Sunday, April 15, 2007

Freedom is Contingent Upon Truth

Freedom, in its true sense, is the power to do what one ought to do, not necessarily what one wants to do. That is, true freedom is the ability to do what is right, and not the ability to do as one pleases. This is because one ought to do good, and what is good and right is that which is consistent with truth. And to do that which is inconsistent with truth is not freedom, but is instead being confined and controlled by error. Error causes disorder and leads to more error. True freedom is necessarily limited, in that it is inalienable, that is, it cannot be given away. If freedom were able to be given away, if one was free to be unfree and able to choose to be a slave, he obviously would no longer be free or in a state of freedom. The consequence of sin is that, by embracing a false and counterfeit “freedom,” we necessarily become a slave to error, even if we erroneously continue to insist that we are still free.

True freedom exists only in order, not disorder. A choice or act is freely made only when it is made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily, with an understanding of the consequences of that choice or act. If one cannot, because of external factors or because of a defective internal conscience, recognize what is true and what is false, what is good and what is evil, then one cannot make an informed and intelligent choice. In short, one cannot be truly free. Error does not lead to truth, it leads to further error and ignorance of truth. Indeed, as Aristotle pointed out, a slight error in the beginning, if not corrected, leads to a great error in the end. Consequently, making erroneous choices, choosing to do that which is wrong, which is contrary to truth and order, distorts one's ability to further recognize truth and good over that which is false and evil and consequently detracts from our freedom.

Freedom is necessarily dependent and contingent upon truth. Thus, it is necessarily limited by truth, including moral truth. Such that the ability to engage in something contrary to truth, as one might want to do, is not freedom at all. For example, it has been said that a man is free to put water in his car's gasoline tank, but that man is no longer free to drive -- he is now a pedestrian.

Thus, we see that there is no true conflict between human freedom and God's law. The true end of human freedom is growth as a mature person into how each is created by God. The natural law governing human behavior is not opposed to human freedom, but rather "it protects and promotes that freedom." It is only in innocence and higher truth that one can be free, and eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge does not free us, it does not make things clearer, it does not make us like gods, empowered to choose and determine what is right and what is wrong; it only enslaves us to error and sin.

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