Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Truth and Freedom

Two of my favorite topics — truth and freedom.

Being a strong lover of liberty, I struggled with this idea for a long, long time, that true freedom was the ability to do what you ought to do, the ability to do the “right” thing, rather than what you might want to do. If I can’t do what I want, if I am restrained from doing as I please, either by outside influences or by self-restraint, then how can I be truly free??

It wasn’t until I understood sin as being a privation of the good, a distortion of truth, rather than, for example, a violation of rules or disobedience against God (not connecting the dots between Him and Truth/Love), that it started to click. (See, Augustine, City of God). That, and reflecting on the “self-evident truth” of the “inalienable” nature of liberty. (See, Declaration of Independence)

True freedom is necessarily restrained. True freedom, by its very nature, 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 nature and 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.

Error does not lead to truth, it leads to further error and ignorance of truth. Consequently, making erroneous choices, choosing to do that which is wrong, which is contrary to truth and order (in other words, to sin), distorts and impairs one’s ability to further recognize truth and good over that which is false and evil. To do that which is inconsistent with truth is not freedom, but is instead being confined and controlled by error.

If you insist on doing as you please, rather than following the road map and the road signs, pretty soon you are going to be on the wrong road going in the wrong direction. Now you are no longer free to get where you had planned to go, you are instead a slave to your own foolishness.

Freedom necessarily is 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. 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.

It is, and only can be, by doing what we ought to do, doing what is right and good, that is, acting in conformance with truth (or, put another way, acting in conformance with Truth, i.e. the Logos, i.e. God), acting in a manner consistent with the truth for which we were made (which is to love and be loved), that one can be free. On the other hand, when one insists on doing as he pleases, without any consideration for truth, and thereby acts contrary to what is right and good, then he strays from the path of truth onto the path of error. And error necessarily leads to more error, until ultimately he is, not merely a slave to error (sin), but is so removed from Truth and Love, i.e. Life, that he is “doomed to die,” and not merely bodily death, but eternal death (Gen. 2:17).

Freedom does not mean, freedom cannot mean, the freedom to not be free, the freedom to be a slave. Likewise, freedom does not mean and cannot mean the freedom to do that which inevitably leads to death. That counterfeit freedom which acts contrary to God leads only to death. The dead have no rights, they have no freedoms, they are merely dead.

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