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A Gap Post: On Human Freedom

This isn’t the “next post” I had in mind in my series on God’s sovereignty and Human responsibility; yet, the quote I am going to provide contributes to layering more depth of context in regard to the kind of modern conception of human freedom and thus responsibility that is counter to what I will be proposing as a genuinely Christian understanding in its stead. Like I just said this post will be a short quote provided by John Webster; he is quoting Charles Taylor, who is commenting on Hegel’s thought. Here is the quote, I bet this will resonate with you and your experience of how you might conceive of human freedom and/or how your neighbors do; here it is: “the

modern notion of subjectivity has spawned a number of conceptions of freedom which see it as something men win through to by setting aside obstacles or breaking loose from external impediments, ties, or entanglements. To be free is to be untrammelled, to depend in one’s action only on oneself. Moreover, this conception of freedom has not been a mere footnote, but one of the central ideas by which the modern notion of the subject has been defined, as is evident in the fact that freedom is one of the values most appealed to in modern times. At the very outset, the new identity as self-defining subject was won by breaking free of the larger matrix of a cosmic order and its claim.” [Charles Taylor, Hegel and Modern Society, p. 155 cited by John Webster, Barth’s Moral Theology, 122]

This rings true for me as I look out on the world, and even in my own life. There is this constant pursuit, it is the American dream, to be set free and delivered from shackles of financial bondage, to be master of my own universe, to construct an imaginary world of my own making that nobody else has any say in but me. Of note, even in this quote, and behind it, what is clear is that a modern conception of freedom is seeking to recreate a relational network where “I” am at the center, “I” am calling the shots; and this then is what it means to be free, over and against the other. It is interesting though, human freedom is always limited by other humans; even if we construct a world of our own (supposedly), it is still in a world amongst others, and thus we must construct our own worlds (where we think we are free) by way of negotiating that freedom in relation to the other people around us, who are trying to achieve this same kind of navel gazing freedom. So our freedom, no matter how hard we try is always delimited by someone else’s freedom; and so forth.

This helps set up context as we jump into a discussion on God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility/Freedom. Stay tuned for the next post where we will dive head first into some theological definitions and descriptions of what God’s Sovereignty and Human Freedom/Responsibility look like when thinking from a Christ conditioned, Christ centered orientation.