16 March 2006

...shades of "freedom"

Reading history suggests that some things in the present are not always as they seem or as they are portrayed. One example is the contemporary discourse on “personal freedom” supported by appealing to the basis of our Nation’s founding. Historically, freedom was understood primarily in a corporate context, dependent on a corresponding individual responsibility and accountability to society and exercised primarily through the institutions of family, church and local government. Accountability brings necessary restraints on freedom’s exercise—restraints necessary because of the inclinations of our fallen state as made clear in the Scriptures and demonstrated over and over in history. In contemporary rhetoric, calls for “freedom” are often veiled appeals for additional personal autonomy, the shedding of accountability and, in effect, the removal of those restraints. But history shows that individual autonomy tends not to enhance freedom but endanger it. By nature, we need accountability and restraints on the inclinations of that nature. Those restraints largely come by the means of God-given institutions of family, community, government and, for Christians, the church. So let us grow in our understanding of the subject of freedom through the reading of history. And let that history enhance our discernment and point us not toward personal autonomy but toward growth in personal responsibility and accountability. Let it help us in the strengthening of our God-given institutions—for the preservation and strengthening of true freedom. Let us take up and read!