Humanity is fated also to be free; we are compelled to make decisions.

For we can transcend our situation and in some measure we can freely change it; we can even change ourselves.

“Root Ideas of Human Freedom,” from on being human religiously, James Luther Adams

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At all events, nature exhibits both creative and destructive tendencies,

both a will to harmony and a will to power. Neither of these tendencies appears without the other. Moreover, the power to exist and the power of love (or mutuality) do not possess perfect correlation; disharmony as well as harmony, devolution as well as evolution are to be found in nature.

“Root Ideas of Human Freedom,” from on being human religiously, James Luther Adams

As (Dean Fenn) says, “We cannot be so enamoured of the loveliness of nature as to be blind to its terrible aspects.”

  The heavens may declare the glory of God, and nature may exhibit the operation of a principle of mutual aid, yet the struggle for existence in nature amply justifies Tennyson’s description of it as “red in tooth and claw.” No doubt it was because of this internecine struggle in nature that St. Paul, as well as the ancient Hebrews, looked upon even the world of nature as a fallen world, a world to be restored to love by the New Age or by the atonement of Christ.

“Root Ideas of Human Freedom,” from on being human religiously, James Luther Adams

Since the turn of the century

some religious liberals have greatly altered their attitude toward the older ideas of growth, progress, and perfectibility. Indeed, some of them no longer even mention the ideas, except when singing hymns written a generation or so ago.

“Root Ideas of Human Freedom,” from on being human religiously, James Luther Adams

“Living at the low temperature of ‘detached, middle-class common sense'”

Instead of confronting people with the demand of inner commitment to the ideals of prophetic religion, it more and more provided a cosmic or religious sanction for the interests of a ‘respectable’ group. Conversion was relegated to the underprivileged classes or taken as a sign of ignorance. In the end “the attitude of distance” won the day, and liberalism achieved poise by living at the low temperature of “detached, middle-class common sense,” as Whitehead called it.

“Root Ideas of Human Freedom,” from on being human religiously, James Luther Adams

“Revolt” against original sin

In religious liberalism the rationalistic view of human nature and of the human situation appeared as a revolt against the older forms of authoritarianism, a revolt in the name of the principles of freedom of mind and freedom of conscience. But concomitantly the liberal movement represented also a revolt against the Protestant dogma of the total depravity of human nature, that is, against a depraved, lopsided, rationalized form of the Christian doctrine of original sin.

“Root Ideas of Human Freedom,” from on being human religiously, James Luther Adams