Ever since the mask controversies of 2020, I have been fascinated by the meaning of freedom. What does it mean to be free? What conditions must be in place in order to describe a community as “a free society.” Some of you have seen the articles I have been writing on the subject, published both here as well as in my Salvo column. I recently added to the latter with the following three articles:
- The Dark Side of Libertarian Freedom (Part 1): How an Anarcho-Capitalist Experiment Went Bad
- The Dark Side of Libertarian Freedom (Part 2): Why Freedom for the Sake of Freedom Leads to Bondage
- The Dark Side of Libertarian Freedom (Part 3): A Classical Christian Alternative to the Freedom Debate
From the third of the aforementioned articles:
The relationship between freedom, virtue, and objective goodness received a recapitulation and development within the Christian tradition. Christian thinkers like St. Paul taught that true freedom can only be found in Christ (John 8:36), the ultimate ground of objective goodness and virtue. Consequently, only by being “slaves to righteousness” can we be truly free (Rom 6:18; 6:22; 1 Cor. 7:22).
The biblical teaching entailed the idea that liberty exists when a person or a community is regulated by those virtues (reconceived in Christian thought around the fruits of the spirit) that enable a person or community to enjoy well-ordered freedom, of which salvation is the epitome. Such freedom is necessary to forestall the tyranny of the passions and the bondage of disordered desire. Thus, the biblical conception of freedom, like that of the Greeks and Romans, is outcome-oriented, and it is also grounded in the concept of human flourishing. And, as in classical thought, it continued to affirm that freedom for the sake of freedom (disconnected from the proper ends of human life and society) is bondage…. The classical Christian vision of freedom is teleological, and aimed at horizons beyond the mere pursuit of freedom for its own sake. The horizon of the Christian vision of freedom is the cultivation of virtue and the pursuit of objective goodness, both of which are found ultimately in Jesus Christ. Consequently, to be truly free to pursue goodness, one must engage in the arts of self-limitation and restriction, both at the level of the individual and society.See Also