Numerous freedoms conflict

By Dave Henning / February 26, 2024

“The modern definition of freedom is the ability to do whatever we want.  However, how does that definition work when your wants are in conflict? . . .  There is, then, not just one thing called ‘freedom’ that we either have or do not have.  At the level of lived life there are numerous freedoms, and no one can have them all. . . .  Real freedom comes from a strategic loss of some freedoms in order to gain others.”- Timothy Keller

As Timothy Keller moves on in Chapter 5 of Making Sense of God, he stresses that the modern concept of freedom is most unworkable.  But the concept is also unfair because it denies what we owe others.

For example, Pastor Keller observes, secular people make ex cathedra statements that claim responsibility only to themselves.  As if they possess the full authority to proclaim what they see as self=evident truths. But these “truths” could only be true if:

  • no one ever sacrificially invested in you.
  • you were even now self-sufficient.

Above all, neither of those is the case.  Because our need for other people creates shared responsibility.  For and to others.  Therefore, we don’t really belong only to ourselves. In Being Mortal, Dr. Atul Gawande writes:

“There are different concepts of autonomy.  One is autonomy as free action, living completely independently, free of coercion and limitation.  This kind of freedom is a common battle cry in our culture.  But it is . . . a fantasy. . . .  Our lives are inherently dependent on others and subject to forces and circumstances beyond our control.”

In conclusion, Pastor Keller notes, Western people prefer to think of themselves as the product of their own decisions and choices.  However, such is not the case.  You are the author underscores, the product of a family and a community of people.  Groups who have invested massive amounts of time, industry, and love in you.  And much of this happened before you could speak.  Or before your conscious memory.

To some degree, we all belong to each other.

Today’s question: How do you make choices when numerous freedoms conflict?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The harm principle – disingenuous”

About the author

Dave Henning

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