been dipping into Ron Highfield’s The Faithful Creator these last few days. Highfield champions primary and secondary causality as a way to understand the mystery of providence, a framework I struggle to accept as coherent. But much of what I’ve read so far suggests that the book as a whole is one to engage in depth. Here is Highfield on the compatibility of providence and freedom:

I understand providence as that aspect of the God-creation relationship in which God so orders and directs every event in the history of creation that God’s eternal purpose for creation is realized perfectly. And I understand human beings’ highest freedom as a supernatural transformation inwardly and outwardly so that every limitation that blocks human beings from becoming and living as children of God is removed. For Christian faith, human freedom, then, is not the natural power of self-determination that God has to respect even if it is blind, misguided and irrational. It is not the absence of circumstances that prevent you from doing whatever you wish. Freedom is not a power or a state we experience fully in the present. It is the goal of God’s acts of creation, reconciliation and consummation. Given this understanding, it would be absurd to imagine that God’s ordering and directing activity in providence could conflict with human freedom. The very purpose of providence is to free us from “every limitation that blocks human beings from becoming and living as children of God.” Hence, even if it is difficult or impossible to perceive or grasp how God’s ordering and directing our lives moves us and the world toward the goal of ultimate freedom, we may assume that it does.

Ron Highfield, The Faithful Creator: Affirming Creation and Providence in an Age of Anxiety (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015), p. 294, emphasis original

There’s a hint here that Highfield has so defined freedom in eschatological terms to make it more easily compatible with traditional causal ideas of providence, but I dare say we all define and redefine concepts to make them fit our presuppositions. The good thing here is that providence seems to be envisaged as eschatological and not just teleological; as not just leading to a goal, but as allowing that goal to be transformative of the here and now.

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