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More on Freedom

In light of some recent discussions about the nature of freedom, theologically speaking, I’m going to venture a proposal here. From a Christian perspective, freedom is the translation of human beings into the triune life of God. To be free is to be united to God through Christ, and in being so united, to be liberated from any and all powers, ideologies, loyalties, and compulsions that would direct one away from union with God. Union with God here is understood as participation in the radical love the defines God’s life. To be free is to be liberated from anything that would compete with God’s love for the possession and production of human identity.

As such, “freedom” truly names the singular reality of divine grace, which, through the Holy Spirit breaks into the world and into our lives as an act of pure gift. Grace comes to humanity in pluriform ways, occurring wherever, through the Spirit, the singular agape of Christ invades and transforms human lives that had previously been in bondage to principalities and powers.

As such, freedom takes on many forms as it interrupts and transfigures human life. True freedom is an event which happens as human persons are taken up, transfigured, re-created by God’s radical grace. What this freedom looks like depends on the social situation that God’s grace invades for the purpose of transformation, but the end result is always the same: liberation into a life of missional love, the experience of God’s own non-coercive self-giving on behalf of others.

Freedom is what happens when God draws us out of those things that inhibit participation in agape. This may and will mean political and social liberation for oppressed peoples who are violently deprived of any sort of self-determining power. Likewise this may and will mean liberation of ideologically-bound human beings who are, though their affluence, enslaved to the power of ubiquitous choice, decadence, and upward mobility. In this case the experience of freedom must be an embrace of the path of kenosis, a joyful descent into self-divestment, self-limitation, and agapeic sacrifice. This is the experience of freedom that most people reading this blog need to embrace as the path for their lives in Christ.

14 Comments

  1. John Rasmussen wrote:

    Halden,

    “as human persons are taken up, transfigured, re-created by God’s radical grace”

    Is re-created the best word here ? Isn’t there a danger of overemphasizing the disconuity between the old and the new man ?

    maybe redeemed ?

    Peace,

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    I’m not too worried about that danger. The language of new creation seems too central to the NT message to be done away with.

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
  3. bruce hamill wrote:

    Yep… can I come to the front now, just play the right music.

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  4. Chris Donato wrote:

    But for most people reading this blog the “experience of freedom” you describe is itself bound up in the “heretical imperative” (i.e., choice). Indeed, can we escape this imperative before the return of our king?

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  5. John Tyson wrote:

    Is there a possibility that judgement may play a role here? May the Holy Spirit’s continual judgement of the powers and principalities, loyalities and ideologies as fallen allow us to view and be translated into the freedom of triune life? In other words, can we have liberation language without the conintual judgement of Holy Spirit? Just a thought, perhaps it is unnecessary. Truly inspiring post, however.

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    We cannot escape it to be sure, that is why I tried to emphasize the freedom is an event, indeed and eschatological event in which the Spirit breaks into our contingent histories and unleashes the agape of God revealed in Christ.

    So, no we can’t escape slavery, or win freedom from the powers. But, because of Christ’s defeat of the powers, his sovereignty can break into our slavery through the presence of the Spirit, interrupting our slavery with the freedom of the children of God.

    To be sure this will not be complete before the parousia, but the point here is that prior to the final consummation real freedom is possible by virtue of the apocalyptic triumph of Christ in the cross and resurrection that is made present by the Spirit.

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    To my mind the Spirit’s ministry of judgment has to do with how he bears witness to Christ’s victory over the powers, making the liberating reality of Christ’s victory present in our contingent histories (see John 16:7-11, for where I’m kind of getting this notion).

    So the answer to your question I think, is yes, so long as we understand the Spirit’s work of judgment to be the ongoing mission of making Christ’s universal victory present in the world during the interim between Pentecost and Parousia.

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
  8. Chris Donato wrote:

    Alas, the possibility only seems theoretical. I mean, dude, the “path of kenosis, joyful descent into self-divestment, self-limitation, and agapeic sacrifice” are ever-elusive to this Christian living in America, struggling to provide for his family, house, cars, dogs, blah blah blah.

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink
  9. Halden wrote:

    Theoretical? Not whatsoever. Something doesn’t become theoretical sophistry because it depends on God, rather that what we can plausibly pull off.

    Though, of course, we often need much training to discern the gifts of freedom that God regularly does give to us in the Spirit and that should also be taken into consideration.

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 3:48 pm | Permalink
  10. John Rasmussen wrote:

    You’re absolutely right…about half an hour
    after I posted 2 Cor 5:17 came to me

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  11. Lee Wyatt wrote:

    Is this another way of saying that freedom is destiny (with Christ as the point at which all things come together, Eph.1:10)? The PCUSA’s A DECLARATION OF FAITH put it like this: “to serve God is perfect freedom.” Thanks.

    Peace,
    Lee Wyatt

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 4:14 pm | Permalink
  12. This is why I talk about freedom within the economy of love and grace. These being Christological economies, as opposed to bargain and violence. These Christological economies required the Christological event to establish them in a world that is doomed to violence and death because the fallen world does not have the ‘option for the poor’ so to speak.

    Monday, May 18, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
  13. Nathan Smith wrote:

    Thanks to you, Halden, I am on a Wendell Berry jag. On freedom:

    In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define “freedom,” for example, as an escape from all restraint. But, as my friend Bert Hornback has explained in his book The Wisdom in Words, “free” is etymologically related to “friend.” These words come from the same Indo-European root, which carries the sense of “dear” or “beloved.” We set our friends free by our love for them, with the implied restraints of faithfulness or loyalty. And this suggests that our “identity” is located not in the impulse of selfhood but in deliberately maintained connections.

    ~ http://harpers.org/archive/2008/05/0082022

    Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 11:46 am | Permalink
  14. d barber wrote:

    More at http://itself.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/on-theological-method/

    Monday, May 25, 2009 at 7:31 am | Permalink

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