Today Americans celebrate freedom. It’s the most cherished value of our times. But have we accepted a kind of freedom that is sending us into a terrible form of bondage?
“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…” (David B. Hart)
Has our notion of freedom changed in a way that could threaten true freedom? Do we become dangerous to ourselves when we embrace freedom without truth and without limits?
A lesson from human history
Humans were created with an ability to choose between right and wrong. But humans were also created as dependent creatures meant to flourish within divinely ordained limits. From our beginning, God set boundaries for life in the first home He gave to humanity. When our original parents chose to live outside of those limits, they experienced the ultimate kind of limitation: death. This explains much of the sad side of the human story (Romans 5:12).
In our delusional effort to escape life under our Creator, we’ve rejected limitations and boundaries – preferring independence and autonomy over dependence and submission to divine 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 divinely established limits. Life within these limits is true freedom. Life outside of divinely established limits is bondage.
“We are free not merely because we can choose, but only when we choose well. For to choose poorly, through folly or malice, in a way that thwarts our nature and distorts our proper form, is to enslave ourselves to the transitory, the irrational, the purposeless, the (to be precise) subhuman” (David B. Hart, Atheist Delusions).
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:31-36)
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free.” (Galatians 5:1)