Freedom for or freedom from

By Dave Henning / February 28, 2024

“Negative liberty is freedom from — refusing any barriers or constraints on our choices.  Positive liberty is freedom for — using your freedom to live in a particular way.  Our modern culture’s idea of freedom is wholly negative.  We are free as long as no one is constraining our choices.  However, this concept is too thin to be adequate.”- Timothy Keller

As Timothy Keller moves on in Chapter 5 of Making Sense of God, he underscores that freedom cannot be the highest or only value.  Instead, Pastor Keller stresses, we must use our freedom to do something.  However, our culture mortally fears saying what that something should be.  Or where we need to land.  As a result, we just drift.

Therefore, Pastor Keller reiterates:

“Freedom is good only if it enables you to actually do something good.  Negative freedom is an unresolved choice, an incomplete story.  We aren’t fully free if we refuse to commit ourselves — and diminish our negative freedom — in order to do something positive.  By itself, autonomy is incomplete.”

Augustine once explained that we look to good but created things for our deepest satisfaction.  Rather than God.  Above all, this truth about the human heart explains:

  • not just our failure to find contentment,
  • but also the human struggle to find freedom.

Certainly, everyone looks to something to anchor their meaning in life.  And whatever that is turns into their supreme love — and absolutely controls you.  Something always masters you.

In conclusion, Timothy cites David Foster Wallace, a secular novelist.  Wallace reports the facts of human experience, of human nature.  He observes:

“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as . . . not worshipping.  Everybody worships.  The only choice we get is what to worship.  And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual thing to worship . . . is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.”

Finally, any alternate form of worship exists unconsciously as one’s default setting.  Hence, one simply pursues those things and may not actually acknowledge this as worship.

Today’s question: Do you prefer freedom for or freedom from?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our perfect liberation – Jesus”

About the author

Dave Henning

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