Being free to do whatever you want but being a slave to sin is not real freedom.
The libertarian streak in me just doesn’t buy the opposite though. Being free from sin but being in chains is not freedom either. Granted, it is better to be free from sin, but the chains (whether they be imprisonment, totalitarian government, a dehumanizing job, or an unjust tax burden) are still oppression.
It’s hard not to fall into some sort of “class warfare” indignation when reading this section of church history from Williams:
All through the Middle Ages and through the Reformation Augustine’s phrase that liberty comes by grace and not grace by liberty had been at the bottom of the organization and imposition of belief. To be properly free man must be in a state of salvation, and there had been through those centuries less enthusiasm for the idea of his being improperly free – free in a merely temporal sense.
-Charles Williams, The Descent of the Dove, p.216
OK. Right. We want freedom from sin. Salvation is freedom from the curse of sin and death. That’s better than being free in “a merely temporal sense”.
It was approved, it was even encourage, but it was conditioned by the very much more important necessity of offering him the super-natural freedom. What mattered was not that he should be able to speculate as he chose but that he should be able to act as he chose. Only the service of God supplied that perfect freedom, and men, as far as possible, were to be compelled to come in to that service.
Oooookaaaayyy. Compelled (forced), as far as possible to become followers of Christ. Alright. I’m OK with that if that’s really all it is. But how long does it take before you’re being compelled to do all kinds of other things that have the odd side-effect of lining the pockets of the people in power? Quicker than you can say the Lord’s Prayer, that’s how fast.
Messias [Jesus] and his Apostles had not spent a great deal of time talking about freedom and personal independence and individualism and a man’s right to his own opinions.
This is a remarkably good point. Jesus did NOT preach the American Dream. This is the best case out there I think for the idea of the church originating with a community, not the individual. This includes all the stuff that goes along with that: households being converted, infant baptism, common cup communion, congregations based on tight geography (when relevant), and the possibility of a Christian state.
Nor, when the quality of disbelief was rediscovered and the upper classes went all Deist or infidel, was that freedom supposed to relate to the lower classes. Lord Chesterfield did not think one ought to discuss religion before the servants, and more than he thought his servants ought to help govern the country.
How convenient. We get to be free to not take God seriously anymore. But not the working class servants. They don’t count.
But what with one thing and another, the idea that everyone out to be as free as possible had spread widely during the nineteenth century.
And this eventually led to the sort of broad individual freedoms found in America to this day. There seems to be a lot of debate whether this is actually a very Christian idea or not. Being “as free as possible” does seem to be inline with the character of God. Though he “desires that none should perish”, and may even make darn sure some of us don’t.