Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Positive Liberty, Christian and cultural issues

Τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἡμᾶς Χριστὸς ἠλευθέρωσεν· στήκετε οὖν καὶ μὴ πάλιν ζυγῷ δουλείας ἐνέχεσθε. (Gal 5:1)

For the sake of freedom, Christ has set us free. Stand firm therefore and do not again be subject to the yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1; own translation)

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal. 5:13)

What is freedom? What is liberty? The common notion in today's society is that freedom is the removal of external restraint so that one is able to do whatever one desires to do. Thus, the idea that "same sex marriage" should be imposed on everyone is painted as a rosy picture of LGBTQ people who are now "free" to marry the person they "love." Who actually cares about the truth, as long as one perceives said development to be about the advancement of freedom and liberty? Freedom and liberty in today's society is portrayed negatively, as the removal of external restraint so that anyone is "free" to be whoever he/she/it/ze wants to be. [Of course, the denial of liberty for Christians is perfectly acceptable to the LGBTQ bigots, but that's another story altogether.]

As opposed to negative liberty, there is also positive liberty. Negative liberty is freedom from, the casting away of restraint. Positive liberty is freedom for, the freedom to do the good. Now, this is not to say that there are two separate kinds of liberty, much less that they are opposites, and we get to choose which kind of liberty we want, but that the two must go together. The prevailing tendency in today's world is to think exclusively in terms of negative liberty, and thus liberty become unhinged leading towards destruction.

Socially, the "progressive" promotion of the sexual revolution from its beginning until now is one example of an unhinged focus on negative liberty. Recently however, there has been a dangerous movement of unhinged negative liberty in the lead up to the US elections 2016, in Trumpism. Those supporting Donald Trump are the current perfect specimen of those with an unhinged focus on negative liberty. Trumpites are more interested in destroying everything, in supporting a candidate to show the middle finger to the "establishment," whomever "those" are. They are not interested in someone who can build something positive, in the promotion of virtue and sound policy. Theirs is a freedom from, an overthrow of the "oppressors," a rebellion against established authority.

In the church, this unhinged concept of liberty is also present. Liberty is defined negatively in the professing Church by people who want to jettison liturgy and rituals for no good reason other than they feel these are like dead albatrosses hung around the church's neck. We see this in the constant attacks on "religion," stating that Christianity is all about a relationship with God and not a religion, as if Christianity cannot be both!

More insidious is when this concept of liberty infiltrates one's theology. Those who promote liberty and freedom from the Law such that the Law is not necessary for the Christian defines liberty purely negatively. Reflecting the culture's libertinism, freedom is freedom from, in this case freedom from the Law such that Christians do not need the Law.

When we look at Scripture however, freedom always has its positive dimension. We are saved from the power of sin (negative liberty) in order that we can now follow God and His commands (positive liberty). As Galatians 5:1 states, we are set free by Christ for freedom. THEREFORE, because of that, we are to stand firm and live by the Spirit (Gal. 5:13, 25). Christian freedom is always freedom to obey, not the secularist idol of autonomous, purposeless "freedom." "Freedom" without God is a curse. In fact, it is not real freedom but bondage, bondage to sin and to the power of the Devil. Those who proclaim themselves free, free from God, from traditional morality, are the ones most in bondage to Satan and his wiles.

We need to recover this concept of positive liberty, for it is by neglecting it that we have come to this degenerate stage in society. By all means, we should celebrate and promote liberty, but only if they consist of both positive and negative liberties, and not one existing without the other..

No comments: