Berdyaev values the first two religious epochs and insists upon their necessity in the development of human consciousness. In essence, he considers them stages on the spiritual road. Old Testament law is the moral realm of ‘thou shall’ and ‘thou shall not.’ The commandments come from above and Man’s chief occupation is obedience and adherence to the law. New Testament redemption is the realm of salvation whereby the moral element is mystically transfigured and love and grace shine forth. Man’s innate divinity is also revealed to him in this epoch.
Berdyaev notes that both of these religious epochs essentially “come from above.” The moral element is not as predominant in New Testament redemption as it is in Old Testament law, but the moral still apparently predominates over the aesthetic and perceptive. In other words, salvation or perdition is connected to Man’s moral perfection, but not with his aesthetic or perceptive perfection.
Berdyaev considers this to be a “tormenting problem to Christian consciousness.” If religious life is complete with redemption from sin, then higher creativity being is both unattainable and undesirable. Atonement for sin becomes the only meaningful focus, which reduces New Testament redemption to the level of Old Testament law. Life is diminished back to the imperative of perfect obedience. Berdyaev insists there is only one way out: “the religious acceptance of the truth that the religious meaning of life and being is not wholly a matter of redemption from sin, that life and being have positive, creative purposes.”
This religious acceptance of life and being having positive and creative purposes marks the beginning of what Berdyaev terms the third religious epoch. Though there have been a handful of individuals who have shown glimpses of these kinds of positive and creative religious purposes, the third religious epoch has yet to manifest in the world. The question is why hasn’t it? Why have we been unable to step over the threshold? Berdyaev’s answer to this question is rather surprising.
Old Testament law and New Testament redemption are grounded in contact from above and are based on Holy Scripture. To put it bluntly, instructions and examples are provided. Yet, Holy Scripture does not address human religious creativity. According to Berdyaev, God has provided Man very little information about religious creative activity. When it comes to creativeness, Man is, as it were, left to himself alone, and has no direct aid from God.
This of course may help explain why the creative religious upsurge has not yet taken place, but as far as Berdyaev is concerned, God’s refusal to reveal the mystery of creativeness to Man demonstrates great wisdom and love. On the one hand, it keeps creativeness from sinking to level of mere obedience. On the other hand, it reveals God’s faith in freedom and in Man.
Man lives in the Father and the Son, but Berdyaev defines religious creativeness as “living in Spirit.” He asserts that unlike the previous two religious epochs, religious creativeness is something we must figure out on our own. Rather than be daunted by the task, we should embrace this mystery as a sign of God’s inherent wisdom and love.
"The anthropological revelation which has its origins in Christ is finally completed in Spirit, in the free creative activity of man living in the Spirit. Creativeness is not yet revealed in either the law or the redemption; neither in the Old nor in the New Covenant of God with Man. The secret of creativeness is revealed in the Spirit; in the Spirit, man’s nature is known, without Scriptures, without commandments, or directives from above. In creativeness the divine in Man is revealed by man’s own free initiative, revealed from below rather than above.”
We certainly have our work cut out for us, don’t we?