“The prisoner wishes to say a word.”
The crowd wants him to cry for mercy, but in a dramatic conclusion to Braveheart, William Wallace shouts “Freedom!” Yes, freedom is what we want.
Americans are celebrating freedom. It’s perhaps the most cherished value of our times. Yet I fear that we have a misguided notion of the kind of freedom we need. Is there a freedom that could lead to bondage?
David Hart observed that, “We live in an age whose chief moral value has been determined, by overwhelming consensus, to be the absolute liberty of personal volition, the power of each of us to choose what he or she believes, wants, needs, or must possess…”
A dangerous kind of freedom:
Our notion of freedom has changed in a way that actually threatens true freedom. When we embrace freedom without truth and without limits, we become dangerous to ourselves.
A college professor recently admitted, “almost all of my students believe in advanced Liberalism’s idea of truth (that it’s a private matter) and freedom (that it’s simply the maximization of choice and that it’s the highest good).”
The professor expressed concern that many think of freedom as something without limits, and that this kind of freedom easily becomes “a deeply ungrateful bondage to an unreal abstraction.”
“The very dynamism of modern democracy that allowed it to defang resentments [by enabling social and economic mobility] also simultaneously contributed to profound short-term thinking that devolved into forms of self-serving individualism. Increasingly unable to discern how our liberated actions impacted others—neither recognizing our debts to the past nor our obligations to the future—we see ourselves as wholly free agents shorn of history or future” (Alexis de Tocqueville).
In another a post outlining how to destroy a culture in 5 easy steps, Joe Carter indirectly exposes the way freedom is being destroyed in America. The underlying assumption behind his article is the cultural mandate of uncontrolled demand for freedom without limits. The unthinkable continues to become policy as people demand unrestrained freedoms.
Carter suggested that reversing the destruction of true freedom will require “a people who have courage and conviction and a willingness to be despised for the truth.” But Carter asked, “Do current generations have such virtues?” Soberingly and with a bit of tongue in cheek, he answered, “Probably not. But I’m holding out hope that our grandkids will be born that way.”
Quest for life without limits, for unbounded possibility, is enslaving us to a kind of dehumanized society that is chained to passions that are destroying true freedom.
Ken Meyers recently noted that, “without the restraining effect of religion, the idea of liberty that once informed capitalism and democracy was in danger of giving way to an ideal of liberation that celebrated hedonism as the highest good. Though bourgeois society approved of rampant individualism in economics, it feared the excesses of self in culture, and sought to inhibit them. But such inhibition is no longer tolerable, in part because of the marginalization of confident religious convictions.”
Before we celebrate freedom, let’s review the ordained context for it and renew our commitment to fight for true freedom.
Freedom only flourishes within limits: how things were meant to be
Humans were created as volitional and moral beings–able to choose between right and wrong. Humans were also created as dependent creatures meant to flourish within divinely appointed limits.
God set limits on life in the very good home He gave to the first humans. If they chose to live outside those limits, they would experience the ultimate limitation: death. This explains much of the human story (Romans 5:12).
In our delusional escape from life under the Creator, we’ve rejected limitations and boundaries– preferring independence and autonomy over dependence and submission to authority. The fall of humanity was a rejection of limits and a bid for self-rule disguised as freedom (Genesis 3:1-6).
“The account of Creation resounds with the establishment of boundaries. Almost all human cultures have pursued the task of defining and governing boundaries in human behavior. Every culture survives by the power of its institutions to bind and loose men in the conduct of their affairs.”
“The story of modern Western culture, however—a culture built around the ideal of the sovereign self—is a story of the abandonment of restrictions and restraints in the name of human freedom. Our institutions have increasingly been defined in terms of encouraging liberation from limits rather than cultivating a conscientious honoring of limits.”
“Wendell Berry argues that, ‘we have founded our present society upon delusional assumptions of limitlessness,’ that ‘the commonly accepted basis of our economy is the supposed possibility of limitless growth, limitless wants, limitless wealth, limitless natural resources, limitless energy, and limitless debt.'”
“The minimization of neighborliness, respect, reverence, responsibility, accountability, and self-subordination—this is the culture of which our present leaders and heroes are the spoiled children.” “In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define ‘freedom’ as an escape from all restraint.” (Ken Myers, Mars Hill).
Humans were created as dependent creatures meant to flourish within established limits. Life within these limits is true freedom. Life outside of them is bondage.
A greater Freedom:
“Almost 2,000 years ago, the Lord Jesus cried out on the cross, ‘It is finished,’ proclaiming the believer’s ‘declaration of independence.’ All of humanity was under the tyranny of sin and death. But Jesus Christ, the sinless One, took our place on the cross and died for our sins. Having satisfied God’s righteous demands, He now sets free for eternity all who trust in Him.”
Paul wrote, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). Romans 8 assures us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus . . . . For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (vv.1-2). Galatians 5:1 urges all who have been redeemed to “stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free.”
We are thankful to God for any freedom we enjoy in a nation. But above all, believers everywhere can praise Him for the freedom that is found in Christ! (Richard De Haan)