What is liberty, and what distinguishes Christian liberty in particular from how several other competing worldviews and philosophies define the concept?
“Give me liberty or give me death!” said American founding father Patrick Henry so famously and passionately nearly two-and-a-half centuries ago.
Yet defining liberty and what it means to us can prove surprisingly difficult. What is more, it seems an obvious thing we should all know what it is that this thing called liberty would be dearer to us than life itself.
I was reminded of this difficulty last night during the weekly meeting of our In Gladii Veritas writing club when one of my fellow club-members brought the question up during one of our routine discussions of theology, politics, and philosophy.
Call me simple, but I first think of what John records Christ as saying in the eighth chapter of his gospel.
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
After this, and in conjunction with this, I think of what Winston says in George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ when the tyrannical State which is Big Brother insists on arbitrary displays of soul-crushingly total submission and subservience by rote regurgitation of self-evidently wrong math equations – namely, saying that 2+2=5.
What did Winston say?
“Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4.”
What Christ said and what Winston was made by Orwell to say should be taken together, then. Christian liberty is inseparably tied to truth, goodness, and beauty being defined by God. As such, liberty for the Christian cannot divorce itself from a commitment to being a slave to Christ for the sake of righteousness as opposed to being a slave to sin.
Consequently, Christian liberty is the opposite of slavery to sin, which leads to death. Freedom is the freedom to obey God, including both knowing the truth and being set free by the truth. In this way and only in this way can we live the life of a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God.
Christian liberty then means abiding in the word of Christ, and being his disciple, and knowing the truth, and being set free by the truth.
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