The Concept of Freedom: Freedom From/Freedom For
Let’s talk today about the concept of “freedom.” We in the United States like to boast about our freedoms, yet I say democracies are both a blessing and a curse: as Torah is a blessing or a curse. Largely everything depends upon how we understand the concept of freedom and Torah. A majority of religious institutions teach about the freedom a believer enjoys. However, fewer teach about the responsibility this freedom entails. I would not suggest that a true believer does not enjoy freedom or liberty, but again that is predicated upon the interpretation of scripture, and I hope here to give you a different perspective to consider. Nevertheless, I should like to remind you that Yahshua said in Luke 12: 48 “…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required….” In other words, freedom enjoyed not only imparts liberty, but demands responsibility, and confers upon us specific obligations. This begs the question is what we recognize as freedom wrapped in the banner of democracy or liberal theology really freedom that liberates? This is the subject we will explore now.
First, let me give you Webster’s Dictionary definition of freedom:
1. The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.
2. Exemption from external control.
3. The power to determine action without restraint.
Dictionary definitions are based on the common understanding of a word as derived from how it is used by the majority. Therefore, the foregoing definitions are consistent with how the majority of English- speaking peoples define and understand freedom. But is that the correct definition from the Biblical point of view? From the Biblical perspective, our freedom rests upon our accepting a standard of behavior, the Torah. Therefore, Torah is inconsistent with what we are taught is the definition of freedom. Wherein is the inconsistency? Is it inherent with the definitions given or is it a grand scheme authored by HaSatan to redefine what is meant by freedom?
Antinomians (those against Torah; G-d’s laws) who consciously or unconsciously agree with the dictionary definition would say that we who are Torah observant apply unnecessary constraint upon our lives, and thereby we are legalists with no freedom or power to make choices of our own free will. Incorrectly they see Torah as robbing us of freedom. Unfortunately, many people interpret freedom as license under the doctrine of grace.
Now let us learn a little about Plato, a Greek who was one of the foremost philosophers of his time: He was born and taught before the advent of Yahshua.
• Born: 428 B.C.E.
• Birthplace: Athens, Greece
• Death: 347 B.C.E.
• Best Known As: Author of The Republic
Plato, originally named Aristocles (Plato means “broad-shouldered”), was one of the early stars of Western philosophy. The student of another great Greek thinker, Socrates, Plato founded the Academy in his native Athens in 387 B.C.E. It became a famous hotbed of philosophical and scientific discussion, the first known university in the world. His writings mostly take the form of dialogues (or ‘dialectics’), often with Socrates as a main character. The Republic, in which Plato lays out his ideas on the perfect state, remains a staple of college curriculum around the world to this day.
During his discourse, he wrote about democracy and made some astounding judgments that have proved correct. We should examine them, for democracy is the system of government most western nations, in one form or the other have in place. It is the system we try to export in the name of freedom and justice for all. Plato described democracy this way: In his argument he explains that democracy leads to tyranny, and anarchy. This is a clear conclusion judging from Plato’s description of democracy’s extreme executive weakness as manifest in, for example, its inability to execute its judicial judgments. An example is the judicial branch of our government legislating law instead of interpreting it. This is a result of the failure of our executive branch to execute judicial judgments. Roe v Wade is one example. The inherent flaw in democracy, Plato writes, is precisely that the masses who don’t have access to the “Form of the Good” [ and I need to explain this concept for Plato’s “ Form of the Good” is the ideal or perfect nature of goodness, and so an absolute measure of justice. This concept approaches our concept of G-d]. Now let me repeat Plato’s judgment of the inherent flaw: The inherent flaw in democracy, Plato writes, is precisely that the masses who don’t have access to the “Form of the Good” are in possession of political power, and for what appears as equality in democracy is ‘the negation of social order and social hierarchy,’ and what appears as liberty in democracy is ‘the negation of social type and social training.’ In other words, we have left out the one standard of authority, G-d. Instead, via our leaders with our consent, we have substituted our humanistic vision bereft of G-d’s standards as delineated in His Torah. Plato’s “for of the good” is an abstract form of the ultimate reality G-d. We could extrapolate from this definition of the “form of the good” as being representative of G-d’s standards, the Torah. Unfortunately, like their secular constituency, religious institutions generally deny the efficacy or necessity of G-d’s Torah. Plato also describes the danger of democracy as turning liberty into license. Let us look at that word “license.” Historically, the “form of the good” has been resident and taught from the pulpits of this country, however today, that is largely not the case. Instead, we have antinomianism or “freedom from” or better still freedom from constraint taught without its complement, Freedom for.
License so intricately intertwined with the word freedom is defined is defined in the dictionary as:
1. Lack of due restraint; excessive freedom: Will Durant wrote: “When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near”. Durant, William James 1885–1981.American historian who wrote The Story of Civilization (1935–1975), an 11-volume history of the world on which his wife Ariel (1898–1981) collaborated
2. Heedlessness for the precepts of proper behavior; licentiousness.
Does this sound to you like the definition of “Freedom?” Yes, it is synonymous with the word, and the dictionary refers you to the word freedom from the definition of license. Now let me give you some more definitions for Freedom:
1. The capacity to exercise choice; free will: We have the freedom to do as we please
a. Frankness or boldness; lack of modesty or reserve: the new freedom in movies and novels.
b. A right or the power to engage in certain actions without control or interference: “the seductive freedoms and excesses of the picaresque form” (John W. Aldridge).
As you can see “Freedom without constraint leads to “license” as defined in the dictionary. We could very well be describing our own society today. The parallel is inescapable. What we have is liberty that has degenerated into license. This concept of Western thought described as freedom, exemplified in democracy has obviously degenerated into license.
What has been produced is “Freedom from constraint,” but not “freedom for.” “Freedom for” “Freedom for” is the concept left out of the equation because: “Freedom from” should produce “freedom for” if we are to have a functioning society that retains values and moral integrity. “Freedom from” takes away constraint, and “freedom for” is freedom perfected. Let me give you an example of freedom perfected:
Love is not only and affirmation, but also a negation: I say to my husband, “I love you,” and, “I negate all others.” I love you” is “freedom from,” I have removed the constraint of isolation, loneliness, and the term “I negate all others” is “freedom for.” If I say, “I love you” and do not exercise “freedom for,” as part of that action, I am bereft of moral compass. If I say, I love you and do not apply “freedom for,” then I have not negated all other men, and there is no constraint from engaging in immoral behavior. We cannot have “freedom from” without “freedom for”. Either is a perverted freedom. The problem with society is that it applies only part of the equation of this concept, and that is “freedom from” (Freedom from constraint) Thereby, we have a perverted sense of freedom aka liberty that degenerates into license. Much is given, much is required. If I do not responsibly choose “freedom for” when I find myself exercising “freedom from,” there is no restraint to deny myself anything, harmful or otherwise. I have no standard other than my own desires be they selfish, hedonistic, or destructive.
Another example is the freedom to drive, characterized as “freedom from,” if we obey the traffic laws, “freedom for.” Suppose you buy a microwave and it comes with directions on how to use it. The directions state you must plug it into an electrical source. If you don’t plug it in, you don’t have a microwave. “Freedom from,” acquiring the refrigerator requires “freedom for,” making the right choice, in this case plugging it into an electrical source. Freedom is perverted only when we seek to be free from constraint and do not exercise “freedom for.”
Freedom is not without risk. YHVH took a risk when He made man free to make moral choices. A human is the only creature in the universe that can be immoral. The purpose of the Torah only changes when a human is given a choice such as reconciliation to YHVH Elohim by trusting in Yahshua. There is no abrogation of Torah by virtue of our trusting, but merely a choice, one that either will pervert freedom or will establish it. When we are given freedom from (Moral choice) we, who do not pervert freedom, find it necessary to exercise our moral obligation and choose “freedom for,” because “freedom from” gives us a choice, “freedom for.” “Freedom from” says: I can eat anything I want, but if I exercise “freedom for” I will allow myself only that which is permitted by Torah. What are the ramifications of these choices? A “Freedom from” individual who does not exercise “freedom for” encourages the probability of an earlier death, sickness and ill health. Even science today has recognized that the consumption of certain foods, those classed as unpermitted by Torah, leads to illness and to an early death. The spiritual application of observing G-d’s dietary laws is spiritual discipline and maturity. For those who exercise responsibility and choose “freedom for” as a necessary appendage to “freedom from,” G-d promises blessings and good health.
Unlike those that pervert freedom, we understand that the greatest freedom and liberty comes from submission to G-d’s will, His Torah.
Let us now explore the word “truth.” A word that is a necessary appendage to freedom, and liberty. It is defined this way:
1. Conformity to fact or actuality.
2. A statement proven to be or accepted as true.
3. Sincerity; integrity.
4. Fidelity to an original or standard.
a. Reality; actuality.
Truth is considered to be the supreme reality and to have the ultimate meaning and value of existence.
In this context, it is imperative for us to know what truth is biblically as fond in only one example in Psalm 119.
First let us look at Psalm 119:142:
Psalm 119:142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth.
David the ancestor and biblical type of our Messiah says:
Thy Law is Truth. This one example alone should establish that Torah or the aw of G-d is equated with truth, or as the dictionary puts it:
Truth, the supreme reality and to have the ultimate meaning and value of existence.
David pondering the Torah further cries to G-d:
Psalm 119:43 And take not the word (law) of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments.
Psalm 119:44 So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever.
Psalm 119:45 And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.
Here, amongst many examples found in the bible, we see that truth is G-d’s Torah and G-d Himself (John 1). Truth=the Word=G-d, and we should not forsake Him. If we walk in truth (G-d’s Torah), we walk in liberty. “Freedom from” without “freedom for” leaves us as the Bible describes in a state of being the “living dead.”
By all means we should choose “Freedom from,” by appropriating Yahshua as our Messiah, and the fountainhead of our reconciliation to G-d. Such an appropriation frees us from the penalty of the law, freedom from past sin and death, but the converse of that equation inherently requires that we choose “Freedom for,” if we are to perfect that freedom. To perfect freedom and establish freedom in our lives we must choose G-d’s Written Torah as the standard by which we live. To do otherwise, will compel us to degenerate into license and we become the living dead. The Bible faithfully teaches that true liberty is found in G-d’s Will for our lives: His Living and Written Torah. “Freedom from” and “Freedom for.” May we all make the correct choice.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart in memory of Rabbi Milchamah ben David