Theologians fill our libraries with volumes examining this question. Secular philosophers do the same, from their own points of view — but what does it really mean to be “free?”
I wonder . . . are we mixed up on this topic because we have the idea that freedom means license and psychological ability to do absolutely anything we’re capable of doing at any time? Or is such a radical degree of liberty the root of chaos and death? Such “freedom” describes the torture of the mentally deranged, the disorganization and death of a wilderness, the wild reproduction, immaturity and unpredictability of a cancer. Such “freedom” leads inevitably to death.
A person who obeys his every whim and does all his heart desires at any moment, unresponsive to any outside influence, will live in constant torment. He’ll be socially isolated, impoverished, and probably physically ill. If our bodies’ cells did this, we’d be dead in moments. If the universe behaved in a completely “free” (ie: random) manner, it would not exist. Because of the organized (and yet free) dance of the universe around us, an individual person may survive for a time in a state of complete psychic disorganization. He’ll end up in a mental hospital if he’s lucky, a prison if less so, or if he has no luck at all, he’ll soon meet death, whether by his own hand or by disease or by the violence of another. Neither society nor the world can tolerate this kind of freedom for more than a very brief time.
We have a lovely, romantic idea that wilderness brims over with beauty and life, and is natural and perfect just as it is. As a person who lives in what is more or less a wilderness, I beg to differ. Wilderness means that plants and animals go their own ways, fighting with one another for survival. One sort of plant (Ponderosa Pine in our case) overgrows all the other plants to the point of excluding almost anything other than itself. As a consequence, whole forests die from unchecked, specialized infestations, and thorns grow up in their place. Populations of animals ebb and flow in a constant battle between predators and prey, with disease and depredation as a wild card. There is great beauty here, but the beauty is in the organization, and the organized things are the healthy things.
Mankind was deputized to keep the garden, which essentially means to introduce organization, to keep all things in balance with one another and in a state of health and optimum well-being.
Between wilderness and wild garden, which of these states truly embodies freedom and life? Only the garden offers a space for genuine freedom, for all the plants and animals to thrive and live in peace with one another. The wilderness — the way of libertarianism — is the way of chaos and death. If all the residents live according to a higher nature, that is, in love toward one another (not the letter of the law, but the spirit — which is love), then the garden thrives.
Cancer occurs when cells reproduce out of control — that is, in a disorganized fashion. They never mature, but continue to grow and stack up one on another on another in a chaotic mass which is, in itself, extremely viable — until it kills its host. Are the cells free to do as they will? Maybe — at least they’re free to do what’s in their nature. What they “will” is to garnish all the resources of the body to feed their wildly reproductive nature. The problem is, that they’re broken. But they’re doing what they, as broken things, will to do. Is this freedom? Is this the sort of freedom Father wants for us?
WE are broken. Without His guidance, WE are following the will of a broken nature. When we die with Christ, we leave behind that broken nature, that unchecked chaotic wilderness, that deranged and disorganized mind. All these things are bondage. Is it possible that, in conforming us to the image of His Son, He’s lifting us up into the next stage of our development (evolution, if you like) from the merely physical plane into a new freedom? As we are naturally, we’re confined to the physical dimension. When we die with Christ and are raised with Him, we add the spiritual dimension; we become new creatures, learning to live in the life of God, in the dimension of the spirit, rather than merely in the life of the natural, physical plane.
In our new level of life, we no longer desire to do the things that lead to death. Does that mean we’re not free? I suppose you could look at it like that, but in truth, I think it means we enter a freedom the like of which we cannot yet fully comprehend. We enter life. That does mean organization as opposed to chaos, and maybe in our present state we see that as somewhat restricting. I don’t think we’ll see it that way for long though.
A child who learns to keep his bedroom clean and tidy is free to enjoy his room far more than a child who has to climb over piles of toys and dirty clothes to get to a bed he must first clear of books and candy wrappers, more toys and more dirty clothes before he can relax with his new magazine. We tend to resist this kind of freedom just as a child may resist organizing his room. Nevertheless, it doesn’t follow that organized freedom is any form of bondage. In fact, it is maturation (which you remember cancer cells never experience), and keeping the garden so that it fills with life rather than death, and finding true mental stability and peace. It is, I believe, becoming the adult sons and daughters of God — His representatives in the physical universe who have become fit to orchestrate the Kingdom of Light in the realm of disappearing darkness.