We are as free as God is? O.k. - what does that mean?

In your answer to the person seeking "a meaning to life", part of your response was as follows: "...You were created free. In fact the freedom of consent you give to anything, lays hold of its object as efficaciously as God's “yes” to God's own Self". Please, if you could I would be most grateful if you'd explain  it in simpler terms what exactly does that mean?



Thanks for your interesting question submitted to our website. The statement I made in response to that earlier question summarizes an important teaching of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the spiritual father of the Trappists. I'm not sure I can provide you with a “simpler” expression of his insight, but maybe a little more explanation would be helpful.

St. Bernard taught that human freedom actually consists of the exercise of three freedoms – and I think you will be able to identify these in your lived experience – the are: freedom of consent, freedom of judgment, and freedom of action. According to Bernard freedom of consent, (and it alone), is the THE DIVINE IMAGE in the human soul. You've heard of us being “made in the image of God” - that's it. Freedom of consent is the Image. What does that mean? E. Gilson, a famous teacher of Bernard's theology says: “Whatever external circumstances may contribute to bring a decision to maturity, when the decision is taken, it is the will that consents, and it is strictly contradictory to suppose anyone could “consent in spite of himself. So utterly inalienable is this privilege of freedom from every voluntary agent, that IT CAN IN NO WISE BE LESS IN US THAN IT IS IN GOD.” This is a remarkable affirmation of the dignity of a human soul. Make no mistake, this is a created freedom and so it is not equal in dignity to God's own freedom – but . . . Gilson goes on to say, (and this is where I got the formulation that caught your attention), “Taken in itself, independently of the conditions that qualify it, the will of the just who adhere to good, of the sinner who consents to evil, or of the damned who confirms himself in it forever, lays hold of its object no less efficaciously than does the will by which God eternally wills His own perfection and His own beatitude.” Gilson does not appear to be quoting Bernard directly in this passage and so I assume it is Gilson's own formulation – it is quite simply one of the most extraordinary things I ever read in a book. It was my hope that the person struggling to find meaning in life might be encouraged by this statement of the Truth about his dignity. I hope this is helpful. If not let me know! Peace.

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