This question probably is the one I am asked most often by people beginning their spiritual journey. Of course, I’m glad that they are asking questions, though this particular question presents somewhat of a false dichotomy. By that, I mean that the question is based on the idea that if God exists, God must be a puppet master, we are His puppets, and the natural world is the stage on which he has us perform.
The question of freedom in relation to the existence of God is profound and complex. However, the presence of God does not diminish human freedom; rather, it provides a foundation upon which freedom can truly flourish.
God is love itself and wisdom itself. This divine love and wisdom permeate the entire universe, including the human mind and heart. Human freedom, therefore, is not seen as an isolated, independent capacity but rather as a reflection of God's own freedom. In other words, true freedom is not the absence of external constraints but the alignment of one's choices and actions with divine principles.
Genuine freedom arises when a person willingly embraces what is good and true, guided by their innermost desires and intentions. God's providence (His activity in the world) operates in a way that respects and preserves human freedom, even in the face of apparent limitations or adversity. This Divine Providence is not a deterministic force that controls human actions but rather a guiding influence that seeks to lead individuals towards spiritual growth and enlightenment.
From this perspective, the existence of God does not infringe upon human freedom but rather provides a framework within which freedom can be fully realised. Without a divine presence, freedom becomes arbitrary and disconnected from higher principles. In the absence of a transcendent source of love and wisdom, freedom risks devolving into self-centredness and the pursuit of temporary pleasures that ultimately lead to spiritual emptiness.
In my last post, I referenced Viktor Frankl’s words concerning freedom and responsibility. Frankl certainly was tuned into the true nature of God. From God’s perspective, freedom is not merely the ability to do as one pleases but the freedom to choose what is good and true, thereby contributing to the well-being of oneself and others. In this view, freedom is intimately tied to moral agency and the pursuit of higher virtues. God's existence, as a source of ultimate goodness and wisdom, provides a moral compass that guides human freedom towards its highest potential.
This understanding of God’s operation in the world does not deny the reality of evil or the existence of suffering in the world. We all experience spiritual struggles and the consequences of human choices that deviate from divine principles. God does not wish that these things happen, but in order to maintain our very freedom, He permits these things to happen. God is, however, in the midst of these challenges, continually at work, offering opportunities for growth and transformation.
Far from being a “puppet master,” the New Church offers a perspective that harmonises the existence of God with human freedom. God's presence does not hinder freedom but rather provides a foundation upon which true freedom can be realised. Human freedom, when aligned with divine principles, allows individuals to grow in goodness and truth, fulfilling their highest potentials. Human freedom is not a license for self-centredness but is a call to embrace moral responsibility and contribute to the well-being of ourselves and others.