If you asked the average American, the man on the street, what freedom is, he’d probably tell you it’s the right of each man to determine his own course of happiness—how he wants to live, what morals he wants to adhere to, what course of worship he will take, etc. We tend to think of freedom with the same sentiment as the famous poem, Invictus: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
I don’t know if they still say this, but in the 90s it was pretty trendy to say, when someone attempted to restrict your behavior, “It’s a free country. I can do what I want.” Freedom, in this sense, is really autonomy—the idea that man is unbound by anything outside of himself, that the only “law” he must obey is the “law” of self-determination. So the only “law” most Americans respect is the “law” of the individual: follow your heart, chase your dreams, do what makes you happy.
Over the last few centuries we’ve called this “enlightenment,” and what we’ve meant is an individual’s “freedom” from any outside law that might govern him—each man’s reason shall be the final judge and authority for himself about what is right or wrong, good or bad, pleasing or displeasing. Reason is set up as the final judge of all things, even over and above God. Finally, the philosopher will say, we have freed ourselves from the chains of an oppressive God who tells us how to live.
As a culture, many believe we have finally arrived, freed from the “bondage” of thousands of years of so-called religion and authority. The “progressives” celebrate from the highest human courts in the land and from the steps of the White House, boasting in our new found “freedom”: women are finally “free” to determine the course of their own lives through the government sanctioned murder of their own children; homosexuals are finally “free” to practice and “marry” with state approval; even if men don’t work when able, they too shall be provided for with money stolen from others. We’re finally free, they tell us.
The great irony, of course, is this facade of freedom is actually the well traveled road to perdition—and absolutely nothing new for humanity. You could say it’s a story as old as time. What we call “enlightenment”—and what we celebrate in America as a self-determined, autonomous “freedom”—is actually the path of bondage that leads to insanity. It was at the heart of the first sin in the garden, and it’s been at the heart of every sin after it. Man rejects God’s word as the sole and universal standard of moral authority, does what is right in his own eyes and thus destroys himself.
Aquinas would call it a form of connaturality—man doing and rejoicing in the very thing that destroys him and goes against his God-given nature. The book of Judges, which depicts man’s horrendous fall into sin and the societal decay that follows, summarizes the problem well: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet (speaking with God’s authority) characterizes this kind of “enlightened” people well. He says they’re like a wild animal in heat, blindly led by their lusts, unable to be restrained by anyone (2:24). Thinking themselves free from God, they go insane: “[They] say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ For they have turned their back to me…Why then do my people say, ‘We are free, we will come no more to you’?” (2:27, 31).
You know what craziness, what the nuthouse, is all about? It’s about people who have been “freed” from God’s final, absolute authority: “free” to think on their own, “free” to view the world without God and “free” to make moral judgments apart from God’s direction. You want to know the people most “free” from God’s authority, the ones “free” to think without regard or referent to His Word? They’re the ones in insanity wards talking to chairs like they were people.
Autonomy is only a lewd reenactment of Adam’s fall into sin, his determination to decide truth for himself. It is, in fact, shouting the cry of freedom as the jailer hands you over to an eternity of solitary confinement, bound and tortured by the wicked cravings of your own heart. God’s wrath is manifest in being turned over to your own evil lusts. Thinking yourself free, you are a slave to your own abominable cravings, like a deer in rut as it runs headlong for the hunter’s bow.
This is the height of our insanity—slaughtering millions of children and saying women’s “reproductive freedoms” have triumphed. It’s encouraging women to murder their children and then, when they do, telling them they’re truly “free.”
It’s terrorizing the American people, sicking the goons and mafiosos of high government office on those who oppose the limitless power of the president, and then telling the nation you were looking out for their best interests and should be applauded. The cry of “freedom” rings out from the people who lead you to slaughter and then expect your last words—just before the executioner’s axe falls—to be a “thank you” for their service.
It’s enslaving the poor of society to the government via the welfare system—which promotes laziness and extorts votes with the promise of free money and free healthcare—and then convincing those people they got a real taste of “freedom.” The height of this arrogance, this spit in the face of God, is demonstrated by the nation’s leaders, who decry the slavery of generations past but have replaced it with a new socio-economic form of bondage twice as vile.
All of this stands diametrically opposed to the true freedom we have in Christ, which means being bound, enslaved, to Christ and His law. “A tethered mind, freed from the lies” (Mumford & Sons). Living apart from the direction of Christ’s law is not freedom; it is bondage and insanity. As America abandons God’s law more and more, we’re collectively losing our minds.
Only as we repent of living outside the boundaries of God’s law—and seek the life bound instead by the Spirit to His standard of righteousness—can we as individuals and as a people experience true freedom. Listen to Paul’s description of who we were, who we are now and how we are to give ourselves as slaves to righteousness in order that we may truly be free:
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness…For just as you once prsented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification (Romans 6:17-19).