“If the Son shall set you free, you shall be FREE INDEED.” (John 8:36)
The Declaration of Independence begins with these words: “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation…” It goes on to state: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Of course, the Declaration then goes on to enumerate our grievances and the reasons we were separating ourselves from our mother country.
- Am I free to be a lazy jerk and deliberately live off welfare?
- Am I free to become a pornographer?
- Am I free to impose my views and life-style on others?
- Am I free to take drugs and sell them to others?
- Am I free to hurt other people?
- Am I free to lie, cheat, murder, and steal?
- Am I free to say anything I want, anywhere, under any circumstances?
It is undeniably true that unless we are ill or paralyzed we enjoy a certain liberty, freedom of movement, to be able to move our heads, to raise fingers, to run, etc. But this physical freedom is not unlimited. For example, we can frantically wave our arms but we still cannot manage to fly because our freedom of movement is limited by other rules, which we are unable to transgress. For example, we cannot live without eating and drinking, we cannot live without oxygen, and we cannot drink poison without dying, etc. To rail and rebel against the God-established limits of our physical liberty is useless. On the other hand, if we submit ourselves to the laws of nature, like that of gravity for example, we can succeed in flying, but only by going up in an airplane.
Our thoughts and our will undoubtedly possess a certain degree of freedom. Even the man who is chained down in a solitary cell in a prison keeps it. You can beat him, torture him, but you cannot prevent him from thinking about his wife or of wanting to escape. His jailer can apply the whip as much as he likes but he can never force the prisoner to like him. The latter remains free to think or to like whatever he wants. One can by force prevent him from expressing his thoughts but one cannot force him to change his opinion, because he keeps his free will, his freedom of judgment. But is man totally free intellectually and psychologically? How about “phobias”? Those are fears that a person cannot control on his own, try as he might, such as the fear of heights or the fear of tight spaces. And how about passing the MENSA Test? I’d love to be a genius and become part of that exclusive club but I’m not smart enough. My freedom to join MENSA is limited by my intelligence.
Not really, though we like to think that we are! How about bad habits? Millions of people want to quit drinking because they know that it is destroying their lives. They have the freedom to quit drinking. But do they have the moral power to quit drinking on their own? Not usually. Most people need lots of outside help. Millions of people want to quit smoking or quit using drugs because they have come to believe that it is harmful to their health and to their relationships. But are they truly free to quit? Yes and no. On the one hand they are free, but on the other hand they are incapable. It just proves that we are not always free to do what we want to do.