Reviewing ‘Eternal Man’ Part 6 – Freedom and Fulfillment

The sixth of a seven part series.  See 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Chapter six of Eternal Man is called ‘Freedom and Fulfillment’, which addresses free will. Questions such as:

In what sense, if at all, is man free?
Does everything that happens, have to happen?
Given the same conditions could I have been or done otherwise?

are presented. Madsen gives what was then some new developments which he felt added some freshness to a long stalemate between determinists and indeterminists.

On the side of determinists, psychologists point to the immense domination of the subconscious by traceable stimuli. The claim is that we are not separable from prior causation. This brings up the question of whether our sense of freedom is simply ignorance of hidden causes.

On the side of indeterminism is the Heisenberg principle. Quantum physics confims that at the sub-atomic level, inanimate particles behave in unpredictable ways. Their behavior can only be expressed in a statistical way. It is a bit like predicting how many people will die on a holiday weekend, but not being able to predict which people. So if these particles are indeterminate, why reject that man is also indeterminate?

Madsen also mentions existential analysis which reveals that in our inner consciousness, we all have a sense of guilt about our past, and a sense of anxiety about our future. If we only act in ways that are unavoidable, then why would we have a sincere sense of guilt?

Madsen again points out an important link which seems to me to be a type of emerging theme of this book. Much of the case for determinism is based on a ‘beginning’ over which we had no control. Whether this is first cause, or nature, or chance, or God. Whatever we are came with or after our ultimate creation – in the beginning. It is the modern revelation that man was also in the beginning with God. Thus man is an eternal co-cause throughout all stages of existence.

Madsen admits that this doctrine of mankind’s freedom and destiny, which includes the innate possibilities of his embryonic nature from his Eternal Father, opens up a hornets nest of philosophical puzzles to complex to address in this book. At this point he looks at some of our everyday reflections on freedom.

What is freedom? We define freedom as a yearning to breathe free, free from pushy parents, blustery policemen, red tape. People will die to defend ‘freedom from’, and ‘freedom for’. We desire to be free to become what we have it in us to become.

Freedom and Law. Madsen asserts that many feel that freedom is opposed to law. But eternally speaking law is the guarantor of freedom. He gives an example of a coin, that when flipped, can land on heads or tails. But if anything can happen, as a result of any action, then freedom is meaningless in coins and men. If we seek to be a law unto ourselves, we become the victims of law rather than the masters of it.

Freedom and responsibility. For freedom to be exercised fully, there must be some knowledge behind it. Otherwise we are just rats in a maze on a pointless quest. This knowledge is what brings responsibility. Some might seek to shirk such responsibility, favoring the fatalism of grace-alone salvation, believing there is nothing that we can do. Madsen observes that we seem fond of blaming others for who we have chosen to be. He hypothetically suggest that the devil must have had delinquent parents. But the chain of blame always comes back to us – even the addict that says he can’t help it – at one point could have helped it.

Freedom to change. Madsen brings up an acorn analogy that can become an oak. We also are destined to become what it is in our nature to become. But because of our intelligent initiative we will sometimes go astray. Christ’s role is to break the bonds of our diminished freedoms, and reenthrone our potential becoming. In crucial ways, only Christ can do this. But he can not, if we will not. We must seek him with the measure of control that we have. This measure is always more than zero.

Freedom and commitment. Madsen asks the question ‘is freedom increase by every new flavor of ice cream’? His point is that real freedom comes from making voluntary eternal covenants. Once these covenants are made they free us from making the same kinds of decisions over, and over again. He then asks why the Father and the Son can not break their part of the covenant? It is because they have made these covenants to express this love and freedom to the blessing of the entire human family. Man is in the imitation of the divine, and his freedom is the boldest, most powerful, most exciting commitment possible. We chose, and have been chosen for, divine sonship, and only if we turn against it, will we avoid the ever widening circles of freedom called Eternal life.

3 Responses to “Reviewing ‘Eternal Man’ Part 6 – Freedom and Fulfillment”

  1. 1 Matt A. June 16, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Hmm. I think I am going to bump this book up on my reading list. Really interesting stuff here. Thanks for posting it!

  2. 2 Eric Nielson June 17, 2009 at 6:57 am

    You are welcome Matt. I am really becoming a Madsen fan.

  1. 1 Reviewing ‘Eternal Man’ Part 5 – Evil and Suffering « Small and Simple Trackback on August 6, 2009 at 10:25 pm

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