The Son Shall Make Us Free1
Self-consciousness is a unique, God-given property common to all human beings. Because we are conscious, we know who we are — that is, we know our self-identity and our individuality. We also know that we live in relationship to the “other” — the “other” of the natural environment, the community of “other” human beings, and the “Other” of God. Indeed, we are aware of ourselves only in relation to our awareness of the “other.” Furthermore, the meaning and value of the self exist only in relation to the meaning and value we assign to the “other.” Therefore, if we are to be free, our relationship with the “other” should be mutually free from domination, submission and dependence as well as free to forever live, love, work and play in assured human individuality and human community. There is no freedom in dominating the “other.” There is no freedom in submission to the “other.” There is no freedom in abject dependence upon the “other.” There is only freedom in the fullness of living, loving, working and playing as individuals in the equality of giving, receiving and sharing with the “other.”2
These are the fundamental values, meanings and aspirations of all who long to be truly human. Yet none of us enjoys such freedom. Furthermore, none of us can anticipate such freedom in the present world order. Instead, we have been victimized by faulty historical worldviews — ways of looking at reality to find meaning in the world, in our individual lives, and for the entire human race.
Under the pre-modern worldview we have been victimized by our orthodox understanding of Creation. In this creationist worldview an all-knowing God foreknew everything, foreordained everything and, by divine decree, created everything and everyone to exist in total and perpetual submission to and dependence upon him. For most this will mean eternal conscious bondage in the fires and torment of hell. For a select few it will mean the eternal conscious bondage of infinite submission and dependence on the ultimate “Other.” Presented with this choice, is it any wonder that many would prefer the wider and freer companionship of hell rather than suffering eternal life with a monster before whom Saddam Hussein, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan pale into insignificance? Thus, the pre-modern worldview, with its orthodox creationism, is dead.
Under the modern worldview we also have been victimized by the orthodox theory of Darwinian evolution. This doctrine of the spontaneous, autonomous emergence of the universe does not and cannot actually account for the emergence of life or of consciousness, nor can it offer any real hope for the achievement of human freedom. The theory of evolution is based on a number of invalid premises. Evolution assumes that there are discrete building blocks of the universe with defined properties that can lead, even by chance, to the architectural wholeness of the universe. Evolution thus assumes that every cosmic “brick and piece of mortar” that emerges carries some potential, built-in blueprint. For generations scientists have therefore been guided by the principle of reductionism, believing that if they could find the ultimate building blocks and the ultimate rules for those building blocks, they could readily predict the entire universe. This has proved to be a frustrating and fruitless search. The material universe as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Life is greater than the sum of its parts. Consciousness is greater than the sum of its parts. Furthermore, the whole determines the parts; the parts do not determine the whole. Scientists now understand that “causation” works downward from the whole to the parts, not upward from the parts to the whole. Therefore, emergent, upward evolution does not and cannot account for the existence of the universe. Even if emergent evolution were possible, the principle of “survival of the fittest,” so closely linked to emergent evolution, is wholly incompatible with any understanding of or aspiration to human freedom — freedom from domination, submission and dependence, and freedom to live, love, work and play in assured individuality and community. Thus, the modern worldview, with its orthodox evolutionism, is dead.
Now, from the ashes of discredited creationism and evolutionism, a new worldview is emerging that again threatens to victimize humanity. This new worldview is being vigorously propagated by different individuals and groups around the world. These include the New Age movement, with its mysticism and occultism; the “Preterist” movement, now proclaiming that the Second Advent of Christ occurred in AD 703; the post-modernists, with their belief in “scientific reenchantment”4; and the World Council of Churches, with its determination to complete the spiritual charismata that began early in the 20th century with Pentecostalism in Azusa, California.5 Although there are many peripheral differences among these different groups, they all agree on certain fundamentals. They contend that mind, consciousness, subjectivity, “experience,” causation, life and “spirit” fundamentally reside in every constituent of the universe. Every clod of dirt, every rock and rill, every templed hill, every mote of dust dancing in the sunbeam, is endowed with spirit, life and consciousness, as are so-called “higher forms.” The universe itself is thus “reenchanted” or sacralized. Ultimately, therefore, the universe exists in the immediacy of a timeless/spaceless tyranny of cosmic “monism” (oneness) in which human individuality and human community vanish into eternal irrelevance, deprived of all relationship, of all “I and Thous,”6 of all subjects/objects, of all observers and observed, and of all “others.” In such a universe there are no domination, submission and dependence, but neither is there freedom to live, love, work or play in the relational integrity of human individuality and human community. Such is the worldview, the world order, the “cosmic soup or hash,” that many now envision. Like Jürgen Moltmann, many promote this worldview as the answer to the present unraveled world order.7 But this cosmic monism also is dead upon arrival.
A New Postmodern Worldview
However, as we poke among the ashes of creationism, evolutionism and cosmic monism, we can find hope — the hope of a new postmodern worldview that is vital and viable. To grasp this hope we will return to the “beginning” (Genesis 1:1). There is just one God, “who is not only rationally, ontologically and valuatively ultimate, but is also most adequately understood in terms of a personal (i.e., self-aware, conscious, purposive) and agential mode of being.”8 However, God as Father is invisible, undisclosable, unpicturable, timeless/spaceless Reality. God as Son or “Word” is visible, disclosable, picturable, time/space Reality. God as Spirit is the creative link between the visible and the invisible Realities of God as Son and God as Father.
A few quantum physicists, like David Bohm, emeritus professor of theoretical physics at the University of London, are brave enough to move beyond quantum mathematics to quantum worldviews.9 In essence they see a universe in the image of God. They recognize a visible universe of time/space locality — of observable, disclosable objects, events and phenomena associated with localized energy, form, substance, life and consciousness. This visible universe is the universe of “explicate order.”10 These physicists also “recognize” a universe of timeless/spaceless nonlocality coinciding with the quantum ground, field or potential. This coincident, invisible universe of quantum reality is the universe of “implicate order.”11 These physicists further recognize that the explicate order and the implicate order coexist and co-relate to uphold the overall existence, integrity and operation of the universe.
There are numerous examples of these coexistent explicate and implicate orders. For instance, when we turn on a fluorescent light, an electric arc in the fluorescent tube excites mercury vapor to emit invisible ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet light strikes the inside of the tube that is coated with “phosphors” — fluorescent or phosphorescent chemicals. When these chemicals fluoresce, we see visible light. This is “explicate order.” However, we do not see and by nature cannot ever see that electrons in the phosphors each capture a quantum (quantity or packet) of the invisible ultraviolet light and, as a result, “jump” invisibly, timelessly and spacelessly from an inner orbit around an atomic nucleus to a wider orbit around the nucleus without traversing the time and space between. It is as though the Earth were observed in its normal orbit around the sun at one instant and then, timelessly and spacelessly, appeared in Jupiter’s orbit around the sun. Likewise, the electrons in the phosphors “fall” timelessly/spacelessly from a wider orbit to an inner orbit, with the release of visible quanta or “packets” of visible “fluorescent” light. While the electrons thus follow the timeless/spaceless implicate order in their orbital presence, the ultraviolet energy that excited the electrons and the fluorescent light that the electrons emit follow an explicate and observable order of time and space with a velocity through space of 186,000 miles a second. Thus, we observe fluorescent light from a fluorescent light tube only because of coexistent explicate and implicate orders.
In the preceding example the electrons do not and cannot move in time and space from one orbit to another; they are simply present in one orbit or another. Comparable nonlocality could be illustrated in other ways. For example, photons of light or electrons often occur in pairs. The members of an electron pair always have opposite spins or rotations. If one paired electron is spinning clockwise, the other member of the pair invariably spins counterclockwise. If the spin of one paired electron is reversed, the spin of the other also is reversed timelessly, spacelessly and nonlocally, whether the members of the pair are adjacent or are at opposite sides of the universe. These and other examples of the nonlocal, implicate order of the universe are all around us, and we unknowingly encounter them every day.
From our present understanding of the universe, therefore, we can posit a cosmic dualism (not monism) involving an explicate order and an implicate order that coexist as follows:
|Implicate Order||Explicate Order|
Divine Kenosis12 and Creation.
With this cosmic order in mind, let us use our human understanding and try to think God’s thoughts after him.13 “In the beginning” (Genesis 1:1) God was unsatisfied with the invisible, undisclosable, timeless/spaceless, implicate monism to which he was confined. God therefore exercised his creative power. God’s creativity always involves his kenosis (self-limitation), which creatively makes room for the “other,” and God’s kenosis always involves divine creativity. In a most fundamental sense God in himself has no meaning, value, significance or freedom apart from the created “other.” God therefore acted to make room for an explicate order of time and space, of matter and energy, of form and substance. “The Spirit moved” (see Genesis 1:2), and the visible universe emerged as his cosmic “other.” However, this primordial “other” was necessarily not independent and free but existed only under divine domination.
God therefore took the second step in divine kenosis (self-limitation). From the implicate order “the Spirit moved” again and made room for life and for all life-forms in the visible, disclosable, explicate universe of time and space. Thus, for God there creatively emerged a “living other.” However, this primitive life was not independently free but survived only under divine domination and supervision.
Divine Kenosis and Incarnation.
God then took the third step in divine kenosis (self-limitation). From the implicate, timeless/spaceless order, again “the Spirit moved,” and the Word appeared in the explicate, visible order of time and space. In the fullness of time (and space), “God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4). “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld [observed] his glory . . . )” (John 1:14). With this mighty explicate act of incarnation, the One who repeatedly identified himself as the “Son of Man”14 (meaning “Offspring of the Earth” 15) recapitulated the history of the cosmos and cosmic life, and he gave gifts unto men. One of these supernal gifts was the gift of human, localized self-consciousness so that man might sustain a relational “otherness” with God, man and the universe. However, with this consciousness came a growing awareness of an unfulfilled freedom from domination, submission and dependence as well as an unfulfilled freedom to live, love, work and play in full and perpetual human individuality and human community.
After 2,000 years, as humans we remain aware of our manifest destiny. Moreover, we increasingly recognize that this destiny lies within the compass of our dreams, desires and consent but outside the compass of our realization.
Divine Kenosis and Parousia.
We therefore look for the fourth step in divine kenosis (self-limitation), when at the Parousia (Second Coming) God will creatively make room for a universal and transcendent human “other.” At this imminent Parousia the Son will make us free from bondage to all domination, submission and dependence and free to live, love, work and play in universal, perpetual individuality and community. Then the explicate and visible order of time and space, life-forms and localized consciousness, will be elevated to parity with the undisclosable implicate order of the universe. Human beings will then possess the conscious creativity that alone will guarantee their “freedom from” and their “freedom to.” This creativity will include their freedom to occupy, explore, develop and enjoy the explicate order of visible time and space. This creativity also will include the freedom of full access to the timeless/spaceless implicate order. Thus, visible human form and substance, human individuality and human community, will be freely, transcendently and eternally preserved and developed in the explicate order, because man, like God, will then have full and free access to the implicate order. When the Son shall make us free, we shall be free indeed (John 8:36).
- See John 8:36, KJV. (go back)
- See Erich Fromm, The Fear of Freedom (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1942). (go back)
- See for example E. E. Stevens, ed., Kingdom Counsel, monthly newsletter (Bradford, PA); M. R. King, ed., The Living Presence, monthly newsletter (Warren, OH). (go back)
- See D. R. Griffin, ed., The Reenchantment of Science: Postmodern Proposals (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988). (go back)
- See for example P. R. Fries, “Explorations in the Spirit and Creation,” and Jürgen Moltmann, “The Scope of Renewal in the Spirit,” in Perspectives 6, no. 1 (January 1991): 10-17. These essays were prepared for and in anticipation of the seventh assembly of the World Council of Churches, which convened February 1991 in Canberra, Australia. (go back)
- See Martin Buber, I and Thou (1923) (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958). (go back)
- See ibid. (go back)
- D. A. Pallin, The Anthropological Character of Theology: Conditioning Theological Understanding (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 2. (go back)
- See David Bohm, “Postmodern Science and a Postmodern World,” in Griffin, Reenchantment of Science. As a quantum physicist, Bohm develops the themes of explicate and implicate orders. However, he believes that “the whole universe is actively enfolded to some degree in each of the parts” (p. 66). Like William Blake, he tends “to see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour” — Auguries of Innocence, quoted in J. Bartlett, Familiar Quotations (Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1980), p. 406. Rather than envisioning the enfolding of time/space reality in timeless/spaceless reality or timeless/spaceless reality in time/space reality, which we regard as compromising their relational integrity, we envision these orders as relationally with each other. (go back)
- See note 9. (go back)
- Ibid. (go back)
- The Greek word for self-emptying is kenosis. “ . . . God is considered as absolute letting-be, as self-giving, as self-spending. Kenosis [self-emptying] is understood as the way God relates to the world; creation is a work of love, of self-giving.” — Lucien Richard, Christ: The Self-Emptying of God (New York: Paulist Press, 1997), p. 94. (go back)
- See Pallin, Anthropological Character of Theology, p. 2. (go back)
- For example, see Matthew 26:45, 64; Luke 24:7; John 8:28. (go back)
- The word “Man” is derived from the Hebrew adamah, meaning “earthly.” See Nancy Roth, A New Christian Yoga (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 1989), pp. 11, 12. Cf. “‘On Earth Peace,’” subhead “The Quantum Field and Observable Reality,” Quest (Prolepsis 1990.2). (go back)
This article was originally published April 1991 under the Quest imprint.