"REDEMPTION THROUGH SUFFERING": THE TASK OF HUMAN FREEDOM IN THE WRITINGS OF A. N. WHITEHEAD AND PAUL RICOEUR AND THE IMPLICATIONS FOR A CHRISTIAN SOTERIOLOGY

ROSEMARY CURRAN BARCIAUSKAS, Fordham University

Abstract

The focus of the first part of this dissertation is the philosophical problem of the nature of human freedom and its relationship to the questions of God's power, of evil in the world, and of human personhood. The writings of Paul Ricoeur on Freedom and on evil yield a description of human freedom as finite, fallible and "captive" to inherited and unconscious forces which constitute an evil "already there" for freedom before the exercise of moral choice. In his hermeneutics of the myths of evil, Ricoeur finds evidence of a dynamic interpenetration of the primordial, the tragic and the ethical interpretations of evil. In light of this hermeneutic the understanding of all evil as due solely to human freedom is challenged.^ The work of Ricoeur is seen by the author as complementary to the process philosophy and anthropology of A. N. Whitehead. The philosophical works of Whitehead are examined and interpreted for their cosmological view of the nature and origin of evil, and for the view of God as necessarily limited by the free activity of self-creative actuality. The author also describes a Whiteheadian anthropology which emphasizes the unfolding, evolutionary and relational nature of human personality, and hence of human freedom.^ The author concludes that the writings of both Ricoeur and Whitehead suggest a new way of conceiving the relationships of human freedom, God and evil. If one accepts the finite, "captive" and evolutionary view of human freedom, and the genuine self-creative power of all actuality, then not all evil can be attributed to human moral choice. On the other hand, both Ricoeur and Whitehead resist the attribution of responsibility for evil to God. The answer seems to this author to lie in modifying the understanding of God's power in order to allow for a primordial origin of evil deriving from the nature of a pluralistic self-creative world, as well as an ethical origin.^ The second part of this work draws out a number of theological implications of these philosophical conclusions, including a revitalized understanding of the meaning of "redemption through suffering" in the Christian tradition, and suggestions for reinterpretations of the Christian doctrines of grace, original sin, personal sin, and moral law. The author contends that despite a number of unresolved questions, the work of Ricoeur and Whitehead on freedom can be a fruitful and invigorating source for Christian moral theology and soteriology. ^

Subject Area

Theology

Recommended Citation

ROSEMARY CURRAN BARCIAUSKAS, ""REDEMPTION THROUGH SUFFERING": THE TASK OF HUMAN FREEDOM IN THE WRITINGS OF A. N. WHITEHEAD AND PAUL RICOEUR AND THE IMPLICATIONS FOR A CHRISTIAN SOTERIOLOGY" (January 1, 1983). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8506311.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8506311

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