“Only a Sith deals in absolutes”
Freedom and Nature
Discussions about liberty have to begin with definitions and of course, include reference points. After all, no one is free to do anything and everything that they want to do. No one, by an act of the will, can determine who their grandparents are going to be, choose the place of their birth or even add one inch of height. No one can successfully command the waves to stand still or the sun to come out on a cloudy day.
Neither our bodies nor the world around us responds obediently to all that we “will” and command. As a matter of fact, our minds and hearts often play the role of servants rather than masters. Have you ever tried to get something out of your head? Have you ever tried to forget a past mistake or a family tragedy? How about trying to tame a really powerful fear? Most of the time we realize that our hearts and minds just don’t obey on command and that we are often slaves of our own natures.
So what’s going on here? How can this be? If we are to believe the materialists and the rationalists, our “slavery” is the product of our genetic makeup and our social, biological and chemical environment. Our minds and bodies are strictly limited to what our DNA, education, food and friends have made them and nothing more. In fact, according to materialism and rationalism … we’re no more than pre-determined and predestined cogs in an impersonal mechanism we call Nature. And all the libertarian or Romantic rhetoric on the planet can’t undo the cage in which we’re trapped.
But let’s return to definitions for a second.
The Metaphysics of Liberty
Any serious discussion of liberty must begin with a discussion of metaphysics. That simply means the study of what is real and of the nature of that reality. But when we look at the history of metaphysics, we find that the options narrows pretty fast: materialism, pantheism, or some sort of dualism involving both matter and spirit. Materialism and pantheism are both monistic. They say that only one type of reality exists. Oneness. And that means that there is nothing outside the reality of Oneness to which we can appeal for standards or judgments. Could one atom denounce another for its sins? The question answers itself.
Dualism as a metaphysic doesn’t do much better. Dualism claims an endless “back and forth” tension with no standard for resolution. And after all, we don’t really live in a duo-verse, do we? If we did, and we lived in consistent terms of a truly dualistic philosophy, there would be no reason for choosing a side between good and evil. “Dark Side” and “Light Side” are just names. As the Jedi says … there are no absolutes. You can hear Darth Vader beckoning young Luke with the … “Luke come to the dark side” proposition to which Luke would just say … “I’m interested, Dad, but could you tell me what standard I should use to make a choice of sides here?”
In all these metaphysical systems, then, we end up with no standard by which to judge, blame, approve, or condemn anything. What is, is “right.” Emerson saw this clearly. He wrote in “Brahma” (1856),
If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.
If Nature is God … or if there is no God at all … if all is One, then right and wrong are nonsense words. Charity and murder are equally valid manifestations of Reality. Who are we to pass judgment? As Charles Manson once observed, “If God is One, what is bad?”
The Sovereignty of God
Christianity offers the only alternative to these destructive and metaphysical dead ends. It begins with Genesis 1:1—“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Right from the start, Christianity insists that there are two sorts of Being or Reality. There is God … uncreated, self-existent, wholly self-conscious, and completely self-defined … and there is the finite, dependent creation — in other words, everything else. This sovereign God called creation into being out of nothing, choosing to speak it into existence (ex nihilo).
This makes God truly free. He does as He pleases (Dan. 4:35). He is limited only by His own nature and the promises he makes. He can’t be other than He is. He can’t lie and He can’t deny Himself. But otherwise … totally free. He exists beyond the limitations of time, space and matter. He is infinite, eternal and sovereign. The universe moves in terms of His decree and providence. He rules all of creation (Ps. 103:19). He works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). He makes the sun rise and the grass grow (Ps. 104). He is the First Cause behind all secondary causes. The universe is what He says it is and it’s defined by His word. On and on.
Liberty and Slavery in God’s World
Absolute liberty, then, is an attribute of God alone. All other liberties, all other sorts of freedom, are necessarily finite reflections of God’s liberty and are defined by His law-word.
Think about it this way. A fish is truly free when he’s swimming in the river because that’s where God put him. A child is truly free when he’s in submission to loving, godly parents because that’s how God designed the family. Husband and wife are truly free and happiest when they live out marriage as God ordained it. And a country, a civil society, is most truly free when its leaders and courts submit themselves to the law of God contained in Scripture.
Here’s the problem: While fish accept their freedom and swim in the water, fallen men and women, however, have rejected their proper place within God’s creation and consequently have lost their true freedom.
That’s why theologians say the natural man is in full rebellion against God and His law. The natural man sees God’s law as slavery and he sees any biblical morality as bondage. But not only that, he carries this perspective into every situation … into all of his relationships, institutions and culture.
And so, in our increasingly dark world, we’re told that marriage is restrictive and discriminatory. We’re told that unborn children are obstacles to self-realization. That the ability to keep what you earn is heartless and destructive. We’re told, over and over, that chastity is psychologically crippling and that Islamic jihad leads to peace. Just like Orwell’s Newspeak of 1984 … “Slavery is freedom,” and obedience to God is tyranny.
Meanwhile, the world spirals downward into the abyss. True slavery prospers on every side. Fallen mankind serves the basest of passions. Addictions abound. Every form of abuse imaginable becomes normative. Babies murdered. Sex trafficking flourishes. Governments grind down and manipulate their citizens in the name of social justice. Humanity continues to chase after self-destruction and death. (basically Obama’s campaign platform).
True freedom lies in submission to God the Creator and in knowing and doing His law. But godless humanity hates true liberty, no matter how much it marches, shouts and blogs. No matter what gets written on banners and manifestos.
Listen: Until the godless repent and accept reality for what it is … expect meaningless platitudes and rhetoric to govern the day. If you watch “news” TV and listen to political radio, you know the drill. Entertaining maybe, but one empty talking point after another. Painful and embarrassing.
True liberty is a spiritual and covenantal matter. It begins when we bow to Jesus Christ as our covenant Sovereign and receive both His pardon and the power of His Spirit to abandon our sins. This is the foundation of true liberty. There is no other foundation.
All other ground is sinking sand.